Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President Lincoln's Body

The DVD recorder/player is broken, so Emjay and I took a rare look at the broadcast tv schedule. History channel had a program on that I couldn't resist: "Stealing Lincoln's Body" I couldn't help but laugh, especially when we sat down to watch and the program made repeated references to thefts of saints' bodies and relics over the centuries.

So, how similar was the theft of Lincoln's body to that of Saint Mark's? Well, not very. A few similarities:

  • Lincoln was about the closest thing America had to a native saint, having been martyred for the cause of Union. It's estimated that 20% of the U.S. population saw the train carrying the body from Washington to Springfield, and millions actually viewed his remains in more than a dozen open-casket stops.
  • In the legends, a saint's body is always preserved incorruptible by holiness. (in my book, I give a more scientific explanation for Mark) Lincoln's body was prepared for its long journey and many viewings by the relatively new science of embalming.
  • Merchants (in my book, smugglers) steal Mark. Counterfieters steal Lincoln, with the intention of holding the body for ransom.

And some major differences:

  • Lincoln's theives were not successful. The counterfieters were stopped by U.S. Secret Service agents. Interestingly, their mission was NOT to protect the President, nor had it ever been, at that time in history. They were involved simply because their role in investigating counterfieters.
  • There is no mention of miracles surrounding the theft or (attempted) transport of Lincoln.
  • Lincoln's head seems to have remained attached to his body. As far as anyone knows, it still is.
  • Springfield, Illinois did not become the central city of an empire destined to dominate the Great Lakes for centuries.

More than once I had to snicker at the incompetence. Buono and Rustico would have gotten away with Lincoln's body, no problem.

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