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State Capitol & Lincoln's Funeral

On April 14, 1865 the American flag was ceremoniously raised over Fort Sumter where the Civil War had begun 4 years and 2 days before. Just 5 days before this flag raising, General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his army to General Ulysses Grant. Celebrations were being held throughout Washington D.C. and the rest of the northern half of the country. The long war was mostly over.

April 14, 1865 was a going to be a good day for the President. It was Good Friday and the President was going to celebrate the day by attending a new comedy at Ford's Theater that night along with General Grant and his wife. That morning after meeting with the Cabinet, Grant told the President that he couldn't attend the play with him. Although he was tired and exhausted and Mary was complaining of a headache, the President decided to attend the play since it had already been announced in the papers that he would be attending the play. Instead of General Grant, Lincoln asked Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee, Clara Harris, to join them.

The plans had long been planned ahead of time. All the 8 conspirators needed was the right opportunity. That opportunity happened that night on April 14, 1865.

Fords Theater

The play had already started when the two couples arrived at the theater. They took their seats in the state box. Outside the box, a police guard, John Parker, stood watch. However, during the 3rd act, Parker left his post for a quick drink at a bar across the street, leaving the President unprotected.

A disgruntled southern sympathizer John Booth, more known for his acting career, quietly slipped into the box and shot Abraham Lincoln in the temple. As Lincoln slumped, Mary screamed. Major Rathbone tried to grab Booth, but Booth slashed the Major in the arm before jumping to the floor below and escaping. Lincoln's unconscious body was carried across the street to a house and carried up the stairs to a small room with a bed. The President died the following morning, April 15, at 7:22 a.m. He never regained consciousness.

The Conspirator

After shooting the President, Booth jumped from the Presidential Box to the floor, catching his foot in some bunting which threw him off balance and fracturing his leg when he landed on the flooring. Outside, Booth had hired a boy to hold his horse. He then fled the city, stopping at Mary Surratt's Inn to rest and pickup supplies. He then flees south through Maryland, crosses over into Virginia. Although Booth did receive some aide and assistance on his escape, when people learned who he was, they forced him to leave. Booth and one of his conspirators finally found refuse at the farm of Richard Garrett near Bowling Green, Virginia.

Within a short time, the 16th New York Cavalry arrive at the Garrett farm at 2 o'clock on the morning of April 26. After searching the home, they discover the 2 conspirators hiding in the barn. David Herold surrendered, but Booth refused to come out. Although the cavalry had about 50 men surrounding the barn, they decided to burn the barn to force Booth to come out. As the barn began to burn intensely, Sergeant Boston Corbett peering through a crack in the barn saw Booth aiming a carbine at Lieutenant Edward Doherty. Corbett took one shot, hoping to disable Booth, but a sudden movement by Booth caused the bullet to strike him in the side of his head, almost in the same spot that had killed Lincoln. Booth died at 7:00 am on April 26. His body was taken back to Washington D.C. and buried inside the penitentiary. Four of his conspirators were tried and executed on July 7, 1865.

The Nation Mourns

The coffin rested in the rotunda of the Capitol from Wednesday, April 19th until the evening of April 20. On April 21 Lincoln's casket along with the casket of his son were placed on the Funeral Train that would travel some 1700 miles back to Springfield, mostly retracing the same train ride that Lincoln took to assume office in 1861.

Arrangements for the Lincoln funeral train were directed by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton who designated General Edward D. Townsend as his point man for logistics. Townsend accompanied the train all the way back to Springfield. Stanton appointed Ohio Governor John Brough and attorney John W. Garrett to head a “Committee of Arrangements” for the trip home. They immediately issued orders that effectively commandeered use of the railroads from Washington to Springfield. Non-commissioned officers of the Veteran Reserve Corps were detailed to act as a body-guard, and major generals of the army were directed to attend the train and keep watch, so that at all times during the journey the coffin would be under their special guardianship


The train arrived at Cleveland's Union Depot from Buffalo, New York at 6:50 a.m. on Friday, April 28. Here, the train's locomotives were switched and the Dispatch pulled the 9 car train on to the Euclid Street station, arriving at 7:20 a.m. The casket was taken from the station by a hearse led by 6 white horses up Euclid Street to Erie (now E. 9th Street) to Public Square, arriving at 9:15 am. Lincoln's coffin was placed on a pagoda style catafalque in the square and remained there until 10:30 P.M. The Cleveland committee in charge of the mourning procedures had decided that no building would be suitable for the viewing, so they decided the President's coffin could best be displayed in the park. It was then taken back to the train.

