The United States of America: A History Book 4: Chapter IX - The Murder of the
WHEN the closing operations against Richmond were being
arranged, President Lincoln went down to General Grant's head-quarters at
City Point. He remained there till Lee's surrender. He visited Richmond on
the day it was taken, and walked through the streets with his little boy in
his hand. The freed slaves crowded to welcome their deliverer. They
expressed iii a thousand grotesque ways their gratitude to the good "Father
Abraham." There had been dark hints for some time that there were those
among the Confederates who would avenge their defeat by the murder of the
President. Mr. Lincoln was urged to be on his guard, and his friends were
unwilling that he should visit Richmond. He himself cared little, now that
the national cause had triumphed.
He returned unharmed to
Washington on the evening of Lee's A surrender. The next few days were
perhaps the brightest in his whole life. He had guided the nation through
the heaviest trial which had ever assailed it. On every side were joy and
gladness. Flags waved, bells rang, guns were fired, houses were lighted up;
the thanks of innumerable grateful hearts went up to God for this great
deliverance. No heart in all the country was more joyful and more thankful
than Mr. Lincoln's. He occupied himself with plans for healing the wounds of
his bleeding country, and bringing back the revolted States to a contented
occupation of their appointed places in the Union. No thought of severity
was in his mind. Now that armed resistance to the Government was crushed,
the gentlest measures which would give security in the future were the
measures most agreeable to the good President.
On the 14th
he held a meeting of his Cabinet, at which General Grant was present. The
quiet cheerfulness and hopefulness of the President imparted to the
proceedings of the council a tone Ion, remembered by those who were present.
After the meeting he drove out with Mrs. Lincoln, to whom he talked of the
good days in store. They had had a hard time, he said, since they came to
Washington; but now, by God's blessing, they might hope for quieter and
In the evening he drove, with Mrs. Lincoln
and two or three friends, to a theatre where he knew the people expected his
coming. As the play went on the audience were startled by a pistol-shot in
the President's box. A man brandishing a dagger was seen to leap from the
box on to the stage, and with a wild cry—"The South is avenged!
"—disappeared behind the scenes. The President sat motionless, his head sunk
down upon his breast. He was evidently unconscious. When the surgeon came,
it was found that a bullet had pierced the brain, inflicting a deadly wound.
He was carried to a house close by. His family and the great officers of
State, by whom he was dearly loved, sat around the bed of the dying
President. He lingered till morning, breathing heavily, but in entire
unconsciousness, and then he passed away.
At the same hour
the President was murdered a ruffian broke into the sick-room of Mr. Seward,
who was suffering from a recent accident, and stabbed him almost to death as
he lay in bed. His bloody work was happily interrupted, and Mr. Seward
The assassin of Mr. Lincoln was an actor called
Booth, a fanatical adherent of the fallen Confederacy. his leg was broken in
the leap on to the stage, but he was able to reach a horse which stood ready
at the theatre door. He rode through the city, crossed the Potomac by a
bridge, in the face of the sentinels posted there, and passed safely beyond
present pursuit. A week later he was found hid in a barn, and well armed. He
refused to surrender, and was preparing to fire, when a soldier ended his
miserable existence by a bullet.
The grief of the American
people for their murdered President was beyond example deep and bitter.
Perhaps for no man were there ever shed so profusely the tears of sorrow.
Not in America alone, but in England too—where President Lincoln was at
length understood and honoured—his loss was deeply mourned. It was resolved
that he should be buried beside his old home in Illinois. The embalmed
remains were to be conveyed to their distant resting-place by a route which
would give to the people of the chief Northern cities a last opportunity to
look upon the features of the man they loved so well. The sad procession
moved on its long journey of nearly two thousand miles, traversing the
States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and
Illinois. Everywhere, as the funeral train passed, the weeping people sought
to give expression to their reverential sorrow. At the great cities the body
lay in state, and all business was suspended.
Springfield was reached. The body was taken to the State House. his
neighbours looked once more upon that well-remembered face, wasted, indeed,
by years of anxious toil, but wearing still, as of old, its kind and placid
Four years ago Lincoln said to his neighbours,
when he was leaving them, "I know not how soon I shall see you again. I go
to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other
man since the days of Washington." He had nobly accomplished his task; and
this was the manner of his home-coming.
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