Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Andrew Johnson’s Presidential Restoration Plan

May 29, 1865 – President Andrew Johnson issued two proclamations designed to continue Abraham Lincoln’s plan to restore the Confederates states to the U.S. This began what would ultimately become a bitter feud between the president and the Radical Republicans in Congress.

17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

The “Amnesty Proclamation” granted “amnesty and pardon” to “all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion” if they pledged to fully support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, abide by Federal laws, and acknowledge the end of slavery. Those eligible for amnesty were required to take the following oath:

“I, (name), do solemnly swear, (or affirm,) in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by, and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.”

This generally followed the model Lincoln had established, but while Lincoln had created six classes of southerners ineligible for amnesty, Johnson added eight more. Disqualified southerners included those who:

  1. Held civil or diplomatic offices in the Confederacy
  2. Resigned from a Federal judgeship to join the Confederacy
  3. Served in the Confederate military with a rank above colonel in the army or lieutenant in the navy
  4. Resigned from the U.S. Congress to join the Confederacy
  5. Resigned from the U.S. military “to evade duty in resisting the rebellion”
  6. Mistreated Federal prisoners of war
  7. Left the U.S. to support the Confederacy
  8. Had been educated at West Point or the U.S. Naval Academy before joining the Confederacy
  9. Served as governor of a Confederate state
  10. Left their homes in loyal states to live in Confederate states
  11. Engaged in destroying U.S. commerce on the high seas or raiding the U.S. from Canada
  12. Were held in custody by Federal officials, whether tried or not
  13. Supported the Confederacy while owning more than $20,000 in taxable property
  14. Violated prior loyalty oaths

The $20,000 exclusion was part of Johnson’s effort to punish aristocrats–especially wealthy slaveholders–whom he believed had persuaded impressionable poor southerners to support secession. Besides these exclusions, Johnson restored all property to southerners except for slaves. Voting rights would be restored when voters swore loyalty to the U.S. and accepted the end of slavery.

Johnson declared that “special application may be made to the President for pardon by any person belonging to the excepted classes; and such clemency will be liberally extended as may be consistent with the facts of the case and the peace and dignity of the United States.”

A second proclamation, drafted by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, restored civil government in North Carolina and named William W. Holden as provisional governor. Holden would temporarily rule the state while Federal duties such as tariff collection, mail delivery, and interstate trade resumed.

Holden was authorized to organize and schedule an election of delegates to assemble and draft a new state constitution. The election would take place once 10 percent of the state’s eligible voters (according to the 1860 census) had sworn loyalty to the U.S. The delegates would be chosen among the eligible voters. Since blacks had been ineligible to vote in 1860, they were disqualified from becoming voters or delegates.

The convention delegates were required to:

  • Reject the ordinance of secession
  • Repudiate the Confederate debt
  • Ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery

They also determined requirements for permanent voting and office-holding rights, which had traditionally been state, not Federal, prerogatives. Once the new constitution was drafted, it would take effect when a majority of the registered voters approved it in a general election. Once the constitution was approved, elections would be held to fill local, state, and Federal offices.

The “North Carolina Proclamation” violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a republican form of government for each state because Holden was not a popularly elected governor, and 10 percent of the voters dictated how the other 90 would be governed. Nevertheless, Lincoln had used this plan to restore Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas to the Union, and Johnson also used it to restore the remaining conquered states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas) during the summer of 1865.

Most congressional Radicals found Johnson’s terms too generous. They especially opposed the exclusion of blacks in forming the new state governments. The Radicals argued that the former Confederate states had surrendered their rights by seceding and should therefore be reconstructed like conquered provinces. But Johnson disagreed:

“There is no such thing as reconstruction. These States have not gone out of the Union, therefore reconstruction is not necessary… The States had brought Congress into existence, and now Congress proposed to destroy the States. It proposed to abolish the original and elementary principle of its being. It was as if the creature turned round on the creator and attempted to destroy him.”

Johnson recommended that black men who were literate or owned more than $250 in property be allowed to vote in the southern states, but he adhered to the principle that the states must ultimately decide for themselves how best to govern their citizens, without Federal interference. No southern state governments acted upon Johnson’s recommendation.

Johnson hoped to restore the former Confederate states to the Union by the time the new Congress gathered in December. But the Radicals had other ideas, and their delicate political alliance with Johnson after Lincoln’s death quickly succumbed to full-scale political warfare, which ultimately led to Johnson’s impeachment in 1868. Like the war itself, reconstruction would prove more costly in terms of life, liberty, and property than anybody had anticipated.

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References

Bowers, Claude G., The Tragic Era: The Revolution After Lincoln (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1929), p. 11; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; CivilWarHome.com/presidentalreconstructionpartII.html (2002); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 572; Ferrell, Claudine L., Reconstruction (Greenwood, 2003), p. 18-19; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 593-94; Guelzo, Allen C., Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2004), p. 267; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Napolitano, Andrew P., Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America (Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition, 2009); Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., The Almanac of American History (Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books Corp., 1993), p. 294; Schweikart, Larry and Allen, Michael, A Patriot’s History of the United States (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 361; Stewart, David O., Impeached (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009), p. 17; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 618; Woods, Jr., Thomas E., The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2004), p. 78

Lincoln Returns to Springfield

May 4, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln and his son Willie were laid to rest at Oak Ridge Cemetery in their hometown of Springfield, Illinois, nearly three weeks after Lincoln had been assassinated.

The procession that had begun in Washington continued its westward journey, arriving at Chicago as May began. Residents gathered along Lake Michigan as Lincoln’s funeral train entered the city. The bearing of Lincoln’s coffin and hearse began at 12th Street and Michigan Avenue; some 50,000 people joined the procession while thousands more lined the streets as it passed. The escort included 36 schoolgirls dressed in white, representing the 36 states of the Union.

The Chicago procession | Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly; May 20, 1865; Vol. IX, No. 438

The procession stopped at the Cook County Courthouse, where Lincoln’s body lay in state for two days. A courthouse sign read, “Illinois Clasps to Her Bosom Her Slain, but Glorified Son.” By nightfall on the 2nd, some 125,000 people had passed by the coffin to pay last respects. The funeral train then continued southward via the Alton Railroad, traveling through Joliet around midnight and arriving at Springfield on the morning of May 3.

