Meeting of June 21, 2011

Ray Cosyn on the “The Lincoln Funeral Train”

In April 1865 two major events occurred in the United States that continue to resonate with us today. One was the ending of the Civil War, the other the assassination of our president, Abraham Lincoln. Within one week of Lee’s surrender to Grant, our president was gunned down in Washington, setting off an event that reached millions of Americans in that time of great stress. That event was the Lincoln Funeral Train. The train was intended to allow Lincoln’s casket to be seen by as many as possible in the time available. The train followed a route that brought it to the major population centers of the East. It allowed thousand of the townspeople, who waited through the night in the rain, to catch a glance at the moving funeral train. Ray Cosyn, a local historian, gave us insight into the event and the impact that it had on the populace.

Charlie Sweeny provided the following description of Ray’s talk:

As we know, Lincoln was murdered almost immediately after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Almost immediately Lincoln became a sainted martyr. The many loud voices of criticism and vitriol were silenced instanter.

Despite other recommendations, Mary Lincoln insisted upon burial in Springfield, Illinois. The defacto U.S. leader, Secretary Stanton, organized a complex series of train trips to take the president, as well as his son Willie, who died a couple of years earlier, and the First Family to Illinois. There were many stops where the bier was taken to public viewing in cities along the way.

Several railroads had to be scheduled and their equipment readied. Local dignitaries got on the train as each state line was crossed. The objective was to permit as many Americans to see the president as possible. The route included Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Jersey City, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Indianapolis, Chicago, and Springfield. The trains all traveled slowly, at night, and even in the rain, the trackside was crowded by respectful people.

Frederick Douglass, Lincoln’s loyal friend, was on the trip—all the way.