« PreviousContinue »
Messrs. Ashman and Colfax.
Goes to the Theatre.
The Assassin's Precautions.
been obliged to leave for the North. Mr. Lincoln did not like to entirely disappoint the audience, as the announcement had been publicly made, and had determined to fulfil his acceptance.
Mr. Colfax, however, declining on account of other engagements, Mr. Lincoln said to him, "Mr. Sumner has the gavel of the Confederate Congress, which he got at Richmond to hand to the Secretary of War. But I insisted then that he must give it to you; and you tell him for me to hand it over." Mr. Ashman alluded to the gavel, still in his possession, which he had used at Chicago; and about half an hour after the time they had intended to leave for the theatre, the President and Mrs. Lincoln rose to depart, the former reluctant and speaking about remaining at home a half hour longer.
At the door he stopped and said, "Colfax, do not forget to tell the people in the mining regions, as you pass through them, what I told you this morning about the development when peace comes, and I will telegraph you at San Francisco." Having shaken hands with both gentlemen and bidden them a pleasant good-bye, the President with his party left for the theatre.
The box occupied by them was on the second tier above the stage, at the right of the audience, the entrance to it being by a door from the adjoining gallery. One, who had planned Mr. Lincoln's assassination with extraordinary precautions against any failure, having effected an entrance by deceiving the guard, found himself in a dark corridor, of which the wall made an acute angle with the door. The assassin had previously gouged a channel from the plaster and placed near by a stout piece of board, which he next inserted between the wall and the panel of the door.
Ingress then being rendered impossible, he next turned toward the entrances to the President's box, two in number, as the box by a sliding partition could, at pleasure, be converted into two. The door at the bottom of the passage was
The Assassin's Precautions.
The Pistol Shot.
open; that nearer the assassin was closed. Both had springlocks, but their screws had been carefully loosened so as to yield to a slight pressure, if necessary.
Resort was had to the hither door, in which a small hole had been bored, for the purpose of securing a view of the interior of the box, the door first described having first been fastened, and the discovery made that the occupants had taken seats as follows: the President in the arm-chair nearest the audience, Mrs. Lincoln next, then, after a considerable space, a Miss Clara Harris in the corner nearest the stage, and a Major H. R. Rathbone on a lounge along the further wall.
The play was, "Our American Cousin." While all were intent upon its representation, the report of a pistol first announced the presence of the assassin, who uttered the word "Freedom.!" and advanced toward the front. The Major having discerned the murderer through the smoke, and grappled with him, the latter dropped his pistol and aimed with a knife at the breast of his antagonist, who caught the blow in the upper part of his left arm, but was unable to detain the desperado, though he immediately seized him again. The villain, however, leaped some twelve feet down upon the open stage, tangling his spur in the draped flag below the box and stumbling in his fall.
Recovering himself immediately, he flourished his dagger, shouted "Sic semper tyrannis" and "The South is avenged," retreated successfully through the labyrinth of the theatreperfectly familiar to him-to his horse in waiting below. Between the deed of blood and the escape there was not the lapse of a minute. The hour was about half-past ten. There was but one pursuer, and he from the audience, but he was outstripped.
The meaning of the pistol-shot was soon ascertained. Mr. Lincoln had been shot in the back of the head, behind the left ear, the ball traversing an oblique line to the right
ear. He was rendered instantly unconscious, and never knew friends or pain again. Having been conveyed as soon as possible to a house opposite the theatre, he expired there the next morning, April fifteenth, 1865, at twenty-two minutes past seven o'clock, attended by the principal members of his Cabinet and other friends, from all of whom the heartrending spectacle drew copious tears of sorrow. Mrs. Lincoln and her son Robert were in an adjoining apartmentthe former bowed down with anguish, the latter strong enough to sustain and console her. A disconsolate widow and two sons now constituted the entire family. Soon after nine o'clock, the body was removed to the White House under military escort.
Thus ended the earthly career of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, on the threshold of his fifty-seventh year and second Presidential term.
"Sic semper tyrannis!" And this the justification for the murder of a ruler who had
-borne his faculties so meek, had been
"The South avenged!" And by the cold-blooded murder of the best friend that repentant rebels ever had-of one who had long withstood the pressing appeals of his warmest personal and political friends for less lenity and more rigor in dealing with traitors.
It was written in the decrees of the Immutable that he should fall by the bullet-not, indeed, on the battle-field, whose sad suggestings he had so often, and so tenderly, lovingly heeded-but in the midst of his family, while seeking relief from the cares of state-and by a murderer's hand! -the first President to meet such a fate-thenceforth our martyr-chief!
But sorrow was tempered with mercy. He did not fall
Sorrow tempered with Mercy. Inaugural Redeemed.
Flag over Fort Sumter.
until a benignant Providence had permitted him to enjoy a foretaste, at least, of the blessings which he had been instrumental in conferring upon the land he loved so well.
The pledges of his first Inaugural Address had been amply redeemed-those pledges which so many declared impossible of fulfilment, which not a few mocked as beyond human power to accomplish. The power confided to him had been successfully used "to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government." No United States fort at the time of his fall flaunted treason in the eyes of the land. The day of his murder the old flag had been flung to the breeze from Sumter with ceremonies befitting the joyous occasion, by the very hands that four years before had been compelled to lower it to arrogant traitors; and friends of freedom for man, irrespective of color or race, walked the streets of Charleston a city of desolation, a skeleton of its former self -jubilant that, since God so willed it, in His own good time, Freedom was National and Slavery but a thing of the past.
When he fell, the Nation, brought by the stern necessities of direful war to the discharge of duties befitting a better manhood, passing by all projects for an emancipation of slaves, which should be merely gradual, not content even that such emancipation had been proclaimed as a measure of military necessity, had spoken in favor of such an amendment of the Constitution as should forever prohibit any claim of property in man. Though the final consummation of that great measure had not been reached when our President was removed, it was given him to feel assured that the end was not distant, was even then close at hand.
When he fell, that body of traitors which had assumed to be a Government had fled, one scarcely knew whither, with whatever of ill-gotten gains their greedy hands could grasp their main army captive, the residue of their military force on the point of surrendering. From what had been their
The Nation's Sorrow.
Minute Guns Fired.
capital, in the mansion appropriated to the special use of the chiefest among the conspirators, he had been permitted to send words of greeting to the nation.
When he fell, treason throughout the land lay gasping, dying.
It needed not that dismal, dreary, mid-April day to in tensify the sorrow. As on the wings of lightning the news sped through the land-"the President is Shot"—"is dying"" is dead"-men knew scarcely how to credit the tale. When the fearful certainty came home to each, strong men bowed themselves and wept-maid and matron joined in the plaint. With no extraneous prompting, with no impulse save that of the heart alone, the common grief took on a common garb. Houses were draped-the flag of our country hung pensive at half-mast-portraitures of the loved dead were found on all.
And dreary as was the day when first the tidings swept through the country, patriot hearts were drearier still. It was past analysis. It was as if chaos and dread night had come again.
Meanwhile the honored dead lay in state in the country's capitol.
On that dreamy, hazy nineteenth of April-suggesting, were it not for the early green leaves, the fresh springing grass, the glad spring caroling of birds, "that sweet autumnal summer which the Indian loved so well"-on that day when sleep wooed one even in the early morn, his obsequies were celebrated in the country's metropolis.
And throughout the land, minute guns were fired, bells tolled, business suspended, and the thoughtful betook themselves to prayer, if so be that what verily seemed a curse might pass from us.
Thence the funeral cortege moved to the final resting-place -the remains of a darling son, earlier called, accompanying those of the father-by the route the President had taken