Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts

By Roy Edgar Appleman; Abraham Lincoln | Go to book overview

About 6 A. M. I experienced a feeling of faintness and for the first time after entering the room, a little past eleven, I left it and the house, and took a short walk in the open air. It was a dark and gloomy morning, and rain set in before I returned to the house, some fifteen minutes [later]. Large groups of people were gathered every few rods, all anxious and solicitous. Some one or more from each group stepped forward as I passed, to inquire into the condition of the President, and to ask if there was no hope. Intense grief was on every countenance when I replied that the President could survive but a short time. The colored people especially--and there were at this time more of them, perhaps, than of whites-- were overwhelmed with grief.

Returning to the house, I seated myself in the back parlor, where the Attorney- General and others had been engaged in taking evidence concerning the assassination. Stanton, and Speed, and Usher were there, the latter asleep on the bed. There were three or four others also in the room. While I did not feel inclined to sleep, as many did, I was somewhat indisposed. I had been so for several days. The excitement and bad atmosphere from the crowded rooms oppressed me physically.

A little before seven, I went into the room where the dying President was rapidly drawing near the closing moments. His wife soon after made her last visit to him. The death-struggle had begun. Robert, his son, stood with several others at the head of the bed. He bore himself well, but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner. The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals, and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven. Diary of Gideon Welles.


40. WALT WHITMAN SUMS UP LINCOLN

Walt Whitman recorded in his Notebook for 1864 that he raw Lincoln almost daily as he lived at a place the President passed in going to and from his lodgings at the Soldiers' Home outside Washington during the hot and humid season of midsummer. Whitman then goes on to remark, "we have got so that we always exchange bows, and very cordial ones." Fortunately, this great American poet has left us his appraisal of Lincoln's character and personality.

I should say the invisible foundations and vertebra of his character, more than any man's in history, were mystical, abstract, moral and spiritual--while upon all of them was built, and out of all of them radiated, under the control of the average of circumstances, what the vulgar call horse-sense, and a life often bent by temporary but most urgent materialistic and political reasons.

He seems to have been a man of indomitable firmness (even obstinacy) on rare occasions, involving great points; but he was generally very easy, flexible, tolerant, respecting minor matters. I note that even those reports and anecdotes intended

-52-

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