Letter about the Lincoln Assassination
Some years ago we were privileged to acquire this most remarkable letter. It was written by J. Hamilton Beatty, a civilian (we assume) who was in Washington D.C. at the time of the assassination. I will enter it here entirely as he wrote it on 15 April 1865. I will edit in brackets, only when clarity demands it.
Our dear Mother & Sons,
My whole head is sick and whole heart is faint. Oh! The sadness of despair that seems [to] weigh down upon my very soul. I feel that you will want to hear from me concerning the assassination of our most generous and noble hearted President, a calamity to our short sight, irreparable to us as a people and as a nation. And yet God no doubt has permitted this most wicked and foul murder to be committed for the real good of the nation. But it is a dreadful stroke upon already wounded hearts. We have been wading through seas of blood which we have endured almost without a murmer [sic] but this sinks deep down into the heart, blighting as it were all our hopes, leaving us sad indeed.
In Mr. Lincoln all loyal men had perfect confidence. There was no fears entertained as to our liberties. He was a pure patriot governed by no selfish or ambitious policies. He loved our whole country and to have her enjoy peace and brotherly love was his one great aim. It seems to be the general opinion here that the rebels or through their wicked means have murdered their best friend.
Such scenes of mourning I have never seen. I have seen scenes of sorrow and bitter lamentation and have experienced them, but the sad countenances, the deep sighs, the bitter groans that greet you on every hand is almost enough to drive a person mad, nor is this feeling confin[e]d to Mr. Lincoln's political friends alone. I have heard some of his opponents say they could not feel worse had the stroke fallen on a member of their own family.
But there is one class of persons more sorrow stricken than another it is the color[e]d person. They are seen in groups all through the City. I was standing this morning on the corner of the Street near where the President was dying which was guarded by soldiers to keep persons passing along that street where there were quite a number of persons standing waiting if possible to get a sight of his body when it would be taken to the Presidential mansion. Among them were a good many colored persons who were all the time giving vent to their feeling by such expressions as "I am so sorry." "My heart is so sad" &c and their countenances indicated the genuineness of their expressions. During all this time it was raining quite hard but no one seemed to think of rain, the whole soul being absorbed in the one great thought.
This was about half passed seven o'clock A.M. about the time he breathed his last, he was shot about 10 o'clock P.M. the evening before, was never conscious afterwards. The ball entered in the back of the head about three inches from the left ear, rising lodged in the brain. The murder[er] leaped down to the stage and exclaimed "Now the South was avenged" and coated [quoted' motto of Virginia "Sic semper tyrannis" "Thus it is always with tyrants." What a wonderful misapplication when applied to such a man as Mr. Lincoln. No man could be freer from tyranny than he. In fact he was the most generous friend the Southern rebels had. Truly they have murdered the friend of our whole country whose noble heart sympathised [sic] with all classes and conditions of our people.