Dear Mr. Grant,
It is with a heavy heart that I am writing you, to inform you of the passing of a great man. and dear friend. Last night, at about half past ten, President Abraham Lincoln was shot while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at the theater. I was hopeful that after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, just days ago, that we had seen an end to this violent and bloody war. The events of last night, though, serve as a brutal reminder that we still have many hurdles to overcome before we can again be one nation under God. I must admit I feel partially responsible for what occurred yesterday. Let me see if I can clarify for you what transpired.
I was informed early on the morning of the fourteenth that Mr. Lincoln would be in attendance that evening. I then informed Mr. Booth, who would be playing the main character, of the attendance of the president. He grunted with disdain. When I asked him of his objection he avoided the question and continued to prepare for the evening. His reaction was odd, but not knowing of his sympathy toward the southern cause, I dismissed his attitude as a nasty hangover. In hindsight I was wish I had known. I might have been able to act.
The day passed quickly into the evening. Mr. Lincoln did not arrive till about half way through the show. This did not bother the ushers or I in the slightest, though. Upon the president’s arrival I heard a young boy from the crowd cry, “Mr. President.” “Hail to the chief,” exclaimed the audience as the orchestra began to play for the President. In that moment there was an energy present in the theater that I had not felt since before the war began. The people finally had hope again. The president graciously smiled and sat.
The show continued as usual, with nothing noticeably different from any other performance. As the closing lines of the show approached I looked back into the wings of the stage and noticed that Booth was gone. I motioned for Jonathon, our head usher, and asked, “Where’s Booth gone to?” “Look he’s heading into the presidential box. The president must have asked to see him.” Moments later the sound of gunshot was heard. Jonathon and I ran to see if we could help. “The doors been barricaded,” one of the president’s security detail informs us.
We finally got the door open and the next thing we saw was Booth jumping from the balcony. He hit the stage and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis.” He then proceeded to run off stage. We can hear a loud standing ovation. The audience still thinks, at this point, this all part of our show. Mrs. Lincoln begins shouting, “Stop him!” This is when the audience realizes what has just occurred.
Chaos ensues in the audience as their standing ovation turns to terrified screams. I try to comfort Mrs. Lincoln. “He’s not going to make it,” she sobs. Jonathon gently turns to her and says, “He could not die in better company.” He was, of course, referring to the picture of George Washington placed on the balcony of the presidential box. This was the president’s favorite touch, as Washington reminded him of the type of leader he aspired to be, courageous and decisive.
The president is immediately rushed out of the building. “Get him to a bed,” one of them says. “There’s a doctor living across the street,” another shouts. I’m not sure of the details after he was taken inside Dr. Petersen’s house. All I know after that is that at about twenty after seven in the morning we were informed by Dr. Pertersen of his passing. “We did all we could to recitate his heart, but the wound proved mortal, going very deep behind his left eye.” We are still stunned. A few days ago a peaceful future seemed so secure, and now who can say.
I know at a time like this words are weak and in vain, but I hope that my account of the details may help you to make sense of what has just occurred. Be careful upon your return, as Mr. Booth is still at large. I understand from whisperings that he may try to meet up with President Davis for one final confederate insurgence. I will look forward to meeting with you upon your return.
John T. Ford
Thanks for indulging me readers. I Thought I would have a little more fun with this post.
A huge thanks to the wonderful staff at Ford’s theater for a great experience at the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. If you are interested in visting Ford’s theater check out their website http://www.fordstheatre.org/splash. And don’t miss their run of Freedom Song, May 13-20th.