Lincoln At the Statehouse
OHIO STATEHOUSE HOSTS ABRAHAM LINCOLN
From its earliest days, the sheer size and large population of the state have given Ohio great political influence. Because of the state's political stature,
the Ohio Statehouse has been visited by a number of dignitaries, including Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was at the Statehouse three times. Public reaction was so
different on each visit it was almost as if three separate people were the object of attention. In a way that is true, if one considers what Lincoln would
accomplish between his first and last visitation, and how his reputation with the American people would change.
Lincoln's First Statehouse Visit
In 1859, he spoke to a small crowd on the east terrace of the Statehouse. Only about 50 people came to hear him speak, though he went on for more than two hours
on the subject that would grip the entire nation: the slavery question and the preservation of the Union. Such a small crowd seems unusual, but it is important
to recall that Lincoln at this time was not well known and had not become "Lincoln the Legend," the historical icon that we are aware of today. Clean shaven,
and not yet wearing the mourning black that he would take up as President, the Abraham Lincoln who visited Columbus in 1859 was just becoming more well known
outside of his home state of Illinois.
Lincoln's Second Statehouse Visit
Lincoln was making his way by train to Washington, DC to be sworn in as President when he stopped in Columbus in the spring of 1861. While at the Statehouse,
Lincoln visited with the Governor William Dennison and then spoke to a joint session of the Ohio Legislature in the House Chamber. During his conversation in
the Governor's Office, Lincoln received a telegram informing him that the election results had been duly certified and he was indeed President-Elect. In
contrast to the small crowd that had greeted him two years earlier, a newspaper account stated that the welcoming crowd around the Statehouse was "packed
together as closely as pickles in a jar" and that the uniformed members of the honor guard had to open a path into the Capitol building.
Lincoln's Third Statehouse Visit
Less than four years later an even larger crowd would witness the arrival of Lincoln to the Statehouse, but the jubilant welcome given to the President-Elect
would be replaced by grim sadness as Ohio joined the rest of the nation in mourning a fallen leader. On April 29, 1865, President Lincoln, the first President
to be assassinated, lay in state in the Rotunda for six and a half hours. As his casket was being transported from Washington, D.C. to its final resting place
in Illinois, more than 50,000 people came to Columbus to pay their respects to the President, walking past his open casket. This is believed to have been the
busiest day at the Capitol until November 2008, especially considering that central Ohio only had a population of 31,000 residents at the time.
Celebrating the Legacy of Abraham Lincoln at the Statehouse
Each year on April 29 (held on the Friday before if April 29 falls over a weekend), the Ohio Statehouse Education and Visitors Center and 1st Ohio Light Artillery
Battery A provides an honor guard from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the Rotunda. This is the site where the slain President lay in state in the Ohio Statehouse April 29,
1865. Changing of the guard occurs every 20 minutes.