In 1876, Ben Boyd, an engraver for a gang of Chicago based Irish counterfeiters, was arrested at his workshop in Fulton, Illinois. Ben Boyd was sentenced to ten years at the Joliet Prison. Members of the Irish gang were unable to find another engraver to continue their counterfeiting efforts, thus they developed a scheme to steal President Abraham Lincoln’s grave, in Springfield, Illinois, and to hide it in the san dunes in Illinois, as a way to bargain for Ben Boyd’s freedom and for a cash payment of $200,000.
Members of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Association were in charge of guarding Abraham Lincoln’s grave, and did not have guards posted daily. On November 7, 1876, Secret Service agents were sent to guard Abraham Lincoln’s tombsite and they discovered that his grave was already removed. A secret service agent accidentally discharged his firearm, and a firefight between the agents began, allowing for all of the members of the gang, except for two to escape the scene. Abraham Lincoln’s grave was left in the cemetery and the escapees were unable to leave with it.
Two of the captured members were sentenced the maximum sentence for grave robbing, one year, at the Joliet Prison.