Even in death Abraham Lincoln didn’t rest in peace, at least until his tomb was completed. After his shooting at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC on April 14, 1865 and subsequent death on April 15, 1865 his body was borne by train to Springfield, Illinois where it was interred. The tomb as it is today was completed in 1874.
For years after he was buried in Springfield numerous attempts were made to steal his body. The family kept moving the body around within the crypt to foil the thieves.
The most serious attempt was by a gang of Chicago criminals in 1876. They actually got the coffin out and were attempting to move it when the Secret Service swooped in and arrested them. The coffin was replaced. The motive was to kidnap the body and ask the government for ransom.
Finally Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe’s only surviving child decided to cover the coffin with cement in the crypt to put an end to the foolishness. This was done in 1901. The day of the cement pour Robert Todd Lincoln wasn’t present. The workers decided to open the coffin before encasing it forever. They wanted to make sure Lincoln’s body was actually still there. So they lifted the top half of the coffin exposing Lincoln. According to witnesses he appeared very life-like with very little decomposition having occurred. This was written up in Life Magazine in 1963. A 13 year old boy, Fleetwood Lindley, was the last person to see Lincoln before the coffin lid was closed. He then helped them lower Lincoln into the crypt and the cement was poured. Lindley died February 1, 1963. Three days before he died he was interviewed.
Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and three of their four sons are interred inside the tomb. Robert Todd Lincoln is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Lincoln Tomb receives more than one million visitors each year. The figure is likely to be considerably more in this year, the bicentennial of his birth.