Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Assassination of the President -- April 14, 2015

The Civil War was nearing its end.  On the night of 14-April-1865, Good Friday, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary went to Ford's Theater to see Laura Keene in the comedy Our American Cousin.  The coward John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box during the third act and shot Lincoln in the back of the head.  Fellow conspirator Lewis Powell attacked Secretary of State William Seward and his family at their home.  No one died from that attack.  This article from the 14-April-1865 Washington Evening Star was published, or at least composed, while Lincoln still lived. 



Despatches from Secretary Stanton.

War Department,
WASHINGTON, D. C., April 15 -- 1.30 P. M.

Major General John A. Dix, New York:

Last evening, at 10.30 p. m., at Ford's Theater, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris, and Maj. Rathbun, was shot by an assassin who suddenly entered the box. He approached behind the President. The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape by the rear of the theater.  The pistol ball entered the back of the President's head. The wound is mortal. The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now dying.

About the same hour an assassin, either the same or another, entered Mr. Seward's house and, under pretence of having a prescription, was shown to the Secretary's sick chamber.  The Secretary was in bed, a nurse and Miss Seward with him. The assassin immediately rushed to the bed, inflicting two or three stabs on the throat, and two in the face. It is hoped the wounds may not be mortal. My apprehension is that they will prove fatal. The nurse alarmed Mr. Frederick Seward, who was in an adjoining room, and hastened to the door of his father's room, where he met the assassin, who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds. The recovery of Frederick Seward is doubtful.

It is not probable that the President will live through the night.

Gen. Grant and wife were advertised to be at the theater this evening, but the latter started to Burlington at six o'clock last evening.

At a Cabinet meeting, at which Gen. Grant was present to-day, the subject of the state of the country, and the prospects of speedy peace was discussed. The President was very cheerful and hopeful, spoke very kindly of Gen. Lee and others of the Confederacy, and the establishment of Government in Virginia. All the members of the Cabinet, except Mr. Seward, are now in attendance upon the President. have seen Mr. Seward, but he and Frederick were both unconscious.

E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War


War Department,
Washington, D. C., 3 a.m., April 15, 1865.

Lieutenant General Grant:

The President still breathes, but is quite insensible, as he has been ever since be was shot.  He evidently did not see the person who shot him, but was looking on the stage, as he was approached behind.

Mr. Seward has rallied, and it is hoped he may live. Frederick Seward's condition is very critical. The attendant who was present was stabbed through the lungs, and is not expected to live. The wounds of Major Seward are not serious.

Investigations strongly indicates J. Wilkes Booth as the assassin of the President. Whether it was the same, or a different person that attempted to murder Mr. Seward, remains in doubt.

Chief Justice Cartter (? - JT) is engaged in taking the evidence. Every exertion has been made to present the escape of the murderer. His horse has been found on the road near Washington.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War


War Department,
Washington, D. C., 4:10 a.m., April 15, 1865.

Major General John A. Dix, New York:

The President continues insensible, and is sinking. Secretary Seward remains without change.  Frederick Seward's skull is fractured in two places, besides a severe cut upon the head. The attendant is still alive, but hopeless.

Major Seward's wounds are not dangerous.  It is now ascertained with reasonable certainty, that two assassins were engaged in the horrible crime -- Wilkes Booth being the one that shot the President; the other, a companion of his, whose name is not known, but whose description is so clear that he can hardly escape. 

It appears, from a letter found in Booth's trunk, that the murder was planned before the fourth of March, but fell through then because the accomplice backed out until Richmond could be beard from. Booth and his accomplice were at the livery stable at six o'clock last evening, and left there with their horses about ten o'clock, or shortly before that hour.

It would seem that they had for several days been seeking their chance, but for some unknown reason, it was not carried into effect until last night. One of them has evidently made his way to Baltimore, the other has not yet keen traced.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War



Headquarters Dep't of Washington,
April 15, 1860.

will be paid to the party or parties arresting the murderer of the President, Mr. Lincoln, and the assassin of the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, and his son.

C. C, Auger,
Major General, Com'd'g Department.



Philadelphia, April 11.-- General Grant received the news of the attempted assassination of the President when at Walnut street wharf, when about taking the cars for Burlington.



President Lincoln and wife, together with other friends, last evening visited Ford Theater for the purpose of witnessing the performance of the American Cousin. It was announced in the newspapers that Gen. Grant would also be present, but that gentleman, instead, took the late train of cars for New Jersey. The theater was densely crowded, and everybody seemed delighted with the scene before them.

During the third act, and while there was temporary 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, waiving (sic - JT) a long dagger in his right hand, and exclaiming "Sic Semper Tyrannis," and immediately leaped from the box, which was of the second tier, to the stage beneath, and ran across to the opposite side thus making his escape, amid the bewilderment of the audience, from the rear of the theater, and, mounting a horse, fled.

