“too noble a mind”

Lincoln portrait (http://www.wpclipart.com/American_History/civil_war/famous_people/Lincoln/Abe_Lincoln/Lincoln_portrait_cropped.jpg.html)

sacrificed for “his country’s Unity and Freedom!”

His was too noble a mind to indulge in a spirit of retaliation or revenge.

I think the following might have been published on April 21, 1865. It seems that the editors thought it was still possible that Secretary Seward would die from his wounds and that some Confederate leaders were somewhat involved in the plot.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1865:


Its Object and its Fruits.

Last week we rejoiced in common with our readers over the overthrow of the great army of the Rebellion and the prospect of a speedy return to unity and peace. To-day we mourn with them over a dispensation of Providence that has deprived the nation of its great head, and the people the services of one of the greatest and best of men. – ABRAHAM LINCOLN is no more! He whom the loyal people of this Republic had to come to regard with a feeling of love and gratitude, scarcely second in intensity to the emotions with which they revere and cherish the memory of the “Father of his Country,” has fallen, a sacrifice upon the altar of his country’s Unity and Freedom! While in the vigor of manhood, his mental powers and energies not yet having passed their zenith, and while devoting his faculties of both body and mind to his country’s welfare, he is stricken down by the hand of a base and dastardly assassin, while seeking in an hour’s public recreation a slight relaxation from the anxieties and cares of his responsible position. History furnishes not a parallel to the infamy and ingratitude of the deed. It was committed without the slightest, for although the victim had been the special object of Rebel scorn and anathemas from the breaking out of the Rebellion, he has never manifested towards his enemies feelings other than those of kindness and charity. His was too noble a mind to indulge in a spirit of retaliation or revenge. His greatest fault, if fault he had, was the exhibition of too much leniency in cases where severe and condign penalties seemed to be demanded. And for this goodness of heart he has received such a reward as “Southern Chivalry” is wont to mete out. The act is in perfect keeping with the character of the Rebellion from its inception. – The same spirit that seeks to destroy the best Government upon the earth because it could no longer use it in the furtherance of its hellish purposes, would, had it the power, strip the stars from Heaven and palsy the hand of Providence stretched out for its relief, could it thereby glut its mad ambition and satiate its revengeful thirst.

Liberty and Union forever. Song, on the death of president Abraham Lincoln. By Silas S. Steele. [J. Magee, 316 Chesnut St., Phila.] [c. 1865]  (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/amss002302/)

“Let his Counsel still be nigh”

But a nobler feeling than that of indignation or revenge actuates the people in this their hour of deep affliction. They mourn the loss of their beloved President as that of a father and a friend. The sable drapery with which they seek to symbolize their grief, is but a public emblem of the deep anguish of their souls. An honest, faithful and patriotic ruler has gone to his long home and “the mourners go about the streets!” But while they thus mourn, they breathe the firm and unanimous resolve, all the more firm and unanimous because of the depth of their grief, that this Union must and shall be preserved, and that the fell and imperious monster that, after having caused the noblest blood of the Nation to flow for four long years still demands such lofty sacrifice as the life of the President of the Republic and that of his worthy compeer, the Secretary of State, as well as other heads of Departments whose assassination was doubtless intended, shall be eradicated, root and branch, from the land, and that the motto “LIBERTY AND UNION, now and forever, one and inseparable,” shall be, not nominally merely, but literally, and in very fact and deed, the watchword of the Nation!

Liberty MO mourns (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/scsm000637/)

sable drapery in Liberty, Missouri, too

The portrait of Abraham Lincoln is from WPClipart. The Liberty and Union song is credited to the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets. The Liberty, Missouri mayor’s proclamation is credited to the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana
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Everybody Loves Abraham

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in April 1865:

THE REBEL PRISONERS AT ELMIRA. – It is stated that the rebel prisoners at Elmira were keenly affected by the news of Mr. Lincoln’s assassination, and requested permission to make some outward demonstration. A flag was therefor loaned them, which they displayed over their quarters at half mast.

The Flag is at halfmast (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200002290/)

even with the rebel prisoners ( Library of Congress, Music Division.)

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not indispensable

Oil Painting of Mortally Wounded Abraham Lincoln Moved from Ford's Theatre (Oil painting of mortally wounded Abraham Lincoln as he is moved from Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C. (Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

“Oil Painting of Mortally Wounded Abraham Lincoln Moved from Ford’s Theatre” (Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

Our great leader is dead, but our “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

From The New-York Times April 17, 1865:

The Effect of President Lincoln’s Death on National Affairs.

The death of President LINCOLN naturally excites universal and profound solicitude as to the immediate future of the country. He has been so marked a figure in the terrible events of the last four years, the action of the government in its contest with the rebellion has been so stamped by the impress of his personal character, and he had come to have so strong a hold upon the confidence and love of the whole people, without distinction of party, that his sudden removal from the stage of events naturally excites anxiety and apprehension in the public mind. He does, indeed, seem to have been needed to close the great work of pacification which he had so well begun.

