Abraham Lincoln

16th President of the United States

Born: February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky
Served: March 4, 1861 - April 15, 1865
Died: April 15, 1865 in Washington D.C.
Buried: in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln           Abraham Lincoln was the third dead president, and the 25th overall, that my wife Debbie and I visited on "The Five DPOTUS Tour '05". Along with the dead presidents, we picked up dead vice presidents, dead supreme court chief justices and losing presidential candidates. We started out from Bayonne early in the morning on Saturday, August 27. We drove through Pennsylvania and into Ohio. We stopped in Fremont, Ohio to visit Rutherford B. Hayes. The next day we continued, with numerous stops, to Chicago. After spending the week in Chicago, we headed on to Iowa to get Herbert Hoover and then back to Springfield, Illinois. The next morning we visited Abraham Lincoln and then headed off to Indianapolis, Indiana to see Benjamin Harrison, then on to Dayton, Ohio for the night. The next day, after stopping in Columbus, we headed north toward Marion, Ohio and Warren G. Harding. Not bad for one trip.

             We got an early start to our day in Springfield. We first visited
Lincoln's Home. We then went to the brand new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The museum just opened in October of 2004. The museum is a must see. It has a walking tour of Lincoln's life using wax figures and re-created scenes from Lincoln's life (the log cabin, his law office, Lincoln's Office in the White House, Ford's Theatre and Lincoln lying in state to name some). We toured the old Illinois Statehouse. We visited the train station Lincoln used when he left Springfield in 1861 for the last time. Finally, we went to Oak Ridge Cemetery to visit the man himself.

Lincoln's tomb at Oak Ridge             Lincoln is considered one of our greatest presidents. Possibly, after Franklin Pierce, he had one of the hardest personal lives. Lincoln, who has a number of nicknames like Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter and the Great Emancipator. has a number of first attributed to him. He was the first president born in the frontier. He was the first Republican president. Unfortunately for him, he was also the first president to be assassinated.  Lincoln is famous for guiding the country through the Civil War, emancipating the slaves and giving one of the most famous speeches in history, "The Gettysburg Address."

            Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin to uneducated, illiterate farmers (Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks). He was named after his grandfather who had been murdered by Indians.  From an early age, Lincoln became exposed to anti-slavery sentiments from his parents. Lincoln's family moved from kentucky to Indiana, where Lincoln's mother died when he was nine. From there, he moved to Illinois. His formal education consisted of perhaps 18 months of schooling from unofficial teachers. In effect he was self-educated, studying every book he could borrow.

             Lincoln began his political career in 1832 at age 23 with a campaign for the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig Party. He taught himself law and became a lawyer. n 1841, Lincoln entered law practice with William Herndon, a fellow Whig. In 1846, Lincoln was elected to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. A staunch Whig, Lincoln often referred to party leader Henry Clay as his political idol. As a freshman House member, Lincoln was not a particularly powerful or influential figure in Congress. He spoke out against the war with Mexico, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory — that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood". Lincoln became very despondent over the country's fevent support of the war. He decided not to run for re-election and returned to his law practice in Springfield.

Debbie and Frank with Lincoln statue            The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which expressly repealed the limits on slavery's spread that had been part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, drew Lincoln back into politics. In 1856, he helped form the new Republican Party, drawing on remnants of the old Whig, Free Soil and Democratic parties. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois (who is buried in Chicago) proposed popular sovereignty (let the people of the territory vote for slavery or not) as the solution to the slavery. Lincoln ran against Douglas for senator in 1858 in which he delivered a famous speech in which he stated, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other." This made him very popular with the anti-slavery Republicans. Lincoln didn't win the election, but through a series of debates with Douglas, he allied himself with those opposed to slavery.

             [PHOTO: Debbie and I are standing in front of the tomb. People rub the nose of the bronze bust at the entrance. It's the work of Gutzon Borglum, who is famous for his creation at Mount Rushmore (which also includes Lincoln). I couldn't resist either and I rubbed the nose also.]

             The Republicans choose Lincoln as their candidate in the 1860 presidential election mainly because his views were more moderate then some other Republicans making him more electable. On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States, beating Democrat Douglas, John C. Breckenridge of the Southern Democrats and John C. Bell of the new Constitutional Union Party. He won entirely on the strength of his support in the North: he was not even on the ballot in nine states in the South (and won only 2 of 996 counties in the other Southern states). Lincoln gained 1,865,908 votes (39.9% of the total,) for 180 electoral votes.

