May 6, 1865: Executive Order Establishes Military Commission to Try Conspirators

Lincoln Miliary Tribunal

 

 

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago an executive order establishing the military commission to try the accused Lincoln conspirators was issued.  There was some newspaper opposition to not according the alleged conspirators a civil trial, but by and large a military tribunal met with approval throughout the North.  As Commander-in-Chief in time of war it was argued that the murder of Lincoln was a military offense.  Additionally it was pointed out that passions were running so high in the weeks after the assassination that empaneling an unbiased civil jury would have been impossible.   Since the Confederacy was defeated, I can see little justification for trying civilians before a military tribunal in time of peace.  Edward Bates, former Attorney General under Lincoln, and Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, criticized the use of a military tribunal instead having the accused conspirators tried in a civilian court.   Here is the text of the order: (more…)

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May 3, 1865: Lincoln Funeral Train Arrives in Springfield

 

Lincoln’s funeral train arrived in Springfield on May 3, 1865.  His body lay in state at the Capitol as some 75,000 mourners filed past the casket.  Hundreds of people gathered around Lincoln’s house where his horse, “Old Bob”, and his dog, “Fido”, had been brought back for the day.  His burial would be conducted the next day. (more…)

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April 15, 1865: Death of Lincoln

Death of Lincoln

Due to an assassin’s bullet, the story of Abraham Lincoln came to an end one hundred and fifty-five years ago.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, noted in his diary the last few hours of our sixteenth president:

 

 

“The President had been carried across the street from the theater to the house of a Mr. Peterson. We entered by ascending a flight of steps above the basement and passing through a long hall to the rear, where the President lay extended on a bed, breathing heavily. Several surgeons were present, at least six, I should think more. Among them I was glad to observe Doctor Hall, who, however, soon left. I inquired of Doctor Hall, as I entered, the true condition of the President. He replied the President was dead to all intents, although he might live three hours or perhaps longer.

The giant sufferer lay extended diagonally across the bed, which was not long enough for him. He had been stripped of his clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His slow, full respiration lifted the clothes with each breath that he took. His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there. After that his right eye began to swell and that part of his face became discolored.

Senator Sumner was there, I think, when I entered. If not he came in soon after, as did Speaker Colfax, Mr. Secretary McCulloch, and the other members of the cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Seward. A double guard was stationed at the door and on the sidewalk to repress the crowd, which was of course highly excited and anxious. The room was small and overcrowded. The surgeons and members of the cabinet were as many as should have been in the room, but there were many more, and the hall and other rooms in the front or main house were full. One of these rooms was occupied by Mrs. Lincoln and her attendants, with Miss Harris. Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Kinney came to her about twelve o’clock. About once an hour Mrs. Lincoln would repair to the bedside of her dying husband and with lamentation and tears remain until overcome by emotion. (more…)

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April 14, 1865: Toward an Indefinite Shore

Final Cabinet Meeting

 

On Friday April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln and his wife planned to go to Ford’s Theater in the evening.  But first, Lincoln had a day of work ahead of him, which included a cabinet meeting.

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon:

Inquiry had been made as to army news on the first meeting of the Cabinet, and especially if any information had been received from Sherman. None of the members had heard anything, and Stanton, who makes it a point to be late, and who has the telegraph in his Department, had not arrived. General Grant, who was present, said he was hourly expecting word. The President remarked it would, he had no doubt, come soon, and come favorably, for he had last night the usual dream which he had preceding nearly every great and important event of the War. Generally the news had been favorable which succeeded this dream, and the dream itself was always the same. I inquired what this remarkable dream could be. He said it related to your (my) element, the water; that he seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel, and that he was moving with great rapidity towards an indefinite shore; that he had this dream preceding Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc. General Grant said Stone River was certainly no victory, and he knew of no great results which followed from it. The President said however that might be, his dream preceded that fight.

‘I had,’ the President remarked, ‘this strange dream again last night, and we shall, judging from the past, have great news very soon. I think it must be from Sherman. My thoughts are in that direction, as are most of yours.’
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January 13, 1862: Letter From Mudd

 

 

 

Orestes A. Brownson, a Catholic convert, was the greatest Catholic writer of mid-Nineteenth Century America.  He published Brownson’s Quarterly Journal, an influential and popular magazine which examined the political, cultural and literary scene of the America of its time.  One hundred and fifty years ago one of his subscribers sat down and wrote him a letter.  Dr. Samuel Mudd was an unknown figure at the time, but just over three years hence all of America would know his name as the physician who  treated the assassin John Wilkes Booth after he had slain President Lincoln.  Mudd was arrested in the aftermath of the assassination.  Mudd claimed to be completely innocent.  However, at his trial evidence was presented that established that Mudd had contacts with Booth in late 1864.  What they talked about is lost to history.  Evidence by Mudd’s former slaves helped establish that Mudd had been part of the conspiracy.  He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, escaping the death penalty by a single vote.

Mudd was held for four years at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.  During a yellow fever epidemic in 1867 the prison doctor died and Mudd volunteered to take his place.  His efforts helped stem the outbreak and the soldiers at the fort wrote a petition to President Johnson asking for clemency for Mudd:  He inspired the hopeless with courage and by his constant presence in the midst of danger and infection…. [Many] doubtless owe their lives to the care and treatment they received at his hands.  Due to this, and the ceaseless efforts of his defense attorney Thomas W. Ewing, Jr. who was influential with the Johnson administration, on February 8, 1869 Johnson pardoned Mudd.  Since Mudd’s release there have been continuing efforts to clear his name.  In 1992 my former Congressman, Republican Thomas Ewing, co-sponsored with Steny Hoyer, Democrat Maryland, House bill 1885 to overturn the conviction of Mudd.  The bill failed in committee.

Here is the text of Mudd’s letter to Brownson: (more…)

Published in: on January 13, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 13, 1862: Letter From Mudd  
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