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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated 150 years ago today

From Harper's Weekly of April 29, 1965. this illustration is by Thomas Nast, and represents Nast's Tribute to the fallen president.  The illustration shows Columbia, or Lady Liberty, kneeling and weeping over Abraham Lincoln's Coffin. The picture also shows a grieving Union Soldier, contemplating the loss of his commander and chief.  Also pictured is a Union Navy man, likewise mourning Abraham Lincoln's death.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won. 
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people are exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. 

~Walt Whitman (1819-1892) ("O Captain! My Captain!," 1st stanza)*

Last known photograph of Abraham Lincoln,
taken by Henry F. Warren on 6 March 1865
Our children will behold his fame,
The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American. 
~James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) (of President Lincoln, Commemoration Ode, 21 July 1865)

Assassination has never changed the history of the world.**

~Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) (in the House of Commons, 1 May 1865, on Lincoln's assassination) 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have born the battle and for his widow and for his orphan, to do all that may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. 

~President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) (Second inaugural address, 4 March 1865)

Lincoln Assassination - Harper's Weekly Illustration
Although he actually died at 0730 the following morning, today is the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) on 14 April 1865, only five days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.*** Lincoln was very fond of the theater, and that evening, he and Mrs. Lincoln - likely in a celebratory mood because of the end of the Civil War - attended a performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin, by English playwright Tom Taylor at Ford's Theater on 10th Street NW in Washington. There, following the intermission, actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth managed to gain access to the Presidential box through a series of security lapses, and shot Lincoln in the back of head with a small pistol. He then jumped down onto the stage, shouted "Sic semper tynannis!" ("Thus always to tyrants!"), and although breaking his leg in the process, made his escape. Booth was ultimately tracked down and killed on 26 April, and four other conspirators were hanged on 7 July 1865.**** 

The Assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre
After the Act, wood engraving from Harper's Weekly, April 29, 1865.
At least in the North, the President's death unleashed a paroxysm of grief. Before funeral services in Washington, he lay in state in both the White House and the Capitol, and the train that slowly bore his body to Illinois for burial stopped in 11 cities for additional viewings by the public. He was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois on 4 May 1865. Perhaps my favorite Lincoln quotation:
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
* N.B. Written by Whitman in 1871 in memory of the assassination of President Lincoln.

** Except that this one probably did, at least in the United States... It led to the many excesses of Reconstruction and lasting bitterness between the North and South.

*** 14 April was Good Friday that year. 

**** Lincoln's assassination was only part of a larger conspiracy which also targeted Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Johnson's intended attacker lost his nerve, but Seward was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack that same night. 

Here's a brief (5 minute) video on the assassination:


Funeral March for Abraham Lincoln written by Major General John Gross Barnard was performed by the United States Marine Band during the funeral procession from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol on April 19, 1865. This youtube version is played with with period illustrations of the obsequies: 


In 1956, an eyewitness (Samuel Seymour) to the Lincoln assassination appeared on "I've Got a Secret": 



Much more at History.com. The rest of the illustrations from the Harper's Weekly issue referenced above are available here.

Based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. eave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his distribution list.

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