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Stealing Lincoln's Body

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FC: Saving Lincoln's Body

1: Paige H & Nora L Period 3 Mulherin

2: Introduction Greetings, my name is Abraham Lincoln. On April 14, 1865 (a not so Good Friday), I went to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, the theatre. I was accompanied by my wife, Mary, Clara Harris and her fiancé, Major Henry Rathbone, in seeing Our American Cousin. We were celebrating the end of the long and stressful Civil War. Seated in the Presidential Box, we were enthralled by the great play, well, until an unwelcome visitor, who I now know was John Wilkes Booth, shot me. After being shot, I slumped forward which sent the box (particularly my wife) into alarm. Ultimately, Major Rathbone was stabbed by Booth. Although I was saved for several hours when a doctor pulled a blood clot out of my head, the shot was fatal. Mary was hysterical and it was painful for me to see her so distraught. I was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where I eventually died the next morning, April 15, 1865. My body is on earth, and though I am not, I still follow the travels of my corpse and those who come in contact with it. This is the story of my body after the fateful morning I died.

3: That pink box is Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliott as kids!

4: Sic Semper Ty-crazy! After my assassination, the country had to deal with many political and social issues including: prolonged racism, the embarrassing failure of Reconstruction, the emergence of Jim Crow laws and continued economic oppression of African Americans as they left slavery and were thrown into the underclass. My death is still hotly debated and some evidence involving confederate conspiracies have come to light. John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor, was only two doors away from his goal of murdering me. The first door lead him down a short passageway which held the second, inner door and eventually the intimate rear of my private box. John F. Parker was my assigned police officer bodyguard who left his post which allowed Booth to enter the two unlocked doors without a challenge. Charles Forbes was sitting just outside that particular door and could have changed history by resisting his entry but my personal valet and messenger was handed a calling card by Booth and allowed him in (a Union army officer claimed to witness the event). That stupid .44 cal derringer took my life! Two days after my assassination, federal officials tracked down Booth in a Virginia tobacco barn and four suspected conspirators were tried and hanged.

5: Complicated Confederacy Conspiracies Two of the most popular theories about my death are the Confederate Grand Conspiracy and the Simple Conspiracy which included Booth and a small group of his friends. There are even claims that my assassination was the work of the Roman Catholic Church, high ranking U.S. officials and international bankers. Although historians today agree that Jefferson Davis did not create a plot to kill me, “black flag warfare” (the justification of terrorism or murder if it is for the defeat of a military enemy) was highly applauded. This warfare is proven by the Confederate States of America’s secret services that were trained in espionage, sabotage, counterintelligence and covert affairs that were directly funded $6 million by President Davis. In April 1865, coal bombs (explosive devices disguised to look like lumps of coal, which were smuggled into Northern factories and ships) were found in Davis’ office! Thankfully, the missions to induce yellow fever epidemics among the civilian population failed but the Confederate secret services still plotted to abduct and imprison me for ransom.

6: "If you keep making jokes like that, somebody is going to shoot you, father." -MTL | "A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me."

7: "Love is Eternal": Our Wedding Band Engraving Described as the "she-wolf", my Mary was a feisty little thing and my death (along with our children's deaths) really took a toll on her. Mary even fainted when she saw that my eyes were blackening due to the placement of the bullet (because of it's size and speed, the bullet was able to lodge and cause the most damage)! Mary desperately pleaded with Dr. Charles Leale, “Oh, Doctor, do what you can for my dear husband, do what you can for him.” Edwin Stanton, my Secretary of War, kicked Mary out of my room in the Petersen House, proclaiming, "Take that woman out and don't let her back in!" because of her incessant crying. Although 25,000 people saw my coffin and Mary never did, she had the most say in my burial location. Several senators wanted my corpse in the place George Washington was to be buried but Mary announced that I would rest in Oak Ridge, no debate. William Mumler photographed Mary and a ghostly image of me looking down on her in 1872.

8: "Avoid popularity if you would have peace." | This is the only existing photograph of my body thanks to Edwin Stanton

9: Looking Good Embalming was a practice I had once encountered when alive, following the death of my son Willie. I was embalmed by the same master embalmer as Willie, Henry P. Cattell. He worked for the undertakers Joseph Alexander and Charles Brown, who were respected at the time, because they did not use poisonous chemicals in their business. The morning of my death, the master embalmer pumped zinc chloride into my blood stream, which ultimately gave me a marble appearance. Without the embalming, my body would not have been able to withstand the fighting forces of deterioration along the long processional route. Believe it or not, my body was embalmed with much more fluid than the average dead body (and not just because I was six feet four inches tall). Due to the extended length of the funeral procession, my body needed extra embalming fluid to keep my body from decaying rapidly. Despite the extra fluid, my face still started to turn a bronze tone, because of the damaged tissues in my face due to the bullet.

10: Look how popular I was with all those people at my funeral procession!

