Diary from Apr. 15, 1865

Mary Henry Diary

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    Mary Henry Diary

  • Description

    Mary Henry, the daughter of the Secretary of the Smithsonian, recorded her thoughts about the death of Lincoln and provided an extensive discussion of the funeral in Washington.

  • Transcription

    [April] 15th. We were awakened this morning by an announcement which almost made our hearts stand still with consternation. The President was shot last night in the Theater. When the morning paper was issued he was still alive although little or no hopes were entertained of his recovery but now the tolling bells tell us he has ceased to breathe. He is dead. Mr. De Bust has just told Hannah he died at ½ 7 o'clock. Deeply must the country mourn this death for although uncouth & ungainly he was true hearted, magnanimous and kind and in the present crisis ready to follow the such a course with the defeated belligerants as would win them back to their allegiance to the Government and subdue the rebellion in their hearts as well as subjugate their aims. The South has lost in him a good & judicious friend. His successor Johnson heartily desires the death of the leaders of the rebellion & is in every way ultra in his views. I have not given the particulars of the disaster. It was announced in the yesterday's papers that the President with Gen Grant would be at Ford's Theater in the evening and a large crowd collected there in consequence. Gen Grant however left the city before night for N.Y. Mrs. Lincoln had not been well & the President went to the place of amusement with reluctance, not wishing to disappoint the audience. He was received with more than usual applause. About 9½ o'clock a shot was heard which was at first supposed to be from the stage and a man leaped from the President's box upon the stage crying, "Sic semper Tyrannis" "I have done it." and making his way to the door mounted a horse & rode off. The shrieks of Madame Lincoln first announced to the petrified audience the catastrophe which had taken place. The President was found to be in a state of insensibility, shot twice through the head. He was immediately conveyed to a house opposite the theatre followed by Mrs. L. escorted by her friends in an almost frantic condition.

    At the same time of the accident an attempt was also made upon the life of Sec. Seward. The assasin entered the house upon the plea that he had brought a prescription of Dr. Verde the physician of the Sec. He pushed passed the servant into the room of the sick man & after disabling the attendants inflicted several sabre wounds in his neck & then made his escape. Sec. Stanton it is said was warned of the danger and guarded himself against it. The rain is falling heavily and the bells still toll their melancholy tale.

    7 P.M. The sad day of excitement is over. The President's body has been embalmed and lies in state at the White House while the frantic grief of Mrs. Lincoln has settled into an apathetic dejection from which it is impossible to arouse her. The President remained unconcious to the last. The members of the Cabinet, Mrs. & Miss Kinney and Miss Harris surrounded his bed. Dr. Gurley was present & afterwards escorted the bereaved widow to her home. At the request of Mrs. Lincoln, he communicated the mournful intelligence to poor little Tad who was wandering from group to group of the sorrowing attendants endeavoring vainly to find out what was the matter. His cries when he heard that he was Fatherless were exceedingly touching. He has been the most constant companion of the President. Johnson has received the oath of office and seems impressed with the dignity and responsibility of his new office. The assasins have not yet been arrested but the evidence if conclusive that Booth a miserable actor and worthless vagrant, a Son of the great tragedian, committed the deed. That is the murder of the President--the stabbing of Mr. Seward was probably done by an accomplice. Mr. Seward is in a critical position and has not been informed of the death of the President or of the danger of his son, who was so much injured by the assasin that very little hope is entertained of his life. The feeling of resentment at the South as instigating in all probability the murder is deep and I fear will entirely replace the feeling of kindness before entertained for the insurgents. The Southerners if they have countenanced the dreadful deed have fatally mistaken the interest of their cause.

    [April] 17th. The sorrow for the President's death is deep and universal as we went to church yesterday we found all the houses draped in black. In front of the studio of Mr. Baumgrass, a large portrait of Mr. Lincoln was suspended surrounded with the marks of mourning. The church was so thronged with stranger we with difficulty made our way into the building and after standing for some time were provided with seats in the isle. The pulpit and gallery was dressed in black and the Presidents pew was closed and clothed with the same emblem. The Dr. in a short introductory address alluded to the terrible calamity which had befallen the Nation and spoke in terms of true affection of the personal qualities of our beloved chief Magistrate. The Assasins have not yet been found. The feeling against the South is exceedingly bitter. Mr. Seward's wounds are not as serious as was at first supposed and he will probably recover. He was informed last night of the death of the President and of the critical condition of his son still remains in a state of insensibility. The funeral ceremonies are expected to take place on Wednesday.

