Lincoln's Funeral Train

Information from "The Lincoln Funeral Train: The Final Journey and National Funeral for Abraham Lincoln" by Scott D. Trostel.

 

Lincoln Funeral Train

Picture courtesy of ExplorePAhistory.com

 

From the time of leaving Philadelphia we saw no persons whatever engaged at labor. The day seemed to be appropriately observed by the tens of thousands of persons residing in this largely populous, prosperous, and industrious part of the State. Ploughs were left in their furrows, shops were closed, and a Sabbath quiet prevailed. Respect was shown to the deceased all along the way, affording another evidence, if any were needed, of the deep feeling of affection associated with the memory of the distinguished dead.
- The Press, April 24, 1865

 


 


Abraham Lincoln's funeral train was the first national commemoration of a President's death by rail. Beginning from the nation's capital at Washington DC, it trekked through various Eastern states. Abraham Lincoln was observed, mourned, and honored by the citizens of Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. For nearly two weeks, Abraham Lincoln's beautifully decorated coffin and funeral car displayed his remains to the American masses.

In the picture below, the car in the left corner is Lincoln's funeral car.


picture courtesy of pullman-museum.orgFuneral Car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On April 14th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot during a performance at Ford's Theatre. Although there were attempts to resuscitate him, they failed; the 16th President of the United States died early in the morning on April 15th.


Ford's Theater

Lincoln Box

 Mary Todd Lincoln, utterly devastated at the assassination of her husband, intended to organize a small funeral service in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois. However, government authorities convinced her otherwise. Edwin M. Stanton made all the burial arrangements for a much larger funeral - one that would make its way across several Eastern states, while John Garrett mapped a route for the infamous funeral train that travelled to several cities: the nation's capital of Washington DC, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Columbus, Richmond, Indianapolis, Michigan City, Chicago, Bloomington, and finally, Springfield, Illinois. These cities were honored to have Lincoln's funeral train stop for mourning on their tracks.

The Lincoln Funeral Train's Path:

 Lincoln Route

 


Lincoln Funeral Train in Pennsylvania

Click here for Interesting Facts about Lincoln's Funeral Train in Pennsylvania

The train made a particular impact on the citizens of Pennsylvania. From April 21st to the 24th, the train was honored by hundreds of thousands of people.

Andrew Curtin, the governor of Pennsylvania at the time, welcomed the Abraham Lincoln funeral train into his state with open arms. The nine-car train consisted of a baggage car, several coaches, and the funeral car.

The funeral car was strking, and the mourners were very impressed with its somber appearance. "With sixteen wheels for a smoother ride, rounded monitor ends, fine woodwork, upholstered walls, [and] etched glass windows" this funeral car surely was a sight to behold" (Trostel 28). Holding the remains of both Abraham Lincoln as well as his deceased son, Willie, it was elaborately decorated with mourning emblems. Strung with black garlands and silver tassels, the car demanded respect for an important death. Along the side was painted the United States Coat of Arms, identifying the deceased as an honored authority. Titled the United States, it was deemed one of the finest train cars ever built.

 In the picture below, the United States Coat of Arms is visible.Funeral Car
picture courtesy of Abraham Lincoln's Assassination

 The various Pennsylvania cities and towns that Abraham Lincoln's funeral train passed through shared a similar attention to the somber affair. Doors of homes were decorated with black crepe. American flags flew at half-mast. Large groups of laboring men stood outside, hats in hand, to show their respects for Abraham Lincoln as the funeral train went by. Populations wept. One woman held her child, a very young boy dressed in all black waving a small American flag. The train was greeted by an honorable 21-gun salutes and cannon-firing. When the train came to its full first stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, "order and sobriety was observed to a degree worthy of all praise on the streets of Harrisburg" (Trostel 57).

Although females were forbidden to ride the funeral train, they managed to honor Lincoln nonetheless. The renowned ladies of York, Pennsylvania laid the first decorative wreath upon Lincoln's coffin. Three feet in circumference, this rather large wreath began the trend of flower-laying upon Lincoln's remains. The Patriot Daughters, seven ladies, were permitted to board the funeral car and lay another wreath. One African-American woman laid a hand-made wreath on Lincoln's remains as well.

Accordingly, there was a specific list of those permitted to ride the train. It included only twenty-five African-American males. This roster mainly consisted of those on the funeral train commission, close political allies of Lincoln, and several members of the press.

One of the members of the media aboard the train was of the Pennsylvania Press. The author of these articles detailed  the train's journey through the eastern states, emphasizing the impact the funeral train made on the citizens who were able to witness it.

Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania demanded that all work places close, and that the people spend the day in mourning. Choirs of at least a hundred people sang on the streets during the processional parades, or passing of the train. Guns and cannons were fired in honor of the deceased president. Pennsylvania citizens wore badges of mourning, bowing their heads in sorrow.


photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
funeral procession

In Harrisburg and Philadelphia, actual memorials were held. Harrisburg welcomed thousands of mourners, notifying citizens to assemble with the ringing of the Courthouse Bell. Lincoln's remains were available for viewing at the State House for approximately a day. Afterwards, a processional parade throughout the city commenced, heading for the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot. From there, the train set off once again for Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, twenty to forty thousand people waited at the train station and rushed to see the late President's remains. "Everything had come to a virtual stop and people crowded to see the funeral train pass, manifested by grief, many dropping to their knees, with heads bowed, tears streaming down their cheeks" (Trostel 65). Philadelphia's City Hall welcomed mourners from all over Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. As a result, the commemorations in this city were crowded and dangerous. Women and children fainted and many were injured. Little children crawled atop the heads of those in the masses while pickpockets scavenged through the crowd's jackets below. Havoc had ensued, but Philadelphians and visitors thought of nothing else but the chance to honorably commemorate the late Abraham Lincoln.  It has been said about 300,000 people waited in line in the streets for approximately five hours for a chance to view Abraham Lincoln's body.


photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln's Assassinationfuneral car

Whole families and laborers in Middletown, Pennsylvania stood upon rocks to see the train and mourn. A man slowly waved a black flag as the train was passing through Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. A home in Wheatland, Pennsylvania was decorated heavily in black. All the men of Westchester, Pennsylvania lifted their hats as the train passed by to respect their deceased president. In Coatsville, Pennsylvania, "men and women bowed in grief with reverent awe." Thus, all over Pennsylvania, citizens remembered Abraham Lincoln, the assassinated 16th President of the United States.