Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on this date in 1865. Lincoln died the next morning.
As Atzerodt and Paine fanned out to seek their targets, Booth, a celebrated actor, familiar to everybody who worked at Ford’s Theatre, had no trouble in slipping upstairs during the performance of Our American Cousin. Moving quietly down the aisle behind the dress circle, he stood for a few moments near the President’s box. A member of the audience, seeing him there, thought him “the handsomest man I had ever seen.” John Parker, the Metropolitan policeman assigned to protect the President, had left his post in the passageway, and the box was guarded only by Charles Forbes, a White House footman. When Booth showed Forbes his calling card, he was admitted to the presidential box. Barring the door behind him, so as not to be disturbed, he noiselessly moved behind Lincoln, who was leaning forward, with his chin in his right hand and his arm on the balustrade. At a distance of about two feet, the actor pointed his derringer at the back of the President’s head on the left side and pulled the trigger. It was about 10:13 P.M.
When Major Rathbone tried to seize the intruder, Booth lunged at him with his razor-sharp hunting knife, which had a 7¼-inch blade. “The Knife,” Clara Harris reported, “went from the elbow nearly to the shoulder, inside, — cutting an artery, nerves and veins — he bled so profusely as to make him very weak.” Shoving his victim aside, Booth placed his hands on the balustrade and vaulted toward the stage. It was an easy leap for the gymnastic actor, but the spur on his heel caught in the flags decorating the box and he fell heavily on one foot, breaking the bone just above the ankle. Waving his dagger, he shouted in a loud, melodramatic voice: “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants” — the motto of the state of Virginia). Some in the audience thought he added, “The South is avenged.” Quickly he limped across the stage, with what one witness called “a motion…like the hopping of a bull frog,” and made his escape through the rear of the theater.
Up to this point the audience was not sure what had happened. Perhaps most thought the whole disturbance was part of the play. But as the blue-white smoke from the pistol drifted out of the presidential box, Mary Lincoln gave a heart-rending shriek and screamed, “They have shot the President! They have shot the President!”
Read The New York Times story from the day after the assassination, headlined Awful Event.
On April 26, Booth and co-conspirator David Herold were surrounded while hiding in a tobacco shed in Port Royal, Virginia. Herold surrendered to Union troops, but Booth held out and was shot while the shed burned down around him.
Photo at top is from a Library of Congress exhibit showing the content of Lincoln’s pockets that evening plus a newspaper report of the assassination. Click image for larger version.
It seems to NewMexiKen that the country could use a federal holiday during that long spell from Washington’s Birthday to Memorial Day — for shopping and sales and stuff. I propose that April 13th, Jefferson’s birthday, would be ideal.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13th in 1743. [It was April 2nd on the calendar when he was born, but it’s that old Julian-Gregorian thing again.]
Eighty-three years later, at the end of his remarkable life, he wished to be remembered foremost for those actions that appear as his epitaph:
Author of the
Statute of Virginia
and Father of the
University of Virginia.
At a White House dinner honoring 49 Nobel laureates in 1962, President Kennedy remarked, “I think this is the most extraordinary talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, War President of the United States and the only Chief Executive in history who was chosen for more than two terms, died suddenly and unexpectedly at 4:35 P. M. today at Warm Springs, Ga., and the White House announced his death at 5:48 o’clock. He was 63.
The President, stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage, passed from unconsciousness to death on the eighty-third day of his fourth term and in an hour of high-triumph. The armies and fleets under his direction as Commander in Chief were at the gates of Berlin and the shores of Japan’s home islands as Mr. Roosevelt died, and the cause he represented and led was nearing the conclusive phase of success.
There is an interesting and prescient remark in the article concerning Truman: “He is conscious of limitations greater than he has.”
When called at the Capitol and told he should rush to the White House, Truman is reported to have exclaimed, “Jesus Christ and General Jackson.” Once at the White House, Truman was told of FDR’s death by Mrs. Roosevelt.
The following day, Friday the 13th, is when Truman told several reporters: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when you told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
Information and quotations from David McCullough’s outstanding biography of Truman. Photo from the National Archives via the White House web site.
Warren’s parents were born in Norway (father) and Sweden (mother). Elected governor of California three times (1942, 1946, 1950), Warren was so popular he won both the Democratic and Republican primaries in 1946. The darkest mark against Warren’s public service was the wartime internment of Japanese Americans.
President Eisenhower appointed Warren chief justice in 1953; he retired from the Court in 1969. NewMexiKen considers Warren the most significant historical figure I’ve ever seen in person (briefly at the 1964 New York World’s Fair) — and I’ve seen five presidents.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Abraham Lincoln, a one-term former congressman, spoke at the Cooper Union in New York City on this date in 1860. Many think Lincoln’s “Cooper Union Address” propelled him to the presidency.
American Rhetoric has the speech text, and the audio of a reading in 2004 by Sam Waterston.
Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man – such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care – such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance – such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
No matter what the stores call their sales, the federal holiday today — the reason there is no mail delivery — is Washington’s Birthday. There is no such federal holiday as Presidents’ Day.
If there had been a calendar on the wall the day George Washington was born, it would have read February 11, 1731. In 1752 however, Britain and her colonies converted from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, the calendar we use today. The change added 11 days and designated January rather than March as the beginning of the year. Accordingly, Washington’s birthday became February 22, 1732.
A federal holiday was celebrated on February 22 from its approval in 18791 until legislation in 1968 designated the third Monday of February the official day to celebrate Washington’s birthday.
The states are not obliged to adopt federal holidays, which only affect federal offices and agencies. While most states have adopted Washington’s Birthday, a dozen of them officially celebrate Presidents’ Day. A number of the states that celebrate Washington’s Birthday also recognize Lincoln’s Birthday as a separate legal holiday.2
14 weeks until the next holiday.
1 Washington’s Birthday was the fifth federal legal holiday. Only New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day preceded it. There are 10 now, but Labor Day will be eliminated soon.
2 There is no state holiday today in New Mexico. The state chooses to celebrate Presidents’ Day the day after Thanksgiving.