A commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln funeral train’s arrival in Indianapolis will take place April 30 at the Indiana Statehouse. The event will include a re-enactment of the somber ceremony for the assassinated president.
Commemorative events are also planned in Richmond and Michigan City, which were other stops for the funeral train. More information about commemoration events is available here. A replica funeral train has been built, but planners said it’s uncertain whether the train will visit any Indiana locations.
Planners of the Statehouse event “have gone to a lot of effort to make it historically accurate,” said Elizabeth Osborn, coordinator for court history and public education programs for the Indiana Supreme Court. Osborn said one-time Indiana Supreme Court Justice Alvin P. Hovey organized Lincoln’s funeral in Indianapolis in 1865. His body laid in state for hours in an open casket as more than 50,000 Hoosier mourners paid respects at the old Statehouse.
Indiana Commissioner of Public Records and State Archivist Jim Corridan is leading the funeral commemoration, which will be free and open to the public beginning at 11 a.m. April 30.
Corridan said the lasting affinity Hoosiers feel for Lincoln comes from his triumphs and hardships, his formative years spent as a boy in Indiana, and his relatable humanity. “He was probably our most famous president, and he went through lots of turmoil, both in his personal life and during the Civil War,” Corridan said.
The tragedy of Lincoln’s assassination “really changed the way the country functions,” he said.
A Lincoln interpreter from the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site will be at the event, which will include a re-enactment of Lincoln’s funeral procession with a replica coffin. Leaders including Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush will place wreaths in honor of Lincoln, who was slain April 15, 1865, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., just days after the end of the Civil War.
The commemoration also will include a performance by the Indianapolis Maennerchor, the choir which in 1865 sang mourning songs during the funeral.
The Lincoln funeral train departed Washington on April 19, 1865, and completed its journey on May 3. Mourners lined the tracks throughout the journey.
Historical accounts say thousands of Hoosiers waited for the train’s arrival at Union Station in Indianapolis on a cold, rainy day. The Indianapolis Daily Journal reported, “Every Indianian may feel the honor of the State has been rather brightened than compromised by their reception of the remains of President Lincoln, and that the State where he passed some years of his youth, has rendered her full quota of honor to him as the Savior of his Country.”
After Lincoln’s death, the Indiana Supreme Court also issued a memoriam stating the president’s death was “a great national calamity, which nearly and profoundly touches the whole people.” The full resolution may be found on Page 521 here.
Justice James S. Frazer had known Lincoln since before his election. In the memoriam he wrote, “he was, in my judgment, the first statesman of this age, and the peer of any whom the world has yet produced.”
Osborn became familiar with the Lincoln memoriam while collecting court proclamations for the 2006 book “In Memoriam: Glimpses from Indiana’s Legal Past,” co-authored by Wendy L. Adams. Osborn said it once was customary for the Supreme Court to publicly mark the passing of leaders including governors and justices. Likewise, the Court of Appeals formerly issued in memoriam resolutions on the passing of appellate judges.
“They were just things that kind of garnered more public attention and don’t happen in quite the same way anymore,” Osborn said. She said in the past, justices read the resolutions from the bench, and bar associations also often issued such resolutions. According to Osborn, the last Supreme Court in memoriam resolution was issued after the death in 1980 of former Justice Floyd Draper.