Thursday, April 18, 2013

Funeral of Abraham Lincoln, April 19, 1865

Lincoln Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Avenue, April 19, 1965

The funeral of Abraham Lincoln was held shortly after noon on Wednesday, April 19, 1865 in the White House, Washington, D.C. 

About 600 guests entered through the crepe-covered South Portico and the Green Room and into the candle-lit East Room. There was a cross of lilies near Mr. Lincoln's head; General Ulysses S. Grant was seated on this side. 

At the opposite end of the coffin were  seated Robert and Tad Lincoln and some of their mother's relatives. The cabinet stood on one side of the room behind President Andrew Johnson and former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. There were only seven women in the room, including Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase's pregnant daughter, Kate Sprague.

The service was brief.  After the guests departed, 12 army sergeants carried the coffin out to the waiting funeral hearse drawn by six white horses that brought the coffin to the Capitol.  The procession started from the White House about 2 p.m.

The funeral car was large. The lower base was fourteen feet long and seven feet wide, and eight feet from the ground. The upper base, upon which the coffin rested, was eleven feet long and five feet below the top of the canopy. The canopy was surmounted by a gilt eagle, covered with crape. The hearse was entirely covered with cloth, velvet, crape and alpaca. The car was fifteen feet high, and the coffin was so placed as to afford a full view to all spectators. It was drawn by six gray horses, each attended by a groom.

Funeral Hearse
After the hearse came the family, consisting only of Robert Lincoln and his little brother and their relatives. Next was President Johnson, riding in a carriage.  Following him were the Cabinet, Chief Justice Chase and the Supreme Bench, and the Diplomatic Corps, who were succeeded by Senators and Representatives. The procession then reached two miles more, and was composed of public officers, delegations from various cities and members of civic societies, together with another large display of military. Thousands of Union soldiers, including many who left hospital beds to participate, filed in behind the funeral procession, which was led by a contingent of black soldiers.  At the end of the parade behind the dignitaries and the soldiers were 40,000 newly-freed blacks, holding hands. 

Over 100,000 more Americans lined the streets. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper reported: 
Every window, housetop, balcony and every inch of the sidewalks on either side was densely crowded with a mournful throng to pay homage to departed worth. Despite the enormous crowd the silence was profound. It seemed akin to death it commemorated. If any conversation was indulged in, it was in suppressed tones, and only audible to the one spoken to. A solemn sadness reigned everywhere. Presently the monotonous thump of the funeral drum sounded in the street, and the military escort of the funeral car began to march past with solemn tread, muffled drum and arms reversed.

The next day, the President's casket lay in state at the Capitol, and another 25,000 paid their last respects.

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