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 Posted: Thu Oct 28th, 2010 07:49 am
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Hellcat
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One of the better known ghost stories related to the war is perhaps that of one of the better known trains from the war. A train which carried at least twenty-nine members of the Volunteer Reseve Corps and was pulled by several different engines through over four hundred towns and cities. And the most important passenger aboard the train had been dead for days before it began it's one and only journey. It is the Lincoln Funeral Train.

I've seen various stories on the phantom funeral train and have one in Coleman's Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War and one in Nancy Roberts' Civil War Ghost Stories and Legends. The basic story of the funeral train is that it appears, either as a locomotive hauling several cars draped in black or as a locomotive hauling a single flat car with Lincoln's casket atop it, at night; usually around midnight. The phantom train follows the 1865 funeral train and if there are still any tracks on that path, the air around the tracks goes cold while just a few feet to either side it can be a warm night. All this happens in April, at the anniversary of the journey back to Springfield for burial. Many claim that clocks and watches anywhere near it's passing stop.

In Civil War Ghost Stories and Legends Roberts relates the story of Doctor Carter Strothers who lived near Albany, NY. During the last week of April, on the night of his 30th annivarsary in fact, Dr. Strothers found himself not with his wife but thirty minutes away making a house call. A mother had contacted him about her sick daughter, and something in her voice had caused him to visit rather than suggest they try to see him in the morning. On examining the little girl he discovered she had a temp of 105 brought on by a case of pneumonia. The good doctor treated the little girl until her fever broke. It was then that he packed up and made to return home.

It was around 10:30 when he came to the tracks. Naturally he stopped for he could hear a train coming, and could see it too. But it was coming on slowly, perhaps no more than twenty miles an hour. More surprising to him was the sound of a train's bell, he hadn't heard one in years. Pulling a little closer, he rolled the window down to get a better look. Doing so allowed him to hear a couple of near by railroad men discussing the approaching train. One mentioned that the locomotive looked like the Union, the other mentioned the train looked like something out of a book. Dr. strothers merely watched the train go by at it's slow pace.

The locomotive was draped in black and had logs for refueling the fire behind the cab. The brass fittings on the eight or nine cars gleamed silver in the moonlight. In the second to last car men clad in blue stood around a casket. It was at this time that the doctor realized how quite everything was. The train made no more noise than what he'd already heard, not even the clack clack clck of the wheels over the rails. As soon as the last car passed he took a look at his watch and was shocked to see it had stopped.

Years later the doctor read an article in the Albany Evening Times which explained what he had seen. According to the article, late at night in the last week of April the Union, one of the locomotives to haul the Licoln Funeral Train, returns pulling nine cars. The phantom train causes clocks and watches to stop and if a real train passes by at that time it's noise is hushed by the phantom.

Coleman relates the tale told to him by his father, who in turn had heard it from his father, Augustus W. "Pop Gus" Coleman, who had been an engineer in the Hudson River Valley and upstate NY. Pop Gus had himself apparently seen the trian which Coleman describes as appearing on the old right of way in upstate NY. It's an old steam locomotive with a flared funnel pulling passenger cars draped in black crepe and then the funneral car itself. A military band can be seen playing their instruments, but no sound reaches those who see them. If one looks closer the band members are all skeletons.

According to Coleman the sight of the phantom funeral train only lasts for a few moments. But time seems to stand still as it passes. Coleman also seems to suggest that the rails need not still be there, the phantom merely follows the old right of way. Farmers whose fields the right of way now runs through avoid that part of the fields at night.

And it's not just a NY phenomana. Coleman reports that there have been sightings in Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere along the route of the Lincoln Funeral Train.

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