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Lincoln's Indianapolis Farewell

Nov 29, 2017
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(Author’s Note: This post continues the series I’ve been writing since April 14, 2010, marking the 145th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination and Funeral Train journey from Washington to Springfield. In all, thirteen cities held funerals for President Lincoln, including the capital of Indiana, Indianapolis. Indianapolis got its chance to pay former Indiana farm-boy Lincoln a final farewell 145 years ago today, April 30, 1865.)

The journey from Columbus, Ohio to Indianapolis, Indiana took the Lincoln Funeral Train almost eleven hours to complete, from 8:00 p.m. April 29, 1865 until 7:00 a.m. the following day. As Abraham Lincoln’s remains drew closer to home, the train slowed to just 5 m.p.h. as it passed stations, thus giving mourners a better opportunity to see the train for a longer period of time. Even in the middle of the night, thousands of people crowded into the small towns in western Ohio. Three thousand waited in Urbana, Ohio. Five thousand welcomed Lincoln back to Indiana in Richmond, at 2:00 a.m. on April 30. Temporary arches were built over the tracks on the way to Indianapolis, bearing portraits of Lincoln, Grant, and other great Union generals.

It had been raining all night and it was no different when the Funeral Train arrived in Indianapolis. Indeed, it was raining so heavily that the majestic funeral procession which had been planned by the city had to be canceled. Instead the coffin was placed on a magnificent hearse, trimmed in the now-typical silver and black ornate decorations, and pulled by eight white horses directly to the State Capitol. Six of these same horses, and the hearse driver, had transported Lincoln four years earlier to the capitol building on his inaugural trip to Washington.

The photo at the beginning of this post shows the capitol in the background, wrapped in black mourning cloth and ribbons. A strange structure at the entrance to the ground is visible in the photo, and no one really knows why it was constructed. It was neither arch, nor tunnel. Inside it had numerous displays of Lincoln’s life, yet it struck mourners as unnecessary and even distracting from the majesty of the capitol.

The president’s casket was placed on yet another catafalque and the lid opened once again to display the remains. By now, people in the Southern states criticized the northern cities heavily for the “morbid and morose” display of a dead body. which they interpreted as punishment for the Civil War. Northerners, on the other hand, simply couldn’t get enough as had been seen in the previous eight cities to hold funerals for Lincoln.

Indianapolis was no different. The first group of mourners to file past Lincoln that day were 5,000 children, all members of various Sunday schools. Bringing up the rear were hundreds of African-Americans, clutching copies of the Emancipation Proclamation. By the time those final mourners had paid their respects, an estimated 100,000 people had visited Lincoln’s repose in the state capitol. As in Columbus, Ohio most of the mourning displays were left inside for an additional few days or weeks so people who had missed the laying-in-state could still view the general appearance of what it had been like.

It was in Indiana, of course, where Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years. He and his family moved to Spencer County in 1816, when he was only seven years old. He grew into a man while living there until 1830, when his family moved further west to Illinois. Lincoln himself fondly remembered his years in Indiana, stating in his autobiographical sketch that “there I grew up.”

The first photo below shows a close-up of the hearse used to transport Lincoln’s remains in Indianapolis. The second photo might be a “re-creation” of the funeral procession which never happened. Photographers who had been disappointed on April 30, 1865 arranged for the same hearse and horses for this photo, but the coffin on the hearse is a replica. The photo was apparently taken on May 1, 1865 in downtown Indianapolis.

Now close to midnight of April 30, 1865, the Indiana capital bid former Hoosier Abraham Lincoln a final farewell, as the Funeral Train sounded its whistle, slowly pulling away from the station. It’s next scheduled destination was Chicago, as Illinois prepared to welcome its most famous citizen back home. But first, an unexpected delay occurred in a small Indiana city, which then held an unscheduled funeral. That will be the subject of my next post.

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