Not everyone will get this right off the top of their head, but 152 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth on the evening of Good Friday, April 14, 1865. The attack in Ford’s Theatre in D.C. came five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, ending the war between the states.
Lincoln was buried May, 4, 1865.
When Lincoln told his bodyguards to take the evening off, he didn’t say “goodnight”, he said “goodbye”.
If you think 1865 was such a long time ago, check out the TV show I’ve Got a Secret in 1956. Listen to the 96-year old man, Samuel J. Seymour, the last witness to the assassination. Your grandparents today could have watched this show. He died two months after his appearance on the show and two days shy of the 91st anniversary of the Lincoln assassination.
Mr. Seymour saw the President across the balcony as he was waving and smiling at people. Seymour said “I began to get over the scared feeling I’d had ever since we arrived in Washington, but that was something I never should have done. All of a sudden a shot rang out—a shot that always will be remembered—and someone in the President’s box screamed. I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat.”
Seymour did not actually see the assassination but did witness Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth jump off the balcony. In fact, he revealed that because he did not know Lincoln was shot or that Booth had shot him, his real concern was for Booth.
From then until now, it was only a moment in time – 152 years is not that long ago.
Another interesting fact concerns a photograph portraying an overhead view of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession as it passed an impressive looking mansion perched on the southwest corner of 14th St. and Broadway in New York City.
There are two young boys looking down at the street below from the second story window as the casket travels past.
In the 1950s, photo historian Stefan Lorant was researching a book on Lincoln when he came across the image dated April 25, 1865. He recognized the house as that of Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of the future President Theodore Roosevelt and his brother Elliott.
He looked closely at the two boys and determined he was looking at the Roosevelt boys, 6-1/2 year old Theodore and 5-year old Elliott.
Lorant was later able to interview Theodore Roosevelt’s widow at Sagamore Hill on Long Island. She had grown up with Theodore and confirmed, “Yes, I think that is my husband, and next to him his brother,” she exclaimed.
“That horrible man! I was a little girl then and my governess took me to Grandfather Roosevelt’s house on Broadway so I could watch the funeral procession. But as I looked down from the window and saw all the black drapings I became frightened and started to cry. Theodore and Elliott were both there. They didn’t like my crying. They took me and locked me in a back room. I never did see Lincoln’s funeral.”
Theodore Roosevelt Sr., a generous philanthropist, served the Union and knew Lincoln and most people of note.
He helped found the New York City Children’s Aid Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital. A participant in the dazzling New York society life, he was described by one historian as a man of both “good works and good times.”
He became somewhat of a fixture at the White House due in large part to his close friendship with Lincoln’s young personal secretary John Hay. The beloved grandfather died in 1878 at age 46 from a painful gastrointestinal tumor that kept him from eating for weeks at a time.
For all those reasons, it would be likely that Theodore would watch the procession. One must wonder how that affected him. He, a Republican like Lincoln, would later become the 26th President of the United States.