In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday this month we wanted to share some interesting information about the famous Lincoln’s Coffin Journey aboard a presidential funeral train. A funeral train is a train used to carry a coffin to a place of burial. These trains are often reserved for national heroes or leaders. In some cases, they also carried mourners. This term of endearment dates back to 1854 and is still used for heads of state today.
The Train Ride
Lincoln’s funeral train left the station accompanied by about 300 people on April 21, 1865. Willie Lincoln’s coffin was also onboard. Willie, Abraham Lincoln’s son, died in 1862 at the age of 11 from typhoid fever. Lincoln’s son was exhumed to be buried next to his father. The trip included 180 different cities, and seven states on its journey to Lincoln’s home state of Illinois. At each stop the coffin would be taken off the train and placed on a decorated horse-drawn hearse to be placed in a public building for viewing of the communities. Thousands of people would gather to pay tribute to the respected president. The funeral train was named “The Lincoln Special”. His portrait was secured on the front of the engine, to honor him. The train reached Springfield, Illinois on May 3 and the journey of Abraham Lincoln’s coffin reached an end on May 4th. The coffin was laid upon the marble slab inside the tomb in the State House, with Willie’s coffin on top.
Purpose of Processions
While funeral trains are no longer a common mode of transportation because most cemeteries allow for easy, direct access via motor vehicles, funeral processions, in general, are public opportunities for the larger community to mourn and bear witness to the passing of someone important.
Photo Credit: Statue of “Young Lincoln” created by Charles Keck was first displayed-published 1945. Now in Senn Park, Edgewater Chicago.