Benedict R. Maryniak - Table of Contents .................. Abraham Lincoln - Table of Contents
One Funeral Makes Another
By Benedict R. Maryniak
Buffalo Civil War Round Table, Lancaster Historical Society
Buffalo staged two funerals for Abraham Lincoln.
The assassinated President's state funeral took place in Washington DC at noon on Wednesday, April 19, 1865, arranged and conducted by the Treasury Department. Dressed in the suit he wore to his second inauguration, Lincoln was carried in a lead-lined walnut coffin upholstered with black broadcloth and spiraling rows of silver stars. Somber black-draped arches spanned the street; there were crosses of white carnations, anchors of roses, wreaths of laurel & cedar. As the procession moved from the White House to the Capitol, every minute of its duration was marked by the blast from an entire rampart of siege guns or a full battery of field artillery. Thirty marching bands played and every bell in the city tolled. The firing, chiming, and dirging fell suddenly silent as the casket entered the Capitol's rotunda. On this afternoon, opined Edward Everett Hale, more people were praying to God than ever before in America.
Buffalo - Funeral #1
At the same time that the fallen national leader was being publicly mourned in Washington, several other cities staged similar observances. In Buffalo, all businesses were closed and streets choked with citizens as a cortege, complete with an empty coffin in a hearse drawn by six white horses, moved through the city. President Millard Fillmore had acted as honorary chairman for the "Citizen's Committee on Observance of the Day of Obsequies," which included Nelson K Hopkins, IA Verplanck, JC Masten, FP Stevens, Henry Martin, Jas Sheldon, ES Prosser, P Dorsheimer, SS Jewett, John Wilkeson, and SH Fish. Though this panel represented a good deal of Buffalo's economic power and political clout, the two last-named members were particularly appropriate - John Wilkeson's son John had fallen at Seven Pines as a lieutenant in the 100th NYV and his nephew Bayard at Gettysburg. Sam Fish's son, Major Henry Fish of the 94th NYV, died just a few weeks before the President, at Five Forks.
The Buffalo observance on April 19 had been conceived with no inkling that such a thing as a "funeral train" would return the President's remains to Illinois. By day's end, however, the newspapers had confirmed that Father Abraham's body would "pass through this city April 27." Since Lincoln had paid a famous visit to Buffalo on his way to Washington in 1861, this was immediately seized as a precedent for a stop by the train going back to Illinois. Before the city streets had fairly been cleared of the April 19 funeral, Millard Fillmore and his committee decided to restage their extravaganza.
After thirteen hours of public viewing at the Capitol on April 20, Lincoln's remains (and those of his son Willie) were placed aboard a nine-car train that departed Washington early next day on a 1700-mile journey to Illinois. The train arrived in Baltimore at 10 AM. After a ceremony and public viewing, the train was again on its way, reaching Harrisburg by 8:20 PM.
A group of Erie County soldiers - the 116th NYV, first division, XIX Corps - were then on their way riding the B&O out of the Shenandoah Valley bound for Washington. In the regimental history, Lancaster soldier Orton S Clark recalled their anticipation. "Crossing the Patapsco River . . . expectation was all alive to see the funeral train of the lamented Lincoln . . . When about twelve miles from Washington our train slackened its speed, and the slow tolling of our engine bell announced the approach of the funeral cortege. Slowly it passed us, and then we sped on our way to the capital." Ironically, the 116th was detached for provost duty in Washington -- assigned responsibility for the old Capitol and Carroll prisons, incarcerated within which were a number of those charged with being accomplices of Booth.
Lincoln's procession in downtown Buffalo. Photo courtesy of the author.
Click on photo for larger size.
Of Erie County's military units, only the 21st NYV would be on hand for Buffalo's tributes to Lincoln, having been discharged in 1863 at the end of two-year service. The late Dan Bidwell's 49th NYV was in Washington DC and the 100th NYV in Richmond, Virginia. The Corcoran Legion and Eaton's 27th Battery of NY Light Artillery were in the vicinity of Petersburg, and Weidrich's Battery I of the First NY Light Artillery in North Carolina.
After public obsequies and viewing in Harrisburg through the morning of April 22, Lincoln's remains were then moved on to Philadelphia's Independence Hall, remaining there until early on Monday April 24. The funeral train was left at Hoboken, New Jersey, the cortege then ferried to Manhattan and New York's City Hall. Though this city had voted against Lincoln and his administration at every turn, the public display of grief was mind-boggling. Several members of the official escort which remained with the President's coffin remarked at the way City residents obviously tried to out-do each other in demonstrations of mourning. New York City municipal authorities tried to bar blacks from participating in the funeral procession but were overruled by the War Department. The casket was returned to its special train and departed NY City at 4:15 PM on April 25. After a brief stop at a point across the Hudson River from West Point, the train reached Albany at 10:55 PM.
