Saturday, February 18, 2017

Lincoln Funeral Reenactment – Part 3

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Part 1 and Part 2 of this 3-part series covered all the activities that occurred on Saturday, May 2, 2015, the first full day of the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment in Springfield, Illinois. Part 3 will cover the reenactment of the funeral procession that took place on Sunday, May 3, 2015.

Although it was a very long and tiring day on Saturday, Ruth and I set our alarm and got up around 4:30 on Sunday morning. Saturday had ended with the disappointment of the candlelight vigil for Lincoln’s coffin being canceled due to an impending storm. Our original plans had called for photographing the coffin at dusk on Saturday and dawn on Sunday.

The all-night vigil was supposed to have lasted until 6:00 Sunday morning. So we hoped that maybe they had continued the vigil after the storm had moved through. This, however, was not the case. The hearse was still inside the fire station at 5:00 a.m. Near the fire station, we found this stovepipe hat sculpture, which contained some great Lincoln quotes, such as "My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth."

We then headed to the Lincoln home to capture some photos before it was again surrounded by hundreds of people. Built in 1839 and purchased by the Lincolns in 1844, it was the only home ever owned by Abraham Lincoln and is now the centerpiece of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. When the Lincolns moved to Washington, D.C., they rented the house to the Lucian Tilton family.

It was draped in black fabric, just as it had been after Lincoln’s death. In 1865, when nearly 150,000 mourners came to Springfield to see his body and attend the funeral, thousands flocked to his home hoping to see anything related to the Lincoln family.

Around 7:00 a.m. we visited the Lincoln Park Civil War camp. It was a beautiful morning and the camp was coming alive as the sun came up.

And the smell of scrambled eggs and fried potatoes cooking over an open campfire was making me hungry.

When we left Lincoln Park, we headed back toward the downtown area to locate a good spot from which to photograph the funeral procession. On the way, we passed many homes that were draped in black. One home had a fence draped in black fabric and patriotic bunting.

Around 11:00 a.m., Ruth dropped me off near the corner we had chosen earlier. The procession was scheduled to begin at noon at the Old State Capitol, as it did in 1865. I was about nine blocks away from there and I was happy that we had chosen a corner that wasn’t crowded with people. It was a very warm and sunny day, which paralleled the weather the day of Lincoln’s funeral when the temperature reportedly reached 82 degrees. By noon, the temperature had climbed to 81 degrees, so it was a long wait in the heat of the sun. Around 12:30, I began to hear in the distance the solemn tolling of a bell. Dong!....Dong!....Dong!

Then the sound of a drumbeat….Boom!....Boom!.....Boom, Boom, Boom! Other than that, I think you could have heard a pin drop. Spectators waited in silent respect. Finally, the procession was nearing, led by reenactors playing the roles of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, marshal-in-chief, and Brig. Gens. John Cook and James Oakes, who led the procession in 1865.

They were followed by President Lincoln’s Own Band in their bright red uniforms. After they turned the corner, they began to play a solemn funeral march.

The band was followed by scores of Civil War troop reenactors. And as the sound of the funeral march and drumbeats began to fade in the distance, I was suddenly conscious of the sound of the troops’ feet hitting the pavement in unison.

The troops were followed by Lincoln’s ostrich-plumed hearse, drawn by six beautiful black plumed horses. As it passed, the clip-clop of the horses’ hoofs, the tolling of the bells, the funeral march, and the beat of the drums, all added to the solemnness of the occasion.

The hearse was followed by many horse-drawn carriages and buckboards.

Then came a vintage horse-drawn, steam-powered fire engine pumper and Springfield firemen dressed in period costume.

As in Saturday’s procession from the train station to the Old State Capitol, the civilian reenactors came last, walking in solemn reflection.

This was the same group of reenactors whom I had photographed the day before. But somehow Sunday’s procession seemed even more solemn.

