Obsequies of the Martyred President
DURING the day that followed the sad death of the
martyred McKinley preparations were made for the last sad rites.
These, as in the similar instances of Lincoln and Garfield, and
of the more recently deceased Victoria, were to consist of public
ceremonies and private obsequies. The people demanded the right
to gaze upon the lifeless features of their beloved leader, and
the request, dictated by respect and affection, could not be ignored.
From Philadelphia came an earnest solicitation that the body of
the dead President should lie in state for an interval in the Hall
of Independence, the hallowed scene of the nation’s birth, where
the body of Abraham Lincoln had reposed thirty-six years before.
But the request came too late, the plans for the funeral ceremonies
had been made, and it was deemed best not to change them even for
this added honor to the nation’s martyr.
Before beginning the preparations
for the funeral, it was deemed right and proper that an autopsy
should be made to satisfy the family and friends as well as the
public that all had been done which could be done to save the President’s
life. The following is the report of the doctors who made the autopsy:
“The bullet which struck
over the breast bone did not pass through the skin and did little
“The other bullet passed through both
walls of the stomach near its lower border. Both holes were found
to be perfectly closed by the stitches, but the tissue around each
hole had become gangrenous. After passing through the stomach the
bullet passed  into the back
walls of the abdomen, hitting and tearing the upper end of the kidney.
This portion of the bullet track was also gangrenous, the gangrene
involving the pancreas. The bullet has not yet been found.
“There was no sign of peritonitis
or disease of other organs. The heart walls were very thin. There
was no evidence of any attempt at repair on the part of nature,
and death resulted from the gangrene which affected the stomach
around the bullet wounds as well as the tissues around the further
course of the bullet. Death was unavoidable by any surgical or medical
treatment and was the direct result of the bullet wound.”
This report of the autopsy upon President
McKinley was made not only by the physicians and surgeons who attended
him, but by a number of other medical experts. It shows he was beyond
medical or surgical aid from the moment he was struck by the assassin’s
bullet. The surgeons did everything that could be done to help him
when they operated upon him promptly and sewed up the two wounds
in his stomach. In the ordinary course of events nature would have
begun at once to repair the damage, but the autopsy disclosed that
nature did nothing. Mr. McKinley was not in as good condition as
he was supposed to be. Although not sick, he was “run down” by hard
work and sedentary habits. The walls of his heart were unusually
thin, and that organ, though sufficient to sustain his ordinarily
quiet life, was not strong enough to bear the shock sustained by
the assassin’s attack. These things could not be known to the physicians
and surgeons until the autopsy. They were working more or less blindly,
and knew by the pulse that the heart was greatly affected, but there
was relatively little fever; it seemed to be abating and the patient
gave no sign until the fatal collapse that the parts surrounding
the path of the bullet had become gangrenous.
It has been suggested that the bullet
of the assassin was poisoned; but it is not necessary to assume
this in order to explain the gangrenous condition, which is a not
infrequent result of gun- 
shot wounds. In a healthy young person the gangrene would probably
have been accompanied by very high fever; but in the President’s
case there was relatively little fever, and for this reason the
attending physicians were misled into the belief that he was on
the high road to recovery. Sad as was his death, it is a relief
to know that it was due entirely to the assassin’s bullet; that
his physicians and surgeons did all that was possible to save him,
and that they could not have prolonged his life after the collapse
even though they had known exactly what had caused his heart failure.
The plans for the funeral
provided for a private ceremony at the Milburn house on Sunday,
September 15th, at 11 ., consisting of reading the Scripture,
prayer and the singing of a hymn. Immediately after this service
the remains of the late President were to be taken to the Buffalo
City Hall, under escort of one company of regular troops, one company
of marines, one company each of the Buffalo regiments of the National
At the City Hall the body to lie in
state, affording the citizens of Buffalo an opportunity to pay their
respects to their dead ruler. The body was then to remain under
a guard of soldiers and sailors until Monday at 7.30 ., when
it would be taken under the same escort to the funeral train at
the Buffalo Union Station.
This train, as arranged by the authorities
of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to consist of one private car for
Mrs. McKinley, one combination car, one dining car, one compartment
car, one double drawing room and sleeping car and one observation
car, in which the body of the President would be placed.
The train to leave Buffalo at 8.30
Monday morning, and arrive in Washington the same evening, traveling
by way of Williamsport, Harrisburg and Baltimore.
At Washington the body to be taken
from the train to the Executive Mansion under escort of a squadron
of cavalry; and at  9 o’clock
on Tuesday morning to be removed to the rotunda of the Capitol,
under the same escort of cavalry, when the funeral services were
to take place immediately, and afterward the body was to lie in
state until evening of Tuesday, when the body would be taken, under
military escort, followed by the funeral procession, in accordance
with the precedent in the case of President Garfield, to the Baltimore
& Potomac Station, and placed upon the funeral train, which would
leave for Canton.
