On a Funeral Procession

The assassination of John Kennedy, as traumatic and as paradigm shifting as it was, almost pales in comparison to the national outpouring of grief when Abraham Lincoln died at the hands of assassin John Wilkes Booth. Even in parts of the former Confederacy, true patriots knew that Lincoln was the best hope for not only national reunification but also for the rebuilding of southern society after such a devastating war.

When Lincoln died, it was decided that his body should go around the country by train, with stops in several important cities. The cities would then hold parades to allow as many people as possible to show tribute to the fallen leader. One of the largest parades took place in New York City.

Lincoln had not been always popular in New York. There were several draft riots during the war which caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to the city. Being a democratic stronghold, many in the city viewed Lincoln as a tyrant. But, after his death, they also, mourned his passing because they knew he had steered the ship of state through rough waters into a safe harbor (to paraphrase the New York poet Walt Whitman).

So the city turned out in large numbers to say goodbye to Abraham Lincoln. The funeral procession included huge rows of New York volunteer and draftee troops, freshly home from the Civil War. Family members and well wishers turned out to see them as well as mourners to see the extensive parade. Children who were old enough to witness the event and remember what they had seen spoke about the events of that late April day well into the 20th century.

Look at the photograph above. Years later, someone noticed that the house in the left center of the photograph belonged to one of New York’s wealthiest and most prominent families. They noticed two small figures in the second story window who were keenly watching the passing of the Presidential catafalque.

A relative of the family, in later years, said that she knew exactly who the two figures were. They were two young boys, cousins, in fact, of hers. One of them was named Elliot. This woman was certain of her identification because she ended up marrying the other one—the one whom she called Teedie.          

You know him as Teddy Roosevelt.

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