Lincoln's Traveling Funeral

The Funeral Carriage

Funeral car used to transport Lincoln's body in Washington.
The funeral car used to transport Lincoln's body in Washington. Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln's funeral, a very public affair conducted in numerous places, enabled millions of Americans to share moments of profound grief following his shocking assassination at Ford's Theatre in April 1865.

Lincoln's body was carried back to Illinois by train, and along the way funeral observances were held in American cities. These vintage images depict events as Americans mourned their murdered president.

An elaborately decorated horse-drawn carriage was used to transport Lincoln's body from the White House to the U.S. Capitol.

Following Lincoln's assassination, his body was taken to the White House. After he lay in state in the East Room of the White House, a large funeral procession marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

Lincoln's coffin was placed in the rotunda of the Capitol, and thousands of Americans came to file past it.

This elaborate vehicle, which was called a "funeral car," was constructed for the occasion. It was photographed by Alexander Gardner, who had taken a number of portraits of Lincoln during his presidency.

Pennsylvania Avenue Procession

Soldiers in Lincoln's funeral procession on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Soldiers lined up to march in Lincoln's funeral procession on Pennsylvania Avenue. Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession in Washington moved down Pennsylvania Avenue.

On April 19, 1865 an enormous procession of government officials and members of the U.S. Military escorted Lincoln's body from the White House to the Capitol.

This photograph shows part of the procession during a halt along Pennsylvania Avenue. Buildings along the way were decorated with black crepe. Thousands of Washingtonians stood silently as the procession passed.

Lincoln's body remained in the Capitol's rotunda until Friday morning, April 21, when the body was carried, in another procession, to the Washington depot of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

A long journey by train returned Lincoln's body, and the body of his son Willie, who had died in the White House three years earlier, to Springfield, Illinois. In cities along the way funeral observances were held.

Funeral Train Locomotive

Locomotive used to pull Lincoln's funeral train.
A decorated locomotive which pulled Lincoln's funeral train. Library of Congress

Lincoln's funeral train was pulled by locomotives which had been decorated for the sad occasion.

Abraham Lincoln's body departed Washington on the morning of Friday, April 21, 1865, and after making many stops, arrived in Springfield, Illinois, nearly two weeks later, on Wednesday, May 3, 1865.

Locomotives used to pull the train were decorated with bunting, black crepe, and often a photograph of President Lincoln.

The Funeral Railroad Car

Railroad car used in Lincoln's funeral.
Railroad car used to carry Lincoln's body back to Illinois. Getty Images

An elaborate railroad car made for Lincoln was used in his funeral.

Lincoln would sometimes travel by train, and a specially constructed railroad car was built for his use. Sadly, he would never use it during his lifetime, as the first time it left Washington was to take his body back to Illinois.

The car also carried the coffin of Lincoln's son Willie, who had died in the White House in 1862.

An honor guard rode in the car with the coffins. When the train arrived at the various cities, Lincoln's coffin would be removed for funeral ceremonies.

The Philadelphia Hearse

Hearse used in Lincoln's funeral in Philadelphia.
The hearse used in Lincoln's funeral procession in Philadelphia. Getty Images

Lincoln's body was carried by hearse to Phladelphia's Independence Hall.

When Abraham Lincoln's body arrived in one of the cities along the route of his funeral train, a procession would be held and the body would lie in state within a landmark building.

After visits to Baltimore, Maryland, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the funeral party traveled to Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, Lincoln's coffin was placed in Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

A local photographer took this photograph of the hearse used in the Philadelphia procession.

The Nation Mourns

Lincoln funeral at New York City Hall
City Hall in New York during Lincoln's funeral. Getty Images

Lincoln's body lay in state in New York's City Hall as a sign outside proclaimed "The Nation Mourns."

Following the funeral observances in Philadelphia, Lincoln's body was taken by train to Jersey City, New Jersey, where Lincoln's coffin was brought to a ferry to take it across the Hudson River to Manhattan.

The ferry docked at Desbrosses Street at about noon on April 24, 1865. The scene was vividly described by an eyewitness:

"The scene at the foot of Desbrosses Street could not fail to make a lasting impression upon the thousands who congregated on the housetops and awnings for several blocks on each side of the ferry. Every available spot was occupied along Desbrosses Street, from West to Hudson Streets. The window sashes of all the houses were removed in order that the occupants might have an unobstructed view of the procession, and as far as the eye could see there was a dense mass of heads protruding from every window on the street. The fronts of the houses were tastefully draped with mourning, and the national ensign was displayed at half-mast from almost every house-top."

A procession led by soldiers of New York's 7th Regiment escorted Lincoln's body to Hudson Street, and then down Canal Street to Broadway, and down Broadway to City Hall.

Newspapers reported that spectators crowded the neighborhood of City Hall to witness the arrival of Lincoln's body, with some even climbing trees to obtain a better vantage point. And when City Hall was opened to the public, thousands of New Yorkers lined up to pay their respects.

A book published months later described the scene:

"The interior of the City Hall was elaborately draped and festooned with mourning emblems, presenting a sombre and solemn appearance. The room in which the remains of the President were deposited was thoroughly draped in black. The center of the ceiling was dotted with silver stars relieved by black; the drapery was finished with heavy silver fringe, and the curtains of black velvet were fringed with silver and gracefully looped. The coffin rested on a raised dais, on an inclined plane, the inclination being such that the face of the departed patriot was in view of visitors while passing for two or three minutes."