The train to reach Canton at 11 o’clock
Wednesday morning, where the final funeral services were to be committed
to the charge of the citizens of Canton, under the direction of
a committee to be selected by the Mayor of that city.
Simple and sincere in life, so was
the funeral of William McKinley at the Milburn house in Buffalo
on Sunday morning, September 15th. There was no pomp, no harsh stiffness
of painful ceremony. It was a sincere tribute of respect to a great
and a good man who had died with the words “God’s will be done”
upon his lips.
The coffin rested in
the drawing-room on the first floor. It was richly draped in black,
with the upper part open, and bearing the simple inscription on
a silver plate:
B J 29, 1843.
D S 14, 1901.
Across the foot of the
coffin was a new silk American flag, which fell in graceful folds
to the floor. All about were an abundance of flowers sent from all
parts of the country, with a large wreath of roses resting on the
mantel near the head of the bier. At every door into the drawing-room
soldiers were stationed, and no one was permitted to enter. 
Rev. Dr. Locke, of the Methodist Church,
and a friend of the family, and the choir from the First Presbyterian
Church, of Buffalo, took part in the funeral ceremonies at the house.
At a signal there rose from the hall
the words of “Lead, Kindly Light,” sung by the quartet. It was President
McKinley’s favorite hymn. Every one within sound of the music knew
it, and, as the voices swelled through the house, half of those
in the room put their faces in their hands to hide their tears.
When the singing ended Dr. Locke read
from 1 Corinthians, . All had risen as he began and remained standing
throughout the services. “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave,
where is thy victory?” repeated the minister. Again the voices rose
with the words, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Dr. Locke, who was dressed
in the simple garb of a clergyman of the Methodist Church, then
advanced to the head of the coffin. Bowing his head and folding
his hands as he looked down into the face of the dead President,
he invoked the divine help and comfort in the hour of affliction.
The services closed with a simple benediction. Four sailors of the
navy, two infantry sergeants and two artillery sergeants bore the
coffin out of the house. The President, the Cabinet members and
the others followed it. Mrs. McKinley and the members of the family
The trained nurses and
the personal attendants of the President gathered on the side porch
to see the body taken away. Through their tears from behind the
screen of vines they saw it borne from the house, and as long as
the hearse in which it was deposited remained in view they strained
their dimmed eyes to see it. Those noble women who minister to the
sick and who are inured to sorrow were prostrated with grief.
Three long rolls of a muffled drum
told those outside the house that the funeral party was about to
appear. All the morning a veil of mist had been hanging over the
city, but just as the  coffin
was carried out of the house the sun came out and the warm light
illumined the bright colors of the flags on it. All the way from
the Milburn house to the City Hall, a distance of nearly four miles,
the streets were black with people, but there was no need for police
lines, for the people stood in silence with heads uncovered waiting
for the procession to pass.
As the coffin was brought out of the
house the Sixty-fifth Regiment band, stationed on the opposite side
of the street, stepped forward a few paces and began playing in
a minor key “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Slowly the coffin was carried
on the shoulders of the soldiers across the lawn and placed in the
hearse, drawn by four black horses.
As the funeral procession moved south
through Delaware Avenue toward the City Hall it passed through a
vast concourse of people, filling the walks and cross streets and
crowding housetops, windows and every available space along the
line of march. It was plain to see from this popular outpouring
that the hearts of the people had been deeply touched, and, as the
flower-covered coffin passed along, women wept and men gave expression
to the universal feeling of grief.
As the escort of soldiers
swung slowly into Franklin Street a few drops of rain fell. In two
minutes it was raining hard. The long line of troops took their
positions at attention, facing the City Hall. The coffin was lifted
from the hearse to the shoulders of the sailors and marines, and
borne into the City Hall. Outside there was not a man who did not
stand with hat removed in respect to the dead President. Inside,
with slow and measured steps, the bearers made their way to the
catafalque. A moment later, and the body of President McKinley was
lying in state.
A mighty host of between 75,000 and
100,000 men, women and children swept through the City Hall, where
President McKinley lay, during the afternoon between 1.30 and 10.30
The main corridor of the City Hall
is oblong. The front opens upon Franklin Street, the rear opening
on Delaware Avenue. The front and rear face the east and west. In
the centre of the corridor under the dome was the catafalque, about
eighteen inches in height. Thirty feet distant from it on either
side were two round altar-shaped stands, used for ornamental purposes.
