Page images

the smoke with which he was enveloped prevented this deponent from seeing distinctly the other man; that the first time she saw him distinctly was when he leaped from the box upon the stage ; that she then heard Major Rathbone cry out, 'Stop that man,' and this deponent then immediately repeated the cry, 'Stop that man,' 'Won't somebody stop that man?' A moment after, some one from the stage asked, 'What is it?' or 'What is the matter?' and deponent replied, 'The President is shot.' Very soon after two persons, one wearing the uniform of a naval surgeon and the other that of a soldier of the Veteran Reserve Corps, came upon the stage, and the deponent assisted them in climbing up to the box.

"And this deponent further says, that the facts stated in the foregoing affidavit, so far as the same came to the knowledge or notice of the deponent, are accurately stated therein.

Subscribed and sworn before me, this 17th day of April, 1865,



Justice of the Supreme Court of the

District of Columbia.


Such is the account of the brief but tragic act given by one within the box. One of the actors at the moment on the stage, makes the following statement, showing what was seen from his position, and he was the only one of the company on the stage, at the time, Miss Laura Keane being about to enter:

"I was," says Mr. Hawke, "playing 'Asa Trenchard,' in the American Cousin.' The 'old lady' of the theatre had just gone off the stage, and I was answering her exit speech when I heard the shot fired. I turned, looked up at the President's box, heard the man exclaim 'Sic semper tyrannis,' saw him jump from the box, seize the flag on the staff, and drop to the stage; he slipped when he gained the stage, but got upon his feet in a moment, brandished a large knife, saying 'The South shall be free!' turned his face in the direction I stood, and I recognized him as John Wilkes Booth. He ran towards me, and I, seeing the knife, thought I was the one he was after, ran off the stage and up a flight of stairs. He made his escape out of a door, directly in the rear of the theatre, mounted a horse and rode off.

"The above all occurred in the space of a quarter of a minute, and, at the time, I did not know that the President was shot; although if I had tried to stop him, he would have stabbed me."

Few of the audience had any idea of what was occurring, but Captain Theodore McGowan, A.A.G. to General Augur, makes this statement:

"On the night of Friday, April 14, 1865, in company with a friend I went to Ford's theatre. Arriving there just after the entrance of President Lincoln and the party accompanying him, my friend Lieutenant Crawford, and I, after viewing the Presidential party from the opposite side of the dress circle, went to the right side, and took seats in the passage above the seats of the dress circle, and about five feet from the door of the box occupied by President Lincoln. During the performance, the attendant of the President came out and took the chair nearest the door. I sat, and had been sitting, about four feet to his left and rear, for some time.

"I remember that a man, whose face I do not distinctly recollect, passed me, and inquired of one sitting near who the President's messenger was, and learning, exhibited to him an envelope, apparently official, having a printed heading, and superscribed in a bold hand. I could not read the address, and did not try. I think now it was meant for Lieutenant-General Grant. That man went away

"Some time after I was disturbed in my seat by the approach of a man who desired to pass up on the aisle in which I was sitting. Giving him room by bending my chair forward, he passed me, and stepped one step down on the level below me. Standing there, he was almost in my line of sight, and I saw him, while watching the play. He stood, as I remember, one step above the messenger, and remained perhaps one minute apparently looking at the stage and orchestra below. Then he drew a number of visiting cards from his pocket, from which, with some attention, he drew or selected one. These things I saw distinctly. I saw him stoop, and I think, descend to the level of the messenger, and by his right side. He showed the card to the messenger, and as my attention was then more closely fixed upon the play, I do not know whether the card was carried in by the messenger, or his consent given to the entrance of the man who presented it. I saw, a few moments after, the same man entering the door of the lobby leading to the box and the door closing behind him. This was seen because 1 could not fail from my position to observe it; the door side of the proscenium box and the stage were all within the direct and oblique lines of my sight. How long I watched the play after entering I do not know. It was, perhaps, two or three minutes, possibly four. The house was perfectly still, the large audience listening to the dialogue between 'Florence Trenchard' and 'May Meredith,' when



the sharp report of a pistol rang through the house. It was apparently fired behind the scenes, on the right of the stage. Looking towards it and behind the Presidential box, while it startled all, it was evidently accepted by every one in the theatre as an introduction to some new passage, several of which had been interpolated in the early part of the play. A moment after a man leaped from the front of the box, directly down nine feet on the stage, and ran rapidly across it, bare-headed, holding an unsheathed dagger in his right hand, the blade of which flashed brightly in the gaslight as he came within ten feet of the opposite rear exit. I did not see his face as he leaped or ran, but I am convinced he was the man I saw enAs he leaped he cried distinctly the motto of Virginia, 'Sic Semper Tyrannis.' The hearing of this and the sight of the dagger explained fully to me the nature of the deed he had committed. In an instant he had disappeared behind the side scene. Consternation seemed for a moment to rivet every one to his seat, the next moment confusion reigned supreme. I saw the features of the man distinctly before he entered the box, having surveyed him contemptuously before he entered, supposing him to be an ill-bred fellow who was pressing a selfish matter on the President in his hours of leisure. The assassin of the President is about five feet nine and a half inches high, black hair, and I think eyes of the same color. He did not turn his face more than quarter front, as artists term it. His face was smooth, as I remember, with the exception of a moustache of moderate size, but of this I am not positive. He was dressed in a black coat, approximating to a dress frock, dark pants, and wore a stiff-rimmed, flat-topped round crowned black hat of felt, I think. He was a gentlemanly looking person, having no decided or obtruding mark. He seemed for a moment or two to survey the house with the deliberation of an habitue of the theatre.”

