Monday, October 15, 2007

October 15, 1874:

Dedication of Lincoln's Tomb

President Lincoln, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and three of their four children repose in the picturesque Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Paid for by public donations, the tomb was dedicated this day in 1874.

"The Lincoln tomb was officially dedicated to the memory of Abraham Lincoln on October 15, 1874, nine years and six months to the day after his death, 28 years and 6 months to the day since he moved from New Salem to Springfield," wrote George L. Cashman in the August 1968 Central Illinois Genealogical Quarterly. "The dedication date was chosen by the National Lincoln Monument Association. Former Governor, and now United States Senator, Richard J. Oglesby, Chairman of the Association, officiated at the ceremony. The particular date was chosen as it would permit the Society of the Army of Tennessee, surviving veterans of the Civil War, in reunion in Springfield, to participate. The Tomb was now completed and would be opened to public visitation on October 29.

"Much difficulty was experienced by the Association in obtaining a person of prominence to assume the task of delivering the dedicatory address. General U.S. Grant, then President of the United States, was the first choice of the Association, but Grant declined the honor, feeling that he was incapable of doing justice to the memory of the illustrious dead. Grant did attend the dedication and did deliver a brief, but for him, a lengthy address. Among the several persons invited to be the orator of the day were former Civil War General, John A. Dix, former Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, and former Governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton. All declined, giving various reasons that they could not accept the honor. The Association met and passed a resolution naming Richard J. Oglesby to be the speaker, an invitation that he graciously accepted.

"The Association mailed a thousand invitations requesting attendance of as many men and women throughout the Union to attend as honored guests. On the morning of the dedication it was estimated that between 25 and 30 thousand witnessed the event. Public buildings, business houses and private homes were tastefully adorned with drapery, evergreens and flowers.

"The procession which would march to the Tomb formed on north Sixth Street at the State House. Governor John L. Beveridge was the Grand Marshall. With the procession formed, it moved out following much the same route taken by the funeral cortege on May 4, 1865.

"At the Tomb, former Governor of Illinois, John M. Palmer, acted as Master of Ceremonies. When called upon to deliver the dedicatory address, Senator Richard J. Oglesby delivered, in the forensic style of the day, an eulogy of nearly ten thousand words. When he completed his address, two Dominican nuns from Jacksonville unveiled the heroic statue of Abraham Lincoln at the front of the obelisk. Among the others who spoke briefly at the ceremony was General William T. Sherman of Civil War fame."

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