Lincoln's Death

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The wounded president would not survive. 

At the time, many people felt a theatre was not a proper place for a president to die.  The White House was only six blocks away—but a bumpy carriage ride on Washington’s unpaved streets might kill Lincoln immediately.

Soldiers carried Lincoln down the stairs of the theatre and out onto Tenth Street.

Standing on the Petersen boarding house stoop across the street, Henry Safford had heard the commotion. He knew that Willie Clark, a fellow boarder, was out for the night—and his room was vacant. He yelled to the soldiers, "Bring him in here!" 

In the front parlor, First Lady Mary Lincoln awaited word of her husband, occasionally venturing in to visit him. In the back parlor, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton interrogated witnesses and directed the investigation.

Outside, thousands of people crowded onto Tenth Street and kept vigil through the night. 

President Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865. Mary Lincoln was not in the room with him. Soldiers quickly removed his body to the White House for an autopsy and to prepare for a funeral.

At 11:00 a.m., Vice President Andrew Johnson took the oath of office as the 17th president. 

Follow the events of Lincoln’s last night through the eyes of the people who lived through it.


Photo of Clara Harris courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum.

My dress is saturated with blood; my hands and face were covered. You may imagine what a scene, and so, all through that dreadful night when we stood by that dying bed. Poor Mrs. Lincoln was and is almost crazy.

- Excerpt from a letter to Mrs. Stowe on April 29,1865, from the Lincolns' guest Clara Harris

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