Letter from Apr. 15, 1865

Stanton Dispatch to Charles Francis Adams

  • Full Title

    Dispatch, Edwin Stanton to Charles Francis Adams

  • Description

    The official dispatch from U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to Charles Francis Adams, U.S. Minister to the United Kingdom, notifying the latter of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Because the Transatlantic telegraph line was no longer operational, Adams did not receive the news for 11 days.

  • Transcription

    Recd. 26 April, 1865
    Charles Francis Adams
    United States Minister, London
    Washington, DC 15 April, 1865
    Sir.
    It has become my distressing duty to announce to you that last night His Excellency Abraham Lincoln President of The United States, was assassinated, about the hour of half past 10 o’clock, in his private box at Ford’s Theatre, in this city. The President about eight o’clock accompanied Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre. Another lady and gentleman were with them in the box. About half past ten during a pause in the performance, the assassin entered the box, the door of which was unguarded, hastily approached the President from behind, and discharged a pistol at his head. The bullet entered the back of his head, and penetrated nearly through. The assassin then leaped from the box upon the stage, brandishing a large knife or dagger, and exclaiming ‘Sic semper tyrannis!’ and escaped in the rear of the theatre. Immediately upon the discharge the President fell to the floor insensible, and continued in that state until 20 minutes past 7 o’clock this morning when he breathed his last. About the same time the murder was being committed at the Theatre another assassin presented himself at the door of Mr. Seward’s residence, gained admission by representing he had a prescription from Mr. Seward’s physicians which he was directed to see administered and hurried up to the third story chamber where Mr. Seward was lying. He here discovered Mr. Frederick Seward, struck him over the head, inflicting several wounds, and fracturing the skull in two places, inflicting, it is feared mortal wounds. He then rushed into the room where Mr. Seward was in bed, attended by a young daughter and a male nurse. The male attendant was stabbed through the lungs, and it is believed will die. The assassin then struck Mr. Seward with a knife or dagger twice in the throat and twice in the face, inflicting terrible wounds. By this time Major Seward, eldest son of the Secretary, and another attendant reached the room, and rushed to the rescue of the Secretary; they were also wounded in the conflict, and the assassin escaped. No artery or important blood vessel was severed by any of the wounds inflicted upon him, but he was for a long time insensible from the loss of blood. Some hope of his possible recovery is entertained. Immediately upon the death of the President notice was given to Vice President Johnson, who happened to be in the City, and upon whom the office of President now devolves. He will take the office and assume the functions of President to-day. The murderer of the President has been discovered, and evidence obtained that these horrible crimes were committed in execution of conspiracy deliberately planned and set on foot by rebels on pretence of avenging the South and aiding the rebel cause; but it is hoped that the (?) perpetrators will be caught.
    The feeling occasioned by these atrocious crimes is so great, sudden, and overwhelming that I cannot at present do more than communicate them to you. At the earliest moment yesterday the late President called a Cabinet meeting, at which General Grant was present. He was more cheerful and happy than I had ever seen him, rejoiced at the near prospect of firm and durable peace at home and abroad, manifested in a marked degree the kindness and humanity of his disposition, and the tender and forgiving spirit that so eminently distinguished him. Public notice had been given that he and General Grant, would be present at the Theatre, and the opportunity of adding the Lieutenant General to the number of victims to be murdered was no doubt seized for the fitting occasion of executing the plans that appear to have been in preparation for some weeks, but General Grant was compelled to be absent, and thus escaped the designs upon him. It is needless for me to say anything in regard to the influence which this atrocious murder of the President may exercise upon the affairs of this country, but I will only add that, horrible as are the atrocities that have been resorted to by the enemies of the country, they are not likely in any degree to impair the public spirit, or postpone the complete and final overthrow of the rebellion. In profound grief for the events, which it has become my duty to communicate to you,
    I have the honor to be
    Very respectfully
    Your obt. Servant
    Edwin M. Stanton
    [Transcription by Dale Anderson.]

  • Source

    Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State and National Archives, Record Group 84

  • Rights

    This item is in the public domain and may be reproduced and used for any purpose, including research, teaching, private study, publication, broadcast or commercial use, with proper citation and attribution.

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  • Cite this Item

    Edwin Stanton. "Dispatch, Edwin Stanton to Charles Francis Adams". Remembering Lincoln. Web. Accessed July 9, 2020. https://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/node/743