Posted by Crista Cowan on April 21, 2015 in In The Community, Moments in Time

In the early morning hours of April 15th, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died due to a fatal gunshot wound received the night before at Ford’s Theater. Later that morning, an honor guard arrived at the Petersen Boarding House, where Lincoln was taken to be treated. There, six young men picked up the body of the President, in a temporary coffin, and carried him to the White House. A cavalry unit and eight military leaders, walking bareheaded, completed the procession.

Lincoln's Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Avenue (photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Lincoln’s Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Avenue (photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

At the White House, Lincoln’s body was laid in state in the East Room where it was guarded day and night by members of the military. On the afternoon of April 19th, a great procession of military units accompanied an ornate hearse bearing the President’s body from the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol building. Hundreds of thousands of people came into Washington D.C. to witness the procession. They lined the route and, it is said, “despite the enormous crowd, the silence was profound.” The following morning the Rotunda was opened to the public for a viewing.

At 7:00 am on April 21st, 150 years ago today, another procession accompanied the body as it was moved from the Capitol to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot. There, at 8:00 am, with more than 10,000 witnesses, the Lincoln Funeral Train pulled out of the station. Over the next twelve days the train, consisting of nine cars, passed through hundreds of communities in seven states, never topping a speed of 20 miles per hour.

The Presidential Car, like Air Force One today, was designed for the president's transportation needs. It was never used before it was converted into a funeral car to carry the bodies of President Abraham Lincoln and his son, William, to Springfield, Illinois for burial (photo credit:  Library of Congress Photo Collection on ancestry.com)
The Presidential Car, like Air Force One today, was designed for the president’s transportation needs. It was never used before it was converted into a funeral car to carry the bodies of President Abraham Lincoln and his son, William, to Springfield, Illinois for burial.
(photo credit: Library of Congress Photo Collection on ancestry.com)

The Lincoln Funeral Train followed the same route, in reverse, as the Inaugural Train route that had brought the President to Washington D.C. in 1861. The loss of this revered man threw the entire nation into mourning. The mood along the route, and throughout the nation, was in stark contrast to the celebratory mood of the previous weeks as the four year Civil War had drawn to a close. Around the country, cities and towns were draped in black.

In twelve major cities along the way, Lincoln’s body was removed from the train and placed in a statehouse or hall for public viewing and formal funerals. More than a million people viewed Lincoln’s body during the trip and millions more paid tribute, standing at attention as the train rolled through their communities on its journey to President Lincoln’s final resting place in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train Route and Dates
The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train Route and Dates

Today, The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train, in conjunction with The Historic Railroad Equipment Association and the National Park Service, will begin a twelve day re-enactment of the route taken 150 years ago. Programs are planned in the major cities along the route, featuring a Lincoln actor who will share some of the inspiring words of our nation’s 16th president. Visit their website to learn how you can participate.

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at Ancestry.com since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter

2 Comments

  1. Garcie Locklear

    I really appreciate the information on President Lincoln. I was not aware of the Lincoln Funeral Train. My class of 88 5th graders has just completed doing research on our 16th president, President Lincoln. I will have to show them this blog. It would be wonderful if our class could go see The Lincoln Funeral Train for a field trip. It was amazing to listen to my students present their research on President Lincoln. Thank you for the information on The Lincoln Funeral Train. Garcie Locklear

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