By Joann M. Ringelstetter
If you haven’t had a chance to read Part 1 of this 3-part series, I suggest you start there . Part 1 left off with the Saturday morning procession interruption caused by a freight train that came through Springfield on the tracks that the procession was crossing. After photographing the carriage drivers and passengers who were waiting for the train to pass, I hustled five blocks to find a spot from which to photograph the procession.
As I walked the last block, I could see the route lined with so many people that I didn’t think I would be able to find a clear spot where I wasn’t trying to see over and around others. But as I approached the corner where the procession would turn onto 5th Street, I saw a barricade in the middle of 5th Street and, for some reason, people didn’t realize they could stand in front of it. Of course, as soon as I moved into position, a crowd began to gather around me. The procession was led by Civil War officer reenactors, followed by President Lincoln’s Own Band.
Behind the band were Civil War troop reenactors, followed by Lincoln’s horse-drawn hearse, which was flanked by honorary pallbearers. The spectators, though they numbered in the thousands, watched in silence and respect.
The hearse was followed by more Civil War troops. Walking behind the hearse was a man wearing a top hat and carrying the floral arrangement that would be placed on Lincoln’s coffin during the vigil in front of the Old State Capitol.
Next came all the horse-drawn carriages and buckboards, many of them carrying Civil War Union officers.
Following the horse-drawn vehicles and individual horse riders was a young man with a very important job – that of cleaning up the horse manure. He was dressed in period costume and pushed an antique wooden wheelbarrow.
At the back of the procession were hundreds of reenactors in period costumes. There were men in top hats and women in hoop skirts and veils. Some carried antique parasols.
Others came as families with small children in tow.
The procession moved along quickly, so I was excited to notice and then capture a picture of a man carrying an 1860 stereo camera like the ones in use at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and funeral. I later learned that this vintage camera was carried by historical reenactor and photographer Robert Taunt from La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Some of the women wore black; others wore muted colors. Some, however, wore fancy colorful dresses. These dresses brightened up the procession, but didn’t take away from the solemnness of the occasion as the reenactors walked in quiet reflection.
Although there were hundreds of reenactors, the entire procession passed by me in about 15 minutes and it was over too soon. As the crowds dispersed, I called Ruth and asked her to pick me up in front of Union Station, a former train station and now part of the complex of buildings that together form the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Meanwhile, the funeral procession continued on to the Old State Capitol where there was a large stage set up for the opening commemorative ceremony of music and speeches. Many of the people who had lined the streets for the procession had begun to make their way toward this stage. There was such a sea of people that I decided to come back later for the all-night candlelight vigil that was scheduled for the viewing of the coffin. I figured the crowds would have dispersed by then and I might have a chance to get up close to the coffin and hearse. I also liked the idea of photographing the coffin by candlelight at dusk.
After napping for a couple of hours and grabbing some lunch, I headed out again around mid-afternoon. My first stop was the arched entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery. This cemetery was dedicated in 1860. The original arched entrance, through which Lincoln’s funeral procession came in 1865, had been replaced in the 1890s with an entrance on Monument Avenue.
Since that time, the original wooden archway had deteriorated and the chain-link fence on top of the concrete security wall had rusted. In order to be as historically accurate as possible, the original entrance was restored with over $200,000 in donations of materials and services.
Just inside the arched entryway were several reenactors who kindly posed for a photograph.
Across from Oak Ridge Cemetery is the beautiful and historic Lincoln Park, in which several Civil War camps were located for the reenactment weekend. The camps were spread out across the 88-acre park and I wanted to see as much of Civil War camp life as I could. There were rows and rows of plain white tents.
And there were meager accommodations inside these tents.
There were reenactors tending to their period costumes.
There were soldiers tending to their horses and talking with other soldiers.
There were Union officers relaxing in the shade by their tents.
And there were reenactors trying to catch a few winks after the physically and emotionally intense morning activities.
Above all else, there was patriotism displayed everywhere.
After an hour of walking through the Civil War camps at Lincoln Park, I had planned to also visit the Civil War camps in another part of town. As I was leaving the park, I passed a Union bugler. I asked him if he would play something for me and he obliged with “Taps.” Then he asked me if I had been inside Lincoln’s Tomb. I told him I didn’t think I could get in with all the people in town for the reenactment. He said, “Oh, you just have to go see it.”
Lincoln’s Tomb is on a hill, high above the arched cemetery entrance. My feet were already worn out by all the walking in the morning and then through the Civil War camps. But I decided to see if I could get in for a tour. So I climbed the many steps up to the top of the hill and, to my delight, there was a tour about to start and I had the blessing of being included.
The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, completed in 1874, is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four sons. Our tour guide took us through a rotunda and down a long hallway that led to the burial chamber, which is finished in polished marble trimmed with bronze. A few people at a time were allowed to enter the burial chamber to pay their respects to this great man. I can’t explain the feeling of standing in that burial chamber, but tears run down my face as I write this.
According to the superintendent of the Springfield state historic sites, over 4,000 people visited the Lincoln Tomb on Saturday and Sunday. Considering the fact that only a small number could see the burial chamber at one time, I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity. After visiting Lincoln’s Tomb, I walked back to my car and then drove over to Benedictine University where there was another Civil War camp. This camp was much smaller than the ones at Lincoln Park and had a series of tents that made up a boarding house.
I liked these old-fashioned toys spread out on a vintage quilt.
And I especially enjoyed photographing these two reenactors as they sat at a table filled with food and drink.
I also happened upon the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Regiment Band posing for a group photo.
By this time, I had blisters on my feet and I was ready to head back to the motel. On the way back, I again thought about stopping to see Lincoln’s coffin, but I was so worn out that I decided to just wait until the candlelight vigil. After resting a couple of hours, it was time to head down to the Old State Capitol to see and photograph the beautiful re-creation of Lincoln’s coffin.
But as soon as Ruth dropped me off and I walked towards the plumed hearse, I realized that the replica of the ornate, silver and black coffin wasn’t there on the platform where it was supposed to be. And my heart sank as I discovered that it had been loaded back into the hearse, which was being prepared to be moved inside due to an unexpected storm moving towards Springfield.
I can’t begin to describe my disappointment at this turn of events, especially since I had chosen twice not to battle the crowds in order to photograph this very special coffin. The all-night candlelight vigil would not be taking place and the hearse would be moved to Fire Station No. 1 a few blocks away. As a group of Civil War troop reenactors worked together to pull the hearse toward the fire station, I followed along and my plans to capture the coffin by candlelight faded into the darkness.
In Part 3 of this blog post, I will tell you about Sunday’s emotional funeral procession from the Old State Capitol to Oak Ridge Cemetery. I hope you will join me there.
In the meantime, you can view additional photos from the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment weekend here.