The very bugle which sounded Taps over slain President Abraham Lincoln's coffin, as he lie in state following his assassination, may sell for $50,000 or more when it makes its auction debut Dec. 2 at Heritage Auctions
. Never before offered at auction, the important relic remained in the same Ohio family since 1863 descendants of Hiram Cook, who served the bugler Lincoln's personal guard.
"Over the years, Heritage has offered various important relics related to President Lincoln's assassination, but none are more poignant than this instrument which belonged to his bugler," said Tom Slater, Director of Americana at Heritage Auctions. "Relics from one of the saddest events in American history are avidly collected today."
In 1863, Cook, a native of Columbus, Ohio, joined a troop to serve as President Lincoln's personal guard. One volunteer from each county in Ohio was selected to serve in this elite unit, however, when it came time for Cook to join all positions had been filled except that of the unit's bugler. The guard continued to watch over Lincoln until his assassination April 14, 1865.
That night Cook and other members of the troop were fast asleep when they awoke to a shout: 'Call out the guards! Seward has been attacked!' referring to the stabbing of Secretary of State William H. Seward. Cook immediately played the bugle call "Boots and Saddles" and the troop mounted up and set off for the Secretary of State's residence. While enroute, another man flagged them down, shouting, "For God's sake go to Ford's Theatre, President Lincoln has been shot."
For the next two days, Lincoln lay in state at the White House and then in the Capitol building, the body at all times watched over by his guard. When the time came for Lincoln's body to depart for the long train trip to its final resting place, " (A) number of
dignitaries followed the coffin to the railway station, where the funeral train waited to carry the body from Washington to Springfield," Cook later recounted. "A great crowd of people had gathered for the last scene of the tragedy. They stood in absolute silence with uncovered heads, while I raised my bugle to my lips and sounded taps over the body of Abraham Lincoln."
The train made slow progress, stopping in a number of cities so citizens could pay their respects. According to the official History of Ohio, "at each place where the services were held on route the historic bugle was used in blowing taps, including the final obsequies at Springfield, Illinois."
The historic bugle has remained in the Cook family ever since. In 1973, it was on loan to the Smithsonian Institution for an exhibit of artifacts of slain presidents, where it was on display alongside the bugle that sounded taps for President Kennedy.
"The provenance is impeccable: it has been consigned for auction by a direct descendent of Hiram Cook whose notarized affidavit accompanies the lot," Slater said.
The bugle that sounded Taps for Lincoln will cross the block in Heritage Auctions' Dec. 2 Americana & Political auction in Dallas.