These were crape-covered. The sides of the corridor were lined with
giant ferns and palms. The chandeliers at the base of the four stairways
leading to the second floor were draped with the national colors,
overlaid with black and white crape. In the centre of the arch of
the south intersecting corridor hung a life-sized portrait of the
dead Executive draped with bunting and crape, and with white doves
with outstretched wings surrounding it. The coffin was borne into
the corridor on the shoulders of eight men.
On the coffin were the national colors,
on top of which were placed a wreath of American Beauty roses, and
one of white roses. When the lid was removed it was noticed that
the President’s left hand, which had rested on his waist, had dropped
to his side. The top of the coffin was removed and the hand was
tenderly replaced. The face of the President bore a look of perfect
peacefulness. It was not greatly emaciated. The most noticeable
difference was that his usual pallor had been succeeded by sallowness.
President Roosevelt led the Cabinet
into the corridor and took a position on the south side, so that
he stood on the right and near the foot of the coffin. Scattered
about were some of the more prominent citizens of Buffalo, and police
and National Guard officials. At the head of the coffin, at attention,
stood a sergeant of the coast artillery, and at the foot the Chief
Master-at-Arms. President Roosevelt gazed only an instant into the
face of the dead, and then, with bowed head, quickly passed toward
the Delaware Avenue exit.
First in the throng, a little girl
of about seven came along, her brown eyes glistening with excitement.
She and her mother had been drenched by the rain. The mother’s eyes
filled with  tears as she
looked at the President. The little girl was too short, and, placing
her hand on the edge of the glass top, she raised herself on tiptoe
and looked in. Her mouth opened with a half-suppressed exclamation
as she looked up at her mother. Then a policeman’s gloved hand gently
pushed her along.
A grizzled war veteran, wearing a
Grand Army and a corps badge, limped in. His collar was wilted and
his hair was wet. Not a muscle of his grim face moved as he bent
slightly over and looked at Mr. McKinley’s face. He walked on like
one in a dream, perhaps listening in memory to the rattle of musketry
at Cedar Creek. Three awe-stricken boys of twelve, somewhat ragged
and as wet as rats, came along with linked hands. The policeman
tried to get them to separate, but there must have been a boyish
Masonry that steeled them against the orders of a bluecoat. Unlink
they would not. Each freckled face bent reverently over the convex
glass, a look of something like terror came into their eyes, and
then they were swept on, still linked together, a sort of faith,
hope and charity in ragged knickerbockers and shoes that oozed water
at the toes. Out into the rain they went, down the outer steps,
with their heads together, holding in their chalice of memory a
picture that will be retold to children and grandchildren in the
days to come. The corridor became wet from the tramping feet, and
still the hero-worshippers surged through the portals. As long as
the doors were open, late into the night, did the people, in an
orderly and continuous line, pass the bier and view the pallid features.
Then the casket was closed and the gates locked. A guard of honor
stood sentinel through the night.
At early dawn of Monday
morning, escorted by military, the body was taken to the funeral
train, and started for the Capital City, accompanied by relatives,
high officials and many friends. Through a long living lane of bareheaded
people, stretching from Buffalo up over the Alleghenies, down into
the broad valley of the 
Susquehanna, and on to the marble city on the banks of the shining
Potomac, the nation’s martyred President made his last journey to
the seat of government, over which he presided for four and one-half
years. The whole country seemed to have drained its population to
the sides of the track over which the funeral train passed. The
thin lines through the mountains and the sparsely-settled districts
thickened at the little hamlets, covered acres in towns suddenly
grown to the proportions of respectable cities and were congested
into vast multitudes in the larger cities. Work was suspended in
field and mine and city. The schools were dismissed, and everywhere
appeared the trappings and tokens of woe. A million flags at half
mast dotted hillside and valley, and formed a thicket of color over
the cities, and from almost every banner streamed a bit of crape.
The stations were heavy with the black symbols of mourning. At all
the larger towns and cities, after the train got into Pennsylvania,
militiamen, drawn up at present arms, kept back the enormous crowds.
The silence with which
the countless thousands viewed the remains of their hero and martyr
was oppressive and profound. Only the rumbling of the train wheels,
the sobs from men and women with tear-stained faces and the doleful
tolling of the church bells broke on the ear. At several places,
Williamsport, Harrisburg and Baltimore, the chimes played Cardinal
Newman’s grand hymn. Taken altogether, the journey home was the
most remarkable demonstration of universal personal sorrow since
Lincoln was borne to his grave. Every one of those who came to pay
their last tribute to the dead had an opportunity to catch a glimpse
of the flag-covered bier, elevated to view in the observation car
at the rear of the train.
There was no other bit of color to
catch the eye on this train of death. The locomotive was shrouded
in black, the curtains of the cars, in which sat the lonely, stricken
widow, the relatives of the 
President, Cabinet and others were drawn. The whole black train
was like a shuttered house, save only for that hindmost car where
the body lay guarded by a soldier of the army and a sailor of the
Mrs. McKinley stood the trip bravely.
