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July, 2009:

Stealing Lincoln’s Body

I really enjoyed reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It was an outstanding book. Towards the end of the book, the author mentioned that there had been an attempt to steal Lincoln’s body and that his body had been moved several times. He also mentioned that when they moved his casket, they had opened his casket to view Lincoln’s face. I had never heard that fascinating story before I read Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Later I came across the book Stealing Lincoln’s Body by Thomas Craughwell. I knew I had to read it.

This morning I finished the book. I’m glad I read it. I learned a lot of details about the attempt to steal his body. The grave robbers wanted to steal Lincoln’s body to get their friend, who was in jail for counterfeiting, released from prison. They were also going to demand a $200,000.00 ransom for the return of the body. The good news is they were bad thieves. They did get into the tomb and close to the casket, but their plans were foiled by the Secret Service.

That attempt lead to the formation of a private secret society call “The Lincoln Guard of Honor.” Their goals were to protect Lincoln’s body and honor him on his birthday and the anniversary of his death. To protect his body from grave robbers, they moved his body to the cellar of the tomb, There they buried his casket in a shallow unmarked grave.

You can read the book to learn more about then next two times his body was moved and the casket opened. I was surprised to learn that the last living person to view Lincoln’s body died in 1963,

Stealing Lincoln’s Body is a good book. I thought the author dragged out the story with details about counterfeiting and the crime life in Chicago. Both played into the story but I thought the sections were a little long. While students would enjoy this story, they would find the book a little dry. Adults with an interest in history will find it an interesting story. I’d love to hear your opinion of the book.

Jim