‘There Were No Truer Mourners’ – Gideon Welles on Lincoln’s Funeral

April 19, 1865 (Wednesday)

From every part of the country comes lamentation. Every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor. Profuse exhibition is displayed on the public buildings and the dwellings of the wealthy, but the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white is more touching.

Rev. Henry Brown, with Abraham Lincoln's horse, Old Robin, on the day of Lincoln's funeral.
Rev. Henry Brown, with Abraham Lincoln’s horse, Old Robin, on the day of Lincoln’s funeral.

The funeral on Wednesday, the 19th, was imposing, sad, and sorrowful. All felt the solemnity, and sorrowed as if they had lost one of their own household. By voluntary action business was everywhere suspended, and the people crowded the streets. The Cabinet met by arrangement in the room occupied by the President at the Treasury. We left a few minutes before meridian so as to be in the East Room at precisely twelve o’clock, being the last to enter. Others will give the details. I rode with Stanton in the procession to the Capitol. The attendance was immense. The front of the procession reached the Capitol, it was said, before we started, and there were as many, or more, who followed us.

 Title: Lincoln's funeral on Pennsylvania Ave.
Title: Lincoln’s funeral on Pennsylvania Ave.

A brief prayer was made by Mr. Gurley in the rotunda, where we left the remains of the good and great man we loved so well. Returning, I left Stanton, who was nervous and full of orders, and took in my carriage President Johnson and Preston King, their carriage having been crowded out of place. Coming down Pennsylvania Avenue after this long detention, we met the marching procession in broad platoons all the way to the Kirkwood House on Twelfth Street.

Lincoln funeral, Wash., D.C.
Lincoln funeral, Wash., D.C.

There were no truer mourners, when all were sad, than the poor colored people who crowded the streets, joined the procession, and exhibited their woe, bewailing the loss of him whom they regarded as a benefactor and father. Women as well as men, with their little children, thronged the streets, sorrow, trouble, and distress depicted on their countenances and in their bearing. The vacant holiday expression had given way to real grief. Seward, I am told, sat up in bed and viewed the procession and hearse of the President, and I know his emotion.



View all posts by