Page images

I was playing Asa Trenchard, in the “ American Cousin." The "old lady" of the theater 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 he 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 toward me, and I, seeing the knife, thought I was the one he was after, ran off the stage and up a light of stairs. He made his escape out of a door directly in the rear of the theater, 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.

I am now under one thousand dollars bail to appear as a wit ness when Booth is tried, if caught.

All the above I have sworn to. You may imagine the excitement in the theater, which was crowded, with cries of “ Hang him!” “Who was he?" etc., from every one present.

On the morning of his death, Mr. Lincoln's remains were taken to the White House, embalmed, and on Tuesday laid in state in the East Room, where they were visited by many thousands during the day. On Wednesday, funeral services were held in the same room. An impressive discourse was preached by Rev. Dr. Gurley, pastor of the Presbyterian church which the late President attended ; the main portion of the Episcopal service for the burial of the dead was read by Rev. Dr. Hall (Episcopalian), and prayers were offered by Bishop Simpson (Methodist) and Rev. Dr. Gray (Baptist). The funeral procassion and pageant, as the body was removed to the rotunda of the capitol, were of grand and solemn character, beyond description. The whole length of the Avenue, from the Executive Mansion to the capital, was crowded with the thousands of the army, navy, civil officers, and citizens, marching to the music of solemn dirges. “From window and roof, and from side-walks densely crowded, tens of thousands along the whole route witnessed the spectacle. The remains again lay in state, in the Rotunda, and were visited by many thousands during



the following day. On Friday morning the remains were borne to the rich funeral car, in which, accompanied by an escort of distinguished officers and citizens, they were to be borne on their journey of nearly two thousand miles to their last rest in the silence of the Western prairie. The funeral cortege left Washington on the 21st of April, going by way of Baltimore and Harrisburg to Philadelphia, where the body lay in state in Independence Hall, from Saturday evening, the 22d, until Monday morning. On the afternoon of the 24th, the train reached New York. All along the route, thus far, the demonstrations of the people were of the most earnest character, and at Philadelphia the ceremonies were imposing, profound grief and sympathy being universally manifested. At New York, on the 25th, a funeral procession, unprecedented in numbers, marched through the streets, while mottoes and emblems of woe were seen on every hand-touching devices, yet altogether vain to express the reality of the general sorrow. The train reached Albany the same night, remaining there part of the day on the 26th, while the same overflowing popular manifestations were witnessed as at previous places along the route. These were continued at all the principal points on the way from that city to Buffalo, where there were special demonstrations, on the 27th, as again at Cleveland on the 28th, at Columbus on the 29th, and at Indianapolis on the 30th. Wherever the funeral car and cortege passed through the State of Ohio, as through Indiana and Illinois, the people thronged to pay their sad greeting to the dead, and tokens of public mourning and private sadness were seen. At Chicago, where the train arrived on the 1st of May, the demonstrations were specially impressive, and the mournful gatherings of the people were such as could have happened on no other occasion. It was the honored patriot of Illinois, who had been stricken down in the midst of his glorious work, and whose lifeless remains were now brought back to the city which he had chosen to be his future home.

From Chicago to Springfield, the great ovation of sorrow was unparalleled, through all the distance. The remains of the martyred statesman were passing over ground familiar to his sight for long years, and filled with personal friends who had known him from early life. Yet even here, where all were deeply moved, there could scarcely be a more heartfelt tribute, a more universal impulse to render homage to the memory of the immortal martyr for liberty, than in every city and State through which the funeral car and its cortege had passed.

The final obsequies took place at Springfield, on Thursday, the 4th day of May, when the remains of Abraham Lincoln, in the presence of many thousands, were placed in a vault in Oak Ridge Cemetery. With the body of the late President, the disinterred remains of his son Willie, who died in February, 1862, had been borne to Illinois, and were now placed beside those of the father by whom he had been so tenderly loved. The ceremonies were grandly impressive. Mr. Lincoln's last inaugural address was read, the Dead March in Saul, and other dirges and hymns were sung, accompanied by an instrumental band, and an eloquent discourse was preached by Bishop Simpson. Rev. Dr. Gurley, of Washington, and other clergymen, participated in the religious exercises, In every part of the nation, the day was observed, and business suspended. Never, probably, was the memory of any man before so honored in his death, or any obsequies participated in by so many hundreds of thousands of sincere mourners.

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln was the culmination of a series of fiendish schemes undertaken in aid of an infamous rebellion, It was the deadly flower of the rank and poisonous weed of treason. The guiding and impelling spirit of Secessionism nerved and aimed the blow struck by the barbarous and cowardly assassin, who stole up from behind to surprise his victim, and brutally murdered him in the privacy of his box, and in the presence of his wife.

Large rewards were speedily offered for the capture of the chief assassin and of his principal known accomplices, Atzerodt and Herold. The villain who attempted the murder of Mr. Seward was first arrested-giving his namo as Payne. Booth and his companion Herold were traced through the counties of Prince George, Charles, and St. Mary, in Maryland, and finally across the Potomac into King George and Caroline counties in

« PreviousContinue »