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Historical Re-enactment – 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Funeral


The 150th Anniversary of the Lincoln Funeral Train was held in Springfield, IL the weekend of May 1st -3rd, 2015.  (   (

150 Years ago April, the country was draped in mourning cloth of a different meaning from the last four years of the civil war.  The President who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, recently won reelection and was innocently watching ‘Our American Cousin’ in the Ford’s Theater on the night of 14 April, 1865 – was shot dead in Washington D.C. by a twisted hand of fate dealt via actor John Wilkes Booth.

Despite recent victory over the confederate states the Union was still grief stricken by the ravages of war.  War grief paled in comparison to their horror of losing a well liked and equally well respected President – it was almost more than the country could bear.

21 April, 1865 the Presidents private train car, the United States (1860’s equivalent to Air Force One), embarked upon a funeral train trek to assist the country in it’s shock over President Lincoln’s death.  The funeral train allowed everyone the ability to personally say goodbye to the beloved leader if they desired to travel to a spot on the train route.  Many black mourners came to participate in varying locations and at some locations were requested to be moved to the back of the crowd.  Despite these actions, most black mourners remained to pay personal tribute to the man who worked tirelessly ensuring their futures were provided more options than slavery.

The Lincoln funeral train stopped in 11 cities where funerals were held (Baltimore, Harrisburg, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago and Springfield) beginning in Washington D.C. where the initial funeral was held.  It is noteworthy that President Lincoln did not travel without family, his son Willie (who passed in 1862 from Typhoid), was exhumed and traveled with him for burial in Springfield.  Mary Todd Lincoln was extremely distraught over the loss of her husband and unable to accompany the coffin or attend the Springfield funeral.

The 1865 funeral train travel was over 1,600 miles in 12 days through 160 dedicated communities and past thousands of candle light or daylight mini-vigils held impromptu through out the vast miles of train tracks prior to the trains arrival in Springfield.  Citizens, black and white, who might have been unable to traverse roads leading to the 12 main funeral cities traveled far and wide to get to the nearest train tracks in order to garner a glimpse of the train passing through.  When they saw the train pass by, they paid personal respect to the fallen martyr often accompanied by song.  Hats were removed to gently place over hearts in honor and respect as the train passed, heads were lowered and tears profusely shed as their dear President traveled through their lives for the last time.

Online calls were set up last year calling for reenactors to volunteer as members of such groups as the army encampment, artillery crew, funeral procession, mourning party and others.  Rules included period accurate clothing only with a selective process and review.   More information can be found at ( and on Twitter (@2015Lincoln).

Around 1,100 reenactors were chosen for service and provided excellent event support and an era appropriate feel to the entire weekend.   The anniversary reenactment was phenomenal and had such an exciting array of 1860’s clothing designs, period accurate hats, military and civilian encampments  with mercantiles, provisions and even a period blacksmith with working kiln.  It was difficult to see everything in one weekend due to the vastness of the event.

Dave Kloke of Elgin, Il and a team of volunteers worked tirelessly to re-create the beautiful historic train that carried the President on his journey back home from Washington, D.C.   The recreated funeral train was a significant highlight during the event and was where the coffin was removed from prior to pall bearers transferring it to the hand crafted hearse.  The hearse itself was coordinated and built by many different people around the country.  P.J. Staab coordinated the project, Eric Hollenbeck worked on the car portion with local veterans (Veterans in the local Eureka, CA area were approved by the local community college to Hollenbeck’s millwork shop), John Shafer drew up the blueprints, Jack Feather was an expert in antique hearses and had to reassemble to hearse once received in his shop, Jay Jones built the wagon wheels,  and Feathers upholstery specialist created a beautiful interior of the hearse as well as the carriages bench.

Henry W. Osier, an expert in historical clothing and era appropriate garb was very impressed with the event and had some insight on the occasion.  “When I heard about this even in Fenruary, I knew that I really wanted to attend…It was truly once in a lifetime event…a fellow press member Kathy Berger and I met so many wonderful people who came for the event as reenactors.”  Henry also commented that  ‘never before had he had an opportunity to be part of such a momentous event!’  When asked what his favorite reenact or costume was, he noted the women’s dresses were great but his favorite piece was a fantastic cockade embellishment on a man’s short top hat.

