Bloody Times by James L. Swanson

Bloody Times by James L. Swanson

Author:James L. Swanson
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins

Lincoln’s funeral car.

Chapter Ten

But this transformation had not yet taken place as the train approached Baltimore. The whole state of Maryland, and Baltimore in particular, were known for being unfriendly to Lincoln. Four years ago, on his way to become president, Lincoln’s train had traveled through Baltimore. People there were rumored to be plotting to kill him. Lincoln passed through the city in secrecy in the middle of the night.

But now all was peaceful as the train arrived at Baltimore at 10:00 A.M. Townsend telegraphed Stanton promptly: “Just arrived all safe.” Thousands of sincere mourners stood in heavy rain to await the president. The honor guard aboard the train carried the coffin from the car and placed it in a hearse drawn by four black horses.

The hearse was designed to display the coffin. According to one spectator, “The body of this hearse was almost entirely composed of plate glass, which enabled the vast crowd . . . to have a full view of the coffin. The supports of the top were draped with black cloth and white silk, and the top of the car was handsomely decorated with black plumes.”

A procession got under way and marched to the Merchant’s Exchange. It took three hours to reach Calvert Street. The column halted, the hearse drove to the southern entrance of the Exchange, and Lincoln’s bearers carried him inside. There they laid the coffin beneath a dome, upon a platform about three feet tall, with columns on the four corners. A canopy fourteen feet tall was draped with black cloth, trimmed with silver fringe, and decorated with silver stars. Around the platform, Townsend saw, “were tastefully arranged evergreens, wreaths, calla-lilies, and other choice flowers.”

In Baltimore there would be no ceremonies, sermons, or speeches; there was no time for that. Instead, as soon as Lincoln was in position, guards threw the doors open and the public mourners filed in. Over the next four hours, thousands viewed the body. The upper part of the coffin was open to reveal Lincoln’s face and chest.

In Baltimore, Edward Townsend established two rules. First, no one except the officers and men of the United States army traveling aboard the train was ever allowed to touch the president’s coffin. Townsend was firm: “No bearers, except the veteran guard, were ever suffered to handle the President’s coffin.” Second, Townsend had forbidden mourners to get too close to the open coffin, to touch the president’s body, to kiss him, or to place anything, including flowers, in the coffin. Any person who violated these rules would be seized at once and removed from Lincoln’s presence.

At about 2:30 P.M., with thousands of citizens, black and white, still waiting in line to see the president, local officials ended the viewing. Lincoln’s bearers closed the coffin and carried it back to the hearse. A second procession delivered Lincoln’s body to the North Central Railway station in time for the scheduled 3:00 P.M. departure for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The first stop had gone well. General Townsend sent a telegram to the Secretary of War:

BALTIMORE, April 21, 1865.


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