Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

By Otto Eisenschiml | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I The Fourteenth of April

THE fourteenth of April 1865, dawning on the city of Washington, found the Capital gaudily bedecked with flags; for on the preceding night, Lee's surrender had been celebrated by a grand illumination. The end of the long war was at last in sight.

In the forenoon a regular meeting of the Cabinet was held, at which General Grant was present as a distinguished guest. The victor of Appomattox Court House was a medium-sized, stoop-shouldered, taciturn man, then at the zenith of his military glory. At the White House he met all the members of Lincoln's official family, except Secretary of State Seward, who had been the President's closest rival at the Chicago Republican convention of 1860. Seward had been thrown from his carriage a few days before and was lying at home under the care of physicians. The framework of steel which encased his face and neck, agonizing though it must have been, was destined that night to save his life.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was there; a kindly- looking man with a long white beard, who was gifted with a shrewd insight into the character of men. Thoroughly loyal to his Chief, and with a finely balanced judgment, he kept close watch on the events of his era and faithfully recorded them in his diary.

The President himself seemed in unusually good spirits. Before the opening of the formal meeting he spoke freely of his plans for reconciling the conquered South. So far as he was concerned, he promised, there would be no persecution; he even hoped that the fallen leaders of the Confederacy would leave the country and thereby make it unnecessary for him to take direct action against them. He then told of a dream that had come to him during the night, the same that had so often in the past

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