Mementos of the dead were an important part of nineteenth century grieving culture. Throughout Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, the living gather mementos of those who have died to remember them by. The constant presence of death during the Civil War era, when a catastrophic number of people died both on the battlefield and from disease, led people to gather physical reminders of those they had lost. Physical relics taken from the dead (including President Lincoln, in the book) are used to hold onto memories of the dead and what they stood for.
Mementos Quotes in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer
Stanton knew that if any person in Washington deserved a precious lock of the martyr’s hair, it was Mary Jane Welles. She later framed the cherished relic with dried flowers that had decorated Abraham Lincoln’s coffin at the White House funeral. Stanton gazed down at his fallen chief and wept.
The nation could hardly bury its martyred Father Abraham with a lead ball lodged in his brain. They cut it out, marked it as evidence, and preserved it for history. His blood, according to a newspaper report, was drained from his corpse by an embalmer, transferred to glass jars, and preserved. When they were finished, Mary Todd Lincoln sent a request: Please cut off a lock of his hair for her.