Famous Exhumations American President Abraham Lincoln

About the American President Abraham Lincoln and history of his exhumation.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865),16th president of the U.S.

Lincoln was buried in Springfield, Ill., and rested undisturbed until 1876, when an attempt was made to steal his body for $200,000 ransom. The attempt was foiled, and the coffin was then hidden between the walls of his tomb for safety.

In 1900 the old tomb was torn down and a new one was built. The former President's coffin was hooked up to a burglar alarm, but Lincoln's son Robert worried about the possibility of another attempted theft. He ordered his father's remains buried in a hole 10 ft. deep inside the tomb and covered with 20 in. of concrete to seal it forever.

A crowd gathered for the final burial on Sept. 26,1901. Robert, not present, had left instructions that the coffin not be opened. Local officials, however, decided to disobey because of persistent rumors that Lincoln was not really in the coffin. Twenty-three people gathered inside the tomb. As workers pried open the lid, a pungent odor filled the room. The crowed pressed closer and recognized the body of the former President.

Lincoln's skin had mysteriously turned black after death, and the chalk applied to his face by the undertaker made it appear a "grayish chestnut" color. His beard, hair, and famous wart were all preserved. His French kid gloves had rotted away on his hands. A witness, Fleetwood Lindly, remembered, "Yes, his face was chalky white. His clothes [were] mildewed, and I was allowed to hold one of the leather straps as we lowered the casket for the concrete to be poured. I was not scared at the time, but I slept with Lincoln for the next six months." Lindly, who died in 1963, was the last witness to Lincoln's last public appearance.

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