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Moving Lincoln's Body
09-15-2012, 02:43 PM
Post: #1
Moving Lincoln's Body
Hi,  I just visited Oak Ridge Cemetery and took a guided tour of Lincoln's Tomb.  I asked the tour guide a question about the years Lincoln's casket was buried in a shallow grave in the basement and she told me the story told on the History Channel is not accurate, stating that the water table was too high for this to be possible. Can you tell me If she is correct or if the History Channel is?  I really enjoy learning about Lincoln history and felt the need to better understand what really happened. The tour guide provided a list that shows the President's body was moved a total of 14 times.

I asked Roger and he kindly provided a list Dan Pearson put together on this subject. Dan's list shows Lincoln's body was moved a total of 17 times.

Below is Dan's list together with the list provided by the tour guide (ALL IN UPPER CASE)


1. May 4, 1865 - Abraham Lincoln's coffin is moved from the hearse to
the receiving vault at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Placed with Lincoln's coffin are
two others containing his sons Edward and William.
STATE HOUSE TO PUBLIC RECEIVING VAULT, OAK RIDGE

2. December 21, 1865 - The three Lincoln coffins are moved to a
temporary tomb, constructed into the hillside to the southeast of the
receiving vault, northeast of the current tomb. Here the bodies rested while
the tomb was being built.
PUBLIC RECEIVING VAULT TO TEMPORARY VA[/b]ULT

3. September 19, 1871 - The bodies of Abraham, Edward, and William
Lincoln are moved to the catacomb of permanent tomb. Lincoln's coffin is
placed into a crypt built into the rear wall of the catacomb. The mahogany
outer coffin is replaced by a new iron casket.
TEMPORARY VAULT TO A WALL CRYPT IN TOMB

4. October 9, 1874 Lincoln is removed from his crypt and placed in a
marble sarcophagus located in the center of the catacomb. It is found that
the iron casket is too large to fit into the sarcophagus, so it is replaced
with a new red cedar coffin.
WALL CRYPT TO SARCOPHAGUS IN BURIAL CHAMBER

5. November 7, 1876 In an attempt to kidnap Lincoln's body and hold
it for ransom, ghouls partially dismantle the sarcophagus and slide
Lincoln's coffin halfway out. The conspiracy is foiled, however, and the
kidnappers escape leaving Lincoln's body behind.
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

6. November 8, 1876 Marble masons are called to the tomb and slide
Lincoln's coffin back into place and reassemble the sarcophagus.
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

7. November 13, 1876 (daytime) Fearing another attempt to steal
Lincoln's body, tomb officials have the stonemasons remove Lincoln's body
from the sarcophagus, cover it with a dark blanket, and hide it from view in
the catacomb. The sarcophagus is then reassembled.
SARCOPHAGUS TO NORTHEAST WALL OF BURIAL CHAMBER

8. November 13, 1876 (nighttime) Tomb officials meet under the cloak
of darkness and carry Lincoln's coffin out of the catacomb, around the
outside of the monument, through Memorial Hall on the opposite side of the
tomb, and into the labyrinth on the interior of the tomb superstructure.
Here it is placed among the debris left by the builders of the tomb.
NORTHEAST WALL OF BURIAL CHAMBER TO EAST OF OBELISK BASE

9. November 14, 1876 A crude outer coffin is constructed and
Lincoln's casket is placed inside to better protect it.
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

10. November 18, 1878 Once again fearing that Lincoln's coffin will
be discovered and stolen, it is buried in a shallow grave at the far end of
the labyrinth against the back side of the family crypts.
OBELISK BASE TO TO NORTH AREA OF OBELISK BASE BEHIND CRYPTS

11. November 20, 1878 Responding to an anonymous threat received by
the caretaker of the tomb via a postcard, the coffin is once again dug up to
ascertain that Lincoln's coffin was indeed in the grave in which it was
placed a mere two nights before. Reassured of its safety, the coffin was
reburied.
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

(July 21, 1882 After a public entombment in one of the family crypts
in the catacomb following her funeral, Mary Todd Lincoln's casket is
secretly taken from the crypt that same night, carried into the labyrinth,
and at Robert T. Lincoln's request, buried alongside her husband.)
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

12. April 14, 1887 Abraham and Mary Lincoln's caskets were
disinterred from the labyrinth, and moved to Memorial Hall. Here Lincoln's
coffin was opened, his body identified, and resealed.
NORTH OF OBELISK BASE TO MEMORIAL HALL

13. April 14, 1887 Abraham and Mary were carried around the base of
the monument and into the catacomb, where they were lowered into a specially
prepared vault constructed of brick and mortar built into the floor of the
catacomb. The vault was covered and the floor replaced over it.
MEMORIAL HALL TO CRYPT UNDERGROUND IN BURIAL CHAMBER