The mayor of St. Louis loaned an ornate carriage valued at $6,000 and decorated in gold, silver, and crystal. Springfield officials used this carriage to convey the president’s coffin to the Illinois Statehouse. Lincoln’s body lay in state where he had argued over 200 cases as a trial lawyer and inflamed passions in both North and South with his famous “House Divided” speech. Over 75,000 people paid last respects while others gathered at Lincoln’s former home at 8th and Jackson streets.

The Lincoln Funeral Car | Image Credit: hcpl.net

On the 4th, Major General Joseph Hooker, former commander of the Army of the Potomac, led three divisions through the rain from the Statehouse to Oak Ridge Cemetery. They escorted the bodies of both Lincoln and his son, who had been disinterred in Washington to be buried with his father. The bodies were placed in a receiving vault as a choir sang, “The Dead March in Saul.” Prayers were offered and more songs were sung, and Lincoln’s second inaugural address was recited. Bishop Matthew Simpson delivered the eulogy. He began:

“Fellow-citizens of Illinois, and of many parts of our entire Union, near the capital of this large and growing State, in the midst of this beautiful grove, and at the mouth of this vault which has just received the remains of our fallen chieftain, we gather to pay a tribute of respect, and to drop the tear of sorrow around the ashes of the mighty dead.”

The bishop noted the enormous crowds that had come out to pay their final respects to Lincoln throughout the journey from Washington and declared that they all shared a common bond: a love for the president. He then turned to the war and the North’s supposed reason for fighting it:

“There are moments which involve in themselves eternities. There are instants which seem to contain germs which shall develop and bloom forever. Such a moment came in the tide of time to our land when a question must be settled, affecting all the powers of the earth. The contest was for human freedom. Not for this republic merely. Nor for the Union simply, but to decide whether the people, as a people, in their entire majesty, were destined to be the government, or whether they were to be subject to tyrants or aristocrats, or to class-rule of any kind.”

The bishop predicted that Lincoln’s everlasting legacy would be to have worked so hard to abolish slavery:

“But the great act of the mighty chieftain, on which his fame shall rest long after his frame shall moulder away, is that of giving freedom to a race. We have all been taught to revere the sacred characters. We have thought of Moses, of his power, and the prominence he gave to the moral law; how it lasts, and how his name towers high among the names in heaven, and how he delivered those millions of his kindred out of bondage. And yet we may assert that Abraham Lincoln, by his proclamation, liberated more enslaved people than ever Moses set free, and those not of his kindred. God has seldom given such a power or such an opportunity to man.”

Simpson noted the benevolence that Lincoln had expressed in his second inaugural address, but he did not follow Lincoln’s example of extending goodwill toward the South. The bishop grimly declared:

“Let every man who was a Senator and Representative in Congress, and who aided in beginning this rebellion, and thus led to the slaughter of our sons and daughters, be brought to speedy and to certain punishment. Let every officer educated at public expense, and who, having been advanced to position, has perjured himself, and has turned his sword against the vitals of his country, be doomed to a felon’s death. This, I believe, is the will of the American people. Men may attempt to compromise and to restore these traitors and murderers to society again, but the American people will rise in their majesty and sweep all such compromises and compromisers away, and shall declare that there shall be no peace to rebels.”

The bishop clarified that the harsh retribution he called for should only be brought against Confederate leaders. According to Simpson, the southern people themselves should fall under Lincoln’s umbrella of “malice towards none, charity for all.” The bishop announced:

“But to the deluded masses we shall extend arms of forgiveness. We will take them to our hearts. We will walk with them side by side, as we go forward to work out a glorious destiny. The time will come when, in the beautiful words of him whose lips are now forever sealed, ‘the mystic cords of memory which stretch from every battlefield and from every patriot’s grave shall yield a sweeter music when touched by the angels of our better nature.’”

In all, as many as seven million people had witnessed some part of the funeral procession along its journey from Washington to Springfield. This ended 20 days of national mourning, and the presidency of Abraham Lincoln passed into history.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 118-19, 125; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 565-66; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 589; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 684-85; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 386-92; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

The Lincoln Funeral

April 19, 1865 – Funeral services for Abraham Lincoln took place at the White House.

After the doctors pronounced Lincoln dead on the 15th, bells tolled throughout Washington and the news quickly spread across the country. Lincoln’s body was draped in a flag and brought to the White House, and within an hour government buildings throughout the capital were draped in mourning black. First Lady Mary Lincoln was confined to her room, overwhelmed by grief.

News of Lincoln’s death caused profound sorrow throughout the North, where many revered him as the savior of the Union. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles:

“From every part of the country comes lamentation. Every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor. Profuse exhibition is displayed on the public buildings and the dwellings of the wealthy, but the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white is more touching.”

Even those who had criticized his unconstitutional measures expressed shock and condemned the crime. But admiration for Lincoln was not universal, as the London Standard opined the day after his death: “He was not a hero while he lived, and therefore his cruel murder does not make him a martyr.”

The Navy Department ordered the firing of guns every half-hour on the 17th in honor of Lincoln’s memory. Flags on all ships and at all naval installations would fly at half-mast until after the funeral, and all naval officers would wear black mourning badges for six months.

Lincoln became the first president to lie in state in the White House. In the crepe-decorated East Room, the casket was placed upon a platform with four pillars holding a black canopy overhead. An estimated 25,000 people filed past the casket on the 18th.

Some 600 dignitaries including President Andrew Johnson, the cabinet, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, military leaders, and diplomats in full “court dress” attended the funeral at 12 p.m. on the 19th in the East Room. Welles wrote that the service “was imposing, sad, and sorrowful. All felt the solemnity, and sorrowed as if they had lost one of their own household. By voluntary action business was everywhere suspended, and the people crowded the streets.”

