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Reading 4: Springfield Newspaper Account of Abraham Lincoln's Funeral
On March 3, 1860 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States. Less than a month later, on April 12, 1861, the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Tragedy struck the family on February 20, 1862, when their son Willie died of a malarial infection. On July 1, 1863 Lincoln issued an emancipation proclamation which declared slaves free in most areas of the Confederacy and set the stage for the total end of slavery. On November 19, 1863, Lincoln gave a speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that honored the soldiers who had died in the July battle there and stated in very few words why the war for democracy and freedom was so important. A year later, Lincoln won reelection as President and by the end of 1864, focused on ending the war and the reunification of the Union. Just days after he led the Union to victory, a southern sympathizer--John Wilkes Booth--shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865, while he and his wife Mary attended a play at Ford's Theatre. The unconscious Lincoln was taken to a rooming house across the street, where he died the next day. Following Lincoln's death, his remains were returned to Springfield. The following is an account of Lincoln's funeral as reported in a Springfield newspaper.
Daily State Journal
If any evidence were needed of the love of the people for Abraham Lincoln and their confidence in him, it is furnished by the remarkable spectacle of the last few days. Never did a conqueror, in the hour of his proudest triumph, receive such proof of the devotion of a nation, as that which has been accorded to the remains of the martyred President on their way to be deposited in their last resting place.
Amid the magnificent pageants which have been witnessed in their progress from city to city, one thing has been prominent--and that is, the profound feeling which has touched all hearts. The decorations which have been witnessed as the sorrowful procession advanced from place to place, have been unparalleled in the history of this country, and perhaps scarcely equaled in any other. The whole nation has risen up to do homage to his memory.
If the feelings of sorrow on the part of the people have been deep and real, elsewhere, they have been even more so in our late President's state and home. Here his virtues were appreciated and the struggles by which he so worthily arose to such distinction, as well as the difficulties with which he has had to contend with through four years of the most stupendous war, were fully understood. Here were those who never lost faith in the pilot at the helm, even when the storm of civil war beat most violently about the "ship of state." Here he always received sympathy and encouragement from those who knew him best.
The events of yesterday and to-day in this community are full of the most impressive significance. From our midst, a little more than four years ago, President Lincoln was called to the highest office in the gift of the people. Yesterday, all that is mortal of him returned to us wrapped in the habiliments of the grave. Thousands who loved the man for his virtues and the cause for which he was the noble champion, wept at the ruin for which the assassin has wrought. The emblems of mourning everywhere displayed, the solemn strains of martial music, the slow and measured tread, the sad countenances of the people, all told of the grief which touched all hearts. Illinois receives her murdered son again to her bosom, no less loving than when she sent him forth to the most distinguished honor. To-day we lay him reverently to rest amid the scenes he loved so well. Millions will drop a tear to his memory, and future generations will make pilgrimages to the tomb. Peace to his ashes.
Questions for Reading 4
1. Based on this account, how did the people of Springfield feel about Abraham Lincoln? Why do you think they feel the way they do?
2. How do the sentiments in these articles compare with the sentiments offered in the newspaper accounts of the 1860 rally?
3. Do you think the whole country felt as positively about Lincoln and his legacy at his death? Who might have held another opinion? Why?