Lincoln's Funeral Train Steam Engine

Above is the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad (C.C.&C.R.R.) funeral train locomotive in Cleveland with dignitaries and soldiers posing next to it. Lincoln's portrait is attached to the front of the engine. This was the engine that brought the funeral train into Columbus on Saturday morning having left Cleveland on Friday night at 10:30 p.m.


Lincoln's Funeral Train of 9 cars pulled by the locomotive The Nashville left Cleveland at 10:30 p.m. for it's overnight trip to Columbus. All along the way, at every depot large bonfires were lit to light the way. Thousands gathered in the torrential rains that fell all through the night, to catch sight of the passing funeral train. In the car called "America" all the way to the back was the black draped coffin of Lincoln. In the front of the same car was the smaller casket of Lincoln's son Willie who died in 1862.

At 6:32 a.m. the funeral train passed through Lewis Center, then, just as the train was rolling through Worthington at 6:56 a.m., the rains began to let up and by 7:30 a.m. as the train pulled into Union Station, the gloomy overcast skies began to break. The military escort had already assembled and been waiting patiently since 6:00 a.m. to take the coffin to the Statehouse.

That morning in the Saturday edition of The Daily Ohio State Journal an itinerary was published so that mourners would know where Lincoln's casket would be at what time. Residents were also asked to appropriately decorate their homes along the parade route.

Lincolns Train Car in Columbus

Lincoln's Funeral Train Car at Union Station on April 29, 1865. This photograph was taken after Lincoln's body had been taken to the Ohio Statehouse, but there are still guards on duty because the body of Lincoln's son, Willie who had died several years before, was still on board. There also had been much looting of the White house in Washington DC after the train had left Washington DC for Lincoln's final trip back to Springfield, Illinois. You'll also note in this photograph at the bottom, that the ditch along the track is filled with water from the heavy rain storms that fell during the night. The sun came out just before Lincoln's body arrived at the Statehouse.

Long before the funeral train arrived at Union Station on the north side of the city, the order of the funeral procession had been determined. A special hearse had been constructed and by today's standards. The black broadcloth draped hearse was big: 17 feet long, 8-1/2 feet wide and more than 17 feet tall (today's semi trucks are less than 14' tall). The entire structure resembled a Chinese pagoda. Around the cornice of the canopy were 36 silver stars.

Once the train arrived at Union Station the casket was transfer by the 29 man military escort of veterans to a hearse pulled by 6 white horses, with black blankets across their back and black feathered plumes attached to their head. Besides the military escort, the hearse was also followed by the Mayors of both Columbus and Cincinnati as well as City Council members of both cities. Twenty-two honorary pall bearers including many of Columbus' prominent citizens ( Robert Neil, Fernando Kelton, Lincoln Goodale, and D. W. Deshler). Today, Kelton House is a museum of the Victorian era, and one of the artifacts on display is a lithograph of the funeral procession, along with the actual armband that Fernando wore performing his duties as a pall bearer.

Lincoln's Funeral Procession

Lincoln funeral procession heading east on Broad Street. This view is looking south, with High Street shown on the right side and is filled with people. Also on the right, the large 6 story building with the massive American flag flying at half-mast is the 2nd Neil House. Today, that is the location of the Huntington Building.

The entourage travelled south on High Street to Broad, went east on Broad and then turned south on 4th Street. It then traversed through several downtown neighborhood streets until coming back on Town Street to High Street. From there it would go north to the west entrance of the Capitol Building.

All along the way 1000s of mourners lined the streets with the houses and businesses draped in black. Some youths with plenty of stamina, kept pace along side the hearse during the entire route.

At the West Gate of the Statehouse (today, this is where the McKinley Monument stands) an arch was built over the large gate posts. At the center of the arch were the words: "Ohio Mourns". The Statehouse columns were wrapped in in black cloth to create spirals. Above the columns on the cornice a sign hung with a quote from Lincoln's last inaugural address:

"With malice to none. With charity for all."

Each of the Statehouse windows were heavily draped in black. Directly above the west door was placed the inscription

"God Moves in a Mysterious Way."

Abraham Lincoln

Photograph shows people waiting in line on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse to pay their respects to President Abraham Lincoln, April 29, 1865. Lincoln’s body began the trip from Washington D. C. back to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois on April 21, 1865. The funeral train generally followed the route that Lincoln took when he traveled to Washington as President elect in 1861. On Saturday, April 29, 1865 the train arrived in Columbus at 7:30 A.M. Lincoln’s casket was taken to the Ohio Statehouse where he laid in state in the Rotunda. The Statehouse was draped in black crepe for the occasion. Thousands of visitors came throughout the day to honor the fallen President. This view is looking to the northeast on High Street.