Death of Lincoln (By Alexander hay ritchie, c1875; LOC:  LC-DIG-pga-02496)

“Death of Lincoln” (Libary of Congress)

Nevertheless, it is well to remember that the peculiar nature of our institutions makes it impossible that any one man should be absolutely indispensable to their preservation and successful working. Our government is of the people. They not only elect our rulers, but their spirit, their temper, their will pervade and control all the acts and all the measures of the government. Whoever dies, the people live, and the government lives also. If the Emperor NAPOLEON had been assassinated, all France would have been in revolution before twenty-four hours had passed away. President LINCOLN’s death, sudden and awful as it was — though it removes him in an instant from the most important and conspicuous position held by any living man, — does not interrupt for an instant the grand movement of our republican government. So far from exciting revolution, it only unites the whole people, more thoroughly than ever, in a common sentiment of devotion to the country and of profound grief for the great calamity that has fallen upon it. All party rancor is hushed. Political strife has ceased. All men of all parties, feeling a common interest and a common grief, stand together in support of the nation and of the man thus suddenly charged with the execution of the people’s will.

The current of events will continue to dictate the policy of the government, as it has done hitherto. The rebellion is already substantially crushed. The war, to all intents and purposes, is closed. There is nothing in the death of Mr. LINCOLN which can raise new armies for the rebel service or inspire new hopes for the rebel cause. No portion of the Southern people will be stimulated by it to renew the struggle. The same great Generals who have given our flag victory are still at the head of our armies and the act of an assassin has so fired the loyal heart of the nation, that those armies can be doubled in number if the necessity should arise. But it will not arise. The blow which has aroused the North will paralyze the South. The rebels will see in it nothing encouraging to their cause, nothing inciting them to new exertions on its behalf.

Andrew Johnson taking the oath of office in the small parlor of the Kirkwood House [Hotel], Washington, [April 15, 1865] (Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 21, 1866 Jan. 6, p. 245.)

“Andrew Johnson taking the oath of office in the small parlor of the Kirkwood House [Hotel], Washington, [April 15, 1865″ (Library of Congress)

In President JOHNSON, moreover, the country has a man of courage, of sound judgment and of a patriotism which has stood the test of the most terrible trials. His sympathies are with the people, and all his action will be for their good. He will respond to their sentiments and will execute their will. Nor will he be unmindful of the fact that the general line of policy which ABRAHAM LINCOLN was carrying out, when arrested by the murderer’s blow, commanded the hearty and universal approbation of the great mass of the American people. No man ever came suddenly to power with a plainer path before him than that which lies before the new President. And no one need fear for a moment that the rebellion is to gain anything by the death of President LINCOLN or by the accession to power of ANDREW JOHNSON as his successor.

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John Wilkes Booth ( LC-USZ62-25166)

“This man BOOTH”

John Wilkes Booth was identified by a hat and a spur he left behind at the crime scene.

From The New-York Times April 16, 1865:

THE ASSASSINATION.; Additional Details of the Lamentable Event.

WASHINGTON, Saturday, April 15.

The assassin of President LINCOLN left behind him his hat and a spur.

The hat was picked up in the President’s box and has been identified by parties to whom it has been shown as the the belonging to the suspected man, and accurately described as the one belonging to the suspected man by other parties, not allowed to see it before describing it.

The spur was dropped upon the stage, and that also has been identified as the one procured at a stable where the same man hired a horse in the evening.

Booth's Spur (by Carol M. Highsmith; LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/2010630750/)

Booth’s spur (photo by Carol M. Highsmith; Library of Congress)

Two gentlemen who went to the Secretary of War to apprize him of the attack on Mr. LINCOLN met at the residence of the former a man muffled in a cloak, who, when accosted by them, hastened away.

It had been Mr. STANTON’s intention to accompany Mr. LINCOLN to the theatre, and occupy the same box, but the press of business prevented.

It therefore seems evident that the aim of the plotters was to paralyze the country by at once striking down the head, the heart and the arm of the country.

As soon as the dreadful events were announced in the streets, Superintendent RICHARDS, and his assistants, were at work to discover the assassin.

In a few moments the telegraph had aroused, the whole police force of the city.

Ford's Theatre, scene of the assassination

“Ford’s Theatre, scene of the assassination” (1865; Library of Congress)

Maj. WALLACH and several members of the City Government were soon on the spot and every precaution was taken to preserve order and quiet in the city.

Every street in Washington was patrolled at the request of Mr. RICHARDS.

Gen. AUGUE sent horses, to mount the police.

Every road leading out of Washington was strongly picketed, and every possible avenue of escape was thoroughly guarded.

Steamboats about to depart down the Potomac were stopped.

