National Calamity: Lincoln assassination announced with bold headlines
It seems unfathomable that national news of the utmost importance could take over a week to hit the pages of the local newspaper.
But that was the case to people who picked up the April 22, 1865, Warren Mail.
They were met with a bold headline:
THE PRESIDENT SHOT!
The Mail’s first report under that headline was dated April 14, the day that Lincoln was shot.
“President Lincoln and wife, with other friends, this evening visited Ford’s Theater for the purpose of witnessing the performance of the American Cousin. It was announced in the papers that Gen. Grant would also be present, but he took the late train of cars for New Jersey.”
The article is remarkably accurate given the recency of the event.
“The theater was densely crowded, and everybody seemed delighted with the scene before them. During the third act and while there was a temporary pause for one of the actors to enter, a sharp report of a pistol was heard, which merely attracted attention, but suggested nothing serious, until a man rushed to the front of the President’s box, waving a long dagger in his right hand, and exclaiming, ‘Sic semper tyrannis,’ and immediately leaped from the box, which was on the second tier, to the stage beneath, and ran across to the opposite side, making his escape amid the bewilderment of the audience, from the rear of the theater, and mounting a horse, fled.
Sic semper tyrannis translates to “Thus always to tyrants.”
“The screams of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed the fact to the audience that the President had been shot, when all present rose to their feet, rushing toward the stage, many exclaiming ‘Hang him, hang him!,'” the report continued. “The excitement was of the wildest possible description, and of course there was an abrupt termination to the theatrical performance.”
I’ll let the Mail continue to tell the story: “There was a rush toward the President’s box, when cries were heard: “stand back and give him air.” “Has any one stimulants?” On a hasty examination, it was found that the President had been shot through the head, above and back of the temporal bone, and that some of the brains were oozing out. On an examination of the private box, blood was discovered on the back of the cushioned rocking chair on which the President had been sitting, also on the partition and on the floor. A common single-barreled pocket-pistol was found on the carpet.”
Lincoln was taken to a boarding house.
“The President was in a state of syncope, totally insensible, and breathing slowly. The blood oozed from the would at the back of the head. The surgeons exhausted every possible effort of medical skill, but all hope was gone.
“Although Mr. Lincoln had not been well, because the papers had announced that Gen. Grant and they were to present, and, as Gen. Grant had gone North, he did not wish the audience to be disappointed.
“He went with apparent reluctance….”
A 4:10 a.m. report said Lincoln was “insensible and is sinking rapidly.”
By the middle of the night, John Wilkes Booth had been identified as “the one that shot the President
“It appears from a letter found in Booth’s trunk that the murder was planned before the 4th of March, but fell through because the accomplice backed out until Richmond could be heard from.”
Lincoln died early the next morning.
The report included a dispatch that an autopsy was conducted on Lincoln’s body.
“The coffin is mahogany, covered with black cloth, and lined with lead, the latter being covered with white satin. A silver plate upon the coffin, over the breast, bears the following inscription: ‘Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, born July 12, 1809, died April 15th, 1865.'”