Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) online

. (page 30 of 41)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 41)
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eral Grant, and sent his messenger to Ford's Theatre to en-
gage a box. In the afternoon he received and conversed for
a long time with several public men from his own State, and


In the early evening had an interview with Speaker Colfax
and Hon. George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, for whom, as
an old friend, he had a warm regard. The conversation
fell upon the apprehension widely felt for his life during his
visit to Richmond, and he said that he should have felt the
same fears concerning any one else under the same circum-
stances, but he could not feel that he himself was in any
danger whatever. He afterwards gave Mr. Ashmun a card,
directing his immediate admission the next morning, when
Mr. Ashmun wished to see him upon business — and, turn-
ing to Mr. Colfax, said, "You are going to the theatre with
Mrs. Lincoln and me, are you not?" Mr. Colfax, however,
had other engagements for the evening, and could not go.
Mr. Lincoln told him he would be glad to stay at home, but
the people expected both General Grant and himself, and
as General Grant had left town, he did not like to disappoint
them altogether. He then again urged both Mr. Ashmun
and Mr. Colfax to accompany him, but they both excused
themselves on the score of previous engagements. At a
little after eight o'clock the President, with Mrs. Lincoln,
entered their carriage, and halting at the residence of Sena-
tor Harris, where they were joined by Major H. R. Rath-
bone, the step-son, and by Miss Clara W. Harris, the
daughter, of the Senator, they proceeding to Ford's Theatre,
in Tenth Street, and immediately entered the box prepared
for their reception.

This box was on the second floor of the theatre, looking
down upon the stage, and on its right as the spectator enters
the building. A narrow passage-way from the front behind
the dress-circle leads to a door, which opens inwardly into
an entry about eight feet long and four feet wide ; from
which, at its farther end, another door opens directly into
the box. The President, passing through these doors, seated
himself in a high-backed rocking-chair, placed for him at
the corner of the box nearest the audience, Mrs. Lincoln
sitting next to him on his right, Miss Harris sitting next,
in the corner of the box farthest from the audience, and
Major Rathbone sitting on a sofa just behind Miss Harris.
The box was a double one, with a front of about ten feet
looking upon the stage, a small pillar rising from the centre
of the railing to the ceiling above. An American flag had


been hung in front, in honor of the President's attendance.
The door which entered the box was directly behind the
President, and about five feet from his chair; it was left
standing open during the evening.

The play for that evening was the "American Cousin."
During the performance the attendant of the President
came out from the box and sat a few feet from the outer
door leading to it. At about nine o'clock a man came to
the vicinity, with a large official envelope in his hand, ad-
dressed, as is believed, to General Grant, and inquired for
the President's messenger, to whom he exhibited the en-
velope, and of whom he made some inquiry, and then went
away. At fifteen minutes after ten, John Wilkes Booth, an
actor by profession, passed along the passage behind the
spectators in the dress-circle, showed a card to the Presi-
dent's messenger, and stood for two or three minutes looking
down upon the stage and the orchestra below. He then
entered the vestibule of the President's box, closed the door
behind him, and fastened it by bracing a short plank against
it from the wall, so that it could not be opened from the out-
side. He then drew a small silver-mounted Derringer pistol,
which he carried in his right hand, holding a long double-
edged dagger in his left. All in the box were intent on the
proceedings upon the stage; but President Lincoln was
leaning forward, holding aside the curtain of the box with
his left hand, and looking, with his head slightly turned, to-
wards the audience. Booth stepped within the inner door
into the box, directly behind the President, and, holding the
pistol just over the back of the chair in which he sat, shot
him through the back of the head. Mr. Lincoln's head fell
slightly forward, and his eyes closed, but in every other re-
spect his attitude remained unchanged.