The historical reenactors clothing was nothing short of phenomenal!  The pride and accuracy in depicting the historical era clothing was astounding and worthy of awe and respect.  The feel of the event during the funeral procession, coffin viewing, funeral march and internment was eerie yet captivating!  Scores of artillery reenactors manning the canons for the many gun salutes that were done, saluting of the coffin while transporting it to the hearse, marching of the procession to the military beat of historically accurate music was breathtaking and heart wrenching at the same time.

The period clothing, accurate military presence, train, hearse and coffin reconstructions and all facets of this event were well thought out, amazingly corregraphed and intricately managed.  It all came together in a successful reenactment of Lincolns Funeral Train and Funeral Procession that impressed and left one with a longing for those times or a longer weekend in which to enjoy the sights, sounds and reenactors period clothing.

Thank you to Springfield, the coordinators, all the reenactors and the talented builders – this was truly an event of a lifetime and one to remember for a lifetime.


Canon ready for duty with re-enactors on stand-by for action.
Young re-enactors in authentic clothing at the encampment
Incredible piece – the Leviathan – Lincolns funeral car
Side emblem detail
Perfect replica of decorative train wheels
Springfield’s street art – this building painting is an example dedicated to Lincoln and his early years
Capitol builiding


Photo of reproduction of original Lincoln home prior to additions and modifications the Lincolns made.
Lincolns home back yard with wooden sidewalks – to keep the dust off of clothes and out of house.
The official Lincoln outhouse – long ago considered a fancy bathroom facility
The inside of the Lincoln outhouse – three different ‘seats’
The Lincoln home side view with upstairs porch after all modifications – draped in mourning cloth
Lincoln homes extra bedroom
Lincoln home
Lincoln bedroom
2nd bedroom off of the main bedroom
Lincolns kitchen with newest wood burning stove – Mary wanted to bring this state of the art stove to Washington, but was told there would be good stoves there as well
Eating area off of the kitchen and living room
Eating area off of the kitchen and living room
street side of the living room – fantastic drapes
Living area
Different view of eating area
LIving area and game room
Fantastic street view of Lincoln home front façade draped in mourning cloth
Lincoln home entryway
Living room area
Small encampment by fountain
Re-enactors relax 1800’s style inside the encampment
Massive tent encampment
Canons at the ready
More extensive personal tent in encampment
Re-enactors pose at camp site
Historical re-enactors pose by store tent
Inside of a period encampment store
Re-enactors in period clothing in mercantile/vendor area
Hill encampment with patriotic display
Tent city encampment draped in sorrow
Historically clothed family relaxing under a sun shield in the encampment
Intricate historically accurate and detailed piece of clothing and parasol
Historically accurate blacksmith tent and work area
Wonderful tent draped for funeral in encampment area
Group of ladies in historically detailed clothing at Lincolns neighborhood, with a local firefighter!  (to the Springfield local firefighters, police and National Park rangers – thank you for your service)
National Park Services Supervisor in the Lincoln Home National Historic Site on the scene providing assistance to visitors
Ornate historical dresses and re-enactors exiting the Lincoln home tour
View down Lincolns street outside his house
Casting of Lincoln’s face and hands
Camp life in the 1800’s
Taking a much needed break in the shade
Not many know an Underground railroad stop was close to Lincolns local area
Era accurate sidewalks line the Lincoln Home National Park site
Wonderful and friendly re-enactors in their period clothing
Campaign era posters
Lincoln’s neighborhood was ethnically diverse in the 1800’s


Lincoln funeral train mourners standing by the rail line awaiting the coffin to be placed into the funeral car
The coffin flower arrangement leads the civilian re-enactors in mourning procession at the parade
Regal soldiers leading the re-enactment pall bearing portion of the event
Funeral procession lead group marching in the 150th Anniversary Lincoln Funeral re-enactment
150 years later, soldiers in formation controlling the mourning crowd that has gathered. Such an emotional event, even more so than anticipated.
Procession leading to the horse drawn buggy – The remaining Lincoln family re-enactment
Funeral car builder pictured here with the upholstery creator
The 6 horse carriage pulling the beautifully created Lincoln funeral car and leading the procession down the busy city street past the Capital building and local church

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Re-enactors view the coffin during the funeral ceremony.  Photo courtesy of Tabitha Bock of Tabitha Bock Photography.


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Re-enactors line the streets for the funeral procession.  Photo courtesy of Henry W. Osier
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Photo of the exquisite short top hat courtesy of Henry W. Osier
Internment re-enactment near the foot of the Lincoln memorial.     Photo courtesy of Henry W. Osier


Coffin and funeral car during the procession.    Photo courtesy of Henry W. Osier

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