In the morning, soon after leaving Buffalo, she pleaded so earnestly
to be allowed to go into the car where her dear one lay, that reluctant
assent was given, and she spent half an hour beside the coffin.
All the way the train
was preceded about fifteen minutes by a pilot engine sent ahead
to test the bridges and switches and prevent the possibility of
an accident to the precious burden it carried.
The train had the right of way over
everything. Not a wheel moved on that section of the railroad system
thirty minutes before the pilot engine was due, or for the same
length of time after the train had passed. The General Superintendent
had sent out explicit instructions covering every detail. The order
“Every precaution must be taken by
all employees to make this movement absolutely safe.”
In the twelve hours between Buffalo
and Washington, it is estimated over half a million people saw the
coffin which held all that was mortal of President McKinley.
It was with simple ceremony and a
silence that fitted perfectly the sadness of the occasion that the
body of the late President was borne up Pennsylvania Avenue to the
White House and laid upon the bier in the great East Room where
he had stood so often in the pride of his manhood to receive the
greetings of the common people he loved better than himself.
It was fitting that such ceremony
as there was should be severely military in its character, in recognition
of the fact that the President was the Commander-in-chief of the
United States army and navy. Nowhere was there a show of civilian
participation. The streets about the station were filled with mounted
troops, and the  station
itself was occupied by stalwart soldiers and sailors in uniform.
The blue-coated policemen and the railroad employees were nearly
all that stood for civil life.
It was not so on the broad stretch
of avenue that led to the White House. There the people strained
and crowded in a vast multitude against the stiff wire ropes which
restrained them from the space marked out for the line of procession.
The silence that marked the progress of the funeral party through
the national capital was profound. The people as a whole did not
talk even in whispers, and the only sign of agitation in the great
crowd was the silent pressing and striving against the ropes to
see the mournful cortege which swept slowly along. The afternoon
was cloudy, and with the close of day began the dull, depressing
boom of a great gun at intervals of five minutes. It was the signal
which gave notice of the approach of the funeral train.
At the Pennsylvania Railroad Station
men in bright uniforms gathered, a mixture of soldiers and sailors,
and, with lowered voices, talked in groups while waiting to take
up their parts in the ceremony. From the brigadier-general and naval
captain down to the humblest lieutenant and ensign, every officer
on duty in the Capitol was there, save a few of high rank who composed
the guard of honor, and waited at the White House.
The casket was moved from the observation
car, and tenderly received upon the bent shoulders of the body-bearers.
Four artillerymen, from Fort McHenry, Maryland, were on the right
and four sailors on the left. Straightening themselves under their
burden, they walked slowly towards the hearse. As the casket emerged
a bugle note rose clearly, and “taps” rang out. That was the only
sound that broke the dead silence.
Just beyond the entrance to the station
President Roosevelt, with the members of the Cabinet, had paused
and had taken station so as to leave a broad space for the funeral
cortege. They ranged themselves on the sidewalk in double rows opposite
each other and stood with bared heads as the corpse was carried
to the hearse,  drawn up
at the side gate. The hearse was an exquisitely carved affair, and
was drawn by six coal-black horses, each of which was led by a colored
groom in black livery.
When the sad cortege arrived at the
White House the hearse stopped under the porte-cochere. The
body-bearers took the coffin upon their broad shoulders, and, passing
up three or four steps, waited until President Roosevelt and the
members of the Cabinet had alighted from their carriages, and then
followed them through the wide-open doors into the East Room. Just
in the centre of the room, under the great crystal chandelier, they
deposited their precious burden upon a black-draped base, and stood
at salute while the Chief Executive and Cabinet members, with bowed
heads, passed by.
Following them came the chief officers
of the army and navy now in the city, the guard of honor consisting
of officers of the Loyal Legion, members of the Union Veterans’
organization and the Grand Army of the Republic.
The casket was placed lengthwise of
the East Room, the head to the north. Piled about it were a half
hundred floral emblems of exceptional beauty, and as many more were
placed in the inside corridor to wait the morrow. Two marines, a
soldier and a sailor, stood guard, one at each corner of the casket,
while seated on either side were two members of the Grand Army,
and two members of the Loyal Legion. These were relieved at intervals
of two hours during the night.
Before midnight the household had
retired to rest, and the only lights to be seen were those in the
room where his comrades kept watch over their dead chief.
There in the East Room of the White
House, where for more than four years he had made his home as the
Chief Magistrate of the great American Republic, he rested undisturbed.
Upstairs his widow mourned for her dead in the family apartments
that brought back but the saddest of memories.