The report of the pistol startled those in the box, and
Major Rathbone, turning his eyes from the stage, saw,
through the smoke which filled the box, a man standing
between him and the President. He instantly sprang
towards him and seized him; but Booth wrested himself
from his grasp, and dropping the pistol, struck at him with
the dagger, inflicting a severe wound upon his left arm, near
the shoulder. Booth then rushed to the front of the box —
shouted "Sic semper tyrannis!" — put his hand upon the rail-


ing in front of the box, and leaped over it upon the stage
below. As he went over his spur caught in the flag which
draped the front, and he fell; but recovering himself imme-
diately, he rose, brandished the dagger, and facing the audi-
ence, shouted "The South is avenged!" He then rushed
across the stage towards the passage which led to the stage-
door in the rear of the theatre. An actor named Hawke was
the only person on the stage when Booth leaped upon it, and
seeing Booth coming towards him with the dagger in his
hand, he ran off the stage and up a flight of stairs. Booth
ran through the passage-way beside the scenes, meeting one
or two persons only, whom he struck from his path, went
out at the door which stood open, and which he closed be-
hind him, and mounting a horse which he had brought there,
and which a lad was holding for him, he rode over the Ana-
costa bridge, across the east branch of the Potomac, giving
his real name to the guard who challenged him, and found
a temporary refuge among the rebel sympathizers of Lower

The discharge of the pistol had not apprised the audience
of the real nature of the transaction. By many it was sup-
posed to be an incident of the play, and it was not until
Booth had leaped -from the box and crossed the stage, that
there was any general suspicion of what had taken place.
Mr. J. B. Stewart, who was seated in the orchestra stalls,
leaped upon the stage and pursued the flying assassin, but
he reached the stage-door only in time to see him riding off
on the horse he had mounted. Major Rathbone, seeing that
the President was unconscious, started for assistance through
the door which Booth had barred. Miss Laura Keene, the
leading actress in the play, came upon the stage, entered the
box, and calling on all in the house to keep quiet, bathed the
head of the unconscious victim, and required the crowd to
fall back and give him air. The house was speedily in con-
fusion — the lights were turned off, and the multitude dis-
persed. Several surgeons soon came forward and made an
examination of the President's person, and as soon as the
wound was discovered, he was removed from the theatre
to the house of Mr. Peterson, on the opposite side of Tenth
Street, where, in a small room on the first floor, he was laid
diagonally across a large bed. He was at once divested of


his clothing - ; the surgeons in attendance, Surgeon-General
Barnes presiding, examined the wound, and it was at once
seen that he could not possibly survive many hours. The
ball had entered on the left side of the head, behind the left
ear, and three inches from it. Its course was obliquely for-
ward, traversing the brain, and lodging just behind the right
eye. The President was at once surrounded by the promi-
nent officers of the Government. Mrs. Lincoln, overcome
with emotion, was led from the theatre to the house where
her husband lay. Secretary McCullough, Attorney-General
Speed, Secretary Welles, Senator Sumner, and other distin-
guished gentlemen, remained in the room through the night.
When first brought into the house, the President's breathing
was regular, but difficult. This continued throughout the
night, he giving, with occasional exceptions, no indications
of suffering, and remaining, with closed eyes, perfectly un-
conscious. At about seven in the morning his breathing be-
came more difficult, and was interrupted at intervals some-
times for so long a time that he was supposed to be dead.
At twenty-two minutes past seven he ceased breathing, and
thus expired. There was no convulsive action, no rattling
in the throat, no appearance of suffering of any kind — none
of the symptoms which ordinarily attend dissolution and add
to its terrors. From the instant he was struck by the ball
of the assassin, he had not given the slightest indication that
he was conscious of anything that occurred around him.

The news that the President had been shot spread at once
through the town, and was instantly followed by tidings of
a murderous assault, still more terrible in its details, upon
the Secretary of State. We have already mentioned the acci-
dent by which Mr. Seward was thrown from his carriage, and
seriously injured. His right arm was broken above the
elbow, his jaw was fractured, and his whole system seriously
shattered. For nearly a fortnight he had been confined to
his bed, unable to swallow anything but liquids, and reduced,
by pain and this enforced abstinence, to a state of extreme
debility. His room was on the third floor of his residence
in Madison Place, fronting on President Square, and the bed
on which he lay stood opposite the door by which the room
was entered, and about ten feet from it. At a few minutes
past ten — within five minutes of the time when the President


