Lincoln’s Funeral in Immigrant New York

Lincoln was seen as a martyr to Emancipation and Union after his murder on Good Friday.

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Lincoln’s death at the hands of an assassin was met with rejoicing in some parts of the country. In the newly occupied former Confederate states, many celebrated the killing as an act that could undo defeat. In St. Augustine, Florida’s oldest city, whites taunted freed blacks with the news and the promise that they would be re-enslaved. In New Orleans, a former slave owner told blacks that they would now be hung. United States Colored Troops faced the jeers of former Confederates who shouted that “Your father is dead.” 1

funeral-train-lincoln-washPictures of Lincoln being lifted up to Heaven proliferated after Lincoln’s Good Friday death. Mourners compared Lincoln to Washington and Jesus.

Unionists sought to quiet dissent through violence. In St. Louis, soldiers shot people celebrating the assassination. A New York hotel fired its Irish waiters for their “Celtic talk approving Lincoln’s murder.” San Francisco Republicans rioted and attacked Democratic newspapers and the city was placed under military control. 2

Those who dissented from the “universal” mourning risked grave bodily harm. At least two hundred people were beaten, shot, assaulted or lynched for being seen by their neighbors as sympathetic to the assassin. One Union general even forbade the sale of images of John Wilkes Booth. 3

funeral-train-satanIf Lincoln was now divine, his assassin was in league with the devil.

The assassination had a deep emotional effect on many immigrants in the Union army. Many felt a close personal tie to Lincoln.  When Lincoln was running for reelection German immigrant Major General Carl Schurz wrote to a friend about his feelings for the president. Although Lincoln was now at the head of a triumphant army, Schurz wrote, “he will never be dangerous to a liberal government.” Far from wanting to set himself up as a dictator, Schurz said, “he personifies the people, and that is the secret of his popularity.” Schurz offered his friend a “prophecy”:

In fifty years, perhaps much sooner, Lincoln’s name will be inscribed close to Washington’s on this American Republic’s roll of honor. And there it will remain for all time. The children of those who persecute him now will bless him. 4

Three days after Lincoln’s death, Schurz wrote home to his wife that he could not send a letter to her sooner because of a “gloom that has settled upon me since the arrival of the news of the murder of Lincoln.” In what must have been a cry from the heart, he scribbled “Our good, good Lincoln!” He told his wife that a “thunderclap from the blue sky could not have struck us more unexpectedly and frightfully.” Although the Union armies had now subdued the main Confederate armies, Schurz wrote that “Our triumph is no longer jubilant.”5

funeral-train-mourning-ribbonMourning ribbons were sold or made so that people in all parts of the country could show their participation in the national sorrow.

Schurz was in occupied Raleigh, North Carolina and he wrote that the city was put under a curfew because the officers feared that the soldiers would “vent their rage by setting fire to the city.” With bitter anger, Schurz wrote that:

The people of the South may thank God that the war is over. If this army had been obliged to march once more…not a single house would have been left standing in their path… It is fortunate that it is over. If the war were continued now, it would resemble the campaigns of Attila. 6

While Schurz’s letter was still on its way to his wife, she wrote to him that her community in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania held a memorial service for Lincoln in the local cemetery followed by a procession to church. “We were all dressed in black, and I felt as though we were following an old, faithful father to his last resting- place. I could cry my heart out.”  She told her husband that she had been suffering from an “overwhelming, irrepressible sorrow.” She said that she consoled herself by recalling that Lincoln was “the greatest of all emancipators.” 7

funeral-train-mourning-ribbon2This mourning ribbon was worn in New York.

Francis Lieber, the German law professor who had written Lincoln’s laws of war, wrote that the reason the president was assassinated was “Slavery! Slavery!” Lieber had lived for many years in South Carolina and he said that slavery “had perverted the minds of the Southerners.” Its cruelties and violence had made them into “fiends and fools,” people who could contemplate assassination to force political change.8

News of Lincoln’s shooting had arrived in the North just as Jewish immigrants were beginning their Passover observances. Many Jews had joined other immigrants in voting against Lincoln in the 1860 election. The Republicans were tainted by their association with evangelical Protestantism and the Know Nothings. In his first term as president, Lincoln had consistently championed Jewish equality against Anti-Semitic institutions like the YMCA and prejudiced officials including Union hero Ulysses Grant. The president’s actions forced a reexamination of loyalties by immigrant Jews. In a tear-filled sermon after the assassination, the prominent Philadelphia Rabbi Isaac Leeser said that “Lincoln recognized in full our claims to an equality before the law.”9

funeral-train-photoThe engine for the Lincoln Funeral Train.