    [April] 18th. Have just returned from the Kennedys where I passed the night. I went to see Dr. & Mrs. Gurley yesterday afternoon. The Dr. said he had been called to go to the President about 4 o'clock in the morning. He found him in the house opposite the theatre lying insensible upon a bed with the life blood dripping from the wound in his head upon the clothes on the floor beneath. The several members of the Cabinet & other persons were standing around the deepest sorrow depicted upon their countenances. The Dr. went to the bed side but for a while was too much overcome with his feelings to perform the religious services required of him. He went to Mrs. Lincoln and found her in an almost frantic condition. The President died about 7½ o'clock. Dr. Gurley returned to his bed side a few moments before his decease. He made his way through the sorrowing & silent spectators & found him slowly drawing his breath at long intervals lying as before perfectly motionless. A faint hardly perceptable motion in his throat and all was over. So still was the room that the ticking of the President's watch was distinctly heard. After a solemn & impressive prayer, Dr. Gurley went to break the sad intelligence to Mrs. Lincoln who was in the parlor below. She cried out "Oh why did you not tell me he was dying?" Robert Lincoln showed great self possession & calmness and did all in his power to comfort his sorrow stricken Mother. Dr. Gurley went with her to the White House. Some of her expressions are exceedingly painful. To day remains of the good kind man are deposited in the East Room and from an early hour the streets have been thronged with people going to take their last view of him. Sally & Annie Kennedy asked me to go with them but I thought I would rather remember him as I saw him last at the Capitol at the inaugeration. Carry and I are going out again soon, we feel too restless to remain at home. Father writes that the feeling of resentment against the Southerners in New York is bitter in the extreme. One man for an expression indicating want of sympathy in the general sorrow was thrown over the railing of a ferry boat & instantly crushed by the wheels. We expect Father to night. He heard the news shortly after his arrival in New York on Friday night. Capt. Alexander was here this morning. He says he has no doubt that Boothe is concealed in Baltimore. It will be very difficult to catch him being an actor he is accustomed to assume all disguises. The Capt. is firmly convinced that the assassination and attempted murder of Mr. Seward was a plot to destroy the amicable relations springing up between the North and the South through the humane policy of Mr. Lincoln and by substituting a sterner administration and harsher measures against the rebels with increased bitter feeling to unite the South for further resistance. Seward was Mr. Lincoln's chief supporter in his lenient measures.

    The city is in such a state of excitement that the slightest unusual circumstance attracts a crowd immediately. Yesterday afternoon while I was making a call a number of carriages passed the window where I was seated some empty, some filled driving furiously and the street was soon filled with people running eagerly towards N.Y. Ave. not a one of them knowing what was the matter. In a few moments a crowd extending over several squares had collected. After some time it was discovered that two negro women fighting has caused the disturbance. Traces of the assassin have been found and several supposed accomplices in the plot arrested but great fears are entertained that the murderers will escape. A sense of insecurity pervades the community and guards have been placed around the houses of the most prominent citizens.

    [April] 19th Wed[nesday]. To day was the funeral of our good kind President. The ceremonies of the White House were conducted by Dr. Gurley, Dr. Hall, Bishop Simpson and one other clergyman whose name I have forgotten, in the East Room. The catafalco was erected in the centre of the appartment graduated semi circular platforms were arranged around this for the accommodation of the invited attendants. The various delegations had each their place assigned. Father was invited to take part with the officers of the Smith. Inst. and I went with him to the Treasury building were he obtained for me a position upon one of the porticos to witness the procession. Only four or five ladies were admitted into the East Room. It was a beautiful day and as the people collected at the corners of the streets, at the windows & upon the roof of the houses, it was difficult to realize we were not preparing for some gala festival instead of the last sad honours to the well beloved dead. The procession left the White House about 2 P.M. We were notified that it had started by the distant booming of guns & the tolling of bells. The sad sweet strains of the funeral march heralded its approach and soon the military escort appeared marching slowly with bent heads & guns reversed. The sad pagent was two hours in passing. The funeral car was heavily draped with black plainly showing the coffin which was adorned with beautiful flowers. The remains were placed in the Capitol & will be open to the view of the public until Friday morning. They are to be conveyed to Springfield.

    [April] 26th. The remains of President Lincoln left the city yeste Friday morning. Dr. Gurley has joined the company who escort them. The papers this morning contain a description of the manner in which the cortege has been received. Mrs. Lincoln is quite ill and poor little Tad quite inconsolable. Mercy tempered with a great deal [of] severity is approbated to be the policy of the new President in dealing with the rebels.

  • Source

    Smithsonian Institution Archives

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    This item is in the public domain.

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    Mary Henry. "Mary Henry Diary". Remembering Lincoln. Web. Accessed April 21, 2024. https://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/node/551