Correspondent Noah Brooks noted that Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, standing at the head of the catafalque, “was often moved to tears.” Chairs had been placed at the foot of the catafalque for Lincoln’s family, but only Robert was there; Mrs. Lincoln was too grief-stricken to attend. People throughout the North attended church services in their hometowns.

After Senate Chaplain E.H. Gray delivered the closing invocation, Lincoln’s coffin was placed in a carriage draped in banners. Soldiers escorted the carriage from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, and thousands of people lined Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the procession pass. According to Welles:

“There were no truer mourners, when all were sad, than the poor colored people who crowded the streets, joined the procession, and exhibited their woe, bewailing the loss of him whom they regarded as a benefactor and father. Women as well as men, with their little children, thronged the streets, sorrow, trouble, and distress depicted on their countenances and in their bearing. The vacant holiday expression had given way to real grief.”

The Lincoln Funeral Procession | Image Credit: learnnc.org

Bands played mournful songs, bells tolled, guns boomed, and some 40,000 people filed past Lincoln’s coffin in the Capitol rotunda over two days. On the 21st, Lincoln’s body was placed aboard a special train bound for its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. Also on the train were the disinterred remains of his son Willie, who had died in 1862.

The train stopped in several northern cities as it nearly retraced the route that Lincoln had taken from Springfield to Washington in 1861. Five men who made that initial journey with Lincoln were on this train: David Hunter, David Davis, Ward Hill Lamon, John Nicolay, and John Hay.

The roofs of many railroad stations had to be torn down to accommodate the massive railroad car designed by George Pullman. The locomotive and other cars were periodically changed to give different railroad companies a chance to take part. A specially built hearse conveyed Lincoln’s casket from the railroad depots to the viewing sites. The casket was opened in larger cities so mourners could see the president.

The funeral train steamed through Maryland into Pennsylvania, where some 30,000 mourners passed the coffin at the state capital of Harrisburg. From there, the train chugged through Lancaster, where former President James Buchanan watched it pass on the way to Philadelphia. The coffin lay in state in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The double-line to view the body stretched three miles, and several people were injured in a rush to the casket.

The train steamed through New Jersey and was then ferried across the Hudson River into New York City. The hearse was pulled to City Hall by a team of 16 horses wearing black plumes and blankets. Local officials allowed Lincoln’s body to be photographed while lying in state in the City Hall rotunda. Mrs. Lincoln bitterly protested until Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered all prints destroyed. One survived.

The next day, the funeral procession went up Broadway. It consisted of 75,000 civilians and 11,000 soldiers. Blacks were required to march in the rear. About a million people witnessed the event. The funeral train left the Hudson River Railroad depot and steamed north to the state capital of Albany. From there it continued on to Buffalo, where mourners included former President Millard Fillmore and future President Grover Cleveland.

The train steamed west into Ohio, with stops at Cleveland and Columbus. In Cleveland, an estimated 50,000 people filed past the coffin in pouring rain. The body lay under a canopy in Monument Square because no public building could hold such a large crowd. The funeral train then proceeded to Columbus and reached Indianapolis by month’s end.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 223-24; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 479; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 118-19; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559-64; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 585-86; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 678-81, 683-84; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 853; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 386-91; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth

April 17, 1865 – Federal authorities made several arrests in the supposed conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln and members of his administration. But John Wilkes Booth himself remained at large.

John Wilkes Booth | Image Credit: cj-worldnews.com

After shooting President Lincoln on the night of the 14th, Booth fled Ford’s Theatre through a back door to the alley, where he rode off on a waiting horse. Booth had shot the president as planned, but he broke his leg jumping out of the balcony. He also missed his chance to kill Ulysses S. Grant, who was not at the theater as advertised. And he did not yet know if Lewis Powell (or Paine) had killed Secretary of State William H. Seward or if George Atzerodt had killed Vice President Andrew Johnson. All he could do now was flee.

Sentry Sergeant Silas Cobb of the 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery guarded the Navy Bridge leading out of Washington, with orders not to let anyone pass after 9 p.m. Booth rode up some time after 10:30 p.m., and Cobb reluctantly let him cross. Less than an hour later, Booth’s accomplice David E. Herold rode up, and Cobb let him pass as well.

Booth and Herold met up on the road and stopped at a tavern in Surrattsville, where they had arranged for tavern owner Mary Surratt and her son John to leave weapons for them. The men stopped for five minutes to grab two carbines and some supplies before continuing southeast.

By 3 a.m., Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton had gathered enough eyewitness testimony to issue a communique naming Booth as Lincoln’s assassin. Stanton declared martial law and authorized Lieutenant Colonel Lafayette Baker of the National Detective Police to lead a cavalry unit in hunting down Booth and his accomplices. Within an hour, authorities were at Mrs. Surratt’s Washington home at 541 High Street, where Booth was known to visit whenever he came to Washington.

Before dawn on the 15th, Booth and Herold sought refuge and medical care at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd in Bryantown, Maryland, about 25 miles southeast of Washington. Booth had stayed at the doctor’s home before and once bought a horse from him. Mudd set Booth’s broken fibula and fitted him with a wooden splint. Later that day, Herold and Mudd went into town for supplies. Herold tried finding a carriage for Booth, but he hurried back to Mudd’s house upon seeing Federal patrols.

Mudd came home later, apparently having learned in town that Booth had shot Lincoln. He did not tell the Federals where Booth was, but he demanded that both Booth and Herold leave immediately. Before they left, Mudd told them that they might find help from Samuel Cox, who lived near the Potomac River. Booth and Herold struggled through the surrounding swamps and marshes; the excruciating pain of Booth’s leg made it even more grueling. With the help of a black man, they finally made the 20 miles to Cox’s home at Rich Hill in southern Maryland at around 1 a.m. on Easter Sunday.

The men told Cox who they were, and Cox and his son agreed to help them cross the Potomac to safety in Virginia. But since Federal patrols were scouring the area, Booth and Herold would have to wait in the woods until they could be sure to cross without being seen. Meanwhile, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles directed naval authorities to search all vessels and imprison any suspicious persons at the Washington Navy Yard.

