It was weeks after Abraham Lincoln's death in mid-April, that has body made it from Washington, D.C. back to Springfield, Illinois. The lifting of a replica coffin from a car designed to look like Lincoln's funeral train began a series events this weekend in Springfield, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the president's death and burial.
Pallbearers escorted an elegant, horse-drawn black and gold hearse, topped with huge black ostrich plumes, through the streets of downtown Springfield on Saturday and Sunday. They were re-tracing the steps of Lincoln's funeral procession in 1865.
Then, many thousands of mourners paid vigil to Lincoln.
This weekend, too, thousands of visitors -- many in period clothing (the men in Civil War soldier costumes, and women in hoop skirts, often carrying mourning parasols), were there to watch its re-enactment. Gov. Bruce Rauner called Lincoln "the greatest Illinoisian."
"President Lincoln returned to Springfield a hero to this nation," Rauner said during a ceremony Saturday. He had kept our country in tact, and set us on the path to become the greatest nation in the world. His legacy has withstood the test of 150 years, and our love for him has only grown stronger."
The Illinois National Guard's leader, Adjutant General Daniel Krumrei says the guard is headquartered at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, "and our unit patch, worn on the left shoulder of our duty uniform, is a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln. An image that reminds every day of how we are expected to live, how we are expected to serve as soldiers, that we are standard-bearers of freedom for all."
On Sunday morning church bells tolled for Lincoln and the statehouse flag was flown at half-mast. Besides the funeral parade, weekend events included a Civil-War encampment at a local park, seminars with Lincoln experts, and various exhibits.
People who visited the mock casket were given an evergreen sprig; as had reportedly been done at Lincoln's funeral 150 years ago. Even the flag draped over the replica coffin was made by the same flag-maker that had stitched the flag that had rested atop Lincoln's actual coffin.
Lincoln scholar Dr. Michael Burlingame, of the University of Illinois Springfield, says John Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln after hearing a speech in which the President talked about extending to blacks the right to vote. Burlingame says given that, "it's appropriate for us in the 21st Century to regard Abraham Lincoln as a martyr to black civil rights as much as Martin Luther King."