« AnteriorContinuar »
were used to honor the Anniversary of our Independence of Britain, henceforth associated with the laurels of victory are to be found entwined the sombre weeds of woe, the sighing leaves of the yew tree, and the silently waving branches of the willow.
Assassination stalked a.broad wTith the shadows of that eventful night and
Abraham Lincoln, the respected, revered, and beloved Leader and President, fell beneath the hand of one who had not the courage to look into his manly and honest face and commit the deed, but stealthily and cowardly approached him from behind and fired the fatal shot which deprived the country of its best and purest magistrate since the time of Washington.
During the day, Mr. Lincoln had been unusually cheerful. His heart which entertained "malice toward none and charity for all" was filled with a happiness which he vainly tried to express in words to those around him. His face told more than his lips could utter, and at the Cabinet Meeting held that day, the members remarked that he was more than ever cheerful, and seemed to feel that the great burden which had been weighing so heavily upon his spirits for the four years previous, was at last lifting from his breast.
The hour had come—the long looked for, the often prayed for hour, when the carnage which treason had initiated was stayed, and smiling Peace again furled her wings over a land restored to harmony. Realizing this, as only the patriotic heart of Mr. Lincoln could realize so momentous a fact, he was happy in the fullest and broadest sense of the word. Amid the glad thoughts which rushed like waves of joy through his bosom, there was no one which whispered of the terrible fate which awaited him, the horrible shock which with the next morning's dawn was to strike the rejoicing nation, his own dearly loved people, dumb with grief—speechless with a woe that had no voice for utterance.
Late in the afternoon, the Hon. Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representatives and a warm personal friend of Mr. Lincoln, was with the President. Mr. Colfax had called to pay his last respects to Mr. Lincoln ere setting out on a tour to the Rocky Mountains. The President, ever mindful of the people, requested him to say to the miners of Nevada and the pioneers of the Far West, that he remembered them with much affection, and he desired that they should be encouraged in their purposes to develope the resources of that hitherto but little known region of our Republic. His sole ambition appeared then, as it always had during the war, and through his whole life, to be that of a benefactor to his country.
During the day, President Lincoln had been invited to visit Ford's Theatre in the evening, and it was also announced in the papers that Lieutenant-General Grant would be present. When Speaker Colfax rose to leave the Presidential Mansion, Mr. Lincoln asked him if he would not accompany himself and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre, but Mr. Colfax wishing to leave the city in a few hours, declined the urgent invitation, and shaking hands with the President in earnest farewell, and receiving his kind remembrances for the miners of the Far off West, left never again to see his illustrious friend in conscious life.
Mr. Lincoln, in company with his lady, Miss Harris, daughter of Senator Harris of New York, and Major Rathburn of the IT. S. A., reached the theatre shortly before nine o'clock, and was received with a perfect tempest of applause, the audience rising, cheering and waving handkerchiefs and hats tumultuously. The President acknowledged the compliment by bowing repeatedly from his box, his face exhibiting a radiant pleasure, indicating the gratitude which filled his heart. It was a proud moment, and yet he was a man who felt no pride except in the discharge and accomplishment of duty.
About ten o'clock in the evening, while the play, "Our American Cousin," was progressing, a stranger, who proved to be John Wilkes Booth, an actor of some note, worked his way into the proscenium box occupied by the presidential party, and leveling a pistol close behind the head of Mr. Lincoln, he fired, and the ball was lodged deep in the brain of the President. The assassin then drew a dirk, and cutting right and left with it, he sprang from the box, flourishing the weapon aloft, and shouted as he reached the stage the motto upon the escutcheon of the State of Virginia, "Sic Semper Tyrannis /" The miscreant dashed across the stage, and before the audience or the actors could recover from their amazement and bewilderment, or realize the real position of affairs, the murderer had mounted a fleet horse in waiting in an alley in the rear of the theatre, and galloping off, he escaped for a time.
