|On April 15, 1865, the life of President Abraham Lincoln was tragically cut short by an assassin's bullet. The leader of a war-torn union became a martyr for the union he labored so hard and deeply to save. At the wishes of his loving wife Mary, his beloved remains were returned to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln's funeral train was dubbed "The Lincoln Special." (His portrait was fastened to the front of the engine above the cattle guard.) Approximately 300 people accompanied Lincoln's body on the 1,654-mile journey as it traveled through 180 cities and seven states for 10 services on its twelve-day journey to Lincoln's home state of Illinois. Scheduled stops for the special funeral train were published in newspapers. At each stop, Lincoln's coffin was taken off the train, placed on an elaborately decorated horse-drawn hearse and led by solemn processions to a public building for viewing. In cities as large as Columbus, Ohio, and as small as Herkimer, New York, thousands of mourners flocked to pay tribute to the slain president. In Philadelphia, Lincoln's body lay in state on in the east wing of Independence Hall, the same site where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Newspapers reported that people had to wait more than five hours to pass by the president's coffin in some cities. Throughout the long journey, entire populations of rural America were waiting alongside the tracks as the nine car funeral train slowly passed by (the funeral car was the 8th car). For example, officials of Richmond, Indiana, estimated its mourners at 15,000 - a number greater than the city's population - at 3:15am in the morning! Depending on conditions, the train usually traveled between 5 and 20 mph. Everywhere there were arches draped in black stretched over the tracks. Upon arrival of the funeral train on May 3, Lincoln lay in state in the Illinois State Capitol for one night. I find it very sad that in 1911 a prairie fire near Minneapolis, Minnesota, destroyed the train car that had so famously carried Lincoln's body to its final resting place.
Today, Lincoln rests in the beautiful Oak ridge Cemetery in a 117-foot Tomb, designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, constructed of brick, sheathed with Quincy granite. The base is 72-foot square with large semi-circular projections on the north and south sides. Four flights of balustraded stairs—two flanking the entrance at the front and two at the rear—lead to a level terrace. The balustrade extends around the terrace to form a parapet. Originally open to the public, the terrace has since been closed due to safety concerns. In the center of the terrace, a large and ornate base supports the obelisk. On the walls of the base are 37 hewn stones, cut to represent raised shields, each engraved with the name of a State at the time the tomb was built. Each shield is connected to another by two raised bands, and thus the group forms an unbroken chain encircling the base. Four bronze statues adorn the corners of the latter. They represent the infantry, navy, artillery, and cavalry of the Civil War period. In front of the obelisk and above the entrance stands a full-length statue of Lincoln.
As you enter the Tomb entrance, there is a beautiful bronze reproduction of Gutzon Borglum’s marble head of Lincoln, located in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. A docent is seated to answer any questions before you begin touring the interior rooms of the Tomb which are finished in a highly polished marble trimmed with bronze. The south entrance opens into a rotunda, where hallways lead into the burial chamber. The rotunda and corridors contain reduced-scale reproductions of important Lincoln statues, as well as plaques with excerpts from Lincoln’s Springfield farewell speech, the Gettysburg Address, and his Second Inaugural Address. Wow, it is beautiful inside and very well presented. Sobering and a bit sad, but beautiful.
Lincoln's Tomb is not only the final resting place of the 16th President of the United States, but is also where his wife Mary, and three of their four sons, Edward, William, and Thomas are buried. Their eldest son, Robert T. Lincoln, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Also on the site is the public receiving vault, constructed ca. 1860 and the scene of funeral services for Abraham Lincoln on May 4, 1865. The vault is located at the base of a hill north of the Tomb. The remains of President Lincoln and his son Willie were placed and kept in the Receiving Vault from May 4 through December 21 1865.
From December 21 1865 through September 19 1871, the President and his two sons, Eddie and Willie, were moved into a temporary above-ground tomb constructed on the northeast side of the hill where the current tomb now stands. The President’s youngest son, Thomas ("Tad”), died on July 15 1871 and was the first to be interred in the Monument, followed by his father and his two brothers on September 19 1871. Mary Lincoln passed away at her sister's home in Springfield on July 16 1882 and was laid to rest with her martyred husband and dear sons a few days later. In 1876, however, after two Chicago criminals failed in an attempt to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom, the National Lincoln Monument Association hid it in another part of the memorial, first under wood and other debris and then buried in the ground within the tomb. When Mrs. Lincoln died in 1882, her remains were placed with those of Lincoln, but in 1887 both bodies were reburied in a brick vault beneath the floor of the burial room. Lincoln’s remains now rest in a concrete vault ten feet below the marble floor of the burial chamber safe from would-be vandals.
The burial room features black and white marble walls and a ceiling of gold leaf. At its center stands the cenotaph, a 7-ton block of reddish marble inscribed with Lincoln's name and the years he lived. Crypts in the chamber’s south wall hold the remains of Lincoln’s wife and three of their sons.
Nine flags are arranged in a semicircle around the cenotaph. Seven of them—the State flags of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois—commemorate the homes of Lincoln and his ancestors. The eighth and ninth are the Stars and Stripes and the Presidential flag. The inscription "Now he belongs to the ages," reputedly spoken by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton at the time of Lincoln's death, is inscribed in the wall above the U.S. Flag. In 1960 the Tomb was designated a National Historic Landmark and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
As a side note, Oak Ridge is the largest cemetery in the state of Illinois and the second-most visited cemetery in the U.S. People from across the country and throughout the world come to see the tomb of Springfield’s most famous citizen. But this 365-acre cemetery is also the final resting place of seventy other notable historic figures including labor leader John L. Lewis, the famous poet Vachel Lindsay, four Illinois governors, and Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon. Parking and admission are free. Another site we highly recommend if you get into the Springfield area. Hope you enjoyed our three days spent at the museum, the house & the tomb. Tomorrow we visit the square where Lincoln's Law Office was located and both the old and new State Capitol buildings. Thanks for stopping by...