April 14, 1865
The events of Good Friday, April 14, 1865, will remain vivid as long as the history of the
United States is known.
Shortly after 10:00 P.M., in the presidential box at Ford's Theater, President Abraham
Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth. It had been a full day for Lincoln, with many
callers and a Cabinet meeting with General Grant in attendance, during which time the
President told of his recurring dream of a ship "moving with great rapidity toward a
dark and indefinite shore." The Cabinet discussed problems of reconstruction,
including treatment of Confederate leaders. Callers continued in the afternoon and up to
8:30 P.M., the time Lincoln left for the theater to see a comedy, "Our American
General Grant had turned down an invitation to attend, pleading he had to visit his
children. It was known there was "chilliness" between Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs.
At the theater the crowd's cheering stopped the play as the President and his party: Mrs.
Lincoln, Miss Clara Harris and Major H.R. Rathbone entered the box over the stage. The
crowd settled down and the play resumed. One lady reported, "it was while everyone's
attention was fastened upon the stage that a pistol shot was heard, causing everyone to
jump and look up at the Presidents Box merely following the sound and supposing it was
part of the play, we looked at the stage--when suddenly a man vaulted over the railing of
the box--turned and leaped to the stage--striking his heels and falling backward. He
recovered himself in an instant and started across the stage behind the scene."
Our President! Our President is shot !
catch him--hang him !!
Bedlam reigned at the theater as men carried the
unconscious President across the street to the home of William Peterson. There the
President was lain in a rear bedroom. A bullet had gone through the back of the head and
lodged near the right eye.
Soon the building and streets were full. Medical men, Cabinet members and congressmen
hastened to the Peterson house. Rumors were rampant:: "it was a Confederate
raid"--"murderers were rushing about the streets"--"many prominent
politicians were also assassinated." Truth soon came out that Sec. of State William
Seward had been stabbed but would recover. It was learned that Lewis Payne Paine, a
hulking accomplice of Booth, had carried out the Seward stabbing.
At the Kirkwood House, Vice-President Andrew Johnson was notified of the attacks. The
streets of Washington still wearing a jubilant air from the recent surrender of
Appomattox, now suffered the sudden shock of tragedy. Stunned citizens and troops thronged
Sec. of War Stanton took charge of the pursuit of Booth and his accomplices as the
telegraph wires hummed the awesome news to the nation. General Grant was at Baltimore when
informed of the tragedy and he immediately returned to Washington.
At the Peterson House, doctors pronounced no hope for the dying President. Mrs. Lincoln
came into the room once and was led away in irrepressible grief.
(author comment) ( I find this ironic by comparison of the assassination of John
Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas Texas in 1963.)
April 15, 1865
At 7:22 A.M., President Abraham Lincoln died. "Now he belongs to the ages." The
Cabinet, except for the injured Seward, formally requested Vice-President Andrew Johnson
to assume the office of President. At 11:00 A.M. at the Kirkwood Hotel, Chief Justice,
Salmon Chase administered the oath in the presence of the Cabinet and congressman. Mr.
Johnson asked the Cabinet to remain with him adding "The course which I have taken in
the past, regarding this rebellion, must be regarded as a guaranty for the future."
The nation still had a leader, the process of the government went on, the search for the
assassins was in full cry.
Much of the nation wept openly as the news went out.
(Author comment) Another irony of this story, President Kennedy's vice president was a
Johnson, Lyndon B.
Fugitives John Wilkes Booth and David Herold, one of Booth's accomplices had escaped to
the southeast of Washington and stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, where Booth's
broken leg was treated.
(Author comment) Again, the irony, Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended in the old School
April 16, 1865
The North was in deep mourning now and with it much of the South., if not in mourning, at
least, dismay and empathy over the assassination, for the people of the South realized Mr.
Lincoln had seemed to understand its position. He had opposed what appeared to be Radical
vindictiveness. Federal troops persued Booth in Maryland. Early in the morning Booth and
Herold reached Rich Hill, the home of Samuel Cox.
In Washington, Mrs. Lincoln was prostrate with grief and Andrew Johnson was gathering up
the reins of the presidency. Radical Republicans were hopeful that the new President would
be more amenable to their policies which included treating the Southern states as
April 17, 1865
Generals William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston met at the Bennett House near Durham
N.C. A short time before, Sherman had received news of the assassination of the President.
