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Monday, November 10, 2014

Phillip Becker : Last Surviving Musician of the Lincoln Funeral Ceremony in Springfield

With the upcoming Veterans Day, I thought I'd  focus on someone who served his country in a way that very few did.  Philip Becker, the last surviving member of the band that played at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in 1865, died on May 7 in 1926.  He was 92 years old. He was laid to rest in Diamond Grove Cemetery in Jacksonville.  An obituary has been written for him in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. XIX  April-July 1926 Nos. 1-2.

 Mr. Becker had lived in the same house in Jacksonville, Illinois for the last 60 years of his life. Being born in Germany in 1834, Phillip arrived in Jacksonville in 1855. He was a cabinet maker by trade.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, raised their son, Phillip, and daughter, Kate, in Jacksonville.  His silver cornet band assembled in Springfield for the slain president's funeral.  He had formed the first band of Jacksonville with sixteen musicians, all of German descent. Philip would have been about 31 years of age at the time of the assassination of President Lincoln.

My thoughts began to focus on the funeral of President Lincoln, and what it must have been like for Phillip Becker and his fellow musicians to play their instruments. It must have been hard to control their emotions during that sorrowful event.  Yet, what an honor to be allowed to perform for the public during that time when the entire nation was in mourning.

http://thelincolncollection .org


The 150th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln Funeral will be celebrated in Springfield in 2015.
The informative website, http://lincolnfuneraltrain.org/, tells of the large scope of events planned for April-May 2015.

2015 Lincoln Coalition Logo

A Chicago area man is building a precise replica of the steam engine that pulled the funeral car of Abraham Lincoln.  You can watch a short film about this at http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/10/16/rebuilding-history . This site also contains a slide show of the construction of the funeral car, and a map of the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train Route.

There appears to be so much planned for the commemoration of this historic event.  I am sure that there will  be many visitors to the Springfield area, and people standing along the railroad tracks to catch a glimpse of the reenactment.

But what of Phillip Becker?  The last surviving musician of the band that played at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln was survived by one son, Phillip Becker, Jr. of Jacksonville, and one daughter, Mrs. Kate Werghwein of Henry, Illinois.  His funeral was held on May 9, 1926, in Jacksonville.
I know that his spirit will be there at the anniversary celebration of the President's funeral.  Mr. Becker will be standing tall, instrument in hand, alongside the other musicians who  played at the funeral 150 years ago.

Well done, Mr. Becker.  Your nation is grateful for your service at one of the most poignant events in this country's history.


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