On this day in 1865, a train carrying the coffin of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln leaves Washington, D.C. on its way to Springfield, Illinois, where he would be buried on May 4.
The train carrying Lincoln’s body traveled through 180 cities and seven states on its way 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.
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, including his eldest son Robert. Also on the train was a coffin containing the body of Lincoln’s son Willie, who had died in 1862 at the age of 11 of typhoid fever during Lincoln’s second year in office. Willie’s body had been disinterred from a plot in Washington, D.C. after Lincoln’s death so he could be buried alongside his father at the family plot in Springfield.
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.