Death rituals in the military include the custom of the riderless horse funeral procession. This tradition dates back to the 14th century when mourners would lead the horse to the burial site and sacrifice it believing that the animal would follow his master into the afterlife. The first military funeral in American utilizing the riderless horse was that of President George Washington. The horse follows the caisson carrying the casket with the boots reversed in the stirrups representing the fallen leader looking back on his troops for the last time. The tradition of the riderless horse isalso featured in military parades to symbolize fallen soldiers.
Funeral Train Begins with the Civil War
During the American Civil War trains transported of thousands of soldiers who had died far from home. The families of the fallen heroes would also travel by train to reach the battle field where a loved one had died. When they were able to find the marked graves of the family member they disinterred the body and taken back by train to be buried at home. The remains of soldiers who died in wars stateside and abroad were routinely transported by rail on the funeral trains.
Presidential Funeral Trains
The tradition of the funeral train also became a significant tradition that began with a U.S. President. In 1865 the body of President Abraham Lincoln travelled by train from Washington D.C. to Springfield Illinois for internment. The funeral train also contained the remains of his eleven year-old son, Willie, who had died three years earlier of typhoid fever. Thousands of people lined the railroad tracks on the route to catch a glimpse of the nation’s 16th president. In 2018 President George H. W. Bush travelled to his final resting place in a funeral train.