Lincoln statue            Southern states felt that they had no saw in the government when a man can be elected without any southern votes. They saw secession as their only option. South Carolina took the lead followed by six other cotton-growing states: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The seven Confederate states seceded before Lincoln took office, declaring themselves an entirely new nation, the Confederate States of America. After South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor on April 12, 1861, to start the Civil War, four more states, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas seceded and joined the Confederacy.

             [PHOTO: The bronze figure seen here is by the tomb's designer, Larkin G. Mead, and stands above the tomb entrance, depicting Abraham Lincoln as President. One hand grasps a scroll symbolizing the Emancipation Proclamation while the other hand rests on the Faces, the Roman symbol of justice]

            The Civil war started out poorly for Lincoln and the Union. Poor generals and poorer military strategy led to a number of defeats. On September 17, 1862, the Union Army stopped an invasion by General Robert E. Lee into Maryland at the Battle of Antietam in what was the bloodiest day of the Civil war and in American history. Though Union general George B. McClellan missed a golden chance to crush the Confederates and end the war, Lincoln claimed victory anyway and decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation (which freed slaves in rebellious states (not border states) not under control of the Union Army) freed few slaves it did change the goal of the war from reunited the country to ending slavery.

statue            After the Union victory at Battle at Gettysburg, where Lee's second invasion of the north was stopped in a bloody three-day battle, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to give his famous speech saying "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Lincoln won- re-election and the Union Army, now led by General Ulysses S. Grant, slowly grounded down the military of the Confederacy in one bloody battle after another. Lincoln's second inaugural address expressed hope for a new united country after the war when he said, "with malice toward none, with charity for all...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

            [PHOTO: Four bronze military groups, representing the infantry, navy, artillery and cavalry of the Civil War period, anchor the Lincoln tomb design on the exterior. Larkin Mead, who designed all of them, sketched Civil War battle scenes for Harper's Weekly in 1861 before moving to Italy. Here you see the Infantry Group on the left front of the tomb. A gift from the city of Chicago, it depicts soldiers on the march. Even the drummer boy has drawn a revolver as the group prepares to charge.]  

            On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The war was almost over. However, Lincoln did not survive to see the end; just five days after Lee surrendered, Lincoln was assassinated.

            On Friday night, April 14, Lincoln and his wife, Julia, attended Ford's Theatre in washington D.C. to see a play, "Our American Cousin." General Grant and his wife were invited to attend also, but declined. Instead Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee went with the Lincoln's. John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland, heard that the President and Mrs. Lincoln would be attending Ford's Theatre. Booth, angry at Lincoln for the Confederacy's defeat, decided to assassinate him.

statue            As Lincoln sat in his state box in the balcony of Ford's Theatre, Booth crept up behind the President's box and aimed a single-shot, round-slug .44 caliber Deringer at his head, firing at point-blank range. The bullet entered behind Lincoln's left ear and lodged behind his right eyeball. Major Henry Rathbone momentarily grappled with Booth but was cut by Booth's knife. Booth then shouted "Sic semper tyrannis!" (Latin: "Thus always to tyrants") and escaped. A twelve day manhunt ensued, in which Booth was chased by Federal agents, until he was finally cornered in a barn in Virginia and shot, dying soon after.

             [PHOTO: In the photo at right you see another of the four statues. In 1883 the city of Boston donated the Cavalry Group seen here, which stands to the right of the Lincoln statue. It shows a dying Union soldier who fell from his horse, supported by a comrade.]

            An army surgeon, Doctor Charles Leale, quickly assessed the wound as mortal. The President was taken across the street from the theater to the Petersen House, where he lay in a coma for nine hours before he died. Several physicians attended Lincoln, including U.S. Army Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes of the Army Medical Museum. Using a probe, Barnes located some fragments of Lincoln's skull and the ball lodged 6 inches inside his brain. Lincoln never regained consciousness and was officially pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. April 15, 1865. After Lincoln's body was returned to the White House, his body was prepared for his "lying in state" in the East Room where his 'first' funeral would take place..