Cox’s son contacted nearby Confederate spy Thomas A. Jones, who had experience ferrying operatives across the Potomac undetected. Jones was taken to Booth’s and Herold’s bivouac in the woods, where he offered to help even if it resulted in Federal capture. The assassin, using his flair for the dramatic, declared, “John Wilkes Booth will never be taken alive!” Jones told them it would take a few days to get them across, during which time Cox would keep them fed and hidden. Booth asked for newspapers so he could read the nation’s reaction to his deed.

Booth was shocked to find such a lack of sympathy for him in the press; he thought he would be celebrated for murdering a tyrant. Booth wrote in his journal, “For six months we had worked to capture (Lincoln). But our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill.”

In Washington, hopes were dimming that Booth would be found anytime soon. On the night of the 16th, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs speculated that those involved had “gone southwest, and will perhaps attempt to escape by water to the Eastern Shore, or to board some vessel waiting for them, or some vessel going to sea.” But if Booth could not be found, Federal authorities would try rounding up those who may have been involved in his scheme.

The next day, investigators led by Major H.W. Smith returned to the home of Mrs. Surratt to arrest her for suspected ties to Booth. Smith later stated that he told the widow, “I come to arrest you and all in your house, and take you for examination… No inquiry whatever was made as to the cause of the arrest.”

As Mrs. Surratt was being interrogated, Lewis Powell came to the house. Being unfamiliar with Washington, it had taken Paine three days to find his way back to Mrs. Surratt’s home after his assassination attempt on Seward. He was carrying a pickaxe and claimed to have been hired to dig a gutter. Mrs. Surratt told one of the investigators, “Before God, sir, I do not know this man, and have never seen him, and I did not hire him to dig a gutter for me.” Paine had no identification except for an oath of allegiance to the U.S. signed by “L. Paine.” He was also detained as a suspect.

Later that day, Seward’s servant positively identified Powell as the man who had rampaged through Seward’s home on the 14th. Meanwhile, Mrs. Surratt admitted that Booth was a friend of her son John, but she claimed to know nothing of the assassination plot. She also maintained that she did not know Paine, which was later proven false. Moreover, she did not divulge that Booth had visited her home on the day of the assassination to arrange for weapons to be ready at her tavern in Surrattsville.

That same day, authorities arrested Edward “Ned” Spangler, who had opened the back door of Ford’s Theatre for Booth after he shot Lincoln. It was alleged that Spangler had Joseph “Peanuts” Burroughs hold a horse for Booth to use for his escape, and Spangler supposedly told a stagehand who watched Booth run off, “Don’t say which way he went.”

Also arrested was Samuel Arnold, who had written a suspicious letter on March 27 that was found in a trunk in Booth’s hotel room. Arnold admitted that he was part of a plot to kidnap Lincoln but contended that he had nothing to do with assassination. He implicated several others in the conspiracy, including Michael O’Laughlen, George Atzerodt, John Surratt, a man known as “Moseby,” and someone else he did not know. O’Laughlen surrendered to authorities in Baltimore.

But Booth remained hidden in the woods along the Potomac.

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References

Balsiger, David and Sellier, Charles Jr., The Lincoln Conspiracy (Buccaneer, 1994), p. 24; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 104-17, 132-39; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 584-85; Kunhardt, Dorothy and Philip, Jr., Twenty Days (North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle, 1965), p. 178; law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lincolnconspiracy/lincolnaccount.html; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 677-78; O’Reilly, Bill, Killing Lincoln (Henry Holt & Company, LLC, 2011), p. 215; Pitman, Benn (ed.), The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators (Cincinnati, OH: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865), p. vi; Smith, Gene, American Gothic: The Story of America’s Legendary Theatrical Family, Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes Booth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 174; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 440-41, 516, 734-35; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Swanson, James, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (Harper Collins, 2006); White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

From William Hamblin, 4th Massachusetts

Letter from Private William Hamblin, Company K, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery to his wife.

Fort Barnard

April 16, 1865

MY DEAR WIFE:

Massachusetts state flag | Image Credit: all-flagsworld.com

Massachusetts state flag | Image Credit: all-flagsworld.com

I suppose you have all heard the dreadful news of the murder of the President ere this. It does not seem possible that he could have been killed in the manner he was, after having the for the last four years passed through so much danger with his life in his hand, to be at last struck down by a drunken, miserable play actor, a dissipated fool who did not know when he had done the deed and cried “Revenge for the South!” that he had killed a man who had that day been kindly urging the mild treatment of the rebels and who has on more occasions than one risked his reputation for honesty of purpose to shield the South from the just desserts that she was receiving and has always stood ready to listen to any decent proposals for terminating the war.

In killing the President the South has lost their best friend. With the feeling that has been awakened by the assassination of the President, the treatment that the Vice President who succeeds him received at the hands of the rebels in Tennessee, the feeling that must prevail in the Armies of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan and the Navy everywhere–I am inclined to think the South and all who sympathize with her will meet with rather harsh treatment hereafter. If the inhabitants of the South are not reduced to a worse situation than the Irish under the English Government, then I am mistaken in the signs of the times. I am afraid they don’t realize what is in store for them, but they will soon be undeceived if Johnson has his own way and I hope to God he will!!

It seems so sad right in the midst of our rejoicings at the prospects of a speedy peace, and while Lee is doing what he can to put a stop to the slaughter of innocent men on his part, that this thing should have happened. There is but one response to this, the last argument of “Southern Chivalry,” and that is a cry for vengeance, and you may be sure it will come. Thank God the President, in using his influence in the selection of his chief officers of State, has left the Government in such hands that we need not fear any loss of National dignity. The Government will go on in spite of this terrible bereavement. If the South will not learn what they have lost, they will be made to drink the dregs of the cup that Lincoln would have spared them, and it is my desire that they should…

All the flags on all the forts today are at half mast, every citizen who is caught within our lines is picked up and trotted off to the Guard House, Martial Law is proclaimed in Washington, we are kept sleeping at night with our equipments on all ready to start for Washington or Richmond as the case may be at a moment’s notice–as Theodore Parker used to quote, “The mills of God grind slow but they grind exceeding fine,” and if the South isn’t ground down after this, I am much mistaken. I suppose you read all the particulars in the papers at home but I will try and get you a paper here and send it. You have no idea of the bitter, revengeful feeling that prevails…

Affectionately Yours,

W.A. HAMBLIN

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Source: Tapert, Annette (ed.), The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 235-36

More Assassination Attempts, Washington in Turmoil

April 14, 1865 – As President Abraham Lincoln was shot, both Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward were targeted for assassination as well.

