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

Letter I: The Murder

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Around both the house on Tenth street and the residence of Secretary Seward, as the fact of both tragedies became generally known, crowds soon gathered so vast and tumultuous that military guards scarcely sufficed to keep them from the doors.

The room to which the President had been conveyed is on the first floor, at the end of the hall. It is only fifteen feet square, with a Brussels carpet, papered with brown, and hung with a lithograph of Rosa Bonheur's "Horse Fair," an engraved copy of Herring's "Village Blacksmith," and two smaller ones, of "The Stable" and "The Barn Yard," from the same artist. A table and bureau, spread with crotchet work, eight chairs and the bed, were all the furniture. Upon this bed, a low walnut four-poster, lay the dying President; the blood oozing from the frightful wound in his head and staining the pillow. All that the medical skill of half a dozen accomplished surgeons could do had been done to prolong a life evidently ebbing from a mortal hurt.

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Secretary Stanton, just arrived from the bedside of Mr. Seward, asked Surgeon-General Barnes what was Mr. Lincoln's condition. "I fear, Mr. Stanton, that there is no hope." "O, no, general; no, no;" and the man, of all others, apparently strange to tears, sank down beside the bed, the hot, bitter evidences of an awful sorrow trickling through his fingers to the floor. Senator Sumner sat on the opposite side of the bed, holding one of the President's hands in his own, and sobbing with kindred grief. Secretary Welles stood at the foot of the bed, his face hidden, his frame shaken with emotion. General Halleck, Attorney-General Speed, Postmaster-General Dennison, M. B. Field, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Judge Otto, General Meigs, and others, visited the chamber at times, and then retired. Mrs. Lincoln--but there is no need to speak of her. Mrs. Senator Dixon soon arrived, and remained with her through the night. All through the night, while the horror-stricken crowds outside swept and gathered along the streets, while the military and police were patrolling and weaving a cordon around the city; while men were arming and asking each other, "What victim next?" while the telegraph was sending the news from city to city over the continent, and while the two assassins were speeding unharmed upon fleet horses far away--his chosen friends watched about the death-bed of the highest of the nation. Occasionally Dr. Gurley, pastor of the church where Mr. Lincoln habitually attended, knelt down in prayer. Occasionally Mrs. Lincoln and her sons, entered, to find no hope and to go back to ceaseless weeping. Members of the cabinet, senators, representatives, generals, and others, took turns at the bedside. Chief-Justice Chase remained until a late hour, and returned in the morning. Secretary McCulloch remained a constant watcher until 5 A. M. Not a gleam of consciousness shone across the visage of the President up to his death--a quiet, peaceful death at last--which came at twenty-two minutes past seven A. M. Around the bedside at this time were Secretaries Stanton, Welles, Usher, Attorney-General Speed, Postmaster-General Dennison, M. B. Field, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Judge Otto, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, General Halleck, General Meigs, Senator Sumner, F. R. Andrews, of New-York, General Todd, of Dacotah, John Hay, private secretary, Governor Oglesby, of Illinois, General Farnsworth, Mrs. and Miss Kenny, Miss Harris, Captain Robert Lincoln, son of the President, and Drs. E. W. Abbott, R. K. Stone, C. D. Gatch, Neal Hall, and Leiberman. Rev. Dr. Gurley, after the event, knelt with all around in prayer, and then, entering the adjoining room where were gathered Mrs. Lincoln, Captain Robert Lincoln, Mr. John Hay, and others, prayed again. Soon after 9 o'clock the remains were placed in a temporary coffin and conveyed to the White House under a small escort.

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

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