            The torment of Lincoln's soul was over, however, the torment on his body would still go on. Lincoln's body was carried by train in a special railroad car in a grand funeral procession 1,700 miles through several states on its way back to Illinois. The nation mourned a man whom many viewed as the savior of the United States. This would take an incredible 20 days. His body would lie in state in many different places throughout the country (like New York City hall). In the meantime, there was the question where to bury Lincoln? The citizens of Springfield wanted to erect a magnificent tomb in downtown Springfield, but his wife said absolutely not. She wanted him buried in rural Oak Ridge. It was one of the new landscaped cemeteries like Green-wood in Brooklyn or Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. In the end, his wife won out and he was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield where a 177-foot-tall tomb made of Massachusetts granite surmounted with several bronze statues of Lincoln was constructed by 1874. Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of his four sons are also buried there (Robert Todd Lincoln, the only son to live into adulthood, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery). In 1874, upon completion of the memorial, Lincoln's remains were interred in a marble sarcophagus in the center of a chamber known as the "catacombs," or burial room.
            In the years following Lincoln's death, attempts were made to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom. In one attempt in 1876, only two years after Lincoln was placed in the tomb, thieves broke into the tomb and had partially removed the coffin before they were stopped. When Mrs. Lincoln died in 1882, her remains were placed with those of Lincoln, but in 1887 both bodies were reburied in a brick vault beneath the floor of the burial room. During a rebuilding and restoration program in 1899-1901, all five caskets were moved to a nearby subterranean vault. In the latter year, State officials returned them to the burial room and placed that of Lincoln in the sarcophagus it had occupied from 1874 to 1876.

            It was at this time, Robert Todd Lincoln decided that, in order to prevent body theft, it was necessary to build a permanent crypt within the tomb for his father. Lincoln's coffin would be encased in concrete several feet thick, surrounded by a cage and buried beneath a rock slab. In 1901, Lincoln's body was exhumed so that it could be reinterred in the newly built crypt. However, those present (a total of 23 people) feared that his body might have been stolen in the intervening years, so they decided to open the coffin and check. Lincoln's body was almost perfectly preserved. It had been embalmed so many times following his death that his body had not decayed. In fact, he was perfectly recognizable, even more than thirty years after his death. The embalmers had covered his face in white chalk so he could be recognized during the numerous times he was laid in state. On his chest, they could see red, white and blue specks — remnants of the American flag with which he was buried, which had by then disintegrated.

Lincoln tomb             [PHOTO: you can see the cenotaph, a 7-ton block of reddish marble inscribed with Lincoln's name and the years he lived over Lincoln's tomb. Lincoln is ten feet below the monument encased in cement. As you enter the monument, you will see bronze statues and excerpts from some Lincoln speeches, including the model of the sculpture at the Lincoln Memorial. A circular hallway leads to the marble burial chamber seen here. The burial room features black and white marble walls and a ceiling of gold leaf. The inscription "Now he belongs to the ages," reputedly spoken by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton at the time of Lincoln's death, is inscribed in the wall above the tomb. Nine flags are arranged in a semicircle around the cenotaph. Seven of them; the State flags of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois commemorate the homes of Lincoln and his ancestors. The eighth and ninth are the Stars and Stripes and the Presidential flag. (New Jersey's flag is in the left of the photo). They are doing restoration on the outside upper deck of the tomb while we were there, so we could walk all of the way around it. If you turned around from the spot this picture was taken from you would see the tombs of Mrs. Lincoln and three of her four sons in the wall]

              While the tomb was being built, Lincoln was kept in a holding tomb north of the present tomb at the base of the hill (which you can still visit) from May to December 1865. His 11-year old son, Willie, who had died of typhoid fever in the White House back in 1862, was also kept here. After Willie's funeral in 1862, he was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. After Lincoln's assassination, Willie's coffin was dug up and went on the funeral train back to Springfield. On December 21, both coffins were re-interred in a temporary vault halfway up the hill behind the monument that was under construction. The location of the temporary vault is today marked with a small granite marker on the hill behind the current tomb. A week earlier, the remains of Edward Lincoln (their 4-year old son who died in 1850) had been transferred from Springfield's Hutchinson Cemetery to the temporary vault. Their remains rested here until September 19, 1871, when they were transferred to the partially constructed permanent monument. They joined the coffin of Lincoln's youngest son Thomas or Tad (who died of tuberculosis in Chicago at age 18 in 1871), who was buried on July 17, 1871, the first family member to be placed in the new tomb. By 1871, all four Lincoln's were buried in the partially completed permanent tomb. By 1874, Lincoln was in the center burial chamber (however, not for long).

The tomb was built with additional crypts for members of Lincoln's family in addition to the five spaces already used. However, the remaining members of Lincoln's family had decided not to be buried at the tomb, as a result the other crypts remain empty.

Here are some webpages of interest: 

The Abraham Lincoln Reseach site
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln
The Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana
National Park Service Abraham Lincoln birthplace
White House Biography of Abraham Lincoln
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography
Lincoln's Body Exhumed and Viewed in 1901

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