Several had observed Booth around the entrance of the theatre and the boxes, but neither this nor his leaving his horse in the rear, from his profession and actual occasional appearance on the boards of the theatre, could or did excite the slightest suspicion. A soldier, however, states that he heard him and another man in front of the theatre, speaking as though they intended to attack the President as he came out: he states too that men stationed apparently at intervals, kept calling out the time every few minutes, evidently to notify confederates in the rear. All the preparations however, show that the box was the place appointed in the councils of the conspirators.

At the moment of the fearful deed the President was seated in a large and comfortable crimson velvet patent rocking-chair, his right elbow upon the arm of the chair, and his head resting upon his hand. The left hand was extended to pull aside the flag (belonging to the Treasury Guard), which draped the side of the box nearest him. His eyes were directed towards the orchestra, a kindly smile upon his face. At this instant the assassin burst open the door immediately behind the President, and deliberately shot him, as already stated. It was all the work of a moment! The flash of the pistol, the curling of the smoke, were scarce noticed, when the murderer was seen to spring from the box on the stage beneath, some twelve feet distant. As the intruder struck the stage, he fell forward, but soon gathered himself up and turned, erect, in full view of the audience. With singular audacity the assassin stood there long enough to photograph himself forever even in the minds of those among the throng who had never seen him before They saw a slim, graceful figure, elegantly clad, waving a dagger with a gesture that none but a tragedian by profession would have made; a classic face, pale as marble, lighted up by two gleaming eyes-which had made crowds shudder often in past days when Gloster struggled with death in mimic phrensyand surmounted by waves of curling, jet black hair. The assassin, with calmness which only could come of careful premeditation, uttered the words, "Sic Semper Tyrannis" in tones so sharp and clear that every person in the theatre heard them. He said something more, but in that second of time Mrs. Lincoln had screamed in horror, the unusual occurrences had created an excitement, the audience begun to rise, and no one heard the words distinctly. Booth, who already heard his name pronounced by a score of lips, waited for no further bravado, but rushed across the stage, by Dundreary, by Florence Trenchard, at the wing, rudely pushing Miss Keane out of his way, as she stood ready to come upon the stage, down the long passage behind the scenes, thrusting his knife at a man who seemed to interrupt his flight, and out by the stage door into the darkness. Only one man, Mr. J. B. Stewart, of the Washington bar, had presence of mind to pursue him; but unfamiliar with the theatre, Booth reached the back door before him, and closing it, was enabled to thrust aside the boy and

spring to his saddle, before Mr. Stewart could open it. All was instantly confusion in front. Both before and behind the scenes every one knew that the President had been shot. Actors rushed upon the stage, and the audience into the orchestra. Mr. Lincoln had sunk down without a groan or a struggle. Mrs. Lincoln had fainted after her first shriek-Major Rathbone was disabled by a stab which Booth's knife had given him in the struggle-Miss Harris was bewildered by the sudden and fearful occurrence. The audience surged to and fro in frantic excitement. Some attempted to climb up the supports and into the box. Then came those clear and distinct tones of Laura Keene, first in the theatre to understand and appreciate the emergency:-"Keep quiet in your seats-give him air." In another moment certain gentlemen found presence of mind to order the throng to leave the theatre. The gas was turned down The crowd at last animated by an impulse pushed for the outer doors.

As the news spread through the city, another horror fell upon all. It was announced that, simultaneously with the tragic events at Ford's theatre, and, as near as can be ascertained, at the precise moment, another fiend entered the house of Secretary Seward, after some parleying with the servants, and, it seems, there dealt out his blows in all directions. Some six or seven persons who were in attendance upon the family during the night have made their positive statements of the manner in which the assault was made here. It is well established that Payne, the assassin, applied at Seward's residence as the pretended bearer of a prescription of medicine. Having succeeded in evading the servant at the door, he rushed to Seward's chamber, but was confronted by Frederick Seward, when he had quite a parley for a moment about the medicine which he had been directed to deliver in person. Finding that he could not succeed in that way, he made an attack upon Frederick Seward. The desperado was a large and powerful He was determined to enter the bedchamber, and drew his pistol and snapped it twice, but did not succeed in discharging it. He struck Seward twice upon the head with such force that it not only felled him to the floor, and crushed the skull in two or three places, but also breaking the pistol, separating the chamber from the barrel. He then immediately rushed into


« PreviousContinue »