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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

Battlefield Dispatches #419


This past Tuesday, April 14, 2015 Tuesday, was the 150th Anniversary of the ASSASINATION of PRESIDENT ABRAHMA LINCOLN, which occurred on April 14, 1865 and was a cataclysmic day of infamy in the history of the United States. Much has been written about this event, however, the focus of this column is how and what the citizens and soldiers stationed in eastern Kansas learned of this tragedy. The How, was by the “Talking Wire” or telegraph and a description of what happened was printed in the local newspapers within 48 hours. Unfortunately, copies of the April 1865 Fort Scott Monitor are not known to exist so the following articles are from the April 16th edition of the “Leavenworth Daily Conservative”.





Secretary Seward is Stabbed

The REBELS Showing Themselves



of the President

The President’s Body

Removed to the White House

War Department, Washington, April 15, 1:30 A.M.

To Major General Dix:

Last evening about 9:30 P. M., at Ford’s Theater the President while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburne, was shot by an assassin who suddenly entered the box and approached 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 shot 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 [the wound] was inflicted and is now about dying.

William SewardAbout the same hour an assassin, whether the same or not, is unknown, entered Mr. Seward’s apartments and under the pretense of having a prescription, was shown to the Secretary’s sick chamber The assassin immediately rushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs in the throat and two in the face of Mr. Seward. It is hopped the wounds may not prove mortal. The apprehension is that they will prove fatal. The nurse alarmed Mr. Fred Seward who was in an adjoining room and who hastened to the door of his father’s room where he met the assassin who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds. The recovery of Fred Steward is doubtful.

It is not probable the PRESIDENT will LIVE through the NIGHT!

Edwin M. StantonGeneral Grant and his wife were advertised to be at the theater last evening, but he started for Burlington, [New Jersey] at six o’clock last evening.

At a cabinet meeting at which General Grant was present the object of the fate of the country on a prospect of a speedy peace was discussed. The President was very cheerful and hopeful and spoke very kindly of General [Robert E.] Lee and others and the Confederacy and the establishment of a Government in Virginia.

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

I have seen Mr. Seward, but he and Fred are both unconscious.

E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War

Washington, April 15.

The Star Extra says that at 7:20 a.m. the President breathed his last, closing his eyes as if falling asleep and his countenance assuming an expression of calm serenity. There was no indication of pain and it was not known that he was dead until the gradual deceasing respiration ceased altogether.

The Rev. Dr. Gurley of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church immediately on its being ascertained that life had extinguished knelt at the bedside and offered an impressive prayer which was responded to by all present. Dr. Gurley then proceeded to the front parlor, where Mrs. Lincoln, Capt. Robert Lincoln, Mrs. John hay and others were in waiting when he again offered a prayer of consolation of the family.

The President’s body was removed from the private residence opposite Ford’s theater at 9:30 A.M. in a hearse wrapped in an American flag, escorted by a small guard of Cavalry. Gen. Auger and others followed on foot and a dense crowd accompanied the remains to the White House. None but the household and personal friends of the President were allowed to enter the grounds. Among others were Senator Yates and Representative Farnsworth. The body is being embalmed with a view to removal to Illinois.

The assassin of President Lincoln left behind him his hat and a spur. The hat was picked up in the President’s box and identified by parties to which it has been shown as one belonging to the desperate man and accurately described by other parties not allowed to see it before describing it. The spur was dropped upon the stage and that has also been identified as one procured at a stable where the same man hired a horse in the evening.

Two gentlemen went to the Secretary of War to appraise him of the attack on President Lincoln, met at the residence of the former a man muffled in a cloak, who when accosted hastened away. It had been Mr. Stanton’s intention to accompany Mr. Lincoln to the theater and occupy the same box, but the pressure of business prevented it. Therefore, it seems evident that the aim of the plotters was to paralyze the country by at once striking down the head and arm of the government.

As soon as the events were announced in the streets, Supt. Richards and his assistants were at work to discover the assassin. In a few moments the telegraph had aroused the whole police force in the city. Mayor Walleck and several members of the city government were soon on the spot and every precaution was taken to preserve order.

Circular War Department,

Provost Marshal General’s Office

April 15, 9:45 A.M.

It is believed that the assassins of the President and Secretary Seward are attempting to escape to Canada; you will make a careful and through examination of all persons attempting to cross from the United States to Canada and will arrest all such persons.

The most vigilant scrutiny on your part and force at your disposal is demanded. A description of the parties supposed to be implicated in the murder will be telegraphed to you today, but in the meantime be active in preventing the crossing of any suspicious

By order of the Secretary of War,

(signed) N. S. Jeffers

Brevet. Brig. Gen. A. P. M. G.

Washington, April 15.

Andrew JohnsonAt an early hour this morning the Honorable E. M. Stanton sent an official communication to Vice President Johnson, stating that in the 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 at once replied that it would be agreeable to him to have the proceedings at his rooms in the Kirkwood House as soon as the arrangements could be perfected.

Chief Justice Chase was informed of the fact and repaired to the appointed place along with other official parties. At 11 o’clock the oath of office was administered by the Chief Justice in the usual solemn and impressive manner. Mr. Johnson received the kind expressions of the gentlemen by whom he was surrounded. He expressed his appreciation of the great responsibility 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.” 

Salmon P. ChaseAndrew Johnson was sworn into the office as President of the United States by Chief Justice Chase today at 11 A.M. Secretary McCulloch, Attorney General Speed and others were present. He remarked, “The duties are mine and I will perform them trusting in God.”

Now then, it wasn’t long before the conspirators and assassin of President Lincoln were captured or killed. On or before April 17, 1865, less than 3 days after the assassination, 8 of the conspirators were captured and eventually tried and found guilty by a military tribunal.  George Atzerodt, David Herald, Lewis Powell and Mary Surratt were executed by hanging on July 6, 1865. Samuel Arnold, Michael O’ Laughlin and Dr. Samuel Mudd were sentenced to Life in Prison and Edman Spangler was sentenced to six years in prison. The assassin, John Wilkes Booth was mortally wounded and died on April 26, 1865 while resisting arrest by Union soldiers on a farm in southern Maryland.

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