DC-Police-Blotter-4-14-1865-evening (http://research.archives.gov/description/301678)


The Daily Chronicle says:

“As it is suspected that this conspiracy originated in Maryland, the telegraph flashed the mournful news to Baltimore and all the cavalry was immediately put upon active duty. Every road was picketed and every precaution taken to prevent the escape of the assassin. A preliminary examination was made by Messrs. RICHARDS and his assistants. Several persons were called to testify and the evidence as elicited before an informal tribunal, and not under oath, was conclusive to this point. The murderer of President LINCOLN was JOHN WILKES BOOTH. His hat was found in the private box, and identified by several persons who had seen him within the last two days, and the spur which he dropped by accident, after he jumped to the stage, was identified as one of those which he had obtained from the stable where he hired his horse.

This man BOOTH has played more than once at Ford’s Theatre, and is, of course, acquainted with its exits and entrances, and the facility with which he escaped behind the scenes is well understood.

The person who assassinated Secretary SEWARD left behind him a slouched hat and an old rusty navy revolver. The chambers were broken loose from the barrel, as if done by striking. The loads were drawn from the chambers, one being but a rough piece of lead, and the other balls smaller than the chambers, wrapped in paper, as if to keep them from falling out.

A Seneca County, New York newspaper also published most the preceding article and then followed in the same column with:

[Derringer gun John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.] Artifact in the museum collection, National Park Service, Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, Washington, D.C.  (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/2010630695/)

the assassin’s derringer (by Carol M. Highsmith; Library of Congress)


The extra Star has the following:

Developments have been made within the last twenty-four hours showing conclusively the existence of a deep laid plot on the part of a gang of conspirators including members of the Order of the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” to murder President Lincoln and his cabinet. We have reason to believe that Secretary Seward received intimation several months since from Europe that some thing of a desperate character was to transpire at Washington, and it is more than probable that the intimation had reference to the plot of assassination.

The pickets encircling this city on Friday night to prevent the escape of the parties who murdered President Lincoln and attempted the assassination of Secretary Seward and his sons, were fired upon at several places by concealed foes. Arrest of the parties charged with the offence will be promptly made.

A number of rebel officers who arrived here this morning by the mail boat from City Point, asked permission to take the oath of allegiance, which request was not granted for the present, and they were committed to Old Capitol Prison.

NY Herald 4-15-1865

NY Herald 4-15-1865

It was ascertained several weeks ago, by personal friends of the President, that he had received several private letters warning him that an attempt would be made upon his life; but to this he did not seem to attach much, if any importance. It has always been thought that he was not sufficiently careful for his individual safety in his last visit to Virginia. It is known that on frequent he would start from the Executive mansion for his summer residence at the Soldier’s Home, without the usual cavalry escort, which soon hurried and overtook him before he had proceeded far. It has always been understood that escort has been accepted by him only on the importunity of his friends as a matter of precaution. The President, before retiring to bed, would, when important military events were progressing, visit the War Department alone, passing over the dark intervening ground even at late hours on repeated occasions; and after the warning letters had been received, Seward, Chase, and intimate friends, armed for any emergency, were determined that he should not continue his visits without their company. For himself, the President seemed to have no fears.

It didn’t take long for the authorities to figure out that John Wilkes Booth was the culprit:

The EveningTelegraph 4-15-1865gif

The Evening Telegraph 4-15-1865 (Philadelphia)

You can pretty much read Philadelphia’s The Evening Telegraph of April 15, 1865 at the Library of Congress and get another look at the DC police blotter from the evening of April 14th at the National Archives.

Washington, D.C., April, 1865

“Washington, D.C., April, 1865″ (Library of Congress)

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“the worst blow the confederacy has yet had”

New York Times 4-16-1865

New York Times 4-16-1865

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1865:

WASHINGTON, April 15 – 11 A.M.

At 20 minutes past 7 o’clock the President breathed his last, closing his eyes as if falling asleep, and his countenance assuming an expression of perfect serenity. There were no indications of pain, and it was not known that he dead until the gradually decreasing respiration ceased altogether.

The Rev. Dr. Gurley, of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, immediately on its being ascertained that life was extinct, knelt at the bedside and offered an impressive prayer which was responded to by all present.

Dr. Gurley then proceeded to the front parlor, where Mrs. Lincoln, capt. Robert Lincoln, Mrs. John hay, the Private Secretary’s wife, and others were waiting, when he again offered a prayer for the consolation of the family.


President Lincoln and wife, with other friends, this evening visited Ford’s Theatre for the purpose of witnessing the performance of the “American Cousin.”

It was announced in the papers that Gen. Grant would also be present, but he took the late train of cars for New Jersey.

The theatre was densely crowded, and everybody seemed delighted with the scene before them. During the third act, and while there was a pause for one of the actors to enter, a sharp report of a pistol was heard, which merely attracted attention, but suggesting nothing serious, until a man rushed to the front of the President’s box, waving a dagger in his right hand, and exclaiming, “Sic semper tyrannis,” and immediately leaped from the box, which was in the second tier, to the stage beneath, and ran across to the opposite side, making his escape amid the bewilderment of the audience from the rear of the theatre, and mounting a horse, fled.

The screams of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed to the audience that the President had been shot, when all present rose to their feet, rushing towards the stage, many exclaiming “Hang him! hang him!”