11: My Funeral Procession The original procession of my body was from the White House to the Capitol building. A black regiment led the parade and there were church bells, cannons and marching bands. My body traveled to and visited twelve cities between Washington D.C. and Springfield, whereupon seven million people watched my train roll by (and seven and a half million more people came to look upon my face). Cities all celebrated my arrival, especially New York City, where future president Theodore Roosevelt and his brother, future father of a first lady, Elliott watched my procession from their grandfather's window. I was so popular, there were riots held by people who were not allowed to see my body! My funeral train was originally my presidential train car. I never saw the train in person, I was actually supposed to see it the morning of my death, but that obviously did not work out for me. It was redesigned to work as a funeral car for my body and my son, Willie’s. After the long journey from the nation’s capital to my hometown, my body was decaying very quickly and it was time for me to ‘rest in peace’ in Oak Ridge Cemetery, the final resting place that Mary chose for my body.

12: It's All About the Green To eliminate economic confusion with the hundreds of different types of bills circulating the United States, I decided to create new bills. No one felt the need to check these new dollars for authenticity which eased counterfeiters' minds. They could create tons of fraudulent bills and no one would be the wiser. Ben Boyd was arrested and convicted for making and using a fake $50 bill which eventually led to the whole body-snatching scandal.

13: Terrance Mullen and Jack Hughes both sentenced a year in prison for attempting to steal my $75 coffin!

14: Big Jim and Bendito Jim Kenally, owner of the Hub, decided to steal my body and ransom it for $200,000 and the release of his buddy, Ben Boyd, from prison. Boyd was a master engraver with skills and techniques that Kenally's counterfeiting ring was able to utilize. Arrested in 1876 with a sentence of ten years, Boyd was stuck in central Illinois. Kenally came up with the master plan to employ some body-snatchers, travel up to Oak Ridge and then to Lake Michigan where the body would be buried as the gang waited on the ransom. The tomb was open to the public so the men had no trouble scoping out their location. They decided to rob my tomb on election day at 8pm (November 6, 1876) because a normally quiet place would be roaring with excitement. The election was between Sam Tilden (D) and Rutherford B. Hayes (R) with an 82% voter turn-out: the perfect night for crime! I thank God I was such a big man because my 500 pound tomb was no match for the men who had to use a crowbar! Although Kenally wasn't formally charged for attempted body theft, he did serve time for other misdemeanors.

15: Ben Boyd

16: Can I See Some ID? As with any great story, mine had a couple of plot twists. The “boss body-snatcher of Chicago”, Jim Morrissey, was actually Lewis C. Swegles. Swegles was a secret service informant, sent to “the Hub” (a mostly Irish immigrant saloon located in Chicago) to infiltrate counterfeiting rings and destroy them from the inside. Kenally hired him without a second thought and Swegles was able to bring in Billy Brown, another informant, as the getaway car driver. Although he had obvious evidence that the men were planning to steal my corpse, the secret service was only for monetary issues. Patrick Tyrrell (a secret service agent), claimed that this was a matter of "national importance" and asked to be included in the force. Swegles and the other men were followed by several detectives on the 9 hour train ride to Springfield and even into the cemetary. Once Swegles called out the code word, mass hysteria ensued. Luckily, he was able to testify in May of 1877 against Mullen and Hughes for the crimes of larceny and conspiracy.

17: Lewis Swegles (portrayed by Matthew Gooley) in the American classic film, Stealing Lincoln's Body, a documentary on the History Channel.

18: John Carroll Power: The Man of the Hour John Carroll Power, the janitor of my Oak Ridge tomb, was horrified by the attempted theft of my body. Even though the thieves failed, he felt that they came too close to stealing my body. This man was my self-declared body guard, though his methods unconventional. He decided to hide my body in the dirt-floor basement of the tomb under a pile of wood debris and later dig a dry grave in that basement for my body and Mary’s body, in 1882. In that time, he assembled the Lincoln Guard of Honor, a group of his trusted friends who swore to protect my body at all costs. This group of men finally decided to build a new vault in my tomb, so I would not be buried in the dirt ground that so many workingmen were walking over while repairing my tomb. All in all, my body was moved ten times between 1865 and 1901. The Lincoln Guard of Honor arranged a twenty-four hour body guard, even though Mary and I were buried under three slabs of concrete! In 1902 my body, along with the bodies of Mary, my sons, Willie, Tad, and Edward, and my grandson, Abraham “Jack,” was moved to the new tomb in my original sarcophagus, my final resting place. The last person to see my face was Fleetwood Lindley, the son of a member of the Lincoln Guard of Honor.

19: "A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have." | Fleetwood Lindley

21: The Lincoln Guard of Honor, Execution for my assassination, Mullen & Hughes' arrest, Funeral Procession Route, Union Nominations, Robert Todd Lincoln Union Convention

22: The Buried Emancipator's Goodbye I would like to extend a special thanks to Thomas J. Craughwell, who made it a goal to inform the nation of the story of my body. Due to the Hayes-Tilden election, the story of my body’s kidnapping was never published as a major story in a newspaper, not to mention the fact that many Americans were unaware of my body’s hidden locations for years. The book by Craughwell, Stealing Lincoln’s Body, was quite accurate with vivid details. This novel goes into depth about my body’s hiding places, the counterfeiting at the time, the Lincoln Guard of Honor, the body snatching scheme, my burial and much more. If anything was not mentioned in this true testament of the story of my body, it would surely be in that novel (though I am sure I did not fail to include each and every detail of my story and I should receive an A)!

23: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

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paige h
  • By: paige h.
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  • Title: Stealing Lincoln's Body
  • Paige H. & Nora L. Period 3 Mulherin
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  • Published: over 8 years ago