It’s been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, after being shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre the preceding night. In the century and a half since his death, he has been solidified as a legend in America’s collective conscience. However, it’s necessary to remember how important he was to the American people at the time of his death. The country mourned him together, and set off a journey to ensure he was commemorated extensively and expensively. Here are 14 interesting and weird facts about Abraham Lincoln’s funeral and burial.
1. The funeral train on which Lincoln’s remains were carried consisted of nine total cars.
2. Lincoln’s three-week-long funeral procession was the first time a president’s death was commemorated by train travel.
3. The remains of Lincoln’s son, William Wallace Lincoln, who died from typhoid fever in 1862, were exhumed and placed on the train and taken to Springfield, Illinois, for burial along with Lincoln’s.
4. The procession passed through 444 communities in six states, plus Washington, D.C.
5. While the original lot chosen was in Springfield, Mary Lincoln insisted she recalled Lincoln saying he wanted to be buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, a more rural location, and so the site was moved.
6. After the tomb was completed in 1874, Chicago crime boss James “Big Jim” Kennally planned to steal Lincoln’s body in exchange for a ransom and the release of an associate, who was serving time at the state penitentiary. They broke into the marble sarcophagus by filing through the padlock but were unable to move the heavy cedar coffin. Two of the men on the job were undercover agents with the Secret Service; they alerted the authorities and the job was foiled. (At that time, the Secret Service’s job was to prevent counterfeiting, not protect the president.)
7. The almost-thieves, however, were not apprehended until the following night, because a Pinkerton agent accidentally discharged his weapon, warning the criminals of their arrival.
8. Concerned about future thefts, tomb custodian John Carroll Power had the coffin moved to the basement of the memorial, and they covered it with bits of lumber to make it look like a wood pile.
9. In 1900, the tomb was rebuilt, since it was built on poor soil originally. Upon visiting, Robert Todd Lincoln insisted his father be placed in a crypt, so Lincoln is now buried 10 feet deep in a steel cage under the floor of the tomb.
10. Officials decided to open the casket in 1901, to ensure the body hadn’t been stolen. It is said that when it was opened, Lincoln was almost completely preserved, having been nearly mummified from the multiple embalming processes during the funeral procession.
11. The entire tomb was reconstructed in 1930 and 1931, during which time the marble sarcophagus was removed and placed outside for storage, where souvenir-hunters destroyed it. It was replaced with a red granite marker in front of the location where Lincoln is interred.
12. Mary Todd and three of the four Lincoln sons (Edward, Willie and Tad) are buried with him in Springfield. Robert Todd Lincoln is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
13. The original, temporary vault to hold Lincoln’s remains until a monument could be erected cost $50,000.
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