14. 1899 Due to structural instability of the tomb caused by an
uneven settling of the foundation, it was determined that the entire
structure would have to be rebuilt. The Lincoln family was disinterred and
moved to yet another temporary vault dug into the hillside behind the
monument.
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

MARCH 10,1900 VAULT UNDER BURIAL CHAMBER TO UNDERFROUND VAULT NORTHEAST OF TOMB

15. February 1901 The Lincoln family was removed from the temporary
vault and placed back into the crypts of the partially rebuilt tomb.
Lincoln's body was placed in a crypt while a more elaborate vault was
prepared for him in the floor of the catacomb.
NOT INCLUDED ON LIST PROVIDED BY TOUR GUIDE

APRIL 24, 1901  UNDERGROUND VAULT TO SARCOPHAGUS IN TOMB
 
JULY 10, 1901  SARCOPHAGUS TO CRYPT IN TOMB

16. September 26, 1901 Lincoln's coffin was removed from its crypt
and taken around the base of the monument and placed in Memorial Hall. One
last time, his coffin was opened and his body identified, and the lead inner
coffin again sealed.
CRYPT TO MEMORIAL HALL

17. September 26, 1901 Lincoln's body was taken back around the
monument to the catacomb. There it was encased in a steel outer cage,
between which tons of cement was sloshed, forever ending the travels of the
long-dead President.
MEMORIAL HALL TO PRESENT VAULT UNDER BURIAL CHAMBER

While Lincoln was finally at rest, the remainder of the Lincoln family
was moved two more times. In the early 1930s a decision was made to remodel
the interior of the tomb, making it accessible to the public. The coffins
containing the bodies of Mary, Edward, William, and Thomas Lincoln were
removed from their crypts and transported to the Oak Ridge mausoleum located
near the south gate of the cemetery. After the interior remodeling was
completed, the bodies were returned to their crypts. The interior of the
tomb was dedicated June 17, 1931.
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09-15-2012, 03:48 PM (This post was last modified: 09-15-2012 03:51 PM by RJNorton.)
Post: #2
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Hi Kevin. I just checked a book called Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell. Regarding November 18, 1878, the author writes (from p. 158):

"Down in the basement on the east side of the tomb Power showed his recruits Lincoln’s coffin concealed behind a pile of old boards and still encased in the wooden crate the marble dealer Adam Johnston had built for it. Abraham Lincoln was exactly where Power, Stuart, and others had left him two years earlier. The new team of gravediggers decided to shift the crate to the north end of the basement, where the water table was not so high. They did not dig deep, just down far enough that the crate would rest a few inches below the surface of the dirt floor. The space was cramped, the air stifling; by the time the men lowered the box containing the coffin into the shallow grave, it was midnight and they were utterly exhausted. Power urged his helpers to go home: he would fill the hole the next day."
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09-15-2012, 04:02 PM
Post: #3
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Thanks Roger - not sure why tour guide would dispute this.
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09-15-2012, 04:26 PM (This post was last modified: 09-15-2012 04:26 PM by Rob Wick.)
Post: #4
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
I've been to Springfield too many times to count, and I've found that the quality of the tour guides can vary greatly. Some are very knowledgeable and do all they can to provide as much information as possible, and others treat it like they were working at McDonald's. I once had a guide tell me that tourists never paid homage to an empty sarcophagus and when I disputed this, she suddenly threw up her hands and said she was far too busy to continue.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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09-15-2012, 04:51 PM
Post: #5
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
I have never been to Springfield, but is the Lincoln Tomb under the purview of the National Park Service? The quality of some of the Rangers nationwide depends on whether they have asked for that assignment or been automatically transferred there. Of course, to me, that is a significant trait in many workers in many different occupations. There are SUPER Rangers, GOOD Rangers, and MEDIOCRE Rangers at most national sites.

I'm glad that Roger turned to Tom Craughwell's great book. He was a speaker at a recent Surratt conference and was excellent as well as very pleasant to work with. I would definitely trust his research. His telling of the bumbling details of the kidnap attempt of Lincoln's body had the audience laughing about a very serious incident.