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Around the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, Booth’s co-conspirator Lewis Paine (or Powell) attempted to assassinate Seward. Paine went to the secretary’s home on Lafayette Square, having been brought there by fellow accomplice David E. Herold. Paine approached the door alone and told a servant that he was delivering medicine to Seward, who had suffered a broken arm and jaw in a recent carriage accident. When the servant hesitated to let him in, Paine forced his way inside and rushed upstairs toward sounds he assumed were coming from Seward’s bedroom.

Seward’s son Frederick tried to stop Paine at the top of the stairs. Paine pulled out a revolver and, when it failed to fire, broke Frederick’s skull with the heavy weapon and charged into the bedroom. Paine cut the nurse with a Bowie knife, then jumped on Seward’s bed and slashed at the secretary’s neck and face. A soldier on duty and Seward’s other son Augustus pulled Paine off, and the assailant raced out of the house.

Seward was badly wounded, but his plaster arm cast and the splint fitted to his broken jaw had fended off enough slashes for him to survive. Herold ran off when he heard screams coming from the house, leaving Paine to fend for himself. Unfamiliar with Washington, he wandered the streets for two days before finally arriving at the boardinghouse of Mary Surratt, where Booth and his conspirators had hatched their plot.

Another Booth conspirator, George Atzerodt, had been tasked with killing Vice President Johnson, who was living at the Kirkwood Hotel. Atzerodt drank at the Kirkwood bar and contemplated his assignment until he finally lost his nerve and left. Authorities arrived soon afterward to notify Johnson of the assassination attempts on Lincoln and Seward, and to guard him from a similar fate.

Meanwhile, Lincoln had been carried out of Ford’s Theatre and brought across the street to a rear bedroom in the boardinghouse of William Petersen. He was arranged diagonally across a bed that was too small for his six foot-four inch frame. Having already concluded that Lincoln could not survive, the doctors focused mainly on making him as comfortable as possible.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia had been advertised to go to Ford’s Theatre with the Lincolns, but they had taken a train to see their children in New Jersey instead. They stopped at Bloodgood’s Hotel in Philadelphia for the night, and around midnight Grant received a telegram from Major Thomas Eckert, head of the War Department telegraph office:

“The President was assassinated at Ford’s Theater at 10:30 tonight and cannot live. The wound is a pistol shot through the head. Secretary Seward and his son Frederick were also assassinated at their residence and are in a dangerous condition. The Secretary of War desires that you return to Washington immediately. Please answer on receipt of this.”

Grant sent word that he was on his way back. Then, around 12:50 a.m., he received a telegram from Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana: “Permit me to suggest to you to keep close watch on all persons who come near you in the cars or otherwise; also, that an engine be sent in front of the train to guard against anything being on the track.” When Grant shared the news with Julia, she wept and asked, “This will make Andy Johnson president, will it not?” Grant said, “Yes, and… I dread the change.”

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton | Image Credit: Flickr.com

News of the attacks on Lincoln and Seward sparked hysterical rumors of a citywide Confederate killing spree. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton arrived at the Petersen house and became de facto president by stopping traffic on the Potomac River bridges, authorizing Grant to take command of capital defenses, and alerting border authorities to watch for suspicious crossings. When witnesses identified Booth as Lincoln’s assassin, Stanton directed Federal troops to track down both him and anyone who may have conspired with him.

First Lady Mary Lincoln was at her husband’s bedside, but grief eventually overwhelmed her. She moaned, “How can it be so? Do speak to me!” She then began screaming hysterically until Stanton ordered, “Take that woman out of here and do not let her in here again!” The Lincolns’ oldest son Robert arrived after midnight; he took his mother aside and they grieved together.

People shuffled in and out of the little bedroom throughout the night as the president’s breathing grew steadily fainter. Dozens of physicians took turns caring for Lincoln, but they all agreed that he could not recover.

Finally, at 7:22:10 on the morning of April 15, a doctor pronounced, “He is gone. He is dead.” The men who had crowded into the small room knelt around the bed in silent prayer, and Stanton declared, “Now he belongs to the angels.” Several men carried Lincoln’s body out, and army medical illustrator Hermann Faber was brought in to sketch the boardinghouse bedroom for posterity.

The Lincoln Deathbed

Lincoln became the first president to ever be murdered, and he died exactly four years after calling for the Federal invasion of the Confederacy. The telegraph quickly spread the news of Lincoln’s death throughout both North and South. Northern celebrations that had been taking place ever since the fall of Richmond suddenly stopped as the joy turned into mourning and grief. In Washington, bells tolled as Lincoln’s body was wrapped in a flag and taken by guarded hearse back to the White House. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles:

“There was a cheerless cold rain and everything seemed gloomy. On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred colored people, mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss. This crowd did not appear to diminish through the whole of that cold, wet day; they seemed not to know what was to be their fate since their great benefactor was dead, and their hopeless grief affected me more than almost anything else, though strong and brave men wept when I met them.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 217-19; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 474-75; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-104, 118-19; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20690-700, 20760-70; Heintjes, Tom, “Drawing on History, ‘Hogan’s Alley’ #8, 2000” (Cartoonician.com, retrieved 28 Sep 2012); Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 165; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 675-77; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 224-25; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Townsend, George Alfred, The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865); Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 384-86; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

The Lincoln Assassination

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

The president and First Lady Mary Lincoln extended invitations to a dozen people to accompany them to Ford’s on 10th Street on the night of Good Friday. But all had declined. Finally, Major Henry R. Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris (daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris) accepted. At 8:00 p.m., the Lincolns and their guests left the White House to see the popular comedy Our American Cousin.

