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Following Lincoln’s Funeral Train


Date: April 13, 2015
WC’s Adam Goodheart has penned a poignant cover story for the April issue of National Geographic, merging the sad history of how Americans mourned Lincoln’s death with diverse views about his legacy today.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Writing for National Geographic on the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Adam Goodheart, director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, revisits the route of the funeral train that carried Lincoln’s body back home to Illinois for burial.  

In the article, which is the cover story of the April 2015 issue, Goodheart recounts how millions of Americans mourned Lincoln’s death as the train passed through their towns and villages at all hours of the day and night.

“Bands played dirges and farmers and their families waited in the chill,” he writes. “In Greenfield, Indiana, word came by telegraph that the train was just a few miles up the line. A young veteran, to pass those last minutes, read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural aloud to the throng. As the black locomotive approached, the town minister led a prayer. Then firelight flickered briefly on the funeral car itself, the glossy paint and silver-fringed crepe, the small windows revealing nothing of the awful cargo within. Nearly everyone was weeping now. At last, a whistle sounded, and the machine, and history, passed on.” 

The article also reflects on Lincoln’s legacy today, with Goodheart’s own observations and those of Americans he meets along the way—a retired state trooper, a gun store owner, a gay rights activist, and an Iraq War veteran. 

Read the National Geographic article online here

Adam Goodheart has been director of the C.V. Starr Center since 2006 and has taught and co-taught courses in American Studies, English, history, anthropology, and art as well as in the freshman Global Perspectives (GRW) program. He works collaboratively with his students on projects that take them beyond the classroom and teach them skills in research, interviewing and writing.

The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is an innovative center for the study of history, culture, and politics, and fosters excellence in the art of written history through fellowships, prizes, and student programs. 

Last modified on Jun. 9th, 2015 at 11:16am by Jean Wortman.