Just some speculating, but it appears that most of the "official" list of movings are related to the kidnap attempt. Do you suppose that the modern age has chosen to keep this quieter in order to discourage the crackpots of today?
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09-15-2012, 05:09 PM
Post: #6
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Actually, Laurie, the tomb is under the control of the state of Illinois. The guides there fit your description of NPS rangers. It really depends on the day you go. I've had some rangers from the NPS at Lincoln's home who obviously knew what they were talking about, and others who probably got transferred there against their wishes. Once, at the Lincoln Boyhood Home in southern Indiana I had a park ranger basically call me stupid because I said the story is that Nancy Lincoln died from milk sickness caused by cows eating the snakeroot plant and not white snakeroot, although in a frame in one of the rooms there, they have a drawing of the plant and it doesn't call it white snakeroot, but just snakeroot. Oh well.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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09-15-2012, 05:18 PM (This post was last modified: 09-16-2012 03:53 AM by RJNorton.)
Post: #7
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Kevin, i don't know why I didn't think of these books when you first wrote me. I just checked another book titled The Great Abraham Lincoln Hijack by Bonnie Stahlman Speer. Although she uses different words she says pretty much the same thing as Mr. Craughwell.

However, I did come upon what the tour guide may have been referring to in a pamphlet I have written by Dorothy Cashman, wife of George Cashman who was the former Curator of the Lincoln Tomb. She writes that on the night of November 15, 1876, an attempt was made to dig a shallow grave. However, before the excavation was deep enough, water seeped in and filled the trench. So the men quit the digging and tried to decide what to do next. Undecided, they left the coffin on planks and covered it with debris. This was a temporary measure. But it wasn't until November 18, 1878, that the decision was made as described above.
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09-15-2012, 05:26 PM (This post was last modified: 09-15-2012 05:32 PM by Kevin.)
Post: #8
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Thanks Rob

Roger, thanks for looking into further.
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09-15-2012, 05:56 PM
Post: #9
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
You're welcome, Kevin. Welcome aboard!

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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11-19-2012, 03:20 PM
Post: #10
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Wasn't Abraham imbombed upwords of 16 times so that thry could "parade" his body through many states for public viewings?
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11-19-2012, 03:54 PM
Post: #11
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Sort of, you might enjoy the book "20 Days" by Dortohy and Philip Kunhardt. You can sometimes find it at a discount price on Amazon, or find a decent quality used one. It has a lot of great photo's, and is one of the books that hooked many of us on the subject of Lincoln's assassination. (you can always ask for it as a Christmas gift)

http://www.amazon.com/Narrative-Pictures...1555219756

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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11-19-2012, 04:02 PM
Post: #12
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Lincoln was embalmed at the White House after his autopsy I believe and a Dr. Brown accompanied the body to Springfield to touch up Lincoln before viewings. I don't know if he was actually injected with chemicals on the trip or just touched up with powders to lessen the blackening of his features and make his corpse presentable.

"There are few subjects that ignite more casual, uninformed bigotry and condescension from elites in this nation more than Dixie - Jonah Goldberg"
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11-19-2012, 04:03 PM
Post: #13
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
Ashley, I would like to second Gene. It's a terrific book. It's the only book I ever used in my classroom that older students, long gone from my classroom, would come back and ask to see.

Also, one of our forum members, Scott Trostel, has written a terrific book on the funeral train. Scott's website is here: http://www.lincolnfuneraltrain.com/html/...train.html
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11-19-2012, 06:54 PM
Post: #14
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
(09-15-2012 03:48 PM)RJNorton Wrote:  Hi Kevin. I just checked a book called Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell. Regarding November 18, 1878, the author writes (from p. 158):

"Down in the basement on the east side of the tomb Power showed his recruits Lincoln’s coffin concealed behind a pile of old boards and still encased in the wooden crate the marble dealer Adam Johnston had built for it. Abraham Lincoln was exactly where Power, Stuart, and others had left him two years earlier. The new team of gravediggers decided to shift the crate to the north end of the basement, where the water table was not so high. They did not dig deep, just down far enough that the crate would rest a few inches below the surface of the dirt floor. The space was cramped, the air stifling; by the time the men lowered the box containing the coffin into the shallow grave, it was midnight and they were utterly exhausted. Power urged his helpers to go home: he would fill the hole the next day."

Roger,

There is a photo in the Meserve images showing the crate containing Lincoln's coffin hidden away in the catacombs of the tomb. I will send it to you for posting.

Joe

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04-03-2014, 12:33 AM
Post: #15
RE: Moving Lincoln's Body
I have a question...when I read that the original, very ornate and expensive mahogany coffin of Lincoln has been replaced by ones of iron and later red cedar, are they saying that the president's remains were actually removed each time, or that the old coffin was simply placed into a new outer one? I think removing him from his coffin would have been quite difficult as he had been mummified and was said to be like a block of stone or marble at that point.

Also, the idea that he is now buried in a block of cement has always disturbed me, for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on. I understand why RTL wanted it that way, but it still saddens me. And the fact that he is alone and apart from his family-even if only by a few feet-is just wrong. Especially since Mary's oft repeated wish after his death was to be laid to rest at his side, eternally.Sad
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