Lincoln's Guard of Honor Included Local Veteran
Following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, 1865, the people of the United States of America came together to mourn the 16th President. Funeral services were held in Washington D.C. before a three week funeral train journey to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. One of the men assigned to accompany Lincoln’s funeral train was Manitowoc County’s William Henry Noble.
William Henry Noble was born in 1837 in Odgenburg, New York. As a young adult, he came to Manitowoc and became a carpenter. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Noble enlisted as a private in Company K, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.
During a battle in Perryville, Kentucky, Noble was injured and transferred to the Veterans Reserve Corps in Washington D.C. According to a biography written by Civil War reenactor and researcher, Dennis Moore, “Sargent Noble was still in Washington D.C. on April 15, 1865 when President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Known to his superiors as a trustworthy and loyal soldier, Noble was selected to be a member of the guard of honor and pallbearer for Lincoln’s funeral.”
Noble traveled with Lincoln’s funeral train for 16 days. The procession made stops in 11 cities during their journey from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois: Baltimore, Maryland; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City, New York; Albany, New York; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Michigan City, Indiana; and Chicago, Illinois.
Lincoln’s Guard of Honor carried the coffin at each city and opened it for view. It was estimated nearly 600,000 people had viewed the body and another 5 to 6 million participated in or viewed the funeral procession. The guard ended their duty on May 3, 1865 at Oakridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.
Upon his return to Washington D.C., the Guard of Honor members were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Congressional Medal of Honor criteria were changed around the year 1900 and several hundred medals were revoked at that time, including the ones awarded to Lincoln’s Guard of Honor.
After Noble’s service, he married Jean Anderson in June, 1867 and the family settled in Reedsville, where the couple was influential in the village’s creation and early success. William was a charter member of the Horace Walker Post 18, Grand Army of the Republic and served as the first Reedsville village president. Jean was known to help any neighbor in need. “Her life was filled with good works,” stated her obituary in the Manitowoc Lake Shore Times, on August 26, 1884. “She fed the hungry. She clothed the naked. The homeless wanderer found shelter beneath her roof. She was not blessed with large wealth and though often sorely tried, her charity never failed. She was not ostentatious. Few beyond her immediate family knew the extent of her charities.”
William Henry Noble died from pneumonia in 1894. According to the Brillion News on October, 26, 1894, the funeral was in Reedsville before “a special train having been chartered by the Odd Fellows Lodge of which body the deceased was a member,” transported his body to Evergreen Cemetery in Manitowoc. It was estimated that over 300 mourners followed the procession.