Lincoln Lay in State at City Hall

Lincoln's body lay in state at New York's City Hall
Lincoln's body was viewed by thousands at New York's City Hall. Library of Congress

Thousands of people filed past Lincoln's body in New York's City Hall.

After arriving at New York's City Hall on April 24, 1865, a team of embalmers traveling with body prepared it for another public viewing.

Military officers, in two-hour shifts, formed an honor guard. The public was allowed into the building to view the body from early afternoon until noon on the next day, April 25, 1865.

Lincoln's Funeral Leaving City Hall

Lincoln's funeral procession leaving New York's City Hall.
A lithograph of Lincoln's funeral procession leaving New York's City Hall. Library of Congress

After lying in state for a day inside City Hall, Lincoln's body was carried up Broadway in an enormous procession.

On the afternoon of April 25, 1865, Lincoln's funeral procession left City Hall.

A book published the following year under the auspices of the city government described the appearance of the building:

"From the figure of Justice, crowning the cupola, down to the basement, was to be seen a continous exhibition of funereal decorations. The little pillars of the cupola were surrounded with bands of black muslin; the cornices fringing the roof held black pendants; the windows were arched with black strips, and the heavy solid pillars beneath the balcony were encircled with rolls of drapery of the same color. On the front of the balcony, just above the pillars, appeared in large, white letters on a dark sheet the following inscription: The Nation Mourns."

After leaving City Hall, the procession moved slowly up Broadway to Union Square. It was the largest public gathering New York City had ever seen.

An honor guard from New York's 7th Regiment marched beside the enormous hearse which had been built for the occasion. Leading the procession were a number of other regiments, often accompanied by their bands, which played slow dirges.

Procession On Broadway

Lincoln's funeral on Broadway in New York City
Photograph showing the crowd gathered to see Lincoln's funeral pass by on Broadway. Getty Images

As enormous crowds lined the sidewalks and watched from every vantage point, Lincoln's funeral procession moved up Broadway.

As Lincoln's enormous funeral procession moved up Broadway, storefronts were decorated for the occasion. Even Barnum's Museum was decorated with black and white rosettes and mourning banners.

A firehouse just off Broadway displayed a banner reading, "The assassin's stroke but makes the fraternal bond the stronger."

The entire city followed particular rules of mourning which had been printed in the newspapers. Ships in the harbor were directed to fly their colors at half-mast. All horses and carriages not in the procession were to be taken off the streets. Church bells would toll during the procession. And all men, whether in the procession or not, were requested to wear "the regular badge of mourning on the left arm."

Four hours were allotted for the procession to move to Union Square. During that time perhaps as many as 300,000 people saw Lincoln's coffin as it was carried up Broadway.

Funeral at Union Square

Lincoln funeral procession in Union Square in New York City
Lithograph of Lincoln's funeral procession arriving at Union Square in New York City. Getty Images

After a procession up Broadway, a ceremony was held at Union Square.

A memorial service for President Lincoln was held at New York's Union Square following the long procession up Broadway.

The service featured prayers by ministers, a rabbi, and the Catholic archbishop of New York. Following the service, the procession resumed, and Lincoln's body was taken to the Hudson River railroad terminal. That night it was taken to Albany, New York, and following the stop in Albany the journey continued westward for another week.

Procession in Ohio

Lincoln's funeral procession in Columbus, Ohio
Lithograph of Lincoln's funeral procession in Columbus, Ohio. Getty Images

After visiting a number of cities, Lincoln's funeral continued westward, and observances were held in Columbus, Ohio on April 29, 1865.

Following the enormous outpouring of grief in New York City, Lincoln's funeral train went to Albany, New York; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; and Springfield, Illinois.

As the train passed through the countryside and small towns along the way, hundreds of people would stand beside the tracks. In some places people came out during the night, at times lighting bonfires in tribute to the murdered president.

At the stop in Columbus, Ohio a large procession marched from the train station to the statehouse, where Lincoln's body lay in state during the day.

This lithograph shows the procession in Columbus, Ohio.

The Funeral In Springfield

Lincoln's funeral in Springfield, Illinois
Lincoln's funeral at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Library of Congress

After a long journey by rail, Lincoln's funeral train finally arrived in Springfield, Illinois in early May 1865

Following a stop in Chicago, Illinois, Lincoln's funeral train left for its final leg of the journey on the night of May 2, 1865. The following morning the train arrived at Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Lincoln's body lay in state at the Illinois statehouse in Springfield, and many thousands of people filed past to pay their respects. Railroad trains arrived at the local station bringing more mourners. It was estimated that 75,000 people attended the viewing at the Illinois statehouse.

On May 4, 1865, a procession moved from the statehouse, past Lincoln's former home, and to Oak Ridge Cemetery.

After a service attended by thousands, Lincoln's body was placed inside a tomb. The body of his son Willie, who had died in the White House in 1862 and whose coffin was also carried back to Illinois on the funeral train, was placed beside him.

The Lincoln funeral train had traveled approximately 1,700 miles, and millions of Americans had witnessed its passing or participated in funeral observances in the cities where it stopped.

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McNamara, Robert. "Lincoln's Traveling Funeral." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, McNamara, Robert. (2020, August 26). Lincoln's Traveling Funeral. Retrieved from McNamara, Robert. "Lincoln's Traveling Funeral." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).