was shot — a man, proved afterwards to be Lewis Payne
Powell, generally known as Payne, rang at the door of Mr.
Seward's residence, and said to the colored lad who opened
it that he had some medicines prescribed for Mr. Seward by
Dr. Verdi, his family physician, which he must deliver in
person. The lad said that no one could go up to Mr. Sew-
ard's room; but Payne pushed him aside and rushed up
-stairs. He had reached the third floor, and was about to
enter Mr. Seward's room, when he was confronted by Mr.
Frederick W. Seward, the Secretary's son, to whom he made
the same statement of his errand. He was refused admission,
when he drew a pistol and snapped it at Frederick without
effect ; he then struck him with it upon the head twice, with
such force as to break the pistol and prostrate his victim,
fracturing his skull. Hearing the noise, Miss Fannie Seward,
who was in her father's room, opened the door, into which
Payne instantly rushed, and, drawing a bowie-knife, threw
himself upon the bed, and made three powerful stabs at the
throat of Mr. Seward, who had raised himself up at the first
alarm, and who instantly divined the real nature and inten-
tion of the assault. Each blow inflicted a terrible wound,
but, before the assassin could deal another, he was seized
around the body by an invalid soldier named Robinson, who
was in attendance as nurse, and who strove to drag the mur-
derer from his victim. Payne at once struck at Robinson and
inflicted upon him several serious wounds, but did not suc-
ceed in freeing himself from his grasp. Mr. Seward, the in-
stant his murderer's attention was withdrawn from him,
threw himself off the bed at the farther side ; and Payne,
finding that his victim was thus beyond his reach, broke away
from Robinson, and rushed to the door. The colored lad in
the lower hall had run into the street for help, and Miss Fan-
nie Seward shouted "Murder!" from the upper window. The
assassin, on reaching the upper hall, met Major Angustus
Seward, another son of the Secretary, whom he struck with
his dagger, and on the stairs encountered Mr. Hansell, one
of the Secretary's attendants, whom he stabbed in the back.
Forcing his way through all these obstacles, he rushed down
the stairs, and finding, to his surprise, no one there to oppose
his progress, he passed out at the front door, mounted a


horse he had left standing in front of the house, and rode
leisurely away.

When the news of this appalling tragedy spread through
the city, it carried consternation to every heart. Tread-
ing close on the heels of the President's murder— perpe-
trated, indeed, at the same instant — it was instinctively felt
to be the work of a conspiracy, secret, remorseless, and ter-
rible. The Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, had left Mr.
Seward's bedside not twenty minutes before the assault, and
was in his private chamber, preparing to retire, when a
messenger brought tidings of the tragedy, and summoned his
instant attendance. On his way to Mr. Seward's house, Mr.
Stanton heard of the simultaneous murder of the President,
and instantly felt that the Government was enveloped in the
meshes of a conspiracy, whose agents were unknown, and
which was all the more terrible for the darkness and mys-
tery in which it moved. Orders were instantly given to
close all drinking-shops and all places of public resort in
the city, guards were stationed at every point, and all possi-
ble precautions were taken for the safety of the Vice-Presi-
dent and other prominent Government officials. A vague
terror brooded over the population of the town. Men whis-
pered to each other as they met, in the gloom of midnight,
and the deeper gloom of the shadowy crime which surrounded
them. Presently, passionate indignation replaced this
paralysis of the public heart, and, but for the precautions
adopted on the instant by the Government, the public ven-
geance would have been wreaked upon the rebels confined
in the Old Capitol Prison. All these feelings, however, grad-
ually subsided, and gave way to a feeling of intense anxiety
for the life of the President. Crowds of people assembled in
the neighborhood of the house where the dying martyr lay,
eager for tidings of his condition, throughout the night; and
when, early in the morning, it was announced that he was
dead, a feeling of solemn awe filled every heart, and sat, a
brooding grief, upon every face.

