On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington DC. Lincoln was attending a presentation of the play "Our American Cousin" when Booth entered the box where the President, his wife and guests were quietly enjoying the show. At approximately 10:15pm, Booth shot the President in the back of the head with a small revolver. The bullet penetrated behind Lincoln's ear and lodged in his brain - death was imminent.
The entire legacy of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is a topic that has been discussed time and time again. What we are concerned with here is the train that brought the body of Lincoln from Washington back to his home in Springfield, Illinois. While the assassination itself was a shocking and unforgiving tragedy that engulfed the nation after four brutal years of Civil War, the funeral train was a sort of closure. The man who had tried to keep the country together throughout his entire presidency was dead, and the train that carried the slain martyr symbolized not only the end of the war, but the fact that an era was truly finished. As thousands witnessed the train, many asked if the struggle was it worth it in the end.
The train left Washington on April 21, 1865, retracing the same route Lincoln took when he made the 1654 mile journey from Springfield to Washington to accept the Presidency of the United States back in February of 1861. After stopping in Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York and Albany, the funeral train finally arrived in Buffalo at 7:00am on April 27, 1865 at the Exchange Street Station.
"The solemn spectacle has passed. The body of the great martyr has been borne through our hushed streets and onward to its rest. We have looked upon the immortal face and a sacred memory is in our hearts. We have hallowed a shrine in our midst forever, the touch of the dead man's bier. The procession of cities and States has swept on to the West, and the funeral dirge which wailed upon us from the ocean a week ago is dying along the lakes. What a journey of the dead we have seen! What a nation's performance of the funeral rites of a nation's Chief! What a nation's great testimony of love and grief!
We have borne our part. In the majestic spectacle we have paid our tribute of honor to the illustrious dead; we have done it lovingly and well. The remembrance of the great solemnity is made forever grateful to us by the perfect harmony and decorum of its every circumstance. Our city has done honor to itself in the method and the manner of Abraham Lincoln.
The Scene at Batavia.
The funeral train was met at Batavia yesterday morning by the Committee from this city which included Honorable Millard Fillmore. The Committee left here at 6:00 o'clock Wednesday evening by a special car provided for their accommodation, passing the night at Batavia. At 5:00 o'clock yesterday morning, the funeral train arrived at that point, where it was received, as at every halting point along the line of its long, sad journey, by an immense concourse of people. The assemblage had begun with the very dawn, when the firing of the minute guns awoke the village from its slumbers and hastened the steps of pilgrims from the surrounding country flocking in. Before the train appeared, it had grown to the proportions of a city throng.
The multitude stood with their heads bowed, silent, sorrowful and reverent, paying that sincere homage to the dead which had everywhere been so memorable and remarkable. The pause of the train was but for ten minutes, during which the committee from Buffalo took their places in the car reserved for them. From thence to this city no halt on the journey was made but at every station and almost continuously the train passed between long lines of people, who had come to catch but a floating glimpse of what bore the remains of their beloved President; and everywhere they bowed, with uncovered heads, in afflicting bestowment of their little passing tribute of solemn reverence.
|The New York Central's Exchange Steet Station. It was here that Lincoln's funeral train arrived on the morning of April 27, 1865.
The Arrival in Buffalo
With the gray light of morning, people here were astir to prepare for the reception of the funeral train on its arrival as preliminary and unfinished arrangements were completed by the authorities for the carrying out of the program as previously arraigned. The time for the arrival of the train was 7:00 o'clock, but long ore that hour, the streets in the vicinity of the depot were filled with the eager and expectant multitude. At ten minutes before seven, the pilot engine, properly decorated for the use to which it had been assigned, arrived to announce the approach of the funeral train.
Punctually to the time, the latter came slowly in - so slowly and silently that it announced in its very manner the solemnity of its nature. The crowds received it with uncovered heads and every mark of respect. The depot had been elaborately draped as also was the Wadsworth House, Bloomer's Dining Saloon and other buildings in the vicinity. On the arrival of the train in the depot, the burial party was shown into Bloomer's Railroad Dining Saloon, where they were entertained in Bloomer's best style, and evidently an acceptable entertainment too after the unrefreshing ride of the night.
The Funeral Train
The train which bore the remains and the funeral party was a grand affair and attracted much attention. The engine, the Dean Richmond, Leonard Ham, engineer, was very tastefully and richly draped. It had a full length portrait of the President underneath the head lights in front, which was surrounded by the graceful folds of two national flags thrown over the upper part of the engine, each trimmed with black and white crape. Two exquisite bouquets took the place of the engine flags and another still surmounted the sand-box. The hand rails were neatly adorned with festoons of black and white tasteful rosettes. The cab was draped with the national colors. The cars of which the train was made up were also draped with exquisite taste.
