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back to me by the recent memory-stirring tragedy-the accuracy of which outline I have tested by reference to letters then written by me.
On my way down Tenth street on the night of that fateful 14th of April I observed an unusual throng in front of Ford's Theater. My first intimation of the tragedy was a woman's exclamation: “Oh, it is terrible !" .
“What has happened?" I asked.
“My God, boy!” exclaimed the woman; "haven't you heard ? They've killed the President !"
Seeing a tall, broad-shouldered man gesticulating, I drew near. A late comer, who had heard only part of his story, said: "Begin again and tell us all about it."
STORY OF THE TRAGEDY. Stepping up on the curbstone, the man began: "Well, to begin at the beginning, I was sitting in the gallery right where I could see what was going on in the President's box. About 9 I saw him come in-him. and his wife and some young couple I didn't recognize. When the audience saw him, such a hand-clapping and hurrahing you never heard. It stopped the play. The President bowed to the audience from the box and took his seat; then he turned and said something to his wife that made her smile, and then the play went on again.”
“But how about the shooting?”
“I've just got to that. 'Twasn't long before I heard a pistol shot. First I thought it was part of the play; but when I noticed the actors looking toward the President's box I knew something had happened.
MRS. LINCOLN SCREAMED. “Then I heard Mrs. Lincoln scream; and then I saw a man break away from the young man in the box and jump down onto the stage. Just as he jumped his spur caught in one of the flags and he fell. But he was on his feet again quicker'n a flash, and, turning toward the audience, he shouted something I couldn't quite understand; and then ran behind the scenes, limping as if he'd been hurt.
“There in the box sat the President, his head dropped forward as though he'd fainted; his wife trying to bring him to, and crying and moaning as if her heart would break.
“I rushed downstairs and into the dress circle. A man at the door tried to stop me, but I shook him off, and a minute more I was wedged into the crowd in front of the box door. Some one shouted, 'Gentlemen, stand back and give him fresh air,' and then he asked if any body had any stimulants. Then they carried the President out, across the street to Peterson's, yonder.”
“Could you see his face as they carried him out?"
"Yes, I was that close to him”—measuring the distance with his hands.
"What do you think? Is there any hope?”
Tears started from the man's eyes as he answered: “I don't think; I know."
Then some one asked: “Have they caught the villain yet?"
HUNTED FOR ASSASSIN. “I believe I can find him, if the police can't,” said the tall man, starting for the alley.
A score or more of us followed this born leader of men. We explored every shed, cellarway and passageway in the whole block; but, as the reader knows, the assassin was then well on his way to meet his awful fate.
Finally, abandoning our search, we took our stand, with hundreds of others, in front of the Peterson house. Every little while some one would appear at the door to answer the bell or send a messenger for something. Every time the door opened there was a general movement toward the doorsteps, but the movement was soon checked by the ominous shake of the head, which told us there was no hope.
On the Tuesday following the sad Good Friday the east room of the executive mansion, where lay the remains of the President, was thrown open to the public. All day a slow-moving line of mourners extended from the entrance far down the driveway and into the avenue.
NO SUGGESTION OF HORROR. The serene expression on the pale face in the coffin gave no suggestion of the horror of that last moment of consciousness. I fancied there remained a trace of the smile with which the President had received our enthusiastic greeting four days before his death, on the occasion of his return from Richmond.
The funeral occurred the next day. I vividly recall the long procession slowly moving from the White House to the capitol, between dense masses of humanity, all strangely silent. I can still feel the impressive silence of the dimly lighted rotunda, relieved only by the shuffling of many feet as the line filed past the open casket.
But why should I attempt to narrow this world-including sorrow within the limits of the nation's capital? As your older readers sadly remember, along the way from Washington to Springfield the people gathered in an almost unbroken line, and the tolling of bells was well.. nigh continuous. Cities vied one with another in extraordinary honors paid the dead President. Great states, “as crape-veiled women standing,” tearfully received the nation's dead and tenderly passed on the sacred trust. No echo of that memorable home-coming was lost on the listening world. And even now, after the lapse of nearly fourscore years, every return of spring brings sad memories of that black night and the gray days that followed.
A further account of the tragedy not found in Lincoln's biography has been furnished by a friend of Mr. William Withers, Jr. :
It is a fact familiar perhaps to a very few that Withers, Jr., was the leader of the orchestra of that theater on the night of the assassination, April 14, 1865, and prevented a frightful panic, although he was at the time unconscious of the important service he had rendered the audience. The story of Mr. Withers' experience of that night and the part he took in the proceedings have never been fully told. In the most reliable histories of the war covering the assassination, such as Raymond's, Drake's and Greeley's, Mr. Withers' name is not mentioned, and it has been through his modesty and diffidence that the story is unrecorded. Every reader of the Herald, old or young, is familiar with the fact that the president was shot at about a quarter past 10 o'clock, by John Wilkes Booth, the actor, while sitting in a private box witnessing a performance of “Our American Cousin.” It is also well remembered that the day had been celebrated all over the country on account of the news flashed far and near that Lee had surrendered, and thus virtually ended the war of the rebellion. The cabinet had held a meeting that day, and at the close of the session, which had been remarkably harmonious, the President invited any member of his cabinet who felt so inclined to accompany him to the theater in honor of the events of the previous twenty-four hours; but it seems that none accepted the invitation. The President, Mrs. Lincoln, their son, a pupil of Mr. Withers, Major H. R. Rathbone, Senator Harris and his daughter, Miss Harris, made up the party. They occupied an upper box. When the orchestra heard that the President was to be there, one of the musicians, an Italian named Taltavullo, suggested to Mr. Withers that the orchestra flag, which was the property of the Italian, be used to decorate the front of the box, and it was accordingly raised. Mr. H. P. Phillips also composed a song for the occasion and handed it to Mr. Withers to set music to it. Mr. Withers composed a martial air, rehearsed the music with Miss Laura Keene, the leading lady, the understanding being that the song was to be sung at the close of the second act by Miss Keene, the company joining in the chorus. The words of this song have never been printed. They are as follows, a copy from an old scrap book, written by