Lincoln_box by Steve Woolf

in the third act

The excitement was of the wildest possible description, and of course there was an abrupt termination of the theatrical performance.

There was a rush towards the President’s box, when cries were heard: “Stand back and give him air.” “Has any one stimulants.” On a hasty examination, it was found that the President had been shot through the head, above and back of the temporal bone, and that some of the brains were oozing out. He was removed to a private house opposite to the theatre, and the Surgeon-General of the army, and other surgeons sent for to attend to his condition.

"Washington, D.C. Rocking chair used by President Lincoln in Ford's Theater" (Library of Congress)

“Washington, D.C. Rocking chair used by President Lincoln in Ford’s Theater” (Library of Congress)

On the examination of the private box blood was discovered on the back of the cushioned rocking chair on which the President had been sitting, also on the partition and on the floor. A common single-barreled pocket pistol was found on the carpet. A military guard was placed in front of the private residence to which the President had been conveyed. An immense crowed [sic] was in front of it, all deeply anxious to learn the condition of the President. It had been previously announced that the wound was mortal; but all hoped otherwise. The shock to the community was terrible.

The President was in a state of snycope, totally insensible, and breathing slowly. -

Later that day General Lee returned to his Richmond home. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1865:

Arrival of Gen. Lee in Richmond.

Gen'l. Robt. E. Lee and staff (1865 April 16; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-31663)

“most splendid specimen of a soldier and gentleman”

Gen. Robert E. Lee arrived in Richmond on the afternoon of the 15th. The first intimation of the arrival was the call made upon Lieut. H.S. Merrell, Post Quartermaster at Richmond, for forage and stabling for twenty horses in behalf of Gen. Lee. Shortly after three o’clock the General arrived on the pontoon bridge that spans the James between Richmond and Manchester. Here an immense crowd had collected to receive him, and he was greeted with cheers upon cheers, the acclamations of the people, so generously and heartily bestowed, visibly affecting him. – As he passed the Union officers they raised their caps. As he proceeded along the streets to hid residence in Franklin street, the crowd increased in numbers, and the cheers grew louder. The General was accompanied by five members of his staff, Gen. Lee and all wearing swords. As he dismounted at his residence, the thousands [of] people who surrounded him again greet[ed] him with acclaims, and so many as could [get] near his person, shook him by the hand. [The] good feeling in relation to Gen. Lee [w]as common among both Unionists and Rebels, and was fully shared in by all. – Gen. Lee looked exceedingly robust, and is certainly a most splendid specimen of a soldier and gentleman, with fair forehead, grey hair, bronzed countenance and military beard. He will doubtless see the military dignitaries here quietly, before he leaves the city again – the taking place of which latter event is now positively known.
Richmond Cor. Herald.

At least one observer said it was a quieter celebration of Robert E. Lee’s arrival. Gene Smith [1]quotes T.C. DeLeon: “There was no excitement, no hurrahing; but, as the great chief passed, a deep, loving murmur, greater than these, arose from the very hearts of the crowd. Taking off his hat and simply bowing his head, the man great in adversity passed silently to his own door; it closed upon him, and his people had seem him for the last time in his battle harness.”

Apparently the news of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln got to Richmond during the evening of the 15th. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1865:

How the News was Received in Richmond.

The Richmond correspondent of the World says that on Saturday evening at 9 o’clock, Gen. Ord, commanding at Richmond, and Gens. Ould and Mumford, rebel and Federal commissioners of exchange, were sitting in the room of Colonel John W. Forney in the Spottswood Hotel, when a telegraph message was handed in conveying the intelligence of the President’s death. The three Northern gentlemen were demonstrative in alternate bursts of incredulity, anguish, and indignation; but Ould said:

“That is the worst blow the confederacy has yet had; Lee’s surrender is nothing to it.”

The people in Richmond are already anxious to express their disapprobation of the assassination, while the more radical officers are overzealous to saddle upon the state, in advance of fuller corroboration, the whole responsibility of the deed. Mr. Hunter, ex-Senator, has left the town post-haste, and Judge Campbell also expresses a desire to be out of the lowering atmosphere. It is not the best news in the world for General Lee, who galloped into Richmond on Saturday with a full staff, and has spent the night in close reticence.

"Richard Stoddert Ewell, 1817-1872, bust portrait, facing right; in uniform. CSA general" (Library of Congress)

“Richard Stoddert Ewell, 1817-1872, bust portrait, facing right; in uniform. CSA general” (Library of Congress)

Old Bald Head learned of the Lincoln assassination in New York City. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in April 1865:

The rebel Gen. Ewell, who took command of Stonewall Jackson’s Division after the death of that General, is now held by our authorities as a prisoner of war. Saturday morning he passed through New York on his way to Fort Warren. “While breakfasting in the Soldier’s Rest, in 4th avenue, he was told of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, and not only expressed his deep regret, but seemed to be painfully affected by what he deemed was the most afflicting intelligence the South could now hear.”

