On April 25, 1865 President Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in Albany on its way to his home in Springfield, Illinois.
It had been 11 days since his assassination, the night of April 14th and 10 days since his death on the morning of April 15th. The people of Albany heard the news of his shooting and then his death in short staccato, continuous bursts from the telegraph lines across the City (oddly like Tweets of today.)
Flags were lowered to half-mast.
Businesses and public and private buildings were draped in black mourning. Dry good stores quickly sold out of black and white fabric. Small memorials and shrines were erected in store windows and parks. On April 19th, the day of President Lincoln’s funeral in Washington D.C., Albany mourned as well. Businesses closed at noon; churches held special services.
It was also on the 19th that the decision was announced by Secretary of War Stanton that Lincoln’s remains would be conveyed via Funeral Train to Springfield, with stops in major cities. President Johnson, in a proclamation, said, “our country has become one great house of mourning.” Previous Presidents had died in office (William Henry Harrison and Taylor); one had been the object of an attempted, but unsuccessful assassination (Jackson). The shock and sadness, following 4 years of brutal and bloody war, was too much to bear. The funeral train would unite the country, or at least the Union, at a pivotal moment.
Over the next 6 days the mourning continued. Church services and prayer for some. On Saturday Rabbi Schlesinger conducted a funeral, rather than the regular Shabbat services at the “Hebrew Church” Anshe Emeth on South Pearl St. Others remained glued to telegraph offices following the hunt for the assassin and his accomplices. Meanwhile thousands of people poured into Albany waiting to pay their respects; the population almost tripled to just under 180,000. People slept 2 and 3 to a bed in hotels and private homes. Additional steamboats and trains were scheduled.
The Funeral train arrived on the opposite bank of the Hudson on April 25, 1865 at 11 pm; the coffin and its escort was ferried across the River.
Streets were cleared of vehicles; crowds started gathering at early evening. By all accounts there was no jostling for place; the mourners were somber and mostly silent, except for audible weeping as the torch lit procession accompanied the hearse bearing Lincoln’s body up State St., while church bells tolled and minute guns were fired continuously. The hearse stopped in front of the old City Hall before until it reached the Old Capitol.
At the Capitol the coffin was removed from the hearse and carried into the Assembly Parlor. Public viewing of the open casket began at 6 a.m*. the next morning. Thousands filed through the Washington Ave. door, passed the bier to pay their respects and out the south door on the State. St. side of the building.
At precisely 2 p.m. the lengthy funeral procession started. It left the Capitol, proceeded up State St. to Dove, thence to Washington, back to State via Eagle and then to Broadway to the New York Central Depot. Church bells tolled throughout the procession and guns were fired on the minute throughout.. Every civic, community, religious, government and military organization from Albany and the surrounding area was represented. A somber throng of thousands lined the streets.
With military exactness Lincoln would have appreciated his coffin was loaded into the railroad car, and at precisely 4 p.m. it rolled on the New York Central Line on its way to the next stop in Buffalo.
*Shortly before the public viewing began, about 400 miles away, John Wilkes Booth was cornered by Federal troops at a farm in Virginia; he was pronounced dead at 7:30 a.m., as visitors streamed past the President’s body in the Capitol Although word of his death and capture started to spread through the crowds in Albany, there were no cheers or demonstrations throughout the day.
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor