“A man of great ability, pure patriotism, unselfish nature, full of forgiveness to his enemies, bearing malice toward none, he proved to be the man above all others for the great struggle through which the nation had to pass to place itself among the greatest in the family of nations. “ (Gen. Ulysses S. Grant)
On April 14th, 1865 President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, went to Ford’s Theater to see a popular play of the time – “An American Cousin.” Mrs. Lincoln had made up a theatre party for the evening with General and Mrs Grant being their guest to see Laura Keene. She was ending her season in Washington that night with a benefit. Sitting in the box with the Lincoln’s were Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris. (Clara was the daughter of New York State Senator Ira T. Harris. Major Rathbone was the son of Jared Rathbone, Albany Mayor and wealth businessman, and Pauline Penny.) Their attendance was a last minute invitation due to General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant had declined the invitation as they had where going north at the time. Here “fate” stepped in which changed their young lives forever. It was during a part of the play when the audience was acknowledging a pleasing part of the dialogue that John Wilkes Booth fired a fatal shot into the president. Lincoln was removed across the street to the Peterson’s House where he later died.
After the state funeral in Washington his casket, with his son’s disinterred coffin, (Willie died 1862 age 11) was placed aboard the funeral train on April 21st. The funeral possession, with some changes, would re-tracing his initial route from Springfield to Washington as he traveled when he became president. On April 25th – 10:55 PM – the train arrived at Rensselaer and the casket was ferried across the Hudson to the State Capitol where it was to lay in state. The assembly chamber at Albany was opened to the public at 1:15 AM .
‘the pushing and hauling of so many people straining to get in at that unusual hour and for the somber purpose was wholly unexpected. Police and militia were present in small details only. The military units had returned to dispersing areas from where many made their way back to the capitol as individuals to swell the already oversized crowds. At better than sixty a minute the anxious multitude trooped through the hushed chamber without let-up.” The mourners passed by for about twelve hours while New Yorkers gathered for the procession marking the casket’s departure from the capital. “At noon on Wednesday, April 26th, Albany’s grand parade got under way with a specially built catafalque, the marchers, the bands, the tolling bells. Today Lincoln was drawn by six white horses.” “All marchers except the hearse itself were on foot including the governor, mayor, public officials, and all delegations. No banners or other devices were permitted, only the national colors, black-bordered, held in the horizontal position. At quarter to four the railroad statin was entered and the casket transferred to the railroad conveyance, and at four o’clock the New York Central’s Lincoln Special steamed out of the capital city of the Empire State.”
New York Secretary of State Chauncey M. Depew later wrote: “I saw him, or what was mortal of him, on the mournful progress to his last resting- place, in his coffin. The face was the same as in life. Death had not changed the kindly countenance in any line. There was upon it the same sad look that it had worn always, though not so intensely sad as it had been in life. It was as if the spirit had come back to the poor clay, reshaped the wonderfully sweet face, and given it an expression of gladness that he had finally gone ‘where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” The face had an expression of absolute content, or relief, at throwing off a burden such as few men have been called upon to bear — a burden which few men could have borne. I had seen the same expression on his living face only a few times, when, after a great calamity, he had come to a great victory. It was the look of worn man suddenly relieved.”
“When leaving Springfield to assume the leadership of the nation, he assured his friends, ” I now leave — with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington; without the assistance of that Divine Being, Who ever attended him, I cannot succeed; with that assistance, I cannot fail.” ” …No man, either before or since, has dared to choose a cabinet without having in it at least one personal friend. In his cabinet, four members as competitors for his nomination, with no harmony of purpose among them, and with each one confident that he was the superior of the Chief Executive! But amid all those waves of discontent, and on that storm-tossed sea of political jealousy, he piloted the great ship of state into the harbor of peace. In that struggle he was forced again and again to prove his courage and to maintain his unbending purpose. With Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville fallen, and Lee, unconquered, pressing Northward, with almost every other great leader in the nation against him, and with threats to force his resignation as President, Lincoln was almost commanded to sacrifice his cause and surrender the Union.”
(From Sermon on Abraham Lincoln preached by The Rev. Willard P. Harmon in the First Congregational Church, Riverhead, NY on Sunday, February 9, 1913. Rev. Harmon was the Congregational Minister in Ticonderoga from late in 1910s to the WWII era. )
O Captain! My Captain!
by Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning:
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen Cold and dead.
Mount Rushmore – Lincoln to 4/26/right
Looking for early New York State history? The Ticonderoga Historical Society’s research library may be the place to start your investigation. The library is well known for its genealogical resources, but it holds a body of reference material that extend into many areas of NYS history. A sample: a collection of NYS laws from the colonial era to the 1930s, many early county histories, NYS Adjunct General reference volumes on the civil war, large collection of NY Historical Association Bulletins and reference material that contain a wealth of NYS focus subjects, maps, early NYS Museum research Bulletins, and so much more. A part of the research and photographs for this article came from our collection – The “Sermon”, by Rev. Williard P. Harmon,” Lincoln Centenary, February 12, 1909,” “The Man Who Made Himself,” newspaper articles – Albany Evening News, “Lincoln Last Day”, by Ida M. Tarbell, “Lincoln as a Lawyer”, Ida M. Tarbell and a THS program presented by Virginia LaPointe, trustee, on Maj Rathbone and Clara Harris. Mount Rushmore, and Springfield photographs by William G. Dolback, THS President taken 2014.
We have just spent three months re-organizing our archives. Seeking volunteers to work on cataloging the collections. If you have an interest in historical records and have the talent for detail work we would like to hear from you.