According to the Library of Congress the photograph of Robert E. L was taken on April 16, 1865 and “n verso: General Robert E. Lee seated between his son, G. W. C. (Custis) Lee on his right and Lt. Colonel Walter H. Taylor on his staff. This picture taken by Brady in 1865 in the basement below the back porch of Lee’s Franklin Street home in Richmond, Virginia”
Steve Woolf’s depiction of the assassination is licensed by Creative Commons
Some Seneca County newspaper clippings on Lincoln’s assassination and death present the same thick black boundaries between columns as in the New-York Times below. The Times of April 16th featured sort of a continual recap of the President Lincoln’s respiration and pulse rates from 11 PM on the 14th to 7:22 AM on the 15th.
NY Times 4-16-1865

NY Times 4-16-1865

  1. [1] Smith, Eugene O. Lee and Grant, A Dual Biography. New York: Promontory Press, 1984. Print. page 282.
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It was supposed to be a very good Good Friday, at least for the Union. In a celebratory ceremony 150 years ago today Robert Anderson raised the old Union flag from April 1861 over Fort Sumter, which was once again in Federal hands. However, a Democratic paper in upstate New York objected to leading abolitionists attending the event on the Government’s dime. Why should the people who caused the war and denigrated the Union be allowed to lead the celebration of the North’s successes? The editorial closed by looking forward to eventual vengeance against the abolitionists.

"Charleston, South Carolina. Flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter. Arrival of Gen. Robert Anderson and guests" (Library of Congress)

“Charleston, South Carolina. Flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter. Arrival of Gen. Robert Anderson and guests” (Library of Congress)

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in April 1865:

The authorities at Washington have resolved to commemorate this day (April 14th.,) by re-elevating over the walls of Fort Sumter the flag which four years ago was surrendered to the power of the boasted Southern Confederacy. To this end government vessels were fitted up and all the leading abolition agitators of the North invited to be present, at government expense, and assist on the occasion. The raising of the “old flag” over Sumter is well enough, perhaps, but to invite George Thompson, William Lloyd Garrison and Henry Ward Beecher, to be prominent actors of the occasion, is an insult to the pride and patriotism of the American people. George Thompson is the English abolitionist, who first helped to awaken here the sectional animosity which finally led to civil war. And he, in company with Lloyd Garrison and Ward Beecher and other noted abolitionist [sic] – men who, with the New York Tribune, denominated the American banner “hate’s polluted rag” are chosen by the authorities to share the exclusive privilege, at government expense, of re-elevating the “old flag” over the ruins of conquered Charleston. These very men, who openly proclaimed that flag a “flaunting lie,” and who called upon every man to trail it in the dust, are the ones selected to shout hosannas over Union victories, which better men did so much, and which they did nothing whatever with their right arms to secure! But so it is, and the people must wait for the disappearance of the “Southern Confederacy” from the scene, before they turn upon the Beechers and the Garrisons, their vengeance for all the horrors and sufferings of the past four years.

A Confederate sympathizer from Maryland didn’t wait that long to put a bullet-hole in the head of Abraham Lincoln. The President was successfully coercing the rebel states back into the Union. If Mr. Lincoln was not the most publicly rabid of abolitionists, he had certainly become, during the course of the war, the Emancipator-in-Chief.

During the evening of April 14, 1865 President and Mrs. Lincoln made their way Ford’s Theatre to enjoy a play. Once in the presidential box the President held Mary’s hand:

Pleased by the attention he had shown her on their carriage ride that afternoon, and now by this further expression of affection, Mary Lincoln reverted to her old role of Kentucky belle. “What will Miss Harris think of my hanging onto you so?” she whispered, leaning toward him. Lincoln’s eyes fixed on the stage, reflected the glow of the footlights. “Why, she will think nothing about it,” he said, and he kept his grip on her and.

Act I ended; Act II began. Down in Charleston the banqueters raised their glasses in response to Anderson’s toast, and here at Ford’s, in an equally festive mood, the audience enjoyed Our American Cousin with only occasional sidelong glances at the State box to see whether Grant had arrived. … Act II ended; Act III began. Lincoln, having at last released his wife’s hand and settled back in the horsehair rocker, seemed to be enjoying what was happening down below. … [lines in the play]

Then it came, a half-muffled explosion, somewhere between a boom and a thump, loud but by no means so loud as it sounded in the theater, then a boil and bulge of bluish smoke in the presidential box …[1]

Apparently the first part of the following article is lost to the ages. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1865:

NY Times 4-15-1865

NY Times 4-15-1865

The blood oozed from the wound at the back of his head. The surgeons exhausted every effort of medical skills, but all hope was gone. The parting of his family with the dying President is too sad for description.

By midnight, the Cabinet, with Messrs. Sumner, Colfax and Farnsworth, Judge Curtis, Gov. Oglesby, Gen. Meigs, Col. Hay and a few personal friends, with Surgeon-General Barnes and his immediate assistants, were around his bedside.

The President and Mrs. Lincoln did not start for the theatre until fifteen minutes after eight o’clock. Speaker Colfax was at the White House at the time, and the President stated to him that he was going, although Mrs. Lincoln had not been well, because the papers had announced that General Grant and they were to be present, and, as Gen. Grant had gone North, he did not wish the audience to be disappointed.

