IN the small hours of April 15th Springfield learned the tragic news. At three o'clock in the morning, amid despatches from Grant's army in Richmond, accounts of Lee's surrender, and New York gold quotations, came the first terse flash from Washington: "The President was shot in a theatre tonight, and is probably mortally wounded." By dawn it was known that death was only a matter of hours.
In sadness and anxiety the people gathered in groups on the streets. A few stores which had opened for business closed, and the quiet of a Sunday prevailed. Flags flew at half|mast, buildings were draped with black cloth, church bells tolled. At eight o'clock came word of Lincoln's death. Four hours later the citizens met in the State House and listened to John T. Stuart speak of the dead President. That after|noon one organization after another—the Union League, the Fenian Brotherhood, the City Council—met to give formal expression to the sorrow which all men felt.
The next day, a Sunday, the churches were crowded, and ministers decried the national calamity from black-draped pulpits. On the 19th, when funeral services were held in Washington, stores and offices were again closed; again flags hung at half-mast. At noon the guns at the arsenal fired a solemn salute; that afternoon there were services in all the churches. It was another day of sadness and mourning.
Page 291By this time preparations for the funeral were under way. In Washington, on the 17th, an Illinois delegation had secured Mrs. Lincoln's consent to the burial of the body in Springfield. At the same time a local committee had been chosen to make arrangements for an appropriate site for the grave. Soon afterward, with unanimous approval from the city, the Mather property1 was chosen, and the construction of a temporary tomb commenced. Then, just as the vault was completed, word came from Mrs. Lincoln that the body was to be deposited in the receiving vault at Oak Ridge. The people were disappointed, but the committee acceded to her wish.
Meanwhile, the funeral train had been slowly moving westward. In Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Indianap|olis and other cities hundreds of thousands had looked upon the features of the dead President. On the first of May the cortege reached Chicago, where the body was to lie for twenty-four hours. On the third it would be in Springfield.
The day broke bright and clear. Dawn found the streets crowded—for hours special trains had been pouring thou|sands into the prairie capital. By eight o'clock the Alton station was an island in a human sea, and other thousands lined the tracks beyond the limits of the town. The 146th Illinois, with detachments from other regiments, was drawn up in line on Jefferson street. Minute guns, fired by a Mis|souri battery, sounded strangely sharp against the hushed voices of the crowd.
Shortly before nine o'clock the pilot engine arrived. A strained silence was the crowd's only manifestation. A few minutes later the funeral train, nine black-draped cars, drew slowly into the station. In absolute quiet the body was placed in the magnificent hearse which the city of St. Louis had tendered for the occasion, and the long procession started for the State House. There, in the Hall of the House of Repre|sentatives, Page 292 the coffin was placed on a velvet-covered cata|falque. The guard of honor took their places, the casket was opened, and the people started to file past. All day and all night the slow procession continued, until it was said that 75,000 had looked upon the face of Lincoln.
At ten o'clock on the morning of May 4th the coffin was closed. While minute guns sounded, and a choir of 250 voices sang hymns on the State House steps, the casket was placed in the hearse. With General Hooker at its head, the long procession started towards Oak Ridge. The cemetery reached, the choir sang again while the body was placed in the tomb. A minister offered a prayer, another read scripture, a third read the Second Inaugural. The choir sang a dirge, and Bishop Simpson pronounced the funeral oration. There was a closing prayer, the Doxology, a benediction. Slowly, silently, the vast crowd dispersed.