A Nation Oppressed With Sorrow
On Saturday last while the nation was full of rejoicing, it was suddenly plunged to the deepest woe by the following dispatch from the Secretary of War.
April 15, 1865
To Major General Dix:
This evening, about 9:30, at Ford's Theater, the President while sitting in his private box, with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburn, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President. The assassin 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 wound is mortal. The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted and is now about dying.
An eye witness account of the assassination
The following statement by Captain Theodore McGowan, A. A. G. to Gen. Auger may be relied on as a correct version of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln:
On the night of Friday, April 14, 1865, in company with a friend, I went to Ford's theater. Arriving there just after the entrance of President Lincoln and the party accompanying him, my friend, Lieut. Crawford, and I, after viewing the Presidential party from the opposite side of the dress circle, went to the right side and took seats in the passage above the seats of the dress circle and about five feet from the door of the box occupied by President Lincoln. During the performance, the attendant of the President came out and took the chair nearest to the door. I sat, and had been sitting about four feet to his left and rear, for sometime. I remember that a man, whose face I do not distinctly recollect, passed me and inquired of one setting near, who the President's messenger was, and learning, exhibited to him an envelope apparently official, having a printed heading and subscribed in bold hand. I could not notice the address, and did not try. I think I know it was meant for Lieut. Gen. Grant. Then the man went away.
Sometime after I was disturbed in my seat by the approach of a man who desired to pass on up the aisle in which I was sitting. Giving him room, by bending my chair forward, he passed me, and stopped one step down upon the level below me. Standing there, he was almost in my line of sight, and I saw him while watching the play. He stood, as I remember, one step above the messenger, and remained perhaps one minute apparently looking at the stage and orchestra below. Then he drew a number of visiting cards from his pocket, from which with some attention he drew or selected one. These things I saw distinctly. I saw him stoop, and I think, descend to the level with the messenger, and by his right side. He showed the card to the messenger, and as my attention was then more closely fixed upon the play, I do not know whether the card was carried in by the messenger or his consent was given to the entrance of the man who presented it. I saw a few moments after, the same man entering the door of the lobby leading to the box and the door then closing behind him. This was seen because I could not fail, from my position to observe it, the door side of the proscenium box and stage were all within the direct and oblique lines of my sight. How long I watched the play after entering I do not know. It was perhaps two or three minutes, possibly four. The house was perfectly still, the large audience listening to the dialogue between "Florence Trenchard" and "May Meredith," when the sharp report of a pistol rang through the house. It was apparently fired from behind the scenes on the right of the stage. Looking toward it and behind the Presidential box, while it startled all, it was evidently accepted by everyone in the theater as an introduction to some new passage, several of which had been interpolated in the early part of the play. A moment later the man jumped out of the box and landed directly down nine feet onto the stage, and ran rapidly across it, bare-headed, holding an unsheathed dagger in his right hand, the blade of which flashed brightly in the gas-lights as he came within ten feet of the opposite rear exit. I did not see his face as he leaped or ran, but I am convinced he is the man I saw earlier.
As he leaped he cried distinctly the motto of Virginia, "Sic Semper Tyrannis." The hearing of this and the sight of the dagger explained fully to me the nature of the deed he had committed. In an instant he disappeared behind the side scene. Consternation seemed for a moment to rivet everyone to his seat, and the next moment confusion reigned supreme. I saw the features of the man distinctly before he entered the box, having surveyed him contemptuously before he entered, supposing him to be an ill-bred fellow who was pressing a selfish matter upon the President in his hours of leisure. The assassin of the President is about five feet nine and a half inches high, black hair, and, I think, eyes of the same color. He did not turn his face more than a quarter front, as artist term it . His face was smooth, as I remember, with the exception of a moustache of moderate size, but of this I am positive. He was dressed in a black coat, approximating to a dress frock, dark pants, and wore a stiff-rimmed, flat-topped, round-crowned black hat, of felt, I think. He was q gentlemanly looking person, having no decided or obtruding mark. He seemed for a moment or two to survey the house with deliberation of an habitué of the theater.
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