A three feet sword from Abraham Lincoln’s burial site at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, has been stolen by copper thieves.
An employee recently noticed that a statue of a Civil War artillery officer on top of the tomb was missing the weapon, which had been broken at the handle.
It was allegedly taken from the burial site at the Oak Ridge Cemetery sometime between September and early November.
Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency told the Springfield State Journal-Register:
“We just cannot imagine why someone would even think about doing it, let alone climb up the steps and actually do it.”
State officials plan to repair the statue.
The theft is believed to be the first to state property stolen at the Lincoln Tomb Historic Site since the same sword was thieved 101 years ago, Dave Blanchette said.
The original sword would have been bronze, which was used in all metal statues. Much of the bronze came from melted-down Civil War cannons.
The stolen sword was then replaced by the copper version.
The recent theft probably occurred after the cemetery was closed to visitors, Dave Blanchette said, pointing out that a chain blocks daytime visitors from climbing the stone stairs to the balcony level.
“Anyone who would have gone up would have been noticed by a worker,” he said.
Aside from the sword thefts, the tomb suffers an incident of vandalism about once every decade, Dave Blanchette told the Springfield State Journal-Register.
In 1987 racist graffiti was spray-painted on the tomb, leading to the arrest of five teenagers.
A guard used to be stationed at the tomb overnight, but the position was cut amid budget problems.
The tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery serves as the final resting place of the 16th U.S. president and his wife, Mary.
Three of his four sons – Edward, William, and Thomas – are also buried at the cemetery. His fourth, Robert, rests at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
When Abraham Lincoln died in April 1865, Springfield citizens formed the National Lincoln Monument Association to raise funds for a memorial.
After Abraham Lincoln’s funeral in May 1865, his coffin was placed in a temporary vault at the cemetery.
In 1871, three years after construction began on the tomb, Abraham Lincoln’s body was moved inside the unfinished structure, and when the memorial was complete in 1874, his remains were put in a burial room at its centre.
In 1887, the bodies of Abraham Lincoln and his wife were reburied in a brick vault beneath the floor of the burial room to deter body snatchers.