After the assassination, Lincoln’s body had lain in state in Washington and there were two funerals in the capital city, but these would not be the only ceremonies. Lincoln was to be buried in Springfield, Illinois, where he had first come to national prominence as an anti-slavery advocate. The president’s body would be transported on a grand Funeral Train.10

At every large city it passed through by train, Lincoln’s body would be given a new funeral. The Funeral Train left Washington on April 21, 1865 and stopped first in Baltimore, where black mourners were harassed by racist crowds. It next went to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and on April 24, the train reached New York.11

funeral-train-harrisburgThe Funeral Train at Harrisburg.12

There had been concerns that the Irish immigrant community in New York would boycott the Lincoln funeral procession when it came to the nation’s largest city. Instead the Irish came out in such great force to mourn Lincoln that a nativist diarist, Ellen Kean, complained that the Irish marched in “inconceivable numbers, they were never ending.” She was equally annoyed at the large numbers of Germans, Jews and Scots who paid their respects to the dead president. 13

funeral-train-city-hall-after-lincoln-taken-insideNew York City Hall on April 24, 1865. Lincoln’s body had been taken into the building shortly before this photo was taken.

Immigrants played a prominent role in the elaborate ceremonies in New York. When the body was brought to City Hall, a German immigrant chorus of nine hundred sang the “Pilgrim’s Chorus” from Wagner’s Tannhauser.14

Henry Raymond of the New York Times described the scene as the Germans “filled the charmed air with its sadly enchanting melody, the coffin was borne up the steps of the city Hall, and placed under the dome, draped, decorated, and dimly lighted, upon the place prepared for its reception.” 15

Immigrants and native-born, black and white, lined up outside City Hall for the chance to view the body. Raymond described the vast democratic wake:

Soon the doors were opened, and entering, one by one, in proper order, the citizens of the great metropolis came to look upon the illustrious dead. All through that day and the succeeding night the endless stream poured in, while outside the Park, Broadway, and the entire area of Printing House Square, reaching up Chatham Street and East Broadway as far as the eye could see, a vast throng of people stood silent and hopeless, but still expectant, of a chance to enter and see the body of the murdered President. Not less than one hundred and fifty thousand persons obtained admission, and not less than twice that number had waited for it in vain. 16

funeral-train-lincoln-deadThis is the only authenticated photo of Lincoln after his death. His body is in the rotunda of New York City Hall.

When the time came for Lincoln’s body to leave the city, a giant procession consisting of eight Divisions of marchers assembled to accompany the martyr. One entire Division was made up of the Irish. 17

funeral-train-lincoln-hearseLincoln’s hearse after it left City Hall.

Twenty Jewish congregations and organizations joined in the procession. A Jewish newspaper estimated that 7,000 Jews marched. Roughly two-thirds of the city’s Jews were immigrants. 18

funeral-train-april-25-processionlistPolice Chief John Kennedy, himself the son of an Irish immigrant, stationed a police guard around the African American contingent in the procession. He had been stabbed two years earlier by Irish rioters and he feared an attack on this most solemn of days. Fortunately the reception of the blacks was not as feared.  “The part of the line which contained the colored citizens was almost everywhere greeted with irrepressible cheering and waving of handkerchiefs,” wrote the New York Post. “The populace spontaneously recognized the meanness and cruelty of the prejudice that would have shut them away from the equalizing sorrows of the bier….Fifth Avenue awarded them a continuous ovation.” 19

funeral-train-TRThe funeral procession at Union Square. The two boys in the open window in the building in the upper left of the photo are believed to be Teddy Roosevelt and his brother, the father of Eleanor Roosevelt.

The sorrow was not confined to the route of the Funeral Train. In cities around the United States immigrants joined in mourning processions and memorial services. In San Francisco, fifteen thousand people processed through the streets, including a long line of prominent Chinese merchants in their carriages.20

The mourning went beyond the shores of the United States. In Clontarf in Ireland, a mass outdoor meeting was held “to express the sympathy of the people of Ireland with the…people of America.” Similar meetings were held in Dublin and Belfast which adopted resolutions expressing “sorrow” and “indignation” at the murder. The resolutions were sent to Irish communities in the United States. 21

funeral-train-route2Video: New York Reacts to the Lincoln Assassination

Video: The Pilgrim’s Chorus by Wagner Was Sung at Lincoln’s Funeral by a German Chorus


Carl Schurz Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers Vol. 1

The Lincoln Funeral in New York

The Funeral Train

New York Times on the Order of March in the Funeral Procession

Teddy Roosevelt at the funeral


1. Mourning Lincoln Hardcover by Martha Hodes published by Yale University Press (2015) Kindle Location 1374 to 1384.; Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History Hardcover by Richard Wightman Fox published by W.W. Norton (2015); Bloody Crimes by James Swanson published by Harper (2010).
2. Mourning Lincoln Kindle Location 1459-1485
3. Swanson p. 240
4. Carl Schurz Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers Vol. 1 p. 251.
5. Carl Schurz Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers Vol. 1 p. 252-253.
6. Carl Schurz Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers Vol. 1 p. 252-253.
7. Carl Schurz Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers Vol. 1 p. 253-254.
8. Mourning Lincoln Kindle Location 2240-2267.
9. Lincoln’s Body page 67
12. The Funeral Train was one of the most photographed aspects of the mourning period.
13. Mourning Lincoln Kindle Location 2808.
14. Lincoln’s Body p. 71
15. Henry Raymond, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, p. 709-710
16. Henry Raymond, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, p. 709-710
18. Lincoln and the Jews: A History by Jonathan D. Sarna, Benjamin Shapell published by Thomas Dunne (2015) Kindle Location 4257-4272
19. New York Evening Post, April , 1865)
20. Lincoln’s Body p. 105
21. New York Irish American May 27 and June 10 1865; NY Irish American June 3, 1865 page 2.