Johnston told Sherman it was a great calamity to the South. In their talks the two
generals went further than just surrendering Johnstons army. They discussed the terms of
an armistice for all the remaining Confederate armies. Sherman later disclaimed going
beyond negotiations over Johnston's army but admitted: "it did seem to me that there
was presented a chance for peace that might deem valuable to the Government of the United
States and was at least worth the few days that would be consumed in reference." They
agreed to meet the next day.
In the evening the body of President Lincoln was taken to the East Room to lie in state
until the funeral on April 19.
April 18, 1865
After more talk at Durham N.C., Sherman and Johnston signed "Memorandum or basis of
agreement." The highly controversial document call for an armistice by all armies in
the field. Confederate forces were to be disbanded and to deposit their arms in the state
arsenals. Each man was to agree to cease from war and agree by state and federal
authority. The President of the United States was to recognize the existing state
governments when their officials took oaths to the United States. Reestablishment of
Federal courts would take place. People were to be guaranteed rights of person and
property. The United states would not disturb the people of the South as long as they
lived in peace. And general amnesty for Confederates.
The generals recognized that they were not fully empowered to carry out such far-reaching
measures and that the necessary authority must be obtained. It was clear Sherman went far
beyond Grant at Appomattox. He was actually entering into reconstruction policy. He sent
the terms to Grant and Halleck, asking approval by the President. Sherman also offered to
take charge of carrying out these terms. Later he was to deny any ursupation of power on
his part and to claim the agreement was according to Mr. Lincoln's wishes as Sherman knew
President Davis and his disconsolate party slowly moved southward to Concord N.C. The body
of President Lincoln lay in state in the East Room of the White House. Politics, the
search for the assassins, the ending of the war and reconstruction were all intermingled
in sorrow for the President and planning for the future.
April 19, 1865--The Funeral.
President Johnson, the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices, Congress, military figures and the
diplomatic corps in full "corp dress" filed into the East Room. Robert Lincoln
represented the family as Mrs. Lincoln and Tad remained sequestered. At the head of the
catafalque stood Ulysses S. Grant alone. After the brief ceremony, the funeral carriage
escorted by all of the branches of the military, their banners draped, and the bands
playing sorrowful dirges, carried the body past thongs of people to the rotunda of the
Capitol. The bells of Washington tolled; the minute guns boomed. Now it was the public's
turn and until the evening of the 20th, they filed past the catafalque in steady streams.
Then the body was removed back to Illinois for burial at Springfield on May 4, 1865.
April 22, 1865
Booth and Herold after nearly a week out in the open finally got across the Potomac in a
fishing skiff to Gumbo Creek on the Virginia shore. Meanwhile, the search had intensified
north of the Potomac. The Lincoln funeral train arrived in Philadelphia.
April 23, 1865
President Davis at Charlotte, N.C. wrote his wife of the recent disasters and observed
that::"Panic has seized the country." he continued, "the issue is one which
is very painful for me to meet. On one hand is the long night of oppression which will
follow the return of our people to the 'Union'; on the other, the suffering of the women,
and children and carnage among the few brave patriots who would still oppose the
April 24, 1865
General Grant reached Sherman's headquarters in Raleigh and brought with him the news that
President Johnson had disapproved Shermans agreement with Johnston. Sherman was ordered to
give forty--eight hours notice and then resume hostilities if there was no surrender.
Sherman was incensed both by the disapproval and the large amount of material on the
subject in the New York papers including the dispatch of March 3, 1865 from Lincoln to
Grant stating the generals should accept nothing but surrender and should not negotiate
peace. Sherman said he never received the message. The fiery general soon raged against
Stanton and Halleck, claiming he had not gone beyond Lincoln's wishes. While historians
differ, it does seem that Sherman had gone beyond military obligations, and that he did
try to make a peace agreement.
Grant was now under orders to direct military movements and left Sherman to carry them
out. General Johnston was ordered to suspend the truce at once. President Davis approved
Johnston's agreement with Sherman, not knowing it had been rejected by the Union.
John Wilkes Booth and David Herold went to Port Conway VA in escape efforts. Lincoln's
body lay in state in New York City as thousands of mourners filed past.
