CHICAGO (AFP) — Thieves have snatched a copper sword from the burial site of president Abraham Lincoln, one of the most revered leaders in US history, local media reported.
The roughly three-foot (90-centimeter) sword was brandished by the statue of a Civil War artillery officer at the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, located in Springfield, Illinois.
The sword was broken off at the handle, The State Journal-Register reported Friday.
The theft was apparently the first since 1890, when the same sword was stolen from the statue, the newspaper said. At that time, the sword was made of bronze that largely came from melted-down Civil War cannons.
Four statue groupings are mounted on the terrace of Lincoln’s tomb, each representing the artillery, cavalry, infantry and navy during the bloody 1861-1865 conflict.
“We just cannot imagine why someone would even think about doing it, let alone climb up the steps and actually do it,” Illinois Historic Preservation Agency spokesman Dave Blanchette told Journal-Register.
Four flights of steps lead to the terrace, which features a cordon of 37 shields that each bear the name of a state that made up the Union when the site was originally built in 1869-1874.
The thieves probably went to work after the cemetery where Lincoln’s tomb is located closed for the day, according to Blanchette. He said plans were underway to repair the statue, which was left intact except for the sword.
The tomb, which features a 117 feet (36 meters) high obelisk atop a rectangular base, is made of mostly of granite. A fragment of the ancient Roman Servian Wall built in 578 BC and presented as a gift to Lincoln from the people of Rome is attached to the obelisk.
Lincoln was shot and killed by a Confederate sympathizer in April 1865, just days after southern military forces surrendered. He was 56.