Letter from Apr. 16, 1865

Augustus Clark to S. M. Allen

  • Full Title

    Letter from Augustus Clark to S. M. Allen, 16 April 1865

  • Description

    This letter, written by Augustus Clark, a War Department employee, to his uncle, Stephen M. Allen of Woburn, Massachusetts, includes a firsthand account of the awful scenes at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. after John Wilkes Booth had shot Abraham Lincoln. Clark also describes what he witnessed at Petersen's boardinghouse across the street from the theatre, where Lincoln died.

  • Transcription

    [Page 1]

    Ordnance Office, War Department Washington, April 16 1865

    Dear Uncle [S. M. Allen ]

    You have of course heard all the particulars of the
    dreadful death of the President on the 14th inst But as
    I was an eye Witness of the latter part I will endeavor to explain
    matters. At 10¼ Oclock I was looking out of a window of
    a house opposite the theatre and seeing a large excited crowd
    rush from it I thinking some one might have been robbed
    ran down stairs and across the street into the theatre and then
    heard the awful words, "Lincoln is shot"—I sprang off towards
    the stage over the seats every one being in the wildest commotion
    and on reaching it saw a lady reaching over the right
    hand box second tier it was the daughter of Senator Harris of
    N.Y. I clambered up seized her hand and drew myself into
    the box and there on the floor lay Abraham Lincoln dying:—
    his wife near him shrieking and moaning, Major Rathburn
    and a few others near by. Several of us lifted him and
    carried him out to the street and finding his carriage gone
    I said "take him across the street" he was carried into the
    house I had just left, and deposited on a bed, his clothes

    [Page 2]

    stripped off:— he was shot in the head on a line with the
    left ear about 2 inches towards the back of the head,
    the Ball was round and entered about three inches in a
    line towards his right eye—he was breathing very heavily
    and his pulse fluctuated from 105 to 42 in about three hours.
    The blood soon begun to settle under his left eye and blackened
    the whole side of his face. Mrs Lincoln soon came over and
    was hardly sane all night and is now quite low, Laura
    Keene came over with her but did not stop—his [son] came in
    about Eleven and was much agitated. Soon all the members
    of the Cabinet rushed in with grief and terror depicted on
    their faces: many Senators and members arrived during the
    night—the street was cleared of all strangers and a great
    military force stationed around the square. Stanton was there
    issuing orders to all parts of the union and seemed to
    do most of the business. news came about eleven that Seward
    was fearfully stabbed and it seemed to strike terror into the
    hearts of all. Maj. Rathburn was wounded badly in the arm and
    fainted twice before his wound was dressed and he got home.
    Mrs Lincoln came into the room seven times during the
    night and felt dreadfully she fainted twice and fell over onto
    the floor. I remained in the room all night long and did
    all I could to help. The best surgeons were there but no

    [Page 3]

    attempt was made to extricate the Ball as he was pronounced
    fatally wounded at first examination he lingered
    on 'till seven twenty "AM" when he breathed his last in
    presence of the members of the Cabinet several senators
    and others. Mrs Lincoln was not in the room at the time of
    his death. The body at nine oclock was taken to the White
    House and has been embalmed. I got a lock of his
    hair and a towel saturated with the blood of the best
    man that ever was President and a friend of the south.
    They now have a President that will show them no mercy
    and they deserve none. I will enclose a piece of the towel
    for you as a relic.

    The folks are all well and hope this
    will find you family the same. Give my love to all
    and excuse this writing as it is quite late and I am
    very nervous.

    I am as Ever Yours Truly


  • Source

    Massachusetts Historical Society, Special collections, manuscripts

  • Rights

    Use of this item for research, teaching, and private study is permitted with proper citation and attribution, as: From the Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Reproduction of this item for publication, broadcast, or commercial use requires written permission. For permission, please see this web page.

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  • Cite this Item

    Clark, Augustus. "Letter from Augustus Clark to S. M. Allen, 16 April 1865". Remembering Lincoln. Web. Accessed June 21, 2024. https://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/node/287