Abraham Lincoln’s assassination: Official accounts of the President’s murder in 1865

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The assassination of President Lincoln. At Ford's Theatre, Washington 1865

The Great Tragedy

A Nation Mourns its Honored Dead

Joy Changed to Mourning

President Lincoln Assassinated!

Attempted Assassination of Secretary Seward!

The Conspiracy Intended to Include Vice President Johnson,
and Every Member of the Cabinet!

Popular opinion as to the murderer.

Official Account.

Death of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, Washington


War Department, Washington, April 15 – 1:30 a.m.

Maj. Gen. Dix: – Last evening at about 9:30 p.m., at Ford’s Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris, and Major Rathburn, was shot by an assassin who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.

The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theater.

The pistol-ball entered the back of the President’s head, and penetrated nearly through the 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, whether the same or not is not known, entered Mr. Seward’s apartments, and, under pretence of having a prescription, was showed to the Secretary’s sick chamber. The assassin immediately rushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs on the throat and two on 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, when 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.

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All the members of the Cabinet, except Mr. Seward, are now in attendance upon the President.

I have seen Mr. Seward, but he and Frederick were both unconscious.

The assassin's escape - Abraham Lincoln

3-a.m.

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

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

Chief Justice Carter is engaged in taking the evidence.

Every exertion has been made to prevent the escape of the murderer. His horse has been found on the road near Washington.

Edwin M. Stanton, Sec. of War.

Death Bed of Abraham Lincoln 1865

Washington, April 15 – 1:30 a.m.

I have just visited the dying couch of Abraham Lincoln. He is now in the agonies of death, and his physicians say he cannot live more than an hour. He is surrounded by the members of his Cabinet, all of whom are bathed in tears.

Senator Sumner is seated on the right of the couch on which he is lying, the tears streaming down his cheeks and sobbing like a child. All around him are his physicians, Surg. Gen. Barnes directing affairs.

The President is unconscious, and the only sign of life he exhibits is by the movement of his right hand, which he raises feebly. Mrs. Lincoln and her two sons are in an adjoining room, into which Secretary Stanton has just gone to inform them that the President’s physicians have pronounced his case hopeless.

As I pass through the passage to the front door I hear shrieks and cries proceeding from the room in which the grief-stricken wife and children are seated. — I obtain from Quartermaster General Meigs the following account of the assassination:

About 10 1/2 o’clock, a man dressed in a dark suit and hat entered the private box in which Mr. Lincoln and his party consisting of Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris, daughter of Senator Harris, were seated, and Capt. Rathbone of Albany.

Immediately upon opening the door he advanced toward Mr. Lincoln with a six-barrel revolver in his right hand and a bowie-knife in his left. The President, who was intent upon the play, did not notice his intrusion, and the gentleman who was seated beside him arose to inquire the reason of his entry.

Before he had time to ask the assassin what he wanted, he fired one charge from his revolver which took effect in the back of the President’s head. The ball passed through and came out at the right temple.

Lincoln's assassination drawing - Ford's Theatre

Capt. Rathbone, who was in the box with M. Lincoln, attempted to arrest the murderer, and in trying to do so received a stab in his arm. The assassin then leaped from the box on to the stage. Before he disappeared behind the curtain he turned, and with a tragic flourish and tone, waved his knife and yelled “sic semper tyrannis.”

So sudden was the affair that some moments after its occurrence the audience supposed it was a part of the play, and were only undeceived when it was announced from the stage by the manager that the President of the United States had been shot.

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The shock fell upon the audience like a thunderbolt, and loud cries were immediately made to capture or kill the assassin. The scene which ensued cannot be described. Men and women rushed for the doors, crying and shouting for vengeance on the murderer.

The murderous emissary of the Slave Power escaped easily and rapidly from the theater, and mounted a horse and fled. The President, insensible, was carried out and taken to a house right opposite the theater.

Mrs. Lincoln fainted in the box and was borne out after her husband. The mass of the evidence tonight is that J. Wilkes Booth committed the crime.

Whoever it is, there are reasons for thinking that the same bold and bloody hand attempted the life of Secretary Seward.

His wounds were made by a knife as big as that waved on the stage to the Virginia motto of “sic semper tyrannis.”


War Department, Washington, April 15, 1865

To Major General Dix: Abraham Lincoln died this morning at twenty-two minutes after 7 o’clock.

Edwin M. Stanton, Sec. of War.

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Associated Press Account of President Lincoln’s assassination

Washington, April 15, 1865

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

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

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

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

It had been Mr. Staunton’s intention to accompany Mr. Lincoln to the theater and occupy the same box, but the press of business prevented.

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

Assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre Washington, DC April 14 1865

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

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

Mayor Wallach and several members of the city government were soon on the spot, and every precaution was taken to preserve order and quiet in the city.

Every street in Washington was patroled at the request of Mr. Richards. Gen. Augur sent horses to mount the police.

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

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Washington, Saturday, April 15, 1865

At an early hour this morning, the Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, sent an official communication to the Hon. Andrew Johnson, Vice-President of the United States, stating that in consequence of the sudden and unexpected death of the Chief Magistrate, his inauguration should take place as soon as possible, and requesting him to state the place and hour at which the ceremony should be performed.

Mr. Johnson immediately replied that it would be agreeable to him to have the proceedings take place at his rooms in the Kirkwood House, as soon as the arrangements could be perfected.

Chief Justice Chase was informed of the fact, and immediately repaired to the appointed place in company with Secretary Seward, of the Treasury Department, Attorney-General Speed, F. P. Blair, Jr., Hon. Montgomery Blair, Senators Foot of Vermont, Ramsay of Minnesota, Yates of Illinois, Stewart of Nevada, Hale of New Hampshire, and Gen. Farnsworth of Illinois.

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President Lincoln assassinated

At 11 o’clock, the oath of office was administered by the Chief Justice of the United States, in his usual solemn and impressive manner.

Mr. Johnson received the kind expressions of the gentlemen by whom he was surrounded, in a manner which showed his earnest sense of the great responsibilities so suddenly devolved upon him, and made a brief speech, in which he said; “The duties of the office are mine. I will perform them. The consequences are with God. Gentlemen, I shall lean upon you. I feel that I shall need your support. I am deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, and the responsibility of the duties of the office I am assuming.”

Mr. Johnson appeared to be in remarkable good health, and has a high and realizing sense of the hopes that are centered upon him. His manner was solemn and dignified, and his whole bearing produced a most gratifying impression upon those who participated in the ceremonies.

It is probable that during the day, President Johnson will issue his first proclamation to the American people.

It is expected, though nothing has been determined upon, that the funeral of the late President Lincoln will take place on or about Thursday next. It is supposed that his remains will be temporarily deposited in the Congressional Cemetery.

Appearance of Ford's Theatre, Washington, D. C., after the murder.

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