He went with apparent reluctance and urged Mr. Colfax to go with him; but that gentleman had made other arrangements, and with Mr. Ashman [Ashmun?], of Massachusetts, bid him good bye.

When the excitement at the theatre was at its wildest height, reports were circulated that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated.

On reaching this gentleman’s residence a crowd and a military guard were found at the door, and on entering it was ascertained that the report was based on truth.

Everybody there was so excited that scarcely an intelligible word could be gathered, but the facts are substantially as follows:

At about 10 o’clock a man rang the bell, and the call having been answered by the colored servant, he said he had come from Dr. Verdi, Secretary Seward’s family physician, with a prescription, at the same time holding in his hand a small piece of folded paper, and saying in answer to a refusal that he must see the Secretary, as he was entrusted with particular directions concerning the medicine.

He still insisted on going up, although repeatedly informed that no one could enter the chamber. The man pushed the servant aside, and walked heavily towards the Secretary’s room, and was then met by Mr. Frederick Seward, of whom he demanded to see the Secretary, making the same representation which he did to the servant. What further passed in the colloquy is not known, but the man struck him on the head with a “billy,” severely injuring the skull and felling him almost senseless. The assassin then rushed into the chamber and attacked Major Seward, Paymaster of the United States army and Mr. Hansell, a messenger of the State Department and two male nurses, disabling them all, he then rushed upon the secretary, who was lying in bed in the same room, and inflicted three stabs in the neck, but severing, it is thought and hoped, no arteries, though he bled profusely.

The assassin then rushed down stairs, mounted his horse at the door, and rode off before an alarm could be sounded, and in the same manner as the assassin of the President.

It is believe [sic] that the injuries of the Secretary are not fatal, nor those of either of the others, although the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary are very seriously injured.

Secretary Stanton and Wells, and other prominent officers of the Government, called at Secretary Seward’s house to inquire into his condition, and there heard of the assassination of the President.

They then proceeded to the house where he was lying, exhibiting of course intense anxiety and solicitude. An immense crowd was gathered in front of the President’s house and a strong guard was also stationed there, many persons evidently he would be brought to his home.

The entire city tonight presents a scene of wild excitement, accompanied by violent expressions indignation, and the profoundest sorrow – many shed tears. The military authorities have despatched mounted patrols in every direction in order if possible to arrest the assassins.The whole Metropolitan police are likewise vigilant for the same purpose.

The attack, both at the theatre and at Secretary Seward’s house, took place at about the same hour – 10 o’clock – tus showing a preconcerted plan to assassinate these genmen [sic].

Assassination of President Lincoln, Ford's Theatre, Washington, April 14, 1865 (LOC: LC-USZ62-4608)

“The blood oozed from the wound at the back of his head. “

  1. [1] Foote, Shelby. The Civil War, A Narrative. Vol. 3. Red River to Appomattox. New York: Random House, 1986. Print. page 979-980.
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grant them “unconditional forgiveness”

McLean's House, Appomattox, Va. Scene of Lee's surrender (by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Appomattox Court House, Va., April 1865. Wilbur McLean house; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-35137)

where General Grant was prudently kind (“McLean’s House, Appomattox, Va. Scene of Lee’s surrender” Library of Congress)

A publication in the Finger Lakes area of New York State pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation for the returning rebels. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in April 1865:

The Amnesty.

The terms extended to the Confederate officers and troops under Gen. Lee, is a complete amnesty in its terms, for political as well as military offenses. This does not suit some of the more blood-thirsty of the Republican leaders, and the Washington correspondent of the Tribune says “the bribe of unconditional forgiveness offered by Mr. Lincoln to the rebels has already established a split in the Republican party.” Beast Butler represents the disaffected of the abolition camp, and in a speech at Washington, on Monday night, this marplot advocated the most extreme and diabolical measures towards all who have been engaged in the rebellion. In view of Butler’s exploits at Big Bethel, Big Ditch and Fort Fisher, he ought to hide his head in very shame at his impotence in war. – Butler never exposed his precious carcass to rebel bullets, and it is far to presume that he never will. His only capacity seems to be for mischief and plunder. But he is the representative of the New England element of the abolition party, whose sentiments he uttered at Washington on Monday night, hence we may look for anything but harmony among the friends of the administration, in the closing up of this most unnatural strife. But Gen. Grant has taken the initiative step, and the President must sustain him if he hopes to bring about a permanent and lasting peace.

From The New-York Times April 11, 1865:


Dispatches to the Associated Press.

Benjamin Butler by Alfred Waud ca. 1860-1865 (LOC - LC-DIG-ppmsca-20072)

Butler still taking it to the rebs?

WASHINGTON, Monday, April 10.

Among those who delivered speeches to-day was Maj.-Gen. BUTLER. His remarks were principally directed to the subject of the future disposition by the government of the participants in the rebellion. He recommended that all the leaders should be disfranchised and disqualified for holding any office under the government, but that the masses, including the negroes, should have the rights of citizenship. The address was loudly applauded, and at its conclusion the crowd dispersed.

