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Horrible–The President Shot!!


March-April 1865

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, April 15, 1865.




His Speedy Death Expected!

Secretary Seward Assassinated!

Fearful Details!

[Special to the Western Associated Press.]

WASHINGTON, April 15—12:30 A. M.—The President was shot in a theatre to night, and is perhaps mortally wounded.


The President is not expected to live through the night. He was shot in a theater.

Secretary Seward Assassinated.

Secretary Seward was also assassinated. No arteries were cut.

The Details.

WASHINGTON, April 15.—President Lincoln and wife with other friends, this evening visited Ford’s theatre, for the purpose of witnessing the performance of Our American Cousin.

It was announced in the papers that General Grant would also be present, but that gentleman took the late train of cars for New Jersey.

The theater was densely crowded and every body seemed delighted with the scene before them. During the third act, and while there was a temporary pause for one of the actors to enter, a sharp report of a pistol was heard, which merely attracted attention, but suggested nothing serious, nutil [sic] a man rushed to the front of the President’s box waving a long dagger in his right hand, and exclaiming “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS,” and immediately escaped from the box, which was in the second tier to the stage, beneath, and ran across to the opposite side of the stage, making his escape amid the bewilderment of the audience, from the rear of the theatre, where he mounted a horse and fled.

The screams of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed the fact to the audience that the President had been shot, when all present rose to their feet, rushing to the stage, many exclaiming, “hang him.”

The excitement was one of the wildest possible description, and of course there was an abrupt intermission of the theatrical performance. There was a rush towards the President’s box, when cries were heard, “stand back, give him air—has anyone stimulants?”

On a hasty examination it was found that the President had been shot through the head, above and back of the temporal bone, and that some of the brain was oozing out.

He was removed to a private house opposite the theater, and the Surgeon General of the army and other surgeons sent for to attend to his condition.

On examination of the private box, blood was discovered on the back of the cushion rocking chair on which the President had been sitting, also on the partition on the floor. A common single barrelled pistol was found on the carpet.

A military guard was placed in front of the private residence to which the President had been conveyed.

An immense crowd was in front of it, all deeply anxious to learn the condition of the President.

It had previously been announced the wound was mortal, but all hoped otherwise.

The shock to the community was terrible.

At midnight the Cabinet, Messrs. Sumner, “Bipley,” and Farnsworth, Judge Bates, Gen. Oglesby, Gen. Meigs, Col. Hays, and a few personal friends, with Surgeon General Barnes and his immediate assistants, were around his bedside.

The President was in a state of syncope, totally insensible, and breathing slowly; the blood oozed from the wound at the back of his head.

The surgeon exhausted every possible effort of medical skill, but all hope was gone.

The partings of the family with the dying President, is too sad for descriptions.

The President and Mrs. Lincoln did not start for the theater until fifteen minutes after eight o’clock.

Speaker Colfax was at the White House at the time. The President stated to him that he was going, although Mrs. Lincoln was not well, because the papers had announced that General Grant was to be present, and as General Grant had gone North he did not wish the audience to be disappointed.

He went with apparent reluctance, and urged Mr. Colfax to go with him, but that gentleman had made other engagements, and with Mr. Ashmun, of Massachusetts, bid him good bye.

When the excitement at the theater was at its wildest h[e]ight reports were circulated that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated.

On reaching this gentleman’s house, a crowd and military guard were around its doors, and on entering it was ascertained that the reports were based on truth.

Everybody was so excited that scarcely an intelligible word could be gathered, but the facts are substantially as follows:

About ten o’clock a man rang the bell and the call having been answered by a colored servant, he said he had come from Dr. Verde, Secretary Seward’s private physician, with a postscript, at the same time holding in his hand a small piece of folded paper, and saying in answer to a refusal that he must see the Secretary, as he was instructed with particular directions concerning the medicine.

He still insisted on going up, although repeatedly informed that no one could enter the chamber.

He pushed the servant and walked heavily towards the Secretary’s room. He was then met by Mr. Fred. Seward, of whom he demanded to see the Secretary, making the same representations which he did to the servant.

What further passed in the way of colloquy is not known, but the man struck him on the head with a billy, severely injuring the skull, and felling him almost instantly.

The assassin then rushed into the chamber and attacked the Paymaster of the United States Army, and Mr. Hansell, a messenger of the State Department, and two male nurses, disabling them.

He then rushed upon the Secretary, who was lying in bed in the same room, and inflicted three stabs in the neck, but severing, it is thought and hoped no arteries, though he bled profusely.

The assassin then rushed down stairs, mounted his horse at the door and rode off before an alarm could be sounded, and in the same manner as in the case of the assassination of the President.

It is believed the injuries of the Secretary are not fatal nor those of the others, though both the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary are very seriously injured.

Secretaries Stanton and Welles, and other prominent officers of the Government, called at Secretary Seward’s house to inquire into his condition, and then heard of the assassination of the President.

They then proceeded to the house where he was lying, exhibiting of course intense anxiety and solicitude.

An immense crowd has gathered around the President’s house, and strong guards were also stationed there, many persons evidently supposing he would be brought to his home.

The entire city to-night presents a scene of wild excitement, accompanied by violent expressions of indignation, and the proundest [sic-profoundest] sorrow. Many shed tears.

The military authorities here have dispatched mounted patrols in every direction, in order, if possible, to arrest the assassin. The whole Metropolitan police are likewise vigilant for the same purpose.

The attacks both at the theatre and at Secretary Seward’s house, took place at about the same hour 10 o’clock, thus showing a preconcerted plan to assassinate these gentlemen.

Some evidences of the guilt of the party who attacked the President are in the possession of the board of police.

Vice-President Johnson is in the city and his headquarters are guarded by troops.


WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, April 15. 1865, 1:30 A M—To Major General Dix:

This evening at about 9:30 P. M., at Ford’s theater, the President while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburne, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.

The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theater.

The pistol shot entered the back of the President’s head, and penetrated nearly through the head. The wound is mortal.

The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now about dying.

About the same hour, an assassin, whether the same or not is unknown, entered Mr. Seward’s apartments, and under pretense of having a prescription, was shown to the Secretary’s sick chamber.

The assassin immediately pushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs in the throat and two on the face. It is hoped the wounds may not be mortal. My apprehension is that they will prove fatal.

The nurse alarmed Mr. Fred Seward, who was in an adjoining room and hastened to the door of his father’s room, where he met the assassin, who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds.

The recovery of Fred Seward is doubtful.

It is not probable the President will live through the night.

General Grant and wife were advertised to be at the theater this evening, but he started for Burlington at six o’clock this evening.

At a cabinet meeting at which General Grant was present, the subject of the state of the country, on a prospect of a speedy peace was discussed. The President was very cheerful and hopeful, and spoke very kindly of General Lee and others, and the Confederacy, and of the establishment of a Government in Virginia.

All the members of the Cabinet, except Mr. Seward, are now in attendance upon the President.

I have seen Mr. Seward, but he and Frederick are both unconscious.

Sec. of War.