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Lincoln's Last Day

April 14, 1865, was a day of celebration and thanksgiving in the Northern States. After four long years of war General Lee had surrendered, and the capitulation of Johnston's forces was expected soon. President Lincoln had chosen this day as a fitting occasion for again raising the shell-torn flag above Fort Sumter, on the fourth anniversary of its fall into Southern hands.

As a temporary escape from his arduous duties, Lincoln had arranged to attend the play at Ford's Theatre that evening. In the morning he breakfasted with his family; and Robert Lincoln, a captain on Grant's staff who had arrived the day before from City Point, Va., entertained with accounts of life at the front. President Lincoln met with his Cabinet at 11 a. m., the session lasting until 1:30 p. m. The main topic of discussion was the restoration of the Southern States into the Union. During the afternoon the President took a long carriage ride with Mrs. Lincoln and Tad. The drive carried Lincoln to the Navy Yard where he visited the monitor Montauk. Returning to the White House, he spent a pleasant hour with Governor Oglesby and General Haynie, two of his old Illinois friends. After dinner Lincoln visited the War Department and then prepared to go to the theatre. Several people were interviewed from 7:30 to 8 p. m., including Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House, who called by appointment. A congressman from Massachusetts, George Ashmun, called on the President regarding the claim of a client. It was after 8 o'clock and time to go to the theatre. So that Ashmun would be admitted early the next morning, Lincoln wrote on a card "Allow Mr. Ashmun & friend to come in at 9— A.M.—tomorrow. A. Lincoln. April 14, 1865." This was the last writing from the hand of Abraham Lincoln.

The Play—"Our American Cousin"

Tom Taylor's celebrated comedy, "Our American Cousin," was presented at Ford's Theatre on the evening of April 14, 1865. The distinguished actress, Laura Keene, was in the role of Florence Trenchard, a character she had enacted more than 1,000 times. It was announced in the afternoon newspapers that General Grant would accompany President and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre. Although Lincoln was a familiar figure at Ford's Theatre, Grant was almost a total stranger, and Washingtonians were anxious for a glimpse of him. In the hope of seeing General Grant, many persons purchased tickets for the play, and a crowded house was anticipated.

A messenger from the Executive Mansion had come to the box office at Ford's Theatre at 10:30 a. m. on the morning of April 14th and reserved the state box for the Presidential party. Earlier in the morning, General and Mrs. Grant had accepted an invitation from the President to accompany him and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre.


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