The screams of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed the fact to the audience that the President had been shot, when all present rose to their feet, rushing toward the stage, exclaiming, "Hang him!" "Hang him!''

The excitement was of the wildest possible character, 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" "Give him air!" "Has anyone 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 brain was oozing out. He was removed to the private residence of Mr. Peterson, opposite to the theater, and the Surgeon General of the Army and other surgeons sent for to attend to his condition.

On examination of the private box blood was discovered on the back of the cushioned rocking chair in 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 crowd was in front of it, all deeply anxious to learn the condition ot the President. It had been previously announced that the wound was mortal, but all hoped otherwise.

The shock to the community was terrible.

At midnight the Cabinet, with Messrs. Sumner, Colfax, Farnsworth, Judge Cartter, Gov. Oglesby, General Meigs, Major Hay, and a few personal friends, with Surgeon General Barnes and his medical associates, were around his bedside. The President was in a state of syncope, totally insensible, and breathing slowly, the blood oozing from the wound at the back of his head. The surgeons were exhausting every possible effort of medical skill, but all hope was gone. The parting of his family with the dying President is too sad for description.

The President, and Mrs. Lincoln did not start to the theatre, till fifteen minutes past 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 advertised that General Grant and themselves were to be present and, as General 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 engagements, and with Mr. Ashmun, of Massachusetts, bade 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 reports were based upon truth.

Everybody was so much excited that scarcely an intelligible account could be gathered. But the facts are substantially as follows: About ten o'clock, a man rang the bell, and the call having been answered by a 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 intrusted 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 toward the Secretary's room, and was there met by Mr. Frederick W. Seward of whom he demanded to see the Secretary, making the same representation which he did to the servant. What further passed in the way of colloquy is not known, but the man struck him on the head with a billy, severely injuring the skull, and falling him almost senseless.

The assassin then rushed into the chamber and attacked Major Seward (paymaster United States army) and Mr. Hanseil, 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 his neck, but severing, it Is thought and hoped, no arteries, though be bled profusely.

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

It is believed the injuries of the Secretary are not mortal, nor those of either of the others. although both the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary are very seriously injured.

Secretaries Stanton and Welles, and other prominent officers of the Government, called at Secretary Seward's house to inquire into his condition, and hearing there of the assassination of the President, 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 supposing that be would be brought to his home.

The entire city last night presented a scene of wild excitement, accompanied by violent expressions of indignation, and the profoundest sorrow. Many persons shed tears.

The military authorities have despatched mounted patrols in every direction, in order, if possible, to arrest the assassins, while the Metropolitan police are alike vigilant for the same purpose. The attacks, both at the theater and at Secretary Seward's, took place at about the same hour -- ten o'clock -- thus showing a precented plan to assassinate these gentlemen.

Some evidence of the guilt of the party who attacked the President is in possession of the police.

Vice President Johnson is in the city, and his hotel quarters are guarded by troops.

2 1/2 a. m.-- The President is still alive, but is growing weaker. The ball is lodged in his brain, three inches from where it entered the skull. He remains insensible, and his condition utterly hopeless

The Vice President has been to see him, but all company except the Cabinet, his family, and a few friends, are rigidly excluded.

Large crowds still continue in the street, as near to the house as the line of guards allow.



The following was issued by Superintendent Richards at 3 o'clock this morning:
In view of the melancholy events of last evening, I am directed to close all places where liquor is sold to be closed during this day and night.

The sergeants of the several precincts will see that this order is enforced.

A. C. Richards, Superintendent.



[From the Chronicle.]

"At half-past ten o'clock last night, in the front upper left hand private box in Ford's Theater, while the seond scene of the third act of 'Our American Cousin' was being played, a pistol was fired, and Abraham Lincoln shot through the neck and lower part of the head.  A second after the shot was fired, a man vaulted over the baluster of the box, saying 'Sic Semper tyrannis.' and, adding another
sentence, which closed with the words, 'revenge for the South,' ran across the stage with a gleaming knife, double-edged and straight, in his right hand. The man was of middle stature, well-built, white faced and beardless save that he wore a black moustache. His hair and eyes were black.

"The crowd ascended the stage; the actresses, pale beneath their rouge, ran wildly about. Miss Keene, whose benefit night it was, came forward, endeavoring to quiet the audience. Several gentlemen climbed to the box, and finally the audience were ordered out by some gentlemen.

" Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris and Maj. Rathbnrn were in the box with the President."

The assassin left behind him his hat and spur, which have been identified as belonging to the suspected man, (J. W. Booth.)

The ball entered three inches below the left ear and behind it a little, just beneath the base of the brain, taking an upward direction and lodging in the brain, where it could be felt by the surgeons, but not dislodged.

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