the Civil War era never forgot the moment that they learned of
President Lincoln’s assassination.
It was the spring of 1865. Father was coming up the hill, mother
and I were watching for him. Usually he walked with a brisk step,
head up, but now his step was slow, his head dropped. Mother ran
to meet him cry¬ing, "Frank, Frank, what is it?"
I did not hear the answer; but I shall always see my mother turning
at his words, burying her face in her apron, running into her
room sobbing as if her heart would break. And then the house was
shut up, and crape was put on all the doors, and I was told that
Lincoln was dead.
From that time the name spelt tragedy and mys¬tery. Why all
this sorrow over a man we had never seen, who did not belong to
our world my world? Was there something beyond the circle of hills
within which I lived that concerned me? Why, and in what way,
did this mysterious outside concern me?
Ida M. Tarbell,
All in the Day's Work, 11
does not the President call out the women? If there are enough
men? We would go and fight too - we would better all die together.
Let us suffer still more - give up yet more - anything, anything
that will help the cause - anything that will give us freedom
and not force us to live with such people - to be ruled by such
horrible and contempible creatures - to submit to them when we
hate them so bitterly. It is cruel - it is unjust. I used to dream
about peace - to pray for it - but this is worse than war. What
is such peace to us? What horrible fate has been pursuing us the
last six months? Not much farther back than that we had every
reason to hope for success. What is the cause of this sudden crushing
collapse? I cannot understand it - I never loved my country as
I do now - I feel I could sacrifice everything to it - and when
I think of the future - Oh God! It is too horrible. What I most
fear is a cancilistory [conciliatory] policy from the North -
that they will offer to let us come back as before - Oh, no -
no! I would rather we were held as a conquered province - rather
sullenly submit and bide our time. Let them oppress and tyrannize,
but let us take no favors of them. Let them send us away out of
the country - anywhere away from them and their hateful presence.
We are all very wretched…. It seems dreadful to see any
one smile. It seems impossible to utterly despair. If we did we
would be even more miserable than we are. We feel instinctively
that something must happen to avert our doom. It is so terrible
as to be unthinkable. We have been so confident of final success
that we cannot believe we are conquered. What misfortune will
I have to chronicle tomorrow I am too sick at heart to write any
Old Abe Lincoln has been assassinated! It may be abstractly wrong
to be so jubilant, but I just can't help it. After all the heaviness
and gloom of yesterday this blow to our enemies comes like a gleam
of light. We have suffered till we feel savage. There seems no
reason to exult, for this will make no change in our position
- will only infuriate them against us. Never mind, our hated enemy
has not the just reward of his life. The whole story may be a
Yankee lie. The despatch purports to be from Stanton to Sherman
- It says Lincoln was murdered in his private box at the theatre
on the night of the 14th - (Good Friday - at the theatre) The
assassin brandished a dagger and shouting, "Sic semper tyrannis
- Virginia is avenged", shot the president through the head.
He fell senseless and expired next day a little after ten. The
assassin made his escape in the crowd. No doubt it was regularly
planned and he was surrounded by Southern sympathizers. "Sic
semper tyrannis." Could there have been a fitter death for
such a man? At the same hour nearly [Secretary of State William]
Seward's house was entered - he was badly wounded as also his
son. Why could not the assassin have done his work more thoroughly?
That vile Seward - he it is to whom we owe this war - it is a
shame he should escape.
Emma LeConte of Columbia, South Carolina, Diary, 1864-1865, 64-65
I was but four and a half years old when Lin¬coln died, I
distinctly remember the day when I found on our two white gateposts
American flags compan¬ioned with black. I tumbled down on
the harsh gravel walk in my eager rush into the house to inquire
what they were "there for." To my amazement I found
my father in tears, something that I had never seen before, having
assumed, as all children do, that grown up peo¬ple never cried.
The two flags, my father's tears, and his impressive statement
that the greatest man in the world had died, constituted my initiation,
my baptism, as it were, into the thrilling and solemn interests
of a world lying quite outside the two white gateposts.
Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House, p. 33.
hadn't been in Chicago long when the war ended, and a few days
later President Lincoln was assassinated. Then came that long,
strange railroad funeral journey, when they took his body to Baltimore,
Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and a few
other places en route, stopping almost everywhere to let the people
see him in his coffin. When he lay in state in the Court House
in Chicago we - my uncle's family and ours - were among the vast
crowd that filed by his bier . . . . We had to stand in line a
long time and I grew very tired and impatient; but finally we
got in. When we reached the coffin, my uncle lifted me slightly
so that I could look in and see his face, by then sallow and shrunken.
I was tremendously impressed ....
Foy, who was nine years old in 1865, Clowning through Life, 19