A Nation in Mourning, Three Perspectives: The Historian, The Diarist, The Poet

President Lincoln On the morning of April 15, 1865, just six days after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, President Abraham Lincoln died from a wound inflicted by an assassin’s bullet the night before as he sat in the Presidential booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington. In New York City, the Seabury Tredwell family had been in deep mourning for over a month, having lost the family patriarch on March 7.  From a Distance— The Historian, An Old Merchant’s House: Life at Home in New York City, 1835-64, March, 2012

The private grief of the Tredwell family was enveloped and intensified by an outpouring of national sorrow. On April 24, Lincoln’s funeral cortege reached New York City, and over a million New Yorkers watched and wept as a team of six gray horses pulled the class-sided hearse from the dock on the Hudson River to City Hall, now draped with a banner reading “The Nation Mourns.” It was the end of an era. . . .The Federal Republic was giving way to a more centralized nation. Thirty-five thousand miles of railroad had been constructed, telegraph lines had crossed the continent, and the final effort to link the United States to Europe with the transatlantic cable was about to be succeed.

In the Moment—The Diarist. The Diary of Julia Lay, Saturday, April 15, 1965

A special edition of The New York Herald announces the dreadful news.
A special edition of The New York Herald announces the dreadful news.

This morning the sad and mournful intelligence of the death of our beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, who was shot last evening burst upon this city like a thunderbolt. Every face was  pale and many a tear shed for his loss. I walked down the Fourth Avenue and through Broadway below Stewarts with Georgie who could scarcely keep back the tears as we looked first on one flag half mast and draped, then at another. Everywhere flags were edged with black and looped up with crape. Places of business were closed throughout the city in respect of him whom we all so much esteemed.  

Upon Reflection,The Poet—”When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Walt Whitman, Summer 1865

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,

I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,

Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,

And thought of him I love.

2 thoughts on “A Nation in Mourning, Three Perspectives: The Historian, The Diarist, The Poet

  1. Great post. What a terrible day in our history. Isn’t is amazing that all these generations later, we still mourn him?


  2. Of all the commemorative comments I heard and read today, this is the best. One page, three paragraphs, that go from the historical perspective, to the experience of the moment, to the internal emotional reality.


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