Funeral held for Willie Lincoln

February 24, 1862

It was a rainy, windy morning in Washington, but the weather cleared in the afternoon.  At 2 PM, a funeral for the president’s son was conducted by Dr. Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church that the Lincolns attended. “The funeral is a very solemn affair, but it cannot be permitted to interfere overmuch with work.  The burden is increased rather than laid aside,” remembered presidential aide William O. Stoddard.  Benjamin Brown French, Commissioner of Public Buildings wrote that “as soon I had eaten breakfast, I went to the President’s.  I found everything properly arranged for the funeral. The body of little Willie lay in the green room, in the lower shell of a metallic coffin, clothed in the habiliments of life, and covered with beautiful flowers.”  Willie’s body was dressed in his everyday clothes.  Mirrors on the first floor of the White House were rimmed with black cloth.  French wrote:

After looking about the house for a while I walked up into the President’s office and read.  He came up after I had been there about ½ an hour and appeared quite calm and composed.  He talked about his family and about the war.  The servant came in and told him ‘Tad’ desired to see him.  He left immediately for his son’s room.  Gov. Seward came in, and soon after the President returned.  I was sent for to go down and see someone about further preparation & did so.  I did not see Mrs. Lincoln at all.  About noon, The President, Mrs. Lincoln & Robert came down and visited the lost & loved one for the last time, together.  They desired that there should be no spectator of their last sad moments in that house with their dead child & brother.  They remained nearly ½ an hour.  While they were thus engaged there came one of the heaviest storms of rain & wind that has visited this city for years, and the terrible storm without seemed almost in unison with the storm of grief within, for Mrs. Lincoln, I was told, was terribly affected at her loss and almost refused to be comforted.  At two o’clock al were assembled in the East Room.  The President & Robert, all the Cabinet officers; Gen. McClellan; the entire Illinois delegation in Congress; Vice President and Mrs. Hamlin, and a large attendance of persons in official positions, and citizens.  Doctors P.D. Gurley & John C. Smith, conducted the services with great solemnity and propriety and then, followed by a procession in carriages about ½ a mile long, the body was borne to Oak Hill cemetery in Georgetown and temporarily deposited in the tomb of the Chapel, finally to be removed to Illinois.  I returned to the President’s, and then home…

“After the services the body was taken to the cemetery at Georgetown to be deposited in Mr Carroll’s vault, and left, for the time being, in the little chapel in the cemetary,” wrote Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning in his diary. “The President, his son Robert, Senator Trumbull & myself rode out in the Presidents carriage.  After return from Cemetery I brought Emma Home to Mrs Carters to dinner — Found Mrs Col Symington of Pittsburgh there.   After tea I returned to the Presidents and Mrs B & I sat up with Tad till after 2 O’clock in the morning.”  Willie’s body would remain in the Oak Hill cemetery until 1865 when it was disinterred and sent back to Illinois along with President Lincoln’s corpse.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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