Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. In the days that followed his death, the country deeply mourned their leader. He died only six days after the South surrendered in the Civil War, and he barely had time to prepare the United States for what would come next. Lincoln was the first president to be embalmed; his body traveled on a train from Washington D.C. through the Northeast and headed to his home of Springfield, Illinois, where he would be laid to rest. Lincoln’s funeral train arrived in Springfield on May 3, and he was finally buried on May 4, 1865.
After 150 years, Lincoln is still being mourned. On May 2, 2015, a re-creation of Lincoln’s funeral car arrived in Springfield alongside the thousands of people who flooded the Illinois capitol to catch a glance of it. Inside of the train lay a coffin, replicated from the one that Abraham Lincoln was buried in. I cannot find out what lay inside the re-created coffin; I can only hope that it was some kind of contemporary Lincoln effigy, lovingly handcrafted for this very occasion.
Both excited and self-conscious about my decision to attend this patriotic performance, I grappled with making sense of my surroundings. Looking out at the throngs of people wearing Lincoln-themed T-shirts who were commingling with the re-enactors, I couldn’t quite place myself. This event takes place in two different realms: the world of American history enthusiasts (to which I, somewhat embarrassingly, belong) and some kind of conservative political universe (where I definitely do not belong). I couldn’t quite figure out if I was there for pleasure or research, and I certainly didn’t fit in with the sea of aggressive Lincoln appreciators.