And so it was through all the length and breadth of the
land. In every State, in every town, in every household,
there was a dull and bitter agony, as the telegraph bore tid-
ings of the awful deed. Everywhere throughout the Union,
the public heart, bounding with exultation at the triumphant


close of the great war, and ready to celebrate with a mighty
joy the return of peace, stood still with a sacred terror, as it
was smitten by the terrible tidings from the capital of the
Nation. In the great cities of the land all business instantly
stopped — no man had the heart to think of gain — flags
drooped half-mast from every winged messengar of the sea,
from every church spire, from every tree of liberty, and from
every public building. Masses of the people came together
by a spontaneous impulse, to look in each other's faces, as
if they could read there some hint of the meaning ©f these
dreadful deeds — some omen of the country's fate. Thou-
sands upon thousands, drawn by a common feeling, crowded
around every place of public resort, and listened eagerly to
whatever any public speaker chose to say. Wall Street, in
New York, was thronged by a vast multitude of men, to
whom eminent public officials addressed words of sympathy
and of hope. Gradually as the day wore on, emblems of
mourning were hung from the windows of every house
throughout the town, and before the sun had set every city,
throughout the length and breadth of the land, to which tid-
ings of the great calamity had been borne by the telegraph,
was enshrouded in the shadow of the national grief. On the
next day, which was Sunday, every pulpit resounded with
eloquent eulogies of the murdered President, and with such
comments on his death as faith in an overruling Providence
alone could prompt. The whole country was plunged into
profound grief — and none deplored the crime which had de-
prived the Nation of its head with more sincerity than those
who had been involved in the guilt of the rebellion, and who
had just begun to appreciate those merciful and forgiving
elements in Mr. Lincoln's character, whose exercise they
themselves would need so soon.

Immediately after his death, the body of the President was
removed to the Executive Mansion, embalmed, and placed
in the Green Room, which had been prepared by suitable
emblems of mourning for its reception. Near the centre of
the room stood the grand catafalque four feet high, upon
which rested the mahogany coffin, covered with flowers — the
last sad offerings of affection — in which the body was placed
for its final rest. The funeral services took place on Wednes-
day, the 19th, and were held in the East Room. They were


attended by representatives of every department of the Gov-
ernment, and were exceedingly impressive and touching.
The guard of honor, which had watched over the remains
of the illustrious dead, still maintained its place, with Major-
General Hunter at its head. Nearest the coffin sat the rela-
tives of the President — his children and his wife's connec-
tions — his widow being too utterly prostrated by her grief
to leave her room. Deputations from different sections of
the country — Governors of States, Members of the Senate
and House of Representatives — the heads of the several
Executive Departments, with their assistants and clerks, the
diplomatic corps and their attaches, the Judges of the
Supreme and the local Courts, representatives from the Sani-
tary and Christian Commissions — these and many others,
whom respect for the departed President had brought to his
funeral, entered the room and took the places assigned them.
At twelve o'clock, Andrew Johnson, who had become, in
consequence of this murder, President of the United States,
came forward, followed by all the members of the Cabinet,
except Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, who lay unconscious
of the fate of his beloved and revered chief, himself the pros-
trate victim of the same daring and remorseless crime. Rev.
Dr. Hall, of the Episcopal Church in Washington, read the
Episcopal service for the dead; a fervent prayer was offered
by Bishop Simpson of the Methodist Church, and a funeral
discourse was pronounced by Rev. Dr. Gurley, pastor of the
new Presbyterian Church in New York Avenue, which the
President and his family were in the habit of attending. At
the conclusion of the sermon, the Chaplain of the Senate,
Rev. Dr. Gray, made a prayer, and the religious ceremonies
were closed. The body of the President was then removed
and placed upon the lofty hearse, surmounted by a canopy,
and covored with black velvet, which stood in front of the
Executive Mansion.

