Friday, March 11, 2011


The Lincoln Chair

The Last Photo taken of Lincoln
He pictures the tall man in the stovepipe hat walking at dusk through the fallen leaves, coming slowly down the winding path, The grieving man would doff his hat, duck his head, and enter alone, to stand for a moment by the child he'd lost in the White House in the winter of 1862.
Here, more than any other place in Washington, by this secluded tomb carved into a hillside in Georgetown's Oak Hill Cemetery, historian James L. Swanson feels the mournful essence of Abraham Lincoln.” 

That’s how the Washington Post began their article about the well known historian.

That’s very close to how ordinary citizen, Ed Myers, felt too.

But not many ordinary citizens have ever been there. In fact, very few people even know about it.
I didn’t either, until I began working with John Alexander on his ghost book in 1973.

The site is the Thomas Carroll Mausoleum in Washington’s Rock Creek Cemetery. It’s where the heartbroken Lincoln placed the body of his favorite son, eleven year old Willie, until he could be transferred to his final resting place in Springfield, Ill.

The Lincolns didn’t own a burial plot in Washington, so they accepted the offer of William Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court to place Willlie’s body temporarily in the Carroll family vault.

There’s no greater tragedy for a parent than the death of a child.. Lincoln was quoted as saying, “My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but we loved him so, It’s hard, hard to have him die.”

His death devastated his parents. Mary Lincoln could not bring herself to attend his funeral and remained bedridden for three weeks; she would not emerge in public for months afterwards. Abraham Lincoln, who had stayed at Willie's side through his illness, would shut himself in his room after his son's funeral to weep, and often had dreams of spending time with his son.

The Lincoln Chair
In fact, Lincoln was reported to visit his son’s body often, spending long hours there. At least on two occasions he had the crypt opened. It’s said that he would sit and stare at the youth for hours, apparently  Lincoln could not bear to leave the boy alone in that cold, dark tomb.

There was a wrought iron chair, just inside the tomb which I photographed while working with John Alexander.
In all likelihood, it was the chair the grieving Lincoln sat in.

I say, WAS...... because shortly after I took this picture, the tomb was vandalized and the “Lincoln” chair disappeared.

That’s the reason the photograph could not be reproduced. And apparently, no other picture of the chair exists..

 Willie and his father both traveled back to Springfield on the Lincoln funeral train in 1865.