The Funeral Car
But the chief attraction of all was the funeral car which has borne the remains thus far from Washington, and is designed to bear them to the hero's welcome home. It was built by Mr. Jamison of Alexandria for the United States military railroad and was intended for the use of the President and other dignitaries when traveling over the military road. It contains a parlor, sitting room and sleeping apartment; all of which are fitted up to the most approved modern style. Black curtains have been placed at all windows. Inside and out, the car is robed in black. A deep silver flange also hangs from the edge of the roof and the festoons of crape are looped over each window with a silver star and large silver tassel.
At 8:00 o'clock the arrangements for the procession were formed in front of the Depot. The crowd was forced back and the remains of the eminent deceased were taken from the car which had conveyed them hither, and borne to the funeral car in front of the depot, the shoulders of a detachment of the Guard of Honor. The coffin was borne into the funeral car which was drawn by six magnificent white horses, housed to the feet in black. The line of the procession was as follows: up Exchange Street to Main; up Main to Niagara; Niagara to Delaware; Delaware to Tupper; Tupper to Main; Main to Eagle.
|Moving President Lincoln's body from the Catafalque to St. James Hall, Main Street, Corner of Eagle Street.
The number of people along the line of march was immense - thronging all the available space on either side of the streets. The business places were all closed but every window and housetop was filled and covered with a mass of human beings. The crowd in the vicinity of St. James Hall, through the forenoon, was terrible and we heard of many cases of fainting on the part of ladies who were not able to stand the severe pressure brought upon them. Finally the throng was loosened and matters so arranged that free passage was given.
At St. James Hall
At a few minutes before 10:00 o'clock, the procession arrived at the Young Men's Association Building, at the end of its march. Here the coffin was taken from the bearers and borne into the hall by the Main Street entrance. It was placed upon a double dais erected for that purpose, the upper one inclined to an angle of perhaps twenty degrees, and the whole richly draped with black velvet with silver fringe and rosettes. As the remains of the deceased President were placed upon the dais, the St. Cecelia Society, who were in position on the stage outside the sable apartment, sung the solemn dirge, "Rest, Spirit, Rest," with impressive effect. It was repeated after the body had been prepared for exhibition by the embalmer and undertaker, and coming through the folds of the drapery the sweet strains of melody seemed, indeed, angelic.
Appearance of the Hall
The appearance of the Hall, as prepared for the occasion, was grandly impressive. It was in the form of an immense pavilion, sable and somber, but adorned in the most exquisite perfection of art. The walls of the pavilion were richly and tastefully decorated and wreathed with black and white crape, lace and fringe. Large bows of crape also decked its sides. Eight columns, elaborately draped with wreaths, rosettes and festoons, were placed in position around the inner line of the apartment. There were three arched entrances, or passage ways, with the folds of the drapery looped up with rosettes and ties of white and black. The whole was set off by a magnificent chandelier suspended from the center, directly over the dais and remains. The Hall will be open today for the inspection of those who did not examine it to their satisfaction yesterday.
A little after 10:00 o'clock, the lid was removed from the coffin, and after some preparation by the embalmer and undertaker, exposed to public view. The corpse was dressed in plain black and the face wore that same kind, benignant look that characterized the "People's President" when alive. The face was slightly discolored , but not as much as many had been led to expect, and the life-like expression of the features were surprising. The thought would arise as we gazed upon the quiet face that he had found the rest for which he must have so often sighed.
|This was the scene in New York as thousands of people viewed the open coffin of Abraham Lincoln. The events were very similar in Buffalo.
The Crowds of Spectators
As soon as the doors were thrown open the people began to pour into, and pass through the hall, to view all that is mortal of the great man who has signally blessed this nation with his wisdom and beneficent government. The marching through the courts of death was an ceaseless as the flow of mighty waters. All day long did they stream pass along uninterruptedly. Persons of all ages, sexes and conditions came to pay their respects to the man whom the had so much admiration and love. It is safe to estimate that the total number of people that passed through there during the day was from eighty to one hundred thousand people. Notwithstanding this immense throng, there was not the slightest incident to mar the decorum of the occasion. The place was oppressively silent, save with the constant tramp of the multitude.
The arrangements for the passing of the people was admirable. The main entrance was on Eagle Street, near Washington, up which they came four abreast. Upon entering the hall, they divided, two passing to the right and two passing to the left, only to reunite on the other side of the coffin. They then marched down and out of the entrance on Eagle, near Main Street.
The Closing Ceremonies
At a quarter past 8:00 o'clock, the coffin was closed and arrangements made to escort the remains back to the depot. At half past, the procession moved towards the depot. The bands played solemn dirges and with the darkness of the night, all was wrapped in the deepest gloom. A large body of citizens followed to the last point, and only turned their footsteps homeward as they saw the remains deposited in the funeral car which was to bear them away. At a little after 10:00 o'clock, the funeral cortege and escort took the train which had been provided for them and went their sorrowful way to the West.
Although seemingly impossible for the same set of unhappy events to happen again in Buffalo, thirty six years later, the body of President William McKinley would lie at death's door within the Queen City. Once again, Buffalo would be brought to her knees in tragedy.