At two o'clock the grand procession started. Pennsyl-
vania Avenue was completely cleared, from the Executive
Mansion to the Capitol. Every window along its whole
length — all the roofs of all the houses — the sidewalks, and
every accessible spot along the route, were crowded with
a living throng, awaiting in sad and oppressive silence the
approach of the funeral-car. The soft, sad strains of funereal


music soon broke the stillness of the summer air, and mar-
shalled the grand military cortege which led the way. Then
came the hearse, drawn by six gray horses, draped in black,
and preceded by twenty pall-bearers, selected from both
Houses of Congress, from the Army and Navy, and from
civil life, and followed by a great throng of the most eminent
officers of the Government, and of deputations from every
State and section of the country, and from benevolent, indus-
trial, and political societies throughout the land. Filling
Pennsylvania Avenue through its whole extent, this great
procession — marshalled with military precision, and marching
to the cadence of slow music from many bands — escorted,
with becoming pomp, the remains of the martyred President
to the National Capitol, which rose in white grandeur, clad,
from basement to the summit of its lordly dome, with gar-
ments of woe, to receive the precious gift. The whole vast
building was draped in black. All the pillars were entwined
with crape, — from all the windows hung emblems of mourn-
ing, and a black canopy surmounted the eastern door, by
which the great concourse was to enter. Minute guns from
all the forts around the city thundered forth their sad salu-
tations, — the bells from every tower and spire rang out in
mufTled tones their chronicle of the stately march. At a
little after three o'clock the military cortege, which led the
procession, entered the open space in front of the eastern
entrance. Filing past in proper order, the infantry, wheel-
ing, faced the Capitol, — the artillery took position on the hill
opposite the entrance, — the cavalry remained in the street,
and a great throng of spectators gazed in silence upon the
grand display. As the funeral-car approached, all the mili-
tary bands burst into a solemn requiem, — the artillery thun-
dered out their stormy greeting, — the vast crowd, as by a
common impulse, uncovered, — and as Rev. Dr. Gurley, in
deep and impressive tones, recited the grand sentences in
which the Church signalizes the departure of her dead, the
body of President Lincoln was borne into the rotunda and
placed upon the lofty catafalque prepared for its reception.
As the recitation closed, President Johnson entered the hall,
followed by several Senators. Captain Robert Lincoln and
the family relatives came forward. The President's body-
guard formed in double column near the body. Dr. Gurley


made a closing prayer and pronounced the benediction. All
then left the Rotunda : guards were stationed at all the doors.
General Augur and his staff took charge of the remains, and
with drawn swords the officers detailed for the service
mounted guard over them. As night came on, the jets of gas
concealed in the height of the dome were lighted up, and
castTheir softened glare upon the vigil that was kept below.

The body of the President remained in the Rotunda, ex-
posed to public view, during the night of the 19th, and until
nine o'clock at night of the succeeding day. Thousands upon
thousands visited the Capital to take a last look at his fea-
tures, and among them were many wounded soldiers, hob-
bling from the hospitals, to gaze for the last time upon the
face of the late Commander-in-Chief. A guard of honor re-
mained during the night, and at six o'clock on the morning
of the 2 1 st, the members of the Cabinet and distinguished
officers of the army, and many members of Congress, paid
their final visit to the remains. The coffin was then pre-
pared for removal, and closed.

It had been decided to transfer the President's remains to
Springfield, Illinois, the place of his residence, for final inter-
ment; and the original purpose had been to make the transit
as rapidly as was convenient, and without exposure of the
body to public view. But this design could not be carried
out. From every city and town along the extended route
came up a cry of the people to be allowed to look upon the
face of the great martyr to their principles and their national
life. This demand was conceded, and arrangements were
made for a special funeral train over all the roads. A car
was fitted up with great taste and elegance, for the reception
of the remains. The whole car was draped in black, the
mourning on the outside being festooned in double rows
above and below the windows. At seven o'clock, after a
prayer by the Rev. Dr. Gurley, the coffin containing the re-
mains was removed from the Rotunda, and escorted to the
railroad depot, without music, bv companies of the Twelfth
Veteran Reserve Corps, and followed by Lieutenant-General
Grant, members of the Cabinet, and other distinguished per-
sonages. At the depot it was received by President Johnson
and others, and placed in the rear of the car designed for its
reception. A guard of twenty-one first sergeants of the Vet-


eran Reserve Corps had been detailed to accompany the train ;
a large number of gentlemen, who had been invited to at-
tend, entered the cars, and at eight o'clock, after another

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 41)