Very little public business was transacted to-day, even the courts adjourned.

Within the past two weeks over twenty thousand rebel prisoners have been sent away from City Point, and a large number still remain there.

Several hundred persons gathered before the Executive mansion this afternoon at 5:30. Frequent calls were made for the President, who appeared merely to say: “If the company had assembled by appointment, some mistake had crept into their understanding. He had appeared before a larger audience than this one to-day, and he would repeat what he then said, namely, he supposed, owing to the great, good news, there would be some demonstration. He would prefer tomorrow evening, when he should be quite willing, and, he hoped, ready, to say something. He desired to be particular, because everything he said got into print. [Laughter.] Occupying the position he did, a mistake would produce harm, and, therefore, he wanted to be careful not to make a mistake [A VOICE — You have not made any yet.]

The President was greeted with cheers, and, after bidding the crowd good evening, retired.


Map of Appomattox Court House and vicinity. Showing the relative positions of the Confederate and Federal Armies at the time of General R. E. Lee's surrender, April 9th 1865.  (http://www.loc.gov/item/99439220/)

“Map of Appomattox Court House and vicinity. Showing the relative positions of the Confederate and Federal Armies at the time of General R. E. Lee’s surrender, April 9th 1865. ” (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)


Par for the course, Secretary of War Stanton telegraphed General Dix in New York City 150 years ago today; but there was no indication of a trumped-up Union victory in battle. Today the dreaded and despised draft was officially history.

NY Times 4-14-1865

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no rest for the winner

NY Times 4-12-1865

NY Times 4-12-1865

After the April 9th surrender of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, President Lincoln sure wasn’t looking for any triumphal celebrations or even resting on his laurels. He told a crowd on April 10th he would deliver a speech the next day. He spent the rest of that day catching up on business after his recent time at City Point but mainly focused on reconstruction. He told his cabinet he didn’t have any time to celebrate because he now had the enormous job of putting nation back together again. “He had to build and restore the conquered South, maintain the loyalty of white Unionists there, protect Negro freedom, and contend with an increasingly hostile Congress.” His speech the next day was going to explain the problems and his plans for reconstruction.

On the night of April 11, hundred[s] of people assembled on the White House lawn, as Lincoln prepared to address them from an upstairs window. It was misty out, but even so one could see the new illuminated dome of the Capitol. Off in the distance, across the Potomac, Lee’s Arlington plantation was aflame with colored candles and exploding rockets, as hundreds of ex-slaves sang The Year of Jubilee.” With [Noah] Brooks holding a candle from behind a curtain, Lincoln stepped to the window and enrolled his speech. Stretched out below, Brooks noted, “was a vast sea of faces, illuminated by the lights that burned in the festal array of the White House.”

Here’s a bit from The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:

APRIL 11, 1865

FELLOW-CITIZENS—We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom blessings flow must not be forgotten.

by frank taylor

not a crowd-pleaser

A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing be overlooked. Their honors must not be parceled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you. But no part of the honor for plan or execution is mine. To General Grant, his skillful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part. By these recent successes, the reinauguration of the national authority—reconstruction which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with—no one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with and mould from disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and measure of reconstruction. As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, Wishing not to be provoked by that to which I cannot properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up and seeking to sustain the new State government of Louisiana. … [Much about Louisiana’s readmission to the Union and a bit about voting rights for blacks]… Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible. In the present situation as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper.

“There was patter of polite applause, but it was obvious that most of the audience was extremely disappointed in the speech.” They wanted a victory oration, not the technicalities of reconstruction. Some were annoyed about limited black suffrage. Many left during the speech.

I copied this from With Malice Toward None, and it squares pretty well with David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln. Mr. Donald added that during the speech as the President “finished each page, he dropped it to the floor, where Tad scrambled about, collecting them and, growing restless, importuned his father for ‘another.'”[1]

  1. [1] Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None. New York: New American Library, 1977. Print. page 459-460; Donald, David H. Lincoln. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995. Print. pages 582.
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puppet show?

Palmer's Uncle Tom's Cabin Co. (Buffalo, N.Y. : Courier Litho. Co., c1899.)

“Palmer’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin Co.” (Library of Congress)

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1865 (in same column as the April 9, 1865 written communication between Generals Lee and Grant regarding surrender):

JAMES REDPATH, the abolition leader, now the Charleston correspondent of the New York Tribune, boasts that he induced a negro to break the bust of Calhoun in a Charleston office. The cowardly scoundrel, probably, didn’t have courage to face even the inanimate bust of the noble South Carolinian! Such a deed is in prefect [sic] keeping with the spirit of abolitionism. John C. Calhoun was a great and a good man – and once elevated to the office of Vice President of the United States. We never read of his making any such disgusting exhibition of himself as that which marked the debut of the besotted boor who now occupies that position. What a wonder it is that some of these latter day reformers do not break down the marble statue of the great Washington, who was as great a rebel as he was a slaveholder.

