Nobody witnessed the crazed gunman sneak into Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot, but many thousands saw the President’s body as it journeyed by train from Washington DC to Springfield, IL where it was laid to final rest. The home stretch of Lincoln’s earthly travels deeply impacted the grateful people of a grieving nation.
Especially one nameless black woman from New York.
In the hours following the news of the President’s assassination, the highest ranking governmental leaders decided that Lincoln’s body should “tour” several states in the Union that he had just saved from civil war. Mayors of every city and governors from every state requested a stop in their respective districts; of course, the train couldn’t stop in every junction across America, but wherever it did, thousands of slaves, politicians, widows, woodcutters (Lincoln’s first occupation), and other common folk poured into the nation’s streets to catch a glimpse of the man who had saved America.
When Lincoln’s body arrived in New York in late April of 1865, several interesting – almost conflicting – remarks were overheard by mourners in the crowd. They were recorded by historians and biographers and passed down to us:
As [Lincoln’s body] reached Canal Street a woman leaning from a tenement window called out, “Well, is that all that’s left of Ould Abe?” Her strident voice carried afar in the solemn hush. A bystander looked up and retorted, “It’s more than you’ll ever be!”
“O, I’ve nothing against him,” she responded without rancor. “I never knew him or cared for him, but he died like a saint,” she exclaimed and crossed herself in respect.
A white-haired Negress held an apron to her face and between sobs wailed, “He died for me! He was crucified for me! God bless him!”
How that crowd saw Lincoln then is almost identical to how people see Jesus today. Some look at the Son of God and say, “I didn’t really know Him, and to be honest, I don’t have much need of Him.” Others see the same Man and exclaim, “He died for me!”
How do you see Jesus?
A Farewell to Lincoln by Victor Searcher. Abingdon Press, 1965, Pages 126-127.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)