Today in History: President Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Train Comes to Syracuse

NorthrupAnselJAnsel Judd Northrup (left), moved to Syracuse in 1859 after finishing Law School at Columbia University. Northrup consistently wrote his thoughts in a dairy, each entry giving today’s readers insight and individual perspective on events occurring in and out of Syracuse in the 1860s. As we find ourselves looking back at Lincoln’s assassination over 150 years later, OHA’s staff wondered if the well spoken Northrup recorded his thoughts on the assassination of President Lincoln. Lucky for us, he did, and in poetic fashion. In this entry, Northrup gives a detailed account of the arrival of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train, which arrived in Syracuse on April 26th, 1865 – Today in History.

“The remains of the dearly beloved President Abraham Lincoln passed through this city westward this evening.  First came the “pilot” train at 11:05 p.m. and at 11:15 came the train, the escort and the remains.  It remained for precisely 15 minutes.

The train consisted of six or seven cars, the last but one containing all that remains of Abraham Lincoln.  A funeral dirge was chanted by the car while it remained, and soldiers on each side marched through the Depot with it as it moved slowly away.  The Depot was beautifully and tastefully tended with draped flags, while powerful locomotive head lights revealed the whole scene with startling distinctness.  And that was the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln!  I shall never forget my emotions upon that occasion, as I stood, with my wife Eliza and my cousin in the Depot, in the midst of the vast throng assembled, and witnessed the sad scene.  The big tears swelled up from my very heart and escaped from my eyes.  God forgive me! But I almost worshiped that man.President Abraham Lincoln funeral Train, April 1865

For two political campaigns, in the heat of the fight, I had strained every nerve to secure his election. Working as a young man inspired by a good cause and under the leadership of a man they admire do work speaking, riding through wind and rain and darkness to distant little villages to address those who hold the powerful ballot in their hands, tramping in processions, hanging at great meetings, and doing daily battle of argument in shop and store and office and street, and throwing the whole soul into all the work.

I have watched and prayed and purged, through these bloody, weary years of war, leaning more and more hopefully on the Head of the Nation as his honesty, patriotism and wisdom were more and more proven.  No wonder then, that my political leader, be the Savior of my country, was enshrined in my youthful, enthusiastic, trusting heart as the Great Good leader of the age!  The assassins blow struck home to the tender’s point of my heart as well as the center of life of the Martyr President.

Oh, how sad, sad it was tonight to think that in yonder car, draped with heaviness weeds of woe, was laying my dead hero.  My leader, and more, the Country’s Hope, the Country’s Savior, slain. Farewell!  The man of the People, born to save the Nation, slain in the moment of thy greatest joy and glory!  Farewell! Poor inanimate body, but live forever-forever – Abraham Lincoln second only to Washington in the hearts of thy countrymen!”