April 25, 1865
Federal cavalry closed in on Booth and Herold. After receiving various leads the officer
arrive at the Richard Garrett farm about 2:00 A.M. The Lincoln funeral train proceeds to
April 26, 1865
Early in the morning Federal troopers surrounded the barn of Richard Garret. Lt. Col
Everton Conger was in command. Although threatened with hanging, Garrett refused to reveal
that there were two fugitives in his barn. To prevent further inquisition, son Jack
Garrett informed the officers. The barn was surrounded and the suspects ordered out. Davy
Herold surrendered and emerged. Booth was defiant and ranted dramatically. The barn was
set afire to force his surrender. As the flames roared, a shot was fired and Booth fell
dead. Sgt. Boston Corbett is generally credited with shooting Booth. There have been many
deviations from this writing. Booth's body was taken to Washington Navy Yard for
identification, inquest and autopsy. After burial in the Arsenal Penitentiary the remains
were later reburied in Baltimore.
At the Bennett House near Durham, General William T Sherman met again with General Joseph
E Johnston in midafternoon. Final terms of capitulation for troops of Johnston's command
were signed following the formula set by Grant at Appomattox. The same day the terms were
approved by Grant.
All arms and public property were to be deposited by Confederates at Greensborough. Troops
were to give their parole and pledge not to take up arms until released from this
obligation. Side arms of officers and their private horses and baggage could be retained.
All officers and men were permitted to return to their homes. Field transportation was to
be loaned to the troops for getting home and later use. A small quantity of arms would be
retained and then deposited in state capitals. Horses and other private property were to
be retained. troops from Teas and Arkansas were to be furnished water transportation.
Surrender of naval forces with the limits of Johnston command.
Thus the second major army of the Confederate States of of America totaling in all about
thirty thousand men surrendered. The Confederate Cabinet met with President Davis at
Charlotte and agreed to leave that day with the aim of getting west of the Mississippi.
Hundreds of paroled Federal soldiers were on their way home from Vicksburg from prison
camps. Heavily loaded riverboats steamed northward. The Sultana, overcrowded and with
defective boilers was north of Memphis on the Mississippi. In the darkness of early
morning a boiler exploded, hurling soldiers and wreckage into the air. Fire broke out
immediately and the water became full of struggling men, horses and mules. Hundreds died
in the catastrophe. Some 2021 passengers and crew were on board. The loss was officially
at 1238 killed. The Sultana disaster was blamed on faulty boilers. It is one of the most
lethal ship tragedies on recorded...
The train bearing Lincoln's body stops at Rochester and Buffalo N.Y.
April 29-30, 1865
President Johnson removed restrictions on trade in former Confederated territory east of
the Mississippi within military lines. The people of Columbus thronged to view Lincoln's
The Lincoln funeral train arrived in Indianapolis.
It was over.
So much has happened in a short four years...War, death. destruction, a president
assassinated. The shooting had ceased and there was a monetary vacuum everywhere. Pieces
to the puzzle were askew, the people hardly knew how or where to begin again. Southerners
were going home, bitter, relieved, angry, some glad. Many had no homes left to go to so
they began to look westward or abroad.
In Chicago, thousands thronged to the courthouse to pay respects to Lincoln, lying in
President Johnson issued a proclamation accusing President Davis of inciting the murder of
Lincoln and procuring the actual perpetrators. A $100,000 reward was offered for the
arrest of Davis. This accusation is often ascribed to the hysteria resulting from the
assassination. No reliable historian has never connected the confederate President with
the deed. Davis was now at Abbeyville S.C. and the guards carrying the Confederate
Treasury turned it over to him and his Cabinet. In council Davis expressed a wish to try
to continue the war, the others did not.
The Lincoln funeral train reached its destination, Springfield Ill. May 4, 1865, Abraham
Lincoln was buried at Springfield Illinois.
May 10, 1865
Jefferson Davis is arrested by union army. Davis
was taken to Macon GA and thence to Fort Monroe VA where he was imprisoned. At first he
was kept in chains in a cell but eventually conditions improved and his family was allowed
to be with him..He was released May 13, 1867 without trial.
the Grand Armies of the Republic passed in a
last review before the White House. The war was over and the Peace begun. all the
Confederate States surrendered and President Davis had been imprisoned. Yes the war ended
but what is next.? Personal life could be taken up again, if there were no opportunities
at home, there were plenty to the west.
There was the problem of the freed slave. Was the Negro a full citizen? How could or
should he be brought into the stream of national life: slavery was in effect actually
abolished as the Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution received approval by most
states. What would the "New" United States be like.? the headlines of battles
appeared no more, the bulletin boards with casualty lists had ceased.
The United States was "purged by ethnic cleansing." A President was murdered.
The blacks were freed from hundreds of years bondage. Thousands of souls were lost. Now
some 130 or so years later, we can feel the ramifications. Will justice ever be served