John Wilkes Booth | Image Credit: cj-worldnews.com

Meanwhile, famous actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth had concocted a plan. He had previously schemed to kidnap Lincoln and hold him in exchange for Confederate independence, but when General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, the plan shifted from kidnapping to murder. Booth wrote in his diary, “Our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done.”

Earlier that day, Booth had stopped at Ford’s Theatre to pick up his mail and learned that the Lincolns and Grants would be attending the performance that night. Booth quickly revised his plan to kill not only Lincoln, but Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and Vice President Andrew Johnson as well. Nothing would be more “decisive” than to deal this crippling blow to the Lincoln administration.

Booth called on Mary Surratt, mother of fellow conspirator John Surratt, and asked her to have all the weapons that Booth had stored at her Maryland tavern ready for him to pick up later that night. Booth then met with fellow conspirators George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell (also known as Lewis Paine), and David E. Herold at the Herndon House at 7 p.m. to finalize the details. By this time, Booth had learned that Grant left town, so the new third target would be Secretary of State William H. Seward. According to the plan:

  • Booth, having extensive knowledge of the Ford’s Theatre layout, would go into the presidential box, shoot Lincoln, and then escape by jumping over the railing onto the stage below.
  • Atzerodt would kill Vice President Johnson in his room at the Kirkwood Hotel.
  • Powell would break into Seward’s home and kill the secretary of state, who was still recovering from a carriage accident. Herold would show Powell how to get to Seward’s house.

Atzerodt lost his nerve immediately, saying, “I won’t do it! I enlisted to abduct the president of the United States, not to kill.” Booth cursed him and said it was too late to back out until Atzerodt finally agreed to do it. Powell had no problem with killing Seward. The attacks would all take place at 10:15 p.m. The conspirators would then escape into Maryland, collect the weapons at the Surratt tavern, and cross the Potomac River into Virginia.

The Lincoln party arrived late at Ford’s Theatre, which was filled with some 1,700 people anxious to see the president and first lady. The play stopped as the performers and spectators cheered and the orchestra played “Hail to the Chief.” The Lincolns and Rathbones took their seats in Box 7, which was actually two boxes with the divider removed, in the balcony overlooking stage left.

The Lincolns appeared to enjoy the play, which was about an uncouth American visiting his refined British relatives. During the second act, Lincoln took Mary’s hand, prompting her to ask, “What will Miss Harris think of my hanging onto you so?” Lincoln replied, “She won’t think anything about it.”

Booth entered the theater soon after and at 10:12 p.m. he handed his calling card to the usher, who readily allowed such a famous actor to visit the presidential box. The box guard, John F. Parker, had gone to a tavern, leaving nobody to protect the president despite repeated death threats against him over the past four years. The actor entered the vestibule outside the box and wedged a stick between the door behind him and the wall.

Booth held a hunting knife in his left hand and a single-shot .44-caliber derringer pistol in his right. He waited for the play’s funniest line to be delivered, and when the theater erupted in laughter, Booth entered the box and fired the pistol into the back of Lincoln’s head. The bullet entered behind the left ear and, after reflexively raising his right arm, Lincoln slumped in his rocker. Mrs. Lincoln saw him sag and turned to brace him.

Booth Shoots Lincoln | Image Credit: Bing public domain

Rathbone jumped up to restrain Booth, but the assailant slashed the major’s arm with the knife and jumped off the balcony. Booth’s boot spur caught a decorative flag below the box, causing him to land awkwardly on the stage and break the fibula of his left leg. Some audience members, recognizing the well-known actor and not hearing the gunshot, thought it was part of the performance.

Booth hobbled across the stage with the bloody knife and shouted to the audience. Some remembered him saying “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus always to tyrants”), while others thought he said, “Revenge for the South!” or “Freedom!” Booth shoved his way backstage, where a stagehand named Edward Spangler opened a door and Joseph “Peanuts” Burroughs held a horse. Booth limped out the door, mounted the horse, and raced off toward F Street.

Most of the stunned spectators did not realize what had happened until Booth was gone and Mrs. Lincoln began screaming. Panic quickly spread, as Dr. Charles A. Leale rushed out of the audience to assist. He found the wound and managed to restore Lincoln’s respiration. Other doctors arrived and determined that the bullet had gone through the president’s brain and stopped behind his right eye. The wound was pronounced mortal.

They decided to move Lincoln to a bed, but because he would not survive a trip back to the White House, they carried him across the street to the boardinghouse of William Petersen.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 217-19; Bishop, Jim, The Day Lincoln Was Shot (New York: Harper, 1955); Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-104; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12736-47; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20690-700; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 584; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 731-37; Kauffman, Michael W., American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004); Kunhardt, Jr., Phillip B., Kunhardt III, Phillip, and Kunhardt, Phillip W., Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992); The Lincoln Conspiracy; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 675-77; McFeely, Peter, Grant: A Biography (2002), p. 224-25; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 384-86; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 440-41; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Swanson, James, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (Harper Collins, 2006); Todd, Dr. George Brainerd, “Dr. George Brainerd Todd Letter,” (B.J. Peters, 14 Apr 1865, retrieved 7 Aug 2012); “Entry on John Parker at Mr. Lincoln’s White House website” (MrLincolnsWhiteHouse.org, retrieved 28 May 2011); “Frequently Asked Questions – Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site,” (NPS.gov, 12 Feb 1932, retrieved 28 Sep 2012); “John F. Parker: The Guard Who Abandoned His Post” (Abraham Lincoln’s assassination website)

Lincoln’s Busy Good Friday

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln held a cabinet meeting and tended to administrative issues before ending the day with a trip to Ford’s Theatre.

Good Friday opened with Lincoln rising at 7 a.m. He dealt with some paperwork and then met his son Robert for breakfast. Having served on Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff, Robert shared details about General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Pres. Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The president then went to his office and received several politicians and petitioners regarding such topics as the western territories, political patronage, and southern property confiscation. When a man requested a pass to go into Virginia, Lincoln wrote, “No pass is necessary now to authorize any one to go to and return from Petersburg and Richmond. People go and return just as they did before the war.”