I haven’t found anything to confirm this particular story, but James Redpath was working in Charleston 150 years ago.

In February 1865, federal military authorities appointed him the first superintendent of public schools in the Charleston, South Carolina, region. He soon had more than 100 instructors at work teaching 3,500 students of both races. He also founded an orphan asylum. In May 1865 in Charleston, Redpath organized the first-ever Memorial Day service to honor buried Union Army dead there.

His reputation as a radical abolitionist and his tentative steps toward integrating South Carolina’s school caused worried military officials to replace Redpath and remove an irritation to Southern-born President Andrew Johnson. Ironically, Redpath served as the ghost writer of Jefferson Davis’s history of the Confederacy.

You can read about the beginnings of reconstruction in Charleston and James Redpath’s part in reopening the schools in the Richmond Daily Dispatch of March 14, 1865.

Grave of John C. Calhoun, Charleston, S.C (photographed between 1861 and 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-34942)

“Grave of John C. Calhoun, Charleston, S.C.” (Library of Congress)

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“a sad peace-offering for us all”

4-8&9 1865

4-8&9 1865

From Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (in chapters 66 and 67):

The head of Lee’s column came marching up there [near Appomattox Station] on the morning of the 9th, not dreaming, I suppose, that there were any Union soldiers near. The Confederates were surprised to find our cavalry had possession of the trains. However, they were desperate and at once assaulted, hoping to recover them. In the melee that ensued they succeeded in burning one of the trains, but not in getting anything from it. Custer then ordered the other trains run back on the road towards Farmville, and the fight continued.

So far, only our cavalry and the advance of Lee’s army were engaged. Soon, however, Lee’s men were brought up from the rear, no doubt expecting they had nothing to meet but our cavalry. But our infantry had pushed forward so rapidly that by the time the enemy got up they found Griffin’s corps and the Army of the James confronting them. A sharp engagement ensued, but Lee quickly set up a white flag.

NY Times 4-10-1865

NY Times 4-10-1865

From The Passing of the Armies by Joshua Chamberlain:

Suddenly rose to sight another form, close in our own front, — a soldierly young figure, a Confederate staff officer undoubtedly. Now I see the white flag earnestly borne, and its possible purport sweeps before my inner vision like a wraith of morning mist. He comes steadily on, the mysterious form in gray, my mood so whimsically sensitive that I could even smile at the material of the flag, — wondering where in either army was found a towel, and one so white. But it bore a mighty message, — that simple emblem of homely service, wafted hitherward above the dark and crimsoned streams that never can wash themselves away.

The messenger draws near, dismounts; with graceful salutation and hardly suppressed emotion delivers his message: “Sir, I am from General Gordon. General Lee desires a cessation of hostilities until he can hear from General Grant as to the proposed surrender.”

What word is this! so long so dearly fought for, so feverishly dreamed, but ever snatched away, held hidden and aloof; now smiting the senses with a dizzy flash! “Surrender”? We had no rumor of this from the messages that had been passing between Grant and Lee, for now these two days, behind us. “Surrender”? It takes a moment to gather one’s speech. “Sir,” I answer, “that matter exceeds my authority. I will send to my superior. General Lee is right. He can do no more.” All this with a forced calmness, covering a tumult of heart and brain. …

I was doubtful of my duty. The flag of truce was in, but I had no right to act upon it without orders. There was still some firing from various quarters, lulling a little where the white flag passed near. But I did not press things quite so hard. Just then a last cannon-shot from the edge of the town plunges through the breast of a gallant and dear young officer in my front line, — Lieutenant Clark, of the 185th New York, — the last man killed in the Army of the Potomac, if not the last in the Appomattox lines. Not a strange thing for war, — this swift stroke of the mortal; but coming after the truce was in, it seemed a cruel fate for one so deserving to share his country’s joy, and a sad peace-offering for us all.

I’m looking forward to Civil War Daily Gazette’s report on the surrender later this afternoon.

NY T 4-10-1865

NY T 4-10-1865

President Lincoln returned got back home from City Point 150 years ago this evening:

The River Queen reached Washington early on the evening of April 9, and Stanton greeted Lincoln with a momentous telegram from Grant: “General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this morning,” at a place called Appomattox Courthouse. Lincoln and Stanton threw their arms around one another. and Stanton, “his iron mask torn off, was trotting about in exhilarated joy,” said an onlooker. Lincoln made his way through the torch-lit streets, already thronging with people, and called at Seward’s home. [and spoke with his bedridden Secretary of State, who had been severely injured in a carriage accident on April 5th.][1]

I’m not sure about the timing on when Lincoln got the word of surrender, and, as you can see in the Times clipping, Grant’s telegram mentioned an afternoon surrender. I don’t doubt that Secretary of War Stanton was joyful. Check out his order for 200 gun salutes to the left.

Hiram Clark - NY 185th Infantry

Hiram Clark – NY 185th Infantry

  1. [1] Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None. New York: New American Library, 1977. Print. page 458.
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