As final preparations were made for Albany's funeral observance and public viewing in the Assembly Chamber of the Capitol, John Wilkes Booth gasped out his last breaths on a farmhouse porch in the dawn of Wednesday April 26. He had been run down by a detachment of the 16th New York Cavalry. Hooked up to yet another set of locomotives, the funeral train pulled out of Albany that evening.
Buffalo - Funeral #2
The pilot locomotive running ahead of the funeral train as it moved toward Buffalo was NY Central RR engine #79. The nine cars were being pulled by the locomotive "Dean Richmond," engineer Leonard Ham and conductor Samuel Hildreth. Passing torch-lit groups along the right of way all night, the funeral train arrived at the NY Central RR depot in Batavia at 5:18 AM April 27, as the morning eastbound express train was pulled from the main line "about five miles east of Corfu" to give Lincoln the right of way. The "Dean Richmond" and her cars pulled into Buffalo's NY Central RR depot at 7:10 AM April 27.
The six-and-a-half-foot coffin was transferred to a hearse at 8 AM and six white horses, draped with flowing black blankets and heads topped with black plumes, slowly drew toward Niagara Square, where the procession was forming.
The official honor guard that never left Lincoln's remains was comprised of several high-ranking officers but actually manned by four officers and 25 sergeants from the 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 18th, & 24th Regiments of the Veteran Reserve Corps. These men are always seen in photographs of the funeral train, standing guard in their light blue uniforms. Captain James M McCamly, formerly of the 70th NYV, commanded the VRC escort, assisted by 1st Lieutenant Joseph H Durkee, veteran of the 146th NYV. Other New Yorkers in this VRC detachment were Sgt. Addison Cornwell 134th New York Vols, Sgt. Luther E Bulck 97th New York Vols, Sgt. Patrick Callaghan 69th New York Vols, Sgt. A Judson Marshall 94th New York Vols, Sgt. Augustus E Carr 140th New York Vols, Sgt. John Hanna 40th New York Vols, and Sgt. Irvin M Sedgewick 93rd NYV.
Cannons were fired at half-hour intervals all day by an unidentified light artillery battery in Lafayette Square, in front of the Old Court House. The city was again devoid of business activity and thronged with spectators. The crowd was estimated to have included between thirty and forty thousand people. Public viewing started at 10 AM in Saint James Hall, Eagle & Washington Streets.
John Harrison Mills, a Bowmansville boy and veteran of the 21st NYV whose leg had been shattered at Second Bull Run, guarded the coffin in St. James Hall. "I cannot remember how it came to pass that I was chosen to stand guard at the head of our beloved President Lincoln on that momentous day," he later recalled. "I had been through so much in the past four years, two of which were spent amid battle, murder, and sudden death, that details did not lodge in my memory, whereas events, made indelible impressions." Mills had seen Lincoln a few times -- when the 21st had arrived in Washington during 1861 and when recovering from his wound during 1862.
"Being on one crutch, I naturally could not march in the parade with the veterans of the 21st, 100th, and 49th, but I was early at St. James Hall, where a canopy and dais were being finished for the reception of the precious dead. I keenly remember an opening being made out on to Washington Street, and that over the sidewalk from Eagle Street south an incline was built to a platform over the basement windows, which admitted four abreast. After the procession the body was brought in from Main Street at 8 o'clock, and from that time up to 10 o'clock, when the crowd of men poured in from Washington Street, and of ladies & children from Main Street, I was at liberty to sketch the beloved face, so calm in death."
"After my return from the war I plunged into both artistic and literary occupations, and my hair was worn long in the fashion of all artists of that period. As I stood at the head of the coffin in my faded soldier suit and fatigue cap, with my gun on my shoulder and my crutch against a pillar, looking neither to right or left, I heard a whispered, "Mills, you ought to have got your hair cut. You don't look like a soldier." I shall never forget the sensation made upon me, who had been for hours in the seventh heaven, as this mundane suggestion was directed at me from my friend George Gibson, also a long-haired artist. I landed on earth again, and after that was keenly alive to the eager mass of humanity which surged past the immortal dead up to 8 o'clock that evening, when the lying in state was over and the honors paid by Buffalo to the Nation's martyred president had passed into history."
When Buffalo's second tribute to Lincoln reached its scheduled conclusion, the hearse and white horses took him back to the Exchange Street railroad station. The funeral train left for Cleveland at 10:19 PM. There were ceremonies and viewings in Cleveland on April 28, Columbus April 29, Indianapolis April 30, and Chicago May 1-2. The final stop at Springfield came May 3 and Lincoln's burial the following day.
The order of procession for Buffalo's April 19, 1865 veneration of Lincoln appeared in a local newspaper. It also served as the guideline for the funeral on April 27. It serves as a list of Buffalo's civil & military notables as well as a reflection of the city's ethnic and religious communities.
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