Lincoln visited the War Department to get the latest telegraphic news regarding the armies. He then returned to the White House for an 11 a.m. cabinet meeting. Secretary of State William H. Seward was still recovering from a carriage accident and did not attend; his son Frederick sat in for him. Grant was scheduled to be there, and the ministers applauded him when he entered the room.

The meeting began with a discussion on how best to lift trade restrictions and resume normal commercial relations in the South. Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch recommended firing the treasury agents controlling trade in the southern ports. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Grant “expressed himself very decidedly against them, thought them demoralizing, etc.”

Welles called for a resumption of normal commercial relations along the Atlantic coast. However, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton warned that this might not be feasible because the Federal army was not yet in control of all coastal ports. Grant suggested that regular trade “might embrace all this side of the Mississippi.”

Stanton unveiled a document outlining a punitive military occupation of the former Confederacy. Neither Lincoln nor Grant commented, but all agreed to read the plan so they could discuss it at the next meeting. Lincoln had called for a more conciliatory restoration of the Union, but he did agree with Stanton’s idea that each conquered state should have its own federally-appointed military governor.

Regarding the remaining Confederates, Lincoln said:

“I hope there will be no persecution, no bloody work, after the war is over. No one need expect me to take part in hanging or killing those men, even the worse of them. Frighten them out of the country, open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off. Enough lives have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentment if we expect harmony and union. There has been too much of a desire on the part of some of our very good friends to be masters, to interfere with and dictate to those states, to treat the people not as fellow citizens; there is too little respect for their rights. I do not sympathize in these feelings.”

Lincoln appreciated that the newly elected Congress would not assemble until December because it gave him time to start his restoration plan without interference from the Radicals who sought to punish the South. Stanton noted that Lincoln “was more cheerful and happy than I had ever seen him.” He “rejoiced at the near prospect of firm and durable peace at home and abroad, manifested in marked degree the kindness and humanity of his disposition, and the tender and forgiving spirit that so eminently distinguished him.”

The president then announced, “I had this strange dream again last night.” He “seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel… moving with great rapidity towards a dark and indefinite shore.” He said this dream had occurred just before every major Federal victory, listing Antietam, Gettysburg, Stones River, Vicksburg, and so on. Grant replied that Stones River was certainly no victory. Some members, including Welles, attributed Grant’s dismissal of Stones River to his disdain for Major General William S. Rosecrans.

Lincoln “looked at Grant curiously and inquiringly” and said they may “differ on that point, and at all events his dream preceded it.” He said that “we shall, judging from the past, have great news very soon. I think it must be from Sherman. My thoughts are in that direction, as are most of yours.” Grant replied that he expected word from Major General William T. Sherman in North Carolina very soon. The cabinet members then asked Grant to share details about Lee’s surrender.

This informal meeting lasted until around 2 p.m. Afterward, Lincoln invited Grant and his wife Julia to go to the theater with him and First Lady Mary Lincoln that night. However, Mrs. Grant had been insulted by Mrs. Lincoln in March, and she sent her husband a note during the meeting urging him to take her to see their children in Burlington, New Jersey, instead. Grant recalled: “Some incident of a trifling nature had made her resolve to leave that evening,” but nevertheless, “I was glad to have the note, as I did not want to go to the theater.”

After the meeting, Lincoln broke away from business long enough to enjoy a carriage ride with the first lady. As they rode, Lincoln told her, “Mary, we have had a hard time of it since we came to Washington; but the war is over, and with God’s blessing we may hope for four years of peace and happiness, and then we will go back to Illinois, and pass the rest of our lives in quiet.”

When the president returned to the White House, he met with fellow Illinoisans Governor Richard J. Oglesby and General Isham Haynie. Lincoln read them excerpts from a book until he was called to dinner. According to Oglesby, “They kept sending for him to come to dinner. He promised each time to go, but would continue reading the book. Finally he got a sort of peremptory order that he must come to dinner at once. It was explained to me by the old man at the door that they were going to have dinner and then go to the theater.”

Lincoln had no particular desire to attend the theater that night, but he said, “It has been advertised that we will be there, and I cannot disappoint the people. Otherwise I would not go. I do not want to go.” Congressman Isaac N. Arnold came to meet with Lincoln just as he was leaving. Lincoln told him, “Excuse me now, I am going to the theater. Come and see me in the morning.”

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References

Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 473-74; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-104; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12616, 12649, 12660-81; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20480-90; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 731-37; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 222-24; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Reconstruction in Virginia: Part 2

April 12, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln rescinded his plan to restore Virginia to the Union after facing heated opposition from his cabinet.

Since visiting Richmond, Lincoln had deliberately refrained from discussing his plans for Virginia with members of his cabinet. But the ministers had an idea of what those plans were anyway because Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana was at City Point, and he informed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton that Lincoln had conferred with high-ranking Confederate official John A. Campbell.

Finally, Lincoln assembled his cabinet and officially unveiled his plan: Federal authorities would allow the pro-Confederate legislature of Virginia to assemble at Richmond; the legislators would then vote to repudiate secession and return to the Union. Nearly every cabinet member opposed this plan.

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Stanton led the opposition, declaring “that to place such powers in the Virginia legislature would be giving away the scepter of the conqueror; that it would transfer the result of victory of our arms from the field to the very legislatures which four years before had said, ‘give us war;’ that it would put the Government in the hands of its enemies; that it would surely bring trouble with Congress; (and) that the people would not sustain him.” Stanton argued that “any effort to reorganize the Government should be under Federal authority solely, treating the rebel organizations and government as absolutely null and void.”

Attorney General James Speed and Navy Secretary Gideon Welles also voiced their disapproval. Welles “doubted the policy of convening a Rebel legislature… once convened, they would with their hostile feelings be inclined perhaps, to conspire against us.” Even worse, “the so-called legislature would be likely to propose terms which might seem reasonable, but which we could not accept.” Welles noted that none of the cabinet members thought it wise to risk having the legislators propose reasonable terms for returning to the U.S. just so the administration could reject them.

