History and Legacy of the Funeral Caisson

If you’re planning a funeral, one of the many ways to make it one of a kind is to have a funeral caisson, which is traditionally used in military funerals.  

The history of the caisson begins on the battlefield. A two-wheeled cart pulled by horses, the caisson was initially used to transport cannons on the battlefield. It was also used to transport the dead and wounded, which may be how it came to be used to transport fallen members of the armed services.  

Presidential funerals are part of the caisson’s legacy. Photos of John F. Kennedy’s funeral are particularly moving, perhaps in part because he was a young husband and father, and also because his assassination was captured on live television. One of the most iconic photos from the day of his funeral is that of the flag-draped caisson flanked by members of the honor guard, rolling along Pennsylvania Avenue en route from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, where Kennedy lay in state in the Rotunda for several days. The same caisson had carried the body of Franklin Delano Roosevelt several years earlier.  

Ronald Reagan, too, was transported to Capitol Hill in a horse-drawn caisson. Traveling down Constitution Avenue with the Reagan family following in limousines, the caisson was escorted by the honor guard. Immediately behind the caisson was a riderless horse named Sergeant York, with Reagan’s riding boots reversed in his stirrups. As the caisson paused at 4th Street and Constitution, 21 Air Force F-15’s flew overhead in missing man formation.  

Today, you don’t have to be a military hero or head of state to have a caisson used in your funeral. In fact, Greenwood Memorial Park offers funeral caissons as part of our Signature Services℠. These services make it easy to customize a funeral to create a truly life-honoring event. Visit our Funeral Services page or call us at 619.450.1479 for more details.   

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