SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS/AP) – Thieves have nabbed a 3-foot-long copper sword atop Lincoln’s Tomb in what is believed to be the first theft at the site in more than a century.
An employee noticed last week that the sword was cut from a statue of a Civil War artillery officer, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Saturday. Officials think the sword was stolen sometime between September and early November.
Nothing had been stolen from the Springfield site, which is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, since the sword on the same statue was taken more than 100 years ago, said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Then, the sword was bronze.
“We just cannot imagine why someone would even think about doing it, let alone climb up the steps and actually do it,” Blanchette said.
The statue is on the tomb’s balcony, which is closed to visitors. Workers would likely have spotted a thief during the day, but no one guards the tomb at night, Blanchette said.
A security guard was posted overnight after a 1987 incident in which racist graffiti was spray-painted on the tomb. Five teenagers were arrested. But budget cuts ended that position within a few years of the incident, he said.
The rest of the statue was unharmed. Officials plan to fix the statue, Blanchette said.
Dedicated in 1874, Lincoln Tomb is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four sons, according to its website. The eldest son, Robert T. Lincoln, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
According to the website, “the 117-foot tomb, designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, is constructed of brick sheathed with Quincy granite. The base is 72-foot square with large semi-circular projections on the north and south sides. Double sets of north and south stairs lead to a terrace, above which rises the obelisk. At the corners of the shaft, large pedestals serve as bases for four bronze sculptures, each with a group of figures representing one of the four Civil War services—infantry, artillery, cavalry, and navy. A taller base on the obelisk’s south side holds a heroic bronze statue of Lincoln.”
(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)