President Abraham Lincoln’s Deathbed, 15th April 1865

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The room in which Abraham Lincoln laid dead. He was brought to this room across from the theater where he was shot in the head. This photo shows the deathbed of Abraham Lincoln shortly after his body was moved. April 1865.
The deathbed of 16th United States President Abraham Lincoln at Petersen House, Washington, D.C., shortly after his body was removed, 15 April 1865. Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It would be a very dark day for America on April 15th, 1865. The newly voted President, a man who championed fairness and justness across the country, was shot and died. Abraham Lincoln, best known for his key role in battling the Confederacy during the American Civil War and eventually abolishing slavery, was shot by John Booth – a Southern Confederate sympathizer. The assassination took place in the Ford Theatre, Washington, before doctors quickly transported Lincolns dying body across the road to the Petersen House for him to rest in his dying moments.

Fighting for his life, this lanky President had to lay diagonally on his deathbed due to his tall height. His blow to the head at the hands of the assassin happened the evening before as the President viewed a theatre play across the street. Booth is noted to have arrived at the theater and headed straight for the booth which Lincoln, his wife, and two others sat in as they enjoyed a rendition of ‘Our American Cousin’. One blow to the head from a derringer pistol would lead to the demise of the President in the hours to come. However, it would not be until the morning that Lincoln was pronounced dead. The picture displays the bed which Lincoln eventually died on, and ultimately where his close family, friends, and cabinet members grieved around come the morning of the 15th.

The President’s assassination would come only days after General Robert Lee’s administration surrendered and gave victory to Ullyses Grants Union force. It would not be till the final battle of the war, days after the death of Lincoln which would see America’s bloodiest war come to an end, and the nation start its unification once more. Lincoln’s death happened on Good Friday, leading many to draw comparisons between Lincoln’s ultimate sacrifice and that made of Christ centuries earlier. This changed the outlook of Lincoln by the people from a divisive ruler to a ruling martyr. His death would send the country into despair and the search for his killer, Booth, became known as the biggest manhunt in the history of the country. Booth would flee to Maryland and go into hiding with fellow conspirators for a few weeks before being eventually found in swampland and shot dead along with his team.

Following confirmation of his death, Lincoln’s body was put into a coffin with a star-spangled banner slung over the top and a hearse took him from the house to the White House for an autopsy. Funeral preparations began immediately for this momentous man, before his open casket was paraded around the country, stopping in New York City, Philadelphia, and eventually back to his hometown in Illinois 16 days later. Millions lined the streets to pay their respects, with the African-American Community particularly hurt by his death due to his revolutionary stance on slavery and civil rights for that period.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton pronounced (with some witnesses claiming potential differences) after Lincoln’s death that he “Now belongs to the ages”, perhaps the most apt way to describe a man who had meant and means so much to America.

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