President Abraham Lincoln’s remains have been moved seventeen times and his casket has been opened five times. There was also a plot to steal his corpse.
The Adventures of Abraham Lincoln’s Corpse
Since his murder in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln’s remains have been moved seventeen times and his casket has been opened five times.
On April 15th, the day that Lincoln died, acting on Mrs. Lincoln’s request, a group of Springfield, Illinois citizens spearheaded a drive to bring the President’s body to Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. On May 3rd, Lincoln’s body lay in state at the Illinois State Capitol. The funeral was held on the following day. After the funeral, his coffin was moved to a temporary receiving vault at the Cemetery. In the vault, his remains were then joined by the remains of two of his sons, Willie and Eddie.
In 1871, the Lincoln National Monument and Tomb was completed. In that same year, Lincoln’s son Tad died and became the first Lincoln placed in the completed Tomb. Several months later, the President and sons Willie and Eddie joined Tad.
The official dedication of the National Monument and Tomb wasn’t until 1874. Days before the ceremony, Abraham Lincoln’s casket was removed from the Tomb, it was opened to verify that it was indeed Lincoln inside, and his remains were then placed in a specially crafted cedar coffin. Six days later in front of a massive crowd, Lincoln was re-buried in the Tomb.
In 1876, three low-life Chicago street criminals plotted to steal Lincoln’s body and ransom it for $200,000 and the release from prison of their mastermind, a counterfeiter. Fortunately, the Springfield police were tipped off and caught the body snatchers as they were opening the Tomb, which was only sealed with Plaster of Paris.
After this incident, concerned Springfield citizens secretly removed Lincoln and his family from the Tomb, and hid the remains beneath some old lumber on the cemetery grounds and then in an unmarked shallow grave. In the meantime, for a few years, visitors to the Monument and Tomb were unaware that they were paying tribute to an empty sarcophagus.
In 1900, it was discovered that the Tomb itself was crumbling. Lincoln and his family were again removed. This time they were temporarily buried under nine tons of stone in an unmarked site.
At the urging of Lincoln’s surviving son Robert, in 1901, Lincoln’s coffin, as well as the other family coffins, was re-buried for the last time, encased in concrete under the floor of the Monument.
His final resting place, however, still has its problem. Since 2004, according to the National Historic Landmarks site, it’s been determined that there’s “water intrusion in the burial chamber” and it’s been deteriorating rapidly.”