Foreign and Colonial IntelligenceThe Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1312, p. 390-391.
April 29, 1865
Of Mr. Seward.
The war news, important as it is, containing notice of the surrender of General Lee, pales before the painful interest of the intelligence brought by the Nova Scotia on Wednesday. President Lincoln has been shot dead in a theatre at Washington, and Mr. Seward stabbed, it is feared mortally, while lying on a sick bed. The murderer of Mr. Lincoln--Wilkes Booth, the brother of the well-known actor Edwin Booth, and himself an actor--has been arrested; but his accomplice, who made the attack on Mr. Seward, has for the time escaped. The whole of New York is draped in black, and there is general mourning throughout the country.
The following official telegram from Mr. Secretary Stanton has been received by the United States Legation in London:--
Sir,--It has become my distressing duty to announce to you that last night (the 14th inst.) his Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, was assassinated, about the hour of half-past ten o'clock, in his private box at Ford's Theatre, in the city (Washington.) The President, about eight o'clock, accompanied Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre. Another lady and gentleman were with them in the box. About half-past ten, during a pause in the performance, the assassin entered the box, the door of which was unguarded, hastily approached the President from behind, and discharged a pistol at his head. The bullet entered the back of his head, and penetrated nearly through. The assassin then leaped from the box upon the stage, brandishing a large knife or dagger, and exclaiming, "Sic semper tyrannis," and escaped in the rear of the theatre. Immediately upon the discharge the President fell to the floor insensible, and continued in that state until twenty minutes past seven o'clock this morning, when he breathed his last.
About the same time the murder was being committed at the theatre, another assassin presented himself at the door of Mr. Seward's residence, gained admission by representing he had a prescription from Mr. Seward's physician which he was directed to see administered, and hurried up to the third story chamber, where Mr. Seward was lying. He here discovered Mr. Frederick Seward, struck him over the head, inflicting several wounds, and fracturing the skull in two places, inflicting, it is feared, mortal wounds. He then rushed into the room where Mr. Seward was in bed, attended by a young daughter and a male nurse. The male attendant was stabbed through the lungs, and it is believed will die. The assassin then struck Mr. Seward with a knife or dagger twice in the throat and twice in the face, inflicting terrible wounds. By this time Major Seward, eldest son of the Secretary, and another attendant reached the room, and rushed to the rescue of the Secretary; they were also wounded in the conflict, and the assassin escaped. No artery or important blood vessel was severed by any of the wounds inflicted upon him, but he was for a long time insensible from the loss of blood. Some hope of his recovery is entertained.
Immediately upon the death of the President notice was given to Vice-President Johnson, who happened to be in the city, and upon whom the office of President now devolves. He will take the office and assume the functions of President to-day.
The murderer of the President has been discovered and evidence obtained that these horrible crimes were committed in execution of a conspiracy deliberately planned and set on foot by rebels under pretence of avenging the South and aiding the rebel cause; but it is hoped that the immediate perpetrators will be caught.
The feeling occasioned by these atrocious crimes is so great, sudden, and overwhelming, that I cannot at present do more than communicate them to you.
Yesterday morning (the 14th inst.) the President called a Cabinet meeting, at which General Grant was present. He was more cheerful and happy than I had ever seen him, rejoiced at the near prospect of firm and durable peace at home and abroad, manifested in a marked degree the kindness and humanity of his disposition and the tender and forgiving spirit that so eminently distinguished him. Public notice had been given that he and General Grant would be present at the theatre, and the opportunity of adding the Lieutenant-General to the number of victims to be murdered was, no doubt, seized for the fitting occasion of executing the plans that appear to have been in preparation for some weeks; but General Grant was compelled to be absent, and thus escaped the designs upon him.
It is needless for me to say anything in regard of the influence which this atrocious murder of the President may exercise upon the affairs of this country; but I will only add that, horrible as are the atrocities that have been resorted to by the enemies of the country, they are not likely in any degree to impair the public spirit or postpone the complete final overthrow of the rebellion. In profound grief for the events which it has become my duty to communicate to you, I have the honour to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,Edwin M. Stanton.
In accordance with the requirements of the Constitution, Mr. Andrew Johnson, the Vice-President, was, on Saturday, sworn in as President. He said:--"The duties are at present mine--I shall perform them; the consequences are with God. Gentlemen, I shall lean upon you; I feel I shall need your support. I am deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion and the responsibility of the duties of the office I am assuming." Mr. Johnson appeared remarkably well, and his manner created a favourable impression. The new President has announced that he will make no changes in the Cabinet.
Mr. Hunter has been appointed acting Secretary of State during Mr. Seward's illness.
The taking of Petersburg and Richmond was quickly followed by the surrender of General Lee. On the 9th inst. he yielded up his whole force (estimated at 25,000 men), to General Grant. The two Generals had been in communication from the 7th as to the terms. Grant pointed out that nothing but surrender was left. Lee, while not agreeing with this, thought it best to stop further effusion of blood, and asked for terms. The terms granted were generous. All officers and men were to go free, on parole not to take arms again until duly exchanged. The officers were to keep their side-arms and luggage;
Page 391but all public property and munitions of war were to be handed over to the Federal authorities. Lee at once accepted the terms, and his army is disbanded.
The joy in the North was, naturally enough very great. The thanks of the Government were telegraphed to General Grant, and salutes of guns were fired.
The Northern newspapers assert that Lee's troops had, for the most part, deserted him before his surrender. He will, it is said, do all in his power to promote peace.
Mr. Jefferson Davis may, perhaps, be of the same mind now; but on the 6th of April he issued a proclamation from Danville declaring that the war would be continued. To all appearance, he will have little support in such a course.
The Federal armies are closing in on Johnston's force, which is the only Confederate army east of the Mississippi. Johnston had evacuated Raleigh, and gone, it was said, to Greensborough. It is not likely, however, that he would be able to hold out there or anywhere else. The report of Federal successes in Alabama is confirmed, and the siege of Mobile is rapidly progressing. Lynchburg, so long the objective point of Federal armies, has surrendered to a scouting party.
President Lincoln, in a speech which he made at Washington, said that recent successes gave hopes of a righteous and speedy peace. Reconstruction would be fraught with great difficulties, which would be increased by any differences of opinion among loyal people. It was "immaterial whether the rebellious States were considered in or out of the Union;" and "all should join in the acts necessary to restore proper practical relations between the rebellious States and the Union." He added that the "adoption of an exclusive and inflexible plan for all the States would become one of entanglement."
The general tone of the Northern press is very conciliatory. The New York Times, however, recommends "the extreme sentence of the law" against Jefferson Davis. The Tribune, on the contrary, advises that the utmost moderation should be exercised towards the Southern leaders.
Several members of the Virginia Legislature, with the assent of the Federal authorities, who promised safe-conducts to the Governor and members of the State Legislature, had issued a summons for an extraordinary session to learn and consider the terms upon which Virginia may be received back into the Union.
President Lincoln had issued a proclamation closing all the Southern ports, with a few exceptions; and another threatening retaliation on the vessels of war of foreign nations if the restrictions on American war-ships consequent on the recognition of the Southern Confederacy as belligerents are not withdrawn.
Secretary Stanton, after consultation with Grant, has decided to stop all draughting and recruiting; to curtail all purchases of arms, ammunition, and supplies; to reduce the expenses of the military establishments and the number of general and staff officers to the actual necessities of the situation; and to remove all military restrictions.