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“Now he belongs to the ages”

“A man of great ability, pure patriotism, unselfish nature, full of forgiveness to his enemies, bearing malice toward none, he proved to be the man above all others for the great struggle through which the nation had to pass to place itself among the greatest in the family of nations. “ (Gen. Ulysses S. Grant)

On April 14th, 1865 President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, went to Ford’s Theater to see a popular play of the time – “An American Cousin.”  Mrs. Lincoln had made up a theatre party for the evening with General and Mrs  Grant being their guest to see Laura Keene.  She was ending her season in Washington that night with a benefit.  Sitting in the box with the Lincoln’s were  Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris. (Clara was the daughter of New York State Senator Ira T. Harris.  Major Rathbone was the son of Jared Rathbone, Albany Mayor and wealth businessman, and Pauline Penny.)  Their  attendance was a last minute invitation  due to  General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant had declined the invitation as they had where going north at the time.  Here “fate” stepped in which changed their young lives forever.   It was during a part of the play when the audience was acknowledging a pleasing part of the dialogue that John Wilkes Booth fired a fatal shot into the president.   Lincoln was removed across the street to the Peterson’s House where he later died.

After the state funeral in Washington his casket, with his son’s disinterred coffin, (Willie died 1862 age 11)  was placed aboard the funeral train on April 21st.  The funeral possession, with some changes, would re-tracing his initial route from Springfield to Washington as he traveled when he became president. On April 25th – 10:55 PM – the train arrived at Rensselaer  and the casket was ferried across the Hudson to the State Capitol where it was to lay in state.  The assembly chamber at Albany was opened to the public at 1:15 AM .

‘the pushing and hauling of so many people straining to get in at that unusual hour and for the somber purpose was wholly unexpected.  Police and militia were present in small details only.  The military units had returned to dispersing areas from where many made their way back to the capitol as individuals to swell the already oversized crowds.  At better than sixty a minute the anxious multitude trooped through the hushed chamber without let-up.”  The mourners passed by for about twelve hours while New Yorkers gathered for the procession marking the casket’s departure from the capital.  “At noon on Wednesday, April 26th, Albany’s grand parade got under way with a specially built catafalque, the marchers, the bands, the tolling bells. Today Lincoln was drawn by six white horses.”  “All marchers except the hearse itself were on foot including the governor, mayor, public officials, and all delegations.  No banners or other devices were permitted, only the national colors, black-bordered, held in the horizontal position.  At quarter to four the railroad statin was entered and the casket transferred to the railroad conveyance, and at four o’clock the New York Central’s Lincoln Special steamed out of the capital city of the Empire State.”

New York Secretary of State Chauncey M. Depew later wrote:  “I saw him, or what was mortal of him, on the mournful progress to his last resting- place, in his coffin.  The face was the same as in life.  Death had not changed the kindly countenance in any line.  There was upon it the same sad look that it had worn always, though not so intensely sad as it had been in life.  It was as if the spirit had come back to the poor clay, reshaped the wonderfully sweet face, and given it an expression of gladness that he had finally gone ‘where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”  The face had an expression of absolute content, or relief, at throwing off a burden such as few men have been called upon to bear — a burden which few men could have borne.  I had seen the same expression on his living face only a few times, when, after a great calamity, he had come to a great victory. It was the look of worn man suddenly relieved.”