Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018
On this trip, I was really looking forward to seeing the place where Lincoln is buried. On my visit to Springfield several years ago, I didn’t have enough time to make it there, so it has been on my list for a while!
Lincoln, as you know, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. in April 1865. His last wishes, however, were to be buried in Springfield, which had been his home for 17 years, and was the only place where he and Mary ever owned a home. Lincoln and his son Willie, who had died in the White House, were both carried home from Washington, D.C. by train, and Lincoln’s body laid in state in various locations along the way.
The train carrying Lincoln departed Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 21, 1865 and largely traveled the route that Lincoln had traveled to Washington as President-elect in 1861. The train never traveled faster than 20 mph on the journey, and hundreds of thousands of people watched the train pass by, and waited in the lines to see him lying in state. He passed through 444 communities in seven states on his way to Springfield.
When he got back to Springfield, Lincoln, and his two sons Willie and Eddie, who died before him, were interred in the vault. Mary and his son Tad were buried there later. Robert, Lincoln’s oldest son, is the only member of the immediate family who is not buried in Springfield; he long outlived the rest of the family and chose to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Lincoln’s monument took several years to build, in the meantime Lincoln’s crypt was an above ground crypt that was not particularly secure; an attempt to steal his body in exchange for the release from prison of a counterfeiter was very nearly successful. After the body snatching attempt, security at the crypt was beefed up (not for a while though) and Lincoln’s coffin was eventually encased in concrete ten feet under the ground.
Outside the monument is a bronze bust of Lincoln – be sure to rub his nose for good luck. And please don’t ask why you are supposed to rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, as he was one of our unluckiest Presidents – maybe we shouldn’t explore that too deeply.
Then step inside the tomb – there is a ranger inside who can answer questions and explain the details of Lincoln’s tomb. They have a passport stamp too – although it is not officially a National Parks site.
Once inside, you go into a hallway at the base of the monument; it goes around to the back of the monument where Lincoln’s crypt is. Lincoln has a beautiful marble crypt, but remember that he is not inside. Rather, he is about ten feet below. Mary and their sons are in wall niches on the opposite wall. The vault room is simple and somber, and it was truly a humbling experience to be where this great man is buried.