What Happened at the Statehouse 146 Years Ago Today? We Found Out at “The Repose of Lincoln”

Honor guard from the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Battery A

On April 29, 1865, more than 50,000 people visited the Ohio Statehouse to pay their respects to Abraham Lincoln. That day, a memorial service was held for the assassinated president at the Statehouse, and his body lay in state in the Rotunda. Columbus was the ninth stop on the Lincoln funeral train’s procession to Springfield, Illinois.

Today, my friend Beth and I visited the Statehouse for the “Repose of Lincoln,” an annual event commemorating this historic day.

The 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Battery A, a group of Civil War re-enactors, guarded a representation of Lincoln’s coffin and catafalque on the very same spot where Lincoln’s body lay in the Rotunda. Batesville Casket Company’s replica of Lincoln’s coffin was something to see. Constructed of walnut and covered in black broadcloth, the coffin has a white satin interior, with silver-colored handles and decorative silver tacks on its sides. Lincoln’s original coffin included a silver plate on the center of the lid that was inscribed with Lincoln’s birth and death dates. A mourning wreath of evergreens, magnolia leaves and white roses was also placed at the site.

Lincoln-Vicksburg Memorial, Ohio Statehouse Rotunda

We also saw the Lincoln-Vicksburg Memorial in the Statehouse Rotunda. The memorial was created by Thomas Dow Jones, a sculptor who worked for a time as a stone mason in Cincinnati and is buried in Granville. In December 1860, Jones traveled to Springfield to create a bust of Lincoln. Later that month, the president-elect began a series of one-hour sittings with Jones. After Lincoln’s assassination, Jones was commissioned to sculpt a marble memorial honoring Lincoln and soldiers who served in the Civil War. He used his original bust of Lincoln as a model and included a representation of Confederate soldiers surrendering to Union soldiers at Vicksburg, Mississippi in the middle of the sculpture. It was installed in the Statehouse Rotunda in 1871.

We joined other Statehouse visitors in the Atrium to hear Reverend Timothy Ahrens, pastor of the First Congregational Church in downtown Columbus, recite a couple of poems by Reverend Washington Gladden, who served as pastor of the same church from 1882 to 1914. He also read the prayer that another predecessor, Reverend Edward Goodwin, recited for the crowd attending the memorial service for Lincoln at the Statehouse 146 years ago. Then, Lincoln historian John Ward, whose ancestor played taps at Lincoln’s Springfield funeral, gave a presentation about Lincoln’s funeral train procession. He shared interesting anecdotes like the fact that Lincoln was buried in the Brooks Brothers suit that he wore to his second inauguration. We also learned plenty about 19th century embalming practices!

The Statehouse is offering more great programs in the coming weeks. On May 6 and 7, the same Civil War re-enactors will convene at the Statehouse for an encampment on the front lawn. A silhouette artist will visit the Statehouse Museum Shop on June 10, cutting black paper freehand to create detailed profiles in five minutes!

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