« AnteriorContinuar »
War Dopartment, Washington. Aprz 20. 1865.
$100,000 REWARD THE MURDERER
Broadside offering reward for the capture of Lincoln's assassin. From an original in possession of the New York Public Library, Lenox Branch.
"Stanton broke the silence by saying: 'Now he belongs to the ages.' Dr. Gurley kneeled by the bedside and prayed fervently. The widow came in from the adjoining room supported by her son and cast herself with loud outcry on the dead body."
Booth had organized a conspiracy to assassinate the president, vice-president, Secretary Seward and General Grant. Seward, an invalid at home, from a severe accident received while out driving, was brutally attacked by one of the conspirators, a young Floridian, named Payne, who effected an entrance into the sick chamber and succeeded in inflicting three terrible wounds on the secretary's cheek and neck, and must have accomplished his purpose had not Seward succeeded in rolling from under the blows of the monster, between the bed and the wall, by which time one of the nurses seized the assassin, who after beating the secretary's son insensible and inflicting dangerous wounds upon the attendants, got away unharmed. General Grant had declined the invitation to join the presidential party and was on his way with Mrs. Grant to visit their children at Burlington, New Jersey, where they were at school. They had reached Philadelphia when news of the assassination reached them, and General Grant at once turned back to Washington.
It was gradually discovered that the conspiracy had many ramifications: the headquarters of the conspirators was at the house of Mrs. Surratt, in Washington.
Andrew Johnson took the oath of office as president; Secretary Stanton, from the moment of receiving news of the assassination, assumed direction of affairs and the new president acceded to the office; the government went on as usual, despite the awful tragedy.
The people of America, North and South, interrupted amidst their rejoicings that peace had come, were stunned by the news of the assassination. That Lincoln, the kindesthearted man in the nation, the best friend of the South, should thus be stricken down seemed incredible. From the moment of his death until now, the whole world mingles in his praises : its tributes to his work and character now make libraries and its eulogies and studies of him have only begun.
No one who lived in those days can efface from memory their shadow and gloom. He sees the emblems of mourning in the street, the flags, draped, at half mast; the shutters of the humblest houses bowed, as if a beloved member of the family were dead. He hears the wailing music and the words of priest and layman spoken in inconsolable grief. And then the mourning pageant: the railroad train draped in black, the multitudes along the route from the White House to the Capitol, beneath whose lofty dome the martyred president lay in state; and then the long, sorrowful journey home to Illinois, over the very route which had been taken when, four years earlier, the president-elect had come to Washington, and to the immeasurable cares and unparalleled responsibilities of his great office.
“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 all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Fallen cold and dead.
“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up for you the flag is Alung—for you the bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowd
ing, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Hear Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
You've fallen cold and dead.
Exult O shores, and ring O bells !
But I with mournful tread,
Fallen cold and dead."
The assassination of Lincoln effected a change in the Northern mind. Throughout the war the North . had looked forward to peace; to the restoration of the Union. It had not looked upon the war as a war for conquest, or mere victory. The North was not and never has been military in character. A strong disloyal element had provoked more bitter feeling than the North had ever dreamed of holding toward the South: a “Copperhead” was a person to be despised; a Confederate soldier was a brave man fighting for a bad cause; the military leaders of the Confederacy were great soldiers, but Jefferson Davis was considered a prince of traitors and conspirators, and the school children sang,
"Hang Jeff Davis to a sour-apple tree,” and the tune was ever that of “John Brown's body.” Yet, at the same time, the children of the South sang the refrain,
"Hang Abe Lincoln to a sour-apple tree," and to the same tune.
But it was the assassination of Lincoln that utterly changed the feelings of the North towards the South. Easily the plain people, unacquainted with the facts of Booth's conspiracy, imputed to the South a general membership in that conspiracy and believed that its real head was Jefferson Davis. However unreasonable and unwarranted the suspicion, it was an easy one for the North to form. In Lincoln it had slowly discovered one of those rare spirits which perhaps twice in human history have visited this world. Lincoln was dead before the North understood him and straightway it apotheosized him. In ancient times he would have been worshipped as a god. But the North felt the solemnity of its conception of duty—to vindicate Lincoln, and nursed its wrath while yet it sat in sackcloth and