U.S. Navy Secy Gideon Welles | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Moreover, Welles had “not great faith in negotiating with large bodies of men,” and he reminded Lincoln that Virginia already had a federally-recognized Unionist government led by Francis Pierpont. Lincoln still maintained that if “prominent Virginians” would unite, they would “turn themselves and their neighbors into good Union men.” But after thinking it over, he met with Stanton again the next day.

Stanton repeated his opposition to “allowing the rebel legislature to assemble, or the rebel organizations to have any participation whatever in the business of reorganization.” He warned that allowing former Confederates to govern Virginia would affect “the fate of the emancipated millions” and the legislature, “being once assembled, its deliberations could not be confined to any specific acts.”

Meanwhile, Campbell had written to Major General Godfrey Weitzel, commander of Federal occupation forces in Richmond, about Lincoln’s proposed arrangement. This indicated to Lincoln that Campbell may be helping the legislature exceed its authority. He therefore telegraphed Weitzel from the War Department: “Do not now allow them to assemble; but if any have come, allow them safe-return to their homes.”

Lincoln used legal language to assert that Campbell had wrongly assumed Lincoln had allowed the Virginia legislature to assemble in the first place: “I have done no such thing. I spoke of them not as a Legislature, but as ‘the gentlemen who acted as the Legislature of Virginia in support of the rebellion,’ having power de facto to do a specific thing.”

Thus, Lincoln revoked the order for the legislature to assemble despite his earlier promise to Campbell. Lincoln reasoned that he had encouraged the legislature to assemble primarily to help disperse Confederate forces in Virginia. But because Robert E. Lee had surrendered since Lincoln first suggested it, assembling the legislature was no longer so important. And since he acknowledged that he may have made a mistake, Lincoln felt no need to keep his promise. Stanton agreed that “was exactly right.”

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References

Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12583-605; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20255-85; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 729-30; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 673-75; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 222; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 851

Lincoln’s Last Speech

April 11, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln delivered a serious speech about restoring the Union that dampened the joyous celebrations over Robert E. Lee’s surrender.

President Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Lincoln returned to the White House after his extended stay at City Point, where late on the 9th he received word that Lee had surrendered. The next morning, Federals launched a 500-gun salute in Washington, and all government departments closed to celebrate. A newspaper correspondent reported:

“From one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other the air seemed to burn with the bright hues of the flag… Almost by magic the streets were crowded with hosts of people, talking, laughing, hurrahing and shouting in the fullness of their joy. Men embraced one another, ‘treated’ one another, made up old quarrels, renewed old friendships, marched arm-in-arm singing.”

These celebrations quickly spread throughout the North. A witness noted that on Wall Street in New York City, “men embraced and hugged each other, kissed each other, retreated into doorways to dry their eyes and came out again to flourish their hats and hurrah… They sang ‘Old Hundred,’ the Doxology, ‘John Brown,’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’… over and over, with a massive roar from the crowd and a unanimous wave of hats at the end of each repetition.”

Thousands of jubilant citizens gathered around the White House, filling the north portico and nearby sidewalks and streets as they serenaded Lincoln throughout the day. The crowd cheered wildly when Lincoln’s son Tad unfurled a captured Confederate flag from a second-story window. The president himself finally appeared on a balcony, and the people shouted, “Speech! Speech!”

Lincoln announced that he would be delivering a formal speech the next day, and therefore, “I shall have nothing to say if you dribble it all out of me before.” Acknowledging the bands in the crowd, Lincoln added:

“I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes I ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it. I presented the question to the Attorney General and he gave it as his legal opinion that it is now our lawful prize. I now request the band to favor me with its performance.”

After playing “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle,” Lincoln proposed “three good hearty cheers for General Grant and all under his command,” then “three more cheers for our gallant navy.” When the crowd called again for a speech, Lincoln waved them off:

“Everything I say, you know, goes into print. If I make a mistake it doesn’t merely affect me nor you, but the country. I therefore ought at least to try not to make mistakes. If, then, a general demonstration be made tomorrow evening, and it is agreeable, I will endeavor to say something and not make a mistake without at least trying carefully to avoid it.”

That night, candles and lanterns burned in nearly every window in Washington. The celebrations carried over to the next night, as brass bands played and skyrockets screeched. Thousands of people returned to the north portico of the White House in anticipation of Lincoln’s victory speech. The president appeared on a second floor balcony just above the north entrance, with a candle in one hand and a prepared manuscript in the other.

Lincoln began, “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 can not be restrained.”

As he struggled to hold the candle while turning pages, Lincoln called over correspondent Noah Brooks, who was in the room. Brooks held the candle from behind the curtain, and Lincoln dropped the pages as he read from them. Tad collected them at his father’s feet, out of the audience’s sight.

The tone of the speech soon turned serious as Lincoln announced that reuniting North and South was “fraught with great difficulty.” Once again denying the Confederacy’s existence, Lincoln said that unlike conquering another nation, “There is no authorized organ for us to treat with.” The president then declared:

“We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it.”

Speaking as a lawyer, Lincoln cited Louisiana as an example of effective reconstruction under the plan he had introduced in December 1863. Lincoln also publicly supported granting black men the right to vote for the first time, if the right “were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.”

Lincoln hailed Louisiana’s new pro-Union government for “giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man.” Lincoln rhetorically asked whether black soldiers would “not attain it (suffrage) sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it, than by running backward over them?”

The president concluded: “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.”

By the end of this speech, the cheerful mood of the crowd had turned into confusion and discomfort. Most people had been too happy to consider what lay ahead, and this sobering dissertation left them disappointed. Among those in the audience was prominent actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer. When Lincoln suggested black suffrage, Booth fumed, “That means nigger citizenship.”

Booth and a band of accomplices had previously plotted to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom in exchange for Confederate independence. But with Lee’s surrender, independence was now impossible, and Booth quickly changed his plan from kidnap to murder. He said to his companions, “Now, by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.”

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References

Abraham Lincoln Online: Speeches; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 55-57; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12395-417, 12440, 12485, 12572; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 19044-64, 20136-59, 20166-86; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 582-83; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 726; Guelzo, Allen C., Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2004), p. 282; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 672-73; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 850-51; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 382-83; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265