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The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth George Alfred Townsend

Letter II: The Obsequies In Washington

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As we sit brooding, with the pall straight before us, the funeral guns are heard indistinctly booming from the far forts, with the tap of drums in the serried street without, where troops and citizens are forming for the grand procession. We see through the window in the beautiful spring day that the grass is brightly green; and all the trees in blossom, show us through their archways the bronze and marble statues breaking the horizon. But there is one at an upper window, seeing all this through her tears, to whom the beautiful noon, with its wealth of zephyrs and sweets, can waft no gratulation. The father of her children, the confidant of her affection and ambition, has passed from life into immortality, and lies below, dumb, cold murdered. The feeling of sympathy for Mrs. Lincoln is as wide-spread as the regret for the chief magistrate. Whatever indiscretions she may have committed in the abrupt transition from plainness to power are now forgiven and forgotten. She and her sons are the property of the nation associated with its truest glories and its worst bereavement. By and by the guests drop in, hat in hand, wearing upon their sleeves waving crape; and some of them slip up to the coffin to carry away a last impression of the fading face.

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But the first accession of force is that of the clergy, sixty in number. They are devout looking men, darkly attired, and have come from all the neighboring cities to represent every denomination. Five years ago these were wrangling over slavery as a theological question, and at the beginning of the war it was hard, in many of their bodies, to carry loyal resolutions, To-day there are here such sincere mourners as Robert Pattison, of the Methodist church, who passed much of his life among slaves and masters. He and the rest have come to believe that the President was wise and right, and follow him to his grave, as the apostles the interred on calvary. All these retire to the south end of the room, facing the feet of the corpse, and stand there silently to wait for the coming of others. Very soon this East room is filled with the representative intelligence of the entire nation. The governors of states stand on the dais next to the head of the coffin, with the varied features of Curtin, Brough, Fenton, Stone, Oglesby and Ingraham. Behind them are the mayors and councilmen of many towns paying their last respects to the representative of the source of all municipal freedom. To their left are the corporate officers of Washington, zealous to make this day's funeral honors atone for the shame of the assassination. With these are sprinkled many scarred and worthy soldiers who have borne the burden of the grand war, and stand before this shape they loved in quiet civil reverence.

Still further down the steps and closer to the catafalque rest the familiar faces of many of our greatest generals--the manly features of Augur, whose blood I have seen trickling forth upon the field of battle; the open almost, beardless contour of Halleck, who has often talked of sieges and campaigns with this homely gentleman who is going to the grave. There are many more bright stars twinkling in contiguous shoulder bars, but sitting in a chair upon the beflowered carpet is Ulysses Grant, who has lived a century in the last three weeks and comes to-day to add the luster of his iron face to this thrilling and saddened picture. He wears white gloves and sash, and is swarthy, nervous, and almost tearful, his feet crossed, his square receding head turning now here now there, his treble constellation blazing upon the left shoulder only, but hidden on the right, and I seem to read upon his compact features the indurate and obstinate will to fight, on the line he has selected, the honor of the country through any peril, as if he had sworn it by the slain man's bier--his state-fellow, patron, and friend. Here also is General McCallum, who has seamed the rebellious South with military roads to send victory along them, and bring back the groaning and the scarred. These and the rest are grand historic figures, worthy of all artistic depiction. They have looked so often into the mortar's mouth, that no bravo's blade can make them wince. Do you see the thin-haired, conical head of the viking Farragut, close by General Grant, with many naval heroes close behind, storm-beaten, and every inch Americans in thought and physiognomy?

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The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth
George Alfred Townsend

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