Abraham Lincoln’s final trip through Wayne County was tragic. His early trips weren’t.
As President-elect traveling through Indianapolis to Washington, he was so deeply impressed by Richmond’s Mitchell’s Coronet Band he invited them to dinner on March 4, 1861 and told them, “I have passed through Richmond on the train and always thought it a pretty place.”
He would later claim the north would have lost the Civil War if not for two Wayne County men.
At the start of the war he quickly needed money to mount an army, so he asked Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton for funding. The Centerville native collected half from Indianapolis banks and solicited the rest from Richmond’s Mark Reeves.
Lincoln later wrote, “Had it not been for Indiana sending money and men to the front when most needed, the war probably would have been lost.”
Lincoln also touched the life of a young Richmond girl. On November 19, 1863, he gave a speech at the Gettysburg battlefield. Richmond’s Elizabeth King, a 14-year-old girl, was one of the first to congratulate the president after he spoke. The battle marked a turning point in the war and the speech is now considered the greatest in American history.
The last Wayne County resident to see the president alive was Harry Hoover, who was marching down the aisle of Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865 when he heard a shot ring out and Mrs. Lincoln screamed. Hoover was one of the White House soldiers who bore the slain president across the street, and today his memoirs are at the Wayne County Historical Museum.
On April 30th the president’s nine-car funeral train passed through. Mitchell’s Coronet Ban played taps to honor their most famous admirer, and to have wreathes of flowers placed on the casket... as it slowly pulled away… into history.
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