During our journey across this great nation we decided to take a random pilgrimage to visit the Tomb of Lincoln. In order to enter you have to answer the Riddle of the Three Headed Mary Todd, and defeat the vengeful ghost of Stephen Douglas… in a standard format debate. Still it was worth it to gain entry to see the actual tomb of Lincoln, where his body finally came to rest. We say finally because the matter of Lincoln’s body is one of those strange and quintessentially American tales.
A Procession of Mourning
Our sixteenth President died on April 15, 1865, and he eventually came to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, but getting there was a bit of a pain. You see back before television it was determined that the people of the United States should have one last chance to say goodbye to their hero President. So Lincoln was extensively embalmed, and on April 21 loaded onto a train that was adorned with a giant picture of him. The train and Lincoln then made a 1,600 mile journey to cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and hundreds of other smaller stops. The train carried dignified guests, including the body of William Wallace Lincoln, who died from typhoid at age 11 and was being moved with his father to be buried in Springfield.
At each stop the corpse was unloaded placed on a black carriage and paraded to a spot where the public could arrive to view it for several hours or even days. Unfortunately, there was a flaw, and that was the lack of the invention of refrigeration. Embalming only does so much, and by the time Lincoln reached New York and went through a marathon viewing, the dead President was not looking so well. The corpse was exposed to the air for 23 hours. By many accounts, when Lincoln reached Springfield he was looking like something more fit for a horror show than a somber funeral.
At least he finally reached Springfield to be laid to rest in Oak Ridge, and you would think that would be the end of the story.
On, November 7, 1876 -election night- a band of grave robbers attempted to exhume Abraham Lincoln and hold the corpse for a $200,000 ransom -about $4 million in today’s money- and the release of a fellow counterfeiter. Their plan was foiled by the Secret Service, a group which Lincoln created. They did, however, manage to get the lid off the President’s coffin. So after that, the coffin traveled to a number of secret locations between 1876 and 1887. It had to be opened multiple times to confirm Lincoln’s identity, which sounds like a fun job.
It was Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s oldest son, who finally suggested surrounding the coffin with a 10-foot steel cage and ecasing it with cement, as if they feared the undead wrath of the Great Emancipator. In 1901, the body finally came to rest in its current tomb in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, accompanied by Mary Todd and the majority of their children. Then, after 1901, the tomb started receiving a lot of curious and patriotic visitor. So, the Egyptian-like tomb was expanded in 1930 to add more rooms for visitors, and in 1960 it became of America’s first National Historic Landmarks.
Finding the tomb of Lincoln is not hard, trust us. It towers above everything in the cemetery and is decorated with ornate statues depicting heroic recreations of the Civil War and other moments in the President’s life. When you walk inside the massive monument you realize that Lincoln -much like the ancient Egyptians- was buried with a friendly tour guide. A very nice man is employed solely to sit in the tomb all day and direct visitors about which way to go.
When you enter the tomb you follow the circular path around to see various statues of Lincoln at different parts of his life, as a debater, a soldier, a lawyer, and finally as the President. The path ends at the tomb of the man himself, a giant marble slab bearing his name and surrounded by flags. The body itself is interred 10 feet below the floor, but you can still feel as if Lincoln is in the room, silently judging the poor decisions that led to the election of Donald Trump. The flags arrayed around the coffin are of the state that the President lived in and the states that his current descendants live in.
That’s it. Then you stand their awkwardly somewhat thankful for all the concrete and steel between you and the vengeful embalmed zombie corpse. After you are done you can find the bust of Lincoln that sits in front of the tomb and rub its nose for the good luck that Lincoln never had. Then you get in your car, get lost in a bad neighborhood of Springfield, and then eventually find the highway and move on.
All we can say is that the impressive monument and the strange story of Lincoln’s final burial is a true testament to the man’s mystique and prestige as a President. During the hard times of the Civil War, Honest Abe, was very much like Batman. He was the hero the United States needed, but not the one it deserved. He was a silent guardian standing vigil during our darkest night, and we suspect that if it wasn’t for all that concrete and steel keeping him in check, he might still be.
As for us, on to our next adventure…
Until next time, keep watching our adventures on SnapChat at thenyrd.