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Journey’s End

May 2024
1min read

Lincoln’s rest has been disturbed with astonishing frequency: his body was moved seventeen times between the warm May afternoon in 1865 when it was first placed in the temporary receiving vault at Oak Ridge Cemetery (above) and the day it reached its current resting place in 1901. There is not room here to trace all its movements. Unexpected difficulties encountered in first building and then repairing the tomb were largely responsible. But the 1876 body-snatching plot that almost succeeded so alarmed Lincoln’s friends that, some weeks after the culprits had been caught, a band of Springfield citizens stealthily removed the President’s coffin from the restored sarcophagus at night and, staggering under the five-hundred-pound burden, carried it into a dark labyrinth between the walls, where they hid it first beneath a heap of old lumber and then in a shallow grave scratched in the earth. For some years, visitors mourned at an empty sarcophagus. Then, in 1900, the tomb itself was found to be crumbling: the whole thing had to be rebuilt from the foundation. Lincoln’s body—and those of his wife and children —were spirited out and buried secretly nearby beneath nine tons of pulverized stone until the work could be completed. Then the coffins of Lincoln (right) and his family were raised and lovingly borne inside by old friends. There, after the coffin was pried open and the remains identified for the last time, Lincoln’s body was laid to rest on September 26, 1901. At the insistence of his son, Robert, it now lies ten feet beneath the floor of the tomb’s north room, surrounded by a steel cage and embedded in two tons of solid cement.

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