Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Mourning Lincoln

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Mourning Lincoln

Article excerpt

Mourning Lincoln. By Martha Hodes. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015, Pp. 408. $30.00.)

Following that fateful day in November 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy asked the White House Usher to model President Kennedy's funeral on what was done for the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. Although the death of these two presidents were almost a century apart, the rituals and iconic images in our collective, cultural library are almost identical from lying in state to the riderless horse. In fact, the rituals and mourning practices that followed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in many ways have become the standard for how America grieves publicly. This is the premise of the new book Mourning Lincoln. It is a meticulously researched volume, initially inspired by the author's own experiences in Manhattan on 11 September 2001. It is a book that seeks to understand how America grieves as a nation.

Hodes does a masterful job of weaving together the universal and the particular. The overarching narrative is made real through the extensive quotes from letters and diaries. It is history told by those who were there. We read first hand of the ways in which Lincoln's death was grieved on a personal level by so many, especially African-Americans. Between each of her chapters is a brief interlude focus in a theme, such as "Love" or "God" that arose in her research. These interludes draw deeply on personal writings, and help one to feel more deeply connected to the realities of the day. Yet one of the things that is notable about Lincoln's death is the way in which the grieving process became almost universal; condolences quite literally poured in from around the world. Black bunting, armbands, badges, or some other mark of mourning could be seen in any town in America. Lincoln's death was the central focus of Easter sermons everywhere. On the day his funeral was held in Washington, people went to their own churches, in small towns and big cities for a funeral service for the president. Thousands and thousands of people came to Washington to see his body lying in state or stopped to observe the passing of the train carrying his casket home to Illinois for burial. It could have seemed that the whole nation was grieving. …

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