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Episode 37 - Lincoln's Last Ride

Fine. I give up. It's another Lincoln one. BUT HIS LIFE AND DEATH ARE JUST SO INTERESTING. And they have so many implications that reverberate today.


Of particular note - despite the discoloration and general...grossness...of the corpse by the end of the journey, the embalmers were damn good at their job. Lincoln was exhumed in 1901 at the request of Robert Todd Lincoln, and his lead-lined coffin was opened for a final time. There were 23 people in the room to see it, and they all said that he was remarkably well-preserved to the point where they could see the mole on his face, along with a full head of hair and chin whiskers. When he was prepared for the funeral, they shaved his beard almost completely off, save for some scruff on his chin for some reason. The chin scruff was still intact. Eyebrows, not so much.


Lincoln had been impressed by the whole concept of embalming after one of the American pioneers in the field had embalmed the corpse of the first American officer to die in the Civil War. The man had been a friend of Lincoln's, and when the embalmer preserved the corpse, Lincoln was eager to get the new process in place for soldiers lost on the battlefield so that their families would receive relatively intact bodies for burial. There were so many bodies to embalm, however, that they eventually limited the practice to only officers due to a lack of trained embalmers.


Edwin Stanton had been so eager to give Lincoln the long farewell that he fought Mary Todd Lincoln over it. He had presided over the death itself like HE was the widow, even barring her from bringing in young Tad to see his dying father. She was too exhausted by grief to fight back and eventually just gave up and hid, allowing Stanton to make a grand spectacle of the whole thing. The private grief of the Lincoln family gave way to the public grief of the nation.


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