The screams of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed to the audience the fact that the President was shot, when all rose, many pressing toward the stage, and hundreds of persons exclaiming, "Hang him! Hang him 1" The excitement was of the wildest nature. Many rushed for the President's box, while others cried out, "Stand back I Give him fresh air!" and called for stimulants. It was not known at first where he was wounded, the most of those about him thinking that he was shot through the heart; but after opening his vest, and finding no wound in his breast, it was discovered that he was shot in the head between the left ear and the centre of the back part of the head. In a few moments he was borne to a private house, Mr. Peterson's, just opposite the theatre, where the Surgeon-General, and several prominent physicians and surgeons were speedily summoned. Meanwhile the members of the Cabinet, with the exception of Secretary Seward, whose life had been attempted by an assassin at about the same hour with the President, assembled in the room where the Chief Magistrate of the nation lay dying. Secretaries Stanton, Welles, Usher, Moculloch, Attorney-General Speed, and Assistant Secretaries MaunSell B. Field, of the Treasury, and Judge William T. Otto, of the Interior, together with Speaker Colfax, and several other prominent gentlemen were present. The scene was one of extraordinary solemnity. The history of the world does not furnish a parallel. Quiet, breathing away his life serenely, unconscious of all around, sensible to no pain, lay the great Man of the Nineteenth Century, passing hence to that immortality which has been accorded by Providence to few of earthly mould.
THE DYING SCENES.
All the long, weary night, the watchers stood by the couch of the dying President. From the moment when the fatal bullet entered his brain he never spoke, never evinced any consciousness, but with closed eyes rested in a repose which appeared to be the quiet of death. Mrs. Lincoln and Captain Robert Lincoln several times entered the chamber, but their grief was such that they tarried but a brief time, tender friends urging them to remain in the adjoining room.
Day dawned at length, and the tide of life ebbed more rapidly, and at twenty-two minutes past seven o'clock, on the morning of Saturday, April 15th, 1865, the President breathed his last, closing his eyes as if falling to sleep, and his countenance assuming an expression of perfect serenity. There were no indications of pain, and it was not known that he was dead until the gradually decreasing respiration ceased altogether.
The Rev. Dr. Gurley, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, in Washington, which Mr. Lincoln attended regularly with his family, immediately on its being ascertained that life was extinct, knelt at the bedside and offered an impressive prayer, which was responded to by all present.
Dr. Gurley then proceeded to the front parlor, where Mrs. Lincoln, Captain Robert Lincoln, Mr. John Hay, the President's Private Secretary, and others were waiting, where he again offered prayer for the consolation of the family.
The following minutes, taken by Dr. Abbott, show the condition of the President throughout the night:—11 P.M., pulse 44; 11*05 P.M., pulse 45, and growing weaker; 1M0 P. M., pulse 45; 11-15 P. M., pulse 42; 11-20 P. M., pulse 45, respiration 2T to 30; 11'25 P. M., pulse 42; 11-32 P. M., pulse 48 and full; 11*40 P. M., pulse 45; 11*45 P.M., pulse 45, respiration 22; 12-08 A. M., respiration 22; 12-15 A. M., respiration 21, echmose of both eyes; 12*30 A. M., pulse 54; 12*32 A. M., pulse 60; 12-35 A. M., pulse £6; 12*40 A. M., pulse 69 ; right eye much swollen, and echmose; 12'45 A. M., pulse TO, respiration 2T; 12*55 A. M., pulse 80, struggling motion of arms; 1A.M., pulse 86, respiration 30; 1*30 A. M., pulse 95, appearing easier; 1*45 A.M., pulse 8T, very quiet, respiration irregular, Mrs. Lincoln present. 2*10 A. M., Mrs. Lincoln retired with Robert Lincoln to an adjoining room; 2*30 A. M., the President is very quiet, pulse 54, respiration 28; 2'52 A. M., pulse 48, respiration 30; 3 A.M., visited again by Mrs. Lincoln; 325 A. M., respiration 24, and regular; 3 25 A. M., prayer by the Rev. Dr. Gurley; 4 A. M., respiration 26 and regular; 4-15 A. M,, pulse 60, respiration 25; 5*50 A. M., respiration 28 and regular, sleeping; 6 A. M., pulse failing, respiration 28; 6*30 A.M., still failing and labored breathing; T A. M., symptoms of immediate dissolution; T'22 A. M., death.