Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Now He Belongs to the Ages"

Death Scene

April 15, 1865. The president dies.

They found a pulse. The president was unconscious, but still clinging to life. They wanted to move him so the doctors could properly examine him, but the White House was out of the question. Someone suggested Taltavul’s saloon next door, but the owner objected, saying it would not be right for the president to die in a saloon. He was thinking clearly.

Instead, they carried the president from Ford’s Theater to a house across the street owned by tailor William Petersen. They laid the president diagonally across a bed with his head closest to the door. The doctors went to work. The bullet had entered behind the left ear and lodged behind the right eye. They cleared the clotting in the entrance wound, which seemed to improve the president’s respiration and pulse. But there was little else they could do.

Mary Lincoln knew that her husband was dying. She was inconsolable. They sent for Mrs. Elizabeth Dixon, the wife of the Connecticut Senator, who stayed with Mary throughout the night in the front parlor. The president’s oldest son, Robert, made his way to the Petersen House, as did members of the cabinet and government officials.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton set up an interrogation room in the back parlor. He interviewed eyewitnesses and tried to unravel the night’s events. Everything was still so uncertain. There were rumors of a widespread conspiracy.

Secretary of State William Seward had been a target. An assassin had entered his house, tried to kill him and anyone who stepped in his way. Were assassins roaming the city looking to decapitate the federal government?

Stanton stepped in and took control. At 1:30 am, his interviews were complete. An hour and a half later he telegraphed:

Investigation strongly indicates J. Wilkes Booth as the assassin of the President.

Just before 7 am, Mary entered the room one last time. An army surgeon described the scene:

As she entered the chamber and saw how the beloved features were distorted, she fell fainting to the floor. Restoratives were applied, and she was supported to the bedside, where she frantically addressed the dying man. "Love," she exclaimed, "live but one moment to speak to me once—to speak to our children."

At 7:22 am, a doctor put his hands across his chest and whispered, “He is gone.”

Everyone in the room knelt by the bedside and placed their hands on the bed as a minister asked God to accept his humble servant Abraham Lincoln into His glorious Kingdom.

The room remained silent until Stanton proclaimed, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

The president was dead at 56, struck down by an assassin's bullet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Book by Martin Dugard and Bill O'Reilly "killing Lincoln" bring this tragedy to life in all of it horror.