President Abraham Lincoln is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. We would like to say that unlike his death, Honest Abe’s burial was free from drama and strife, but that is not the case. In fact, attempts were made to steal his body, and it was moved at least 17 times after arriving at the Springfield cemetery.
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In this article, we will walk you through the history of Lincoln’s burial. We will discuss his final resting place and his wife’s.
Although Lincoln’s burial place may not be on your US travel bucket list, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington may be. We will also discuss the difference between the site in Springfield with the iconic memorial on the National Mall in D.C.
Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb in Illinois
You will remember that Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, as the President attended the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater. He died the next day.
After the body Lay in State at the White House and in the Capitol Rotunda, it was placed in a nine-car funeral train accompanied by a few relatives and friends. The train then made its way northwest toward Springfield, Illinois, with stops in 11 U.S. cities along the way so distraught Americans could view the fallen President.
An embalmer accompanied Lincoln’s body on the journey. Embalming was a rather new art at the time, and attempts were made to keep Lincoln’s body as preserved as possible throughout the 13-day train ride.
Deciding Lincoln’s burial spot
After Lincoln’s assassination, a group of Illinois leaders gathered together to form the National Lincoln Monument Association. The group reached out to Lincoln’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, and asked her to consider burying the body in Springfield. The group had chosen a site called The Mather Vault, which was located near downtown Springfield.
Mary Todd Lincoln waffled on her decision and thought maybe Chicago might be a better spot for the final resting place of her husband. She also considered using the crypt that was under the U.S. Capitol’s Rotunda—a spot that had initially been planned for George Washington’s entombment.
Her son was finally able to convince Mary Todd Lincoln that a Springfield burial would be appropriate by suggesting that the body of his brother, Willie Lincoln could accompany the President’s body to a shared final resting place.
History of the tomb
While Mary Todd Lincoln finally agreed that both her husband and son would be buried in Springfield, she was adamant that her husband would prefer a more out-of-the-way burial spot instead of the one the Springfield politicians suggested.
Mary Todd Lincoln said that she and her husband had visited Oak Grove Cemetery during its opening dedication when he was running for office. During the visit, he said that he desired to be buried in an out-of-the-way place.
Even though the President’s widow made her desires known, the Illinois political leaders continued to prepare the site near downtown Springfield. After a heated debate, Mary Todd Lincoln decreed that her husband’s and son’s bodies would rest at Oak Grove Cemetery.
The bodies were placed in a temporary tomb after they arrived from Washington in May of 1865. They were moved to a temporary grave for the next six years. Finally, the Lincoln Monument (not to be confused with the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.) was completed, and the bodies were moved to the new tomb in 1874.
What about the Lincoln Memorial?
President Lincoln is not buried or interred at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This memorial was dedicated in May 1922.
The Lincoln Memorial was designed to look like a Greek temple and includes a 19-foot-tall statue of Lincoln sitting in a chair. The memorial also has the text of the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address carved on the walls.
Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb: FAQs
Of course, hundreds of books have been written about Lincoln’s life, presidency, assassination, and burial. Here are a few answers to the questions you may have.
Where is Mary Todd Lincoln buried?
Mary Todd Lincoln is buried with her husband at Oak Grove Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Three of their four sons (Edward, William, and Thomas) are buried with them at the same site. Their fourth son is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mary Todd Lincoln suffered from physical and mental disorders, and she was thought to suffer depression throughout most of her life. She died at her sister’s home of a stroke in 1882.
Was Abraham Lincoln ever exhumed?
Lincoln’s body was not given a chance to rest in peace until 1901. Between his death in 1865 and 1901, his coffin was exhumed 17 times and opened five times.
While all this movement seems extreme, one of the reasons for the exhumation was because of an attempt to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom in 1876. Increased security measures were put into effect after this time, which, unfortunately, is necessary at the site of famous graves.
The body also had to be moved when the monument needed repair, once around 1900 and again around 1930.
Currently, the President’s body is located 10-feet under the ground of the tomb. The site of his casket is marked on the marble floor with a granite cenotaph. (A cenotaph is a monument to someone buried elsewhere.)
Were Lincoln’s grave robbers successful?
No, Lincoln’s body was never actually stolen from its grave, but an attempt was made in 1876. A group of Chicago counterfeiters wanted to take Lincoln’s body to negotiate the release of one of their comrades who was incarcerated at Joliet. The job of stealing the body should not have been difficult for these career criminals, but since the group didn’t have any experience robbing graves, they asked another man to help them.
They did not realize that the new person who they had invited into the plot was an informant for the Secret Service. Officials from the Secret Service laid in wait when the criminals arrived at the cemetery.
The criminals were trying to lift Lincoln’s coffin when a detective’s pistol accidentally fired. The criminals ran away, but they were arrested in their favorite saloon in Chicago a few days later.
In the meantime, those in charge of the tomb panicked that other attempts would be made to steal the President’s body. Lincoln’s body was removed from its location and was buried in a shallow, unmarked grave until a more secure location could be determined.
Can you visit Abraham Lincoln’s grave?
Yes, people can visit Lincoln’s Monument in Springfield every day of the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The site is closed on all major holidays. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency operates the monument.
It is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Virtual tours of the site are available online.
You’ve heard the adage that “truth is stranger than fiction.” There are many strange stories connected with Lincoln’s death and burial. For example, Lincoln had seen Booth act in a play before at Ford’s Theater. He also had a premonition of his death right before the assassination.
If you are interested in Lincoln’s life, there are many interesting biographies written about this great leader.
- Craughwell, Thomas. “A Plot to Steal Lincoln’s Body.” U.S. News and World Report. 24 June 2007. www.usnews.com/news/articles/2007/06/24/a-plot-to-steal-lincolns-body
- “Design and History.” The Lincoln Tomb. lincolntomb.org/
- 3. “Lincoln Tomb.” Historic Preservation Division. State of Illinois. www2.illinois.gov/dnrhistoric/Experience/Sites/Central/Pages/Lincoln-Tomb.aspx
- 4. “Lincoln Tomb.” Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. National Park Service. www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/presidents/site19.htm