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews

78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg

79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade

80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

81. Student Asks: Why Don’t We Learn More About Immigrants in the Civil War?

82. Missouri’s German Unionists: From Defeat to Uncertain Victory

83. Missouri Germans Contest Leadership of Unionist Cause

84. German Leader Franz Sigel’s Victory Earns a Powerful Enemy

85. Immigrant Unionists Marching Towards Pea Ridge

86. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge: Opening Moves

87. Pea Ridge: The German Unionists Outflanked

88. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge

89. The Organization of the “German” XI Corps

90. The Irish Brigade on the Road to Chancellorsville

91. The “German” XI Corps on the Eve of Chancellorsville

92. The “Germans Run Away” at Chancellorsville

93. The New York Times, the Germans, and the Anatomy of a Scapegoat at Chancellorsville

94. An Irish Soldier Between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg

95. Lee’s Army Moves Towards Gettysburg: Black Refugees Flee

96. Iron Brigade Immigrants Arrive at Gettysburg

97. Iron Brigade Immigrants Go Into Battle the First Day at Gettysburg

98. The “German” XI Corps at Gettysburg July 1, 1863

99. An Irish Colonel and the Defense of Little Round Top on the Second Day at Gettysburg

100. A Prayer Before Death for the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg: July 2, 1863

101. The Irish Regiment that Ended “Pickett’s Charge”: July 3, 1863

102. Five Points on the Edge of the Draft Riots

103. Before the Draft Riots: The Cultivation of Division

104. The New York Draft Riots Begin

105. Convulsion of Violence: The First Day of the New York Draft Riots

106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.

107. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate and the Know Nothings

108. Killing Pat Cleburne: Know Nothing Violence

109. Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General

110. The Immigrant Story Behind “Twelve Years a Slave”

111. A German Immigrant Woman’s Gettysburg Address

112. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate’s Emancipation Proclamation

113. Pat Cleburne: The South Can’t Use Black Soldiers Without Ending Slavery

114. The Suppression of Pat Cleburne’s Emancipation Proposal

115. An Irish Immigrant Colonel’s Warnings Ignored at Chickamauga

116. An Immigrant Colonel’s Fighting Retreat at Chickamauga

117. August Willich: German Socialist at Chickamauga

118. Hans Heg:at Chickamauga: Norwegian Commander on the Eve of Battle

119. Ivan and Nadine Turchin: Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga

120. German Immigrants Pinned Down at Chickamauga

121. Hans Heg: To Die for His Adopted Country at Chickamauga

122. Patrick Guiney: An Irish Colonel on the Edge of the Wilderness

123. Immigrants March Out of The Wilderness and Into a Wicked Hail of Gunfire

124. Peter Welsh in the Irish Brigade’s Purgatory at Spotsylvania

125. Peter Welsh: What Sacrifice Must the Immigrant Make for His Adopted Land?

126. A Second Irish Brigade’s Catastrophe at a Forgotten Fight Near Fredericksburg

127. An Irish Man and a French Woman Between Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor

128. Two Irish Brigades Swept Away by a Hurricane from Hell at Cold Harbor

129. Petersburg: The Start of a Ten Month Siege that Devoured Men and Disabled the Irish Brigade

130. A Volcano in Virginia: The Battle of the Crater

131. 1864 Election: The Immigrant Voter & Abraham Lincoln

132. August Belmont: The German Jewish Immigrant Who Led the Opposition to Lincoln’s 1864 Reelection

133. Lincoln and the Superiority of the “Negro” over the Irish

134. Lincoln’s Germans and the Election of 1864

135. Lincoln’s German Lawyer Comes Out Swinging in the Election of 1864

136. Lincoln Wins the Election of 1864 With Immigrant Votes

137. American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed by Union Soldiers

138. Kentucky Civil War Refugee Camp Reborn and Reconstructed After Expulsions

139. Immigrant German “Hamburgers” Tormented and Captured at Petersburg

140. German General Weitzel and His African Canadians at Petersburg

141. Irish Regiment at the Beginning of the End of the Confederacy at Five Forks

142. Richmond Burning: The German Immigrant and Black Troops Who Saved the City

143. Appomattox: The Capture of a Confederate Army & the Fall from Grace of an Immigrant General

144. Lincoln Assassinated: John Wilkes Booth’s Immigrant Conspirators

145. Immigrants Hunt Lincoln’s Killers and Help Capture the Confederate President

146. Lincoln’s Murder and the New York Irish American

147. Lincoln’s Funeral in Immigrant New York



Painting of the Return of the 69th from Bull Run Unearthed

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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