By Charlotte Underwood

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Rotarians learned about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, as well as funeral practices of the Civil War era at the club’s luncheon held at the LaFollette Methodist Church on Tuesday. 

Rotarian Caleb Leach, who is also the owner of Leach Family Funeral Home and Cremation, gave the interesting historical presentation. 

He went through the events of the evening and the aftermath of the assassination. 

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Shot in the head as he watched the play, Lincoln died of his wounds the following day at 7:22am in the Petersen Guest House.

“Dr. Charles Leale was the first doctor to examine Lincoln after he was shot. Leale announced the wound was fatal. The bullet entered above the left ear and lodged behind the right eye. It was Dr. Leale’s first gunshot wound. The doctor was 23,” Leach said.

Lincoln was taken next door to the Petersen guest house. 

Lincoln died at 7:22am on April 15, 1865. It was Saturday, the day before Easter.

Later, Lincoln was taken to the White House where he was embalmed, before being transported across the country back to Springfield, Illinois.

Rotarian Caleb Leach, who is also the owner of Leach Family Funeral Home and Cremation, gave a historical presentation on the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and on funerary practices from the Civil War era.

Leach also went over a brief history of funerals and embalming practices, which “gave rise just in time for the Civil War.”

“Embalmers would be on the front line of the war, and they would advertise their services openly, offering pre-paid embalming to send bodies back to families. This was hard on morale. Later, General Ulysses sent embalmers back to the back of the lines because it was so bad for morale,” Leach said.

He said it is crucial to understand that embalming evolved to what it is today from some of these practices that were being discovered and perfected during this time.

Part of the historical presentation showed a picture of Lincoln’s casket, which was made from Walnut and at the time, cost $1,500. This would translate to around $28,000 in today’s money.

Lincoln’s body was transported via train across the country on its way to be interred in Illinois; Lincoln had 12 funerals on the way, held in major cities. Each city would build its own elaborate horse drawn hearse carriage for the President’s body.

This slide was shown during a historical presentation made by Caleb Leach during Tuesday’s Rotary Club luncheon. The slide shows several different hearse carriages that were made by different cities that held funerals for President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination on April 15, 1865.

According to Leach, people traveled hundreds of miles over rough country to see the train that carried Lincoln’s body as it passed by.

“People sang funeral hymns along the whole way, and as the train would pass out of one area of people singing, it would pass into another, and the song was taken up again. It was like the train ride was one big funeral procession,” Leach said.

Leach said he felt that all of this helped to unite the country.

“The whole nation was hurting from the war; it wasn’t just a time to grieve the president, but hundreds of thousands of men dead in the war…Lincoln’s funeral helped to unite and galvanize a nation that was reeling from war…Grief demands a witness.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 03/27/2024-6AM)