The Way It Was


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1865 On the morning of April 15, 1865 — 150 years ago — President Abraham Lincoln died of a gunshot wound he suffered the night before while watching Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Even by 19th-century standards, word spread quickly throughout the shocked nation, and Detroit deeply grieved the fallen 16th president. Mourners gathered in Campus Martius on April 16 and soon a memorial event with a funeral procession was planned for April 25. These firefighters of K.C. Barker Company No. 4 with a horse-drawn fire engine carrying a young girl with a harp, a flag, and a small portrait of Lincoln were among those who partook in the Detroit memorial. In his 1890 book History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan, Silas Farmer described the solemn affair: “Everywhere stores and residences were draped in black, and loving, tender, and patriotic mottoes, displayed in many forms, relieved and enforced the somber hangings.” When Lincoln’s body was transported from Washington, D.C., for burial in Springfield, Ill., the funeral train stopped in several cities, though Detroit was not among them. Still, the respect Michigan paid to Lincoln (the state lost nearly 15,000 lives in the Civil War) was undeniably heartfelt. That affection was mutual. At the outset of the Civil War, when Michigan sent more men to fight than he had expected, Lincoln remarked, “Thank God for Michigan.”

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