And as the last of the civilian reenactors walked past me, I noticed a woman in a light green dress with a black parasol lifting a black kerchief up to her nose. I started to wonder if she was acting or if she was really crying. And suddenly I was overcome with such emotion that I started to sob. Fortunately, there were no more photos to take because I don’t think I could have continued.

I had told Ruth that I would call her to pick me up when it was done, but I had to get control of my emotions first. So I walked a couple of blocks and stood on a corner for a while before I called her. I think I was so busy all weekend doing the work I had come there to do that I had kept my emotions in check as I did my work. But Sunday’s procession was such a historically accurate reenactment of Lincoln’s actual funeral that I could no longer keep my emotions buried and they came pouring out in a flood of tears.

The funeral procession route from the Old State Capitol to Oak Ridge Cemetery followed the historic route as closely as possible. It was over three miles long, so it took another hour and a half to reach the cemetery. Ruth and I spent some time exploring this historic cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Then I waited on the hillside across from the cemetery to get a different vantage point as the procession approached the cemetery entrance. These reenactors in a horse-drawn carriage portrayed Lincoln’s family.

I loved all the children taking part in this historical event and how patient they were through the long walk in the heat of the afternoon.

The hillside gave me a different perspective on the crowd of reenactors in their period costumes.

Around 2:40 p.m., the hearse slowly entered Oak Ridge Cemetery through the restored arched entrance on First Street, just as it had in 1865. It was followed by a reenactor leading a horse portraying Lincoln’s Springfield horse, Old Bob, who had taken part in the funeral procession 150 years ago. It then proceeded to the recently restored receiving vault, the same one in which Lincoln’s body rested temporarily from May 4, 1865 to December 21, 1865 while a more permanent tomb was being constructed.

The re-created coffin was then removed from the hearse for the funeral ceremony, which took place in front of the 1860 receiving vault at the base of the hill below Lincoln’s Tomb. The ceremony consisted of a shortened but historically accurate version of the original funeral program. During the ceremony, music from the original funeral was performed by a special choral group and Civil War era musicians. The ceremony ended with Lincoln’s coffin being moved inside the receiving vault by the Veterans Reserve Corps and a 36-cannon salute (one for each state in the Union at the end of the Civil War).

My photos cannot possibly do justice to the historical significance of this event and the emotions it evoked in everyone who participated in and observed the event. If you’d like to experience Sunday’s funeral procession from where I was standing, click here to view a 7-minute video by videographer William Castronuovo, who was recording the procession as it passed us on the corner of 8th and Cook Streets.

My gratitude goes out to the Lincoln Funeral Coalition for their vision and planning over nine years to make this event as successful as it was; to the residents of Springfield, who were certainly inconvenienced by closed streets and the thousands of spectators that descended on the city; to all the companies and volunteers who restored the cemetery entrance and receiving vault; to Dave Kloke and his team for the re-created funeral car; to the Staab family and their team of veterans for the re-created hearse; to the St. Louis area historians and craftsmen for the re-created coffin; to the people who brought horses and horse-drawn vehicles to downtown Springfield; to the 1,000-plus Civil War troop and civilian reenactors for their historically accurate performances and their perseverance wearing period costumes in 80-degree temperatures; to the Civil War era bands and choruses for their historical music; and to anyone else who took part in this historical and touching reenactment.

My thanks also go out to Ruth for discovering that this event was taking place and planning our annual spring photography trip to include it in our itinerary.

You can view additional photos from the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment weekend here.

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. Wonderful as usual! Loved the Lincoln House one especially! :)

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! The Lincoln house was beautiful at first light. Sometime I'd like to go back there and visit more of the sites when there aren't tens of thousands of people visiting. :-)

  2. Finally catching up on your blog posts and finished your Lincoln series. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful photos and your story of the event. I can't imagine the amount of time that went into the planning and executing of this event by so many people. What a beautiful tribute to our nation's 16th president.