Recreating President Lincoln's Funeral 150 Years Later

Group will honor the slain leader by re-enacting his funeral in May 2015

A lithograph depicting the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln was used to advertise caskets, circa 1865. Photo © Buyenlarge/Archive Photos/Getty Images

May 4, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's funeral and burial in Springfield, Illinois. To both honor one of America's greatest leaders and educate the public about Lincoln's significance and enduring legacy, a group based in Springfield plans to recreate on the sesquicentennial of this historic event the funeral procession that transported the president's body from the train station to Oak Ridge Cemetery on May 4, 1865.

This article offers a brief history of President Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession and burial, as well as details about its historic recreation 150 years later.

President Lincoln's Original Funeral & Procession
Assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in the Presidential Box of Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, on April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 a.m. at age 56. His death marked the first time an American president died at the hands of an assassin and followed the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee only five days earlier, which ended the American Civil War.

While a shocked and horrified nation grappled with the grief caused by the death of its slain leader, Lincoln's body was placed on a train April 21, 1865, for a lengthy journey from Washington, DC, to the president's hometown of Springfield, Illinois, after Lincoln's body lay in state in the White House and the U.S. Capitol for seven days.

The trip by rail from the nation's capital to Springfield took nearly two weeks and traversed more than 1,600 miles through seven states (including Washington, DC), during which time hundreds of thousands of citizens gathered to witness the nine-car train pass through their community and/or view the dead president and his ornate coffin during many stops.

Arriving in Springfield, Illinois, on May 3, 1865, President Lincoln's coffin was placed in state inside of the State House's Hall of Representatives. The following day, an ornate, horse-drawn hearse carried the president's coffin through Springfield -- past the president's former home and that of the governor -- to Oak Ridge Cemetery, where Lincoln was interred following a solemn funeral ceremony.

The 2015 Re-enactment of Lincoln's Funeral
To mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession and interment, The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition (LFC) of Springfield, Illinois, has spent the past several years planning and coordinating a months-long series of events to commemorate the life, death and lasting legacy of America's 16th president, culminating in a historically accurate re-enactment of Lincoln's funeral procession and service. The group's vision is to "commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's funeral, to use the Arts and Humanities to engage the community in a reflection upon Lincoln's legacy, and to bring together diverse peoples, organizations and institutions in a collaborative and cooperative tribute."

LFC launched its series of events on February 1, 2015, with "Remembering Lincoln," a free, public event held at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. For the next several months, LFC will hold numerous other public and ticketed lectures, musical performances, museum and art offerings and other events at various Springfield-area venues -- each intended to inform, educate and inspire participants during this commemoration of President Lincoln's life and death.

During the weekend of May 1-3, 2015, the commemoration will culminate with the historically accurate re-enactment of President Lincoln's funeral procession and interment. Leading up to that weekend, thousands of costumed, period-accurate Civil War-era re-enactors -- both military and civilian -- will descend on Springfield and camp in nearby locations.

On Saturday, May 2, a historically accurate reproduction of President Lincoln's funeral train will arrive at the Amtrak station in Springfield. In March 1911, a fire in Minnesota destroyed the original train car that carried the president's remains, but The Historic Railroad Equipment Association of Elgin, Illinois, is currently building a replica of Lincoln's funeral train and plans to travel the original route from Washington, DC, to Springfield in conjunction with the LFC re-enactment. Carried upon this reproduction will be two original brass lanterns that were actually part of Lincoln's funeral train.

On board this train will be a carefully crafted replica of the ornate, silver-and-black coffin that carried the president's body from our nation's capital, as well as a reproduction of the 36-star American flag that draped the coffin. (This flag was made by Annin Flagmakers -- the same company that crafted the actual U.S. flag used during Lincoln's funeral in 1865!)

After its arrival, the coffin will be placed within another accurate reproduction -- the Lincoln hearse -- for its journey from the train station to the Old State Capitol Plaza in Springfield. Accompanying the funeral cortege will be horse-drawn carriages, descendents of the actual honorary pallbearers who accompanied the president's body on May 4, 1865, and numerous Civil War-era military and civilian re-enactors in period costume.

After an opening ceremony, various educational and commemorative events, and an overnight vigil, the funeral procession will depart the afternoon of Sunday, May 3, and trace the route followed in 1865 from downtown Springfield to the Oak Ridge Cemetery. There, an abbreviated (but historically accurate) version of the original funeral program will be held that includes the "appropriate eulogy, speeches and salutes," as well as choral and musical performances. The re-enactment of President Lincoln's funeral will conclude with a 36-canon salute.

Attend, If You Can
This re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession and service promises to be an unforgettable opportunity. If you are interested in the life and legacy of President Lincoln, American history, funeral and burial customs and rituals, Civil War re-enactments or simply experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime event, then you should plan to attend. You can learn more about the Lincoln funeral re-enactment on The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition website, including times and dates of various events, as well as more about the history of President Lincoln's funeral.

You Might Also Enjoy:
President Abraham Lincoln's Last Words
The Only Surviving Photo of Lincoln in His Coffin

"The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Re-enactment." The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition. Retrieved February 7, 2015.

"The Route of Abraham Lincoln's Funeral Train." Retrieved February 8, 2015.

"Lanterns from Original Train will Once Again Make History." The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train. Retrieved February 8, 2015.

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