Lincoln's Casket

The above photograph is a superimposed image of Lincoln's Casket over a contemporary picture taken in the Rotunda. The painting of Perry's Victory hung in the gallery at the same location it is today. In the 1865 photograph, you can see the carpet placed underneath the bier to cut down on the echo of boots walking across the Rotunda's floor. The painting hanging in the background is one created by William H. Powell. That painting actually hung where it is today, on the day Abraham Lincoln's body was on display, that painting hung in the same location. It was installed just a few weeks prior to the assassination.

Just before 9:00 a.m. the process came to a halt on South High Street near the west gate to Capitol Square. There is a break in the gray clouds and sunlight spreads across those gathered. At about 9:00 a.m., the head of the procession arrived at the west entrance to Capitol Square. The 88th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was acting as special escort. They formed 2 lines on either side of the walk from the west gate to the entrance. Eight Sergeants of the honor guard placed the casket on their shoulders and slowly walked up the walkway and into the Rotunda. All around the Rotunda were fresh floral arrangements.

Ohio LilacsThe bier, where the casket would be placed, was covered with lilacs that had just come into bloom throughout the city. When the casket was lowered to the flowery bier which sat upon a carpet that helped cut down on the echo of footsteps across the marbled floor, the 6'6" long casket with Lincoln's body, crushed the lilacs in such a way that the room was filled with smell of the fragrant lilacs. Although Lincoln's body had been embalmed before leaving Washington D.C., the process was not yet perfected and his body had already begun to deteriorate badly giving off a putrid odor that had to be masked by the floral arrangements. To help preserve the President's body during the 12 day trip back to Springfield Illinois, it would be packed in ice. A mortician also accompanied the body and applied chalk to Lincoln's face to mask the discoloration.

Lincoln Funeral Re-enactment 2008

Above photo was taken during the April 29, 2008 re-enactment ceremonies held in the Rotunda of the Statehouse.

Two sets of lines formed on High Street, one stretching north to Long Street and another south to Rich Street. It was estimated that 8,000 people an hour walked past the casket.

At 3:00 p.m. on the east side of the Capitol Building, a platform had been erected where state and local dignitaries and military generals spoke about Lincoln's contributions. The feature speaker was General Hooker.

At 6:00 p.m. the doors to the Capitol were closed, a bugle sounded the assembly and the soldiers reformed for the final escort back to Union Station following the same route in reverse. From Columbus the funeral train would move on to Indianapolis, then to Chicago, and finally down to Springfield, Illinois for final burial.

Lincoln Funeral Cortege

The Lincoln Funeral Cortege on South High Street just after Lincoln's casket was removed and carried into the Capitol Building. The Capitol Building is just to the left and out of camera view in this photograph. The clock in the lower right reads 2:48. The field in the background would be the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds. The catafalque is without Lincoln's casket at this time. The building in the far right is about where the Ohio Theatre is located today. Then, it was a Billiard Room. The photograph, although not signed, was probably created by M. Witt whose studio was at 81 South High Street about the same location where the photograph was taken from the 2nd floor of the building. In the foreground of the photograph you can see the streetcar tracks in the road. Streetcars were introduced to Columbus 2 years before and they ran from the Union Station to just south of Capitol Square.

Southwest Corner

Southwest Corner of Capitol Square today (photographed on April 29).

After the casket was removed from the Rotunda, the doors to the Statehouse were re-opened and visitors continued to quietly pass through the great room where Lincoln's body had laid in repose. After the last visitor passed through, the flowers from the bier and the floral displays around the room were collected. These flowers were then auctioned off and the money collected was donated to charity groups throughout the city that were helping wounded veterans returning from the Civil War.

The original plans for the funeral train called for it to travel on to Cincinnati for another public viewing. However, due to the condition of Lincoln's deteriorating body, it was decided to forego the Cincinnati stop, and move on to Indianapolis, then Chicago and finally to Springfield, Illinois.

Mary Todd Lincoln

You might expect that the wife of Abraham Lincoln would have accompanied her husband's body on this final trip back to Springfield, Illinois, however, she remained in Washington D.C. weeping and shrieking in the White House. Unable to make the trip back to Springfield, she remained in bed for 5 weeks after the assassination. Even her son Tad could not calm her. Once Lincoln's body left Washington, scavengers descended upon the public rooms of the White House taking everything the could get their hands on as souvenirs including strips of wallpaper.

Just prior to the assassination, Mary Todd had gone on a buying spree that amounted to over $27,000. Her inaugural dress alone cost $2,000. Oddly, she also purchased over $1,000 worth of mourning apparel.