From our Abraham Lincoln Collection: The Programme of Reception
Six days after his death, on April 21, 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train left Washington, D.C., to begin the more than 1,600 mile journey back to Springfield, Illinois where he was to be buried. Preparations had begun in Springfield for, the late President’s arrival, and the above Programme of Reception detailed the order in which dignitaries and other notable representatives were to receive the President’s train and transport his body to the State House. There are a few differences between what is printed in the Programme and the actual events of May 3 when Mr. Lincoln’s body arrived in Springfield.
The most notable difference is the train station that received Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train. The Programme lists the original arrival point as the Great Western Depot, the same Depot from which the President left Springfield in February 1861. Instead, the funeral train arrived at the Chicago and Alton Depot a few blocks away. All indications are that the reasons for the change were logistical. According to a 1941 article in Baltimore and Ohio Magazine which quotes James Wilkerson of Kansas City, Missouri, the funeral coach, “was constructed with four trucks instead of two, and this resulted in a great deal of difficulty during the trip to Springfield. Car ran awkwardly and great care had to exercised in passing over switch points.” This simple detail would have made it more difficult for the train to be switched over to the tracks that would have carried the funeral train to the Great Western Depot. In addition, the switchover to the Great Western Depot was south of Springfield, meaning that the train would have passed through the Chicago and Alton stop, and the masses of observers there, before coming back to the Great Western Depot. So, it appears the decision was made to simplify the process and have the funeral train come to rest at the Chicago and Alton Depot.
The other differences are relatively minor. Instead of 8 a.m., the train arrived an hour later at 9 a.m. William T. Coggeshall wrote in his 1865 book The Journeys of Abraham Lincoln: from Springfield to Washington, 1861 and from Washington to Springfield, 1865, “The Funeral Train was announced by the firing of cannon at nine o’clock. It passed into the depot through a dense crowd of expectant people, composed not only of the citizens of Sangamon County, but representing all the States touching Illinois.” The last difference is in the route of the procession. The May 4, 1865, edition of the Illinois State Journal tells us the route taken: east on Jefferson Street to Fifth Street; then south on Fifth Street to Monroe Street; east on Monroe to Sixth Street; and then north to the State House. There the procession entered through the east gate and into the Hall of Representatives via the North entrance.