tv American Artifacts CSPAN April 19, 2015 9:45am-10:16am EDT
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> each week american history tv visits museums and is for places. you are looking at peterson house here in washington, d.c. where president abraham lincoln passed away in april of 1865. up next, the boarding house across the street from ford's theatre where abraham lincoln was shot 150 years ago. >> this is an interesting house that has a great history even before abraham lincoln was assassinated. it was built by a german immigrant to america, william peterson, and he used the house as a boarding house. this is a relic of 19th century civil war boardinghouse culture. once upon a time, everybody lived in boarding houses senators and even vice president.
this house is an important part of and development -- antebellum and the civil war history. i have been coming here for years, making pilgrimages. i started coming here in 1986 when i joined to the reagan administration and i have been coming here for years. and i am very excited that there is going to be a big commemoration for abraham lincoln because in past years i have been alone. no one comes to honor lincoln. i might find one or two people when i sit on the steps of the peterson house and contemplate what happened. departs -- the parks service almost the rest of me sitting on the steps because the guard accused me of being a homeless loiterer, and i tried to
convince them that i had written books and set on the council. the police questioned me and said, how do i know that you are not a homeless man who will damage the house? one of the others came to his senses and said enjoy your evening. i have had quite a time coming to his house which has been abandoned for the public for a long time with this year will be different. lincoln arrived at the theater at 8:00 p.m. nobody at the peterson has noticed lincoln arrived. people were going to the bars and taverns to celebrate the victory of the war. it was a quiet night on the street. the play was underway so the carriage pulled up and stopped in front of the big gaslamp and lincoln went inside. and then around 10:00, 10:15
p.m., the doors to ford's theater opened. people came out screaming. at first some people thought the theater was on fire. then they heard the shots. the president was shot. burn the theater. find the assassin. that got the attention of the members of the boarding house. the first person was george francis who lived on the first floor. he came out and walked into the street and he could only get half way across and people were screaming that the president was dead. he walked right up to the president's body as it was being taken across the street. another border, henry, heard the noise, too. he saw the commotion, and he heard the shouts that lincoln had been shot. he could not get to ford's theater. so many people were outside in the street. so he retreated, came back to the house, and went up the stairs.
he stood of the top of the staircase. he was up there watching as the soldiers pounded on the door of the house next door. they could not get in. he saw there was lincoln in the middle of the street being carried by soldiers and they did not know where to take the president. so he went inside, got a candle, stood at the top of the staircase, and shouted, bring him in here. the doctor heard that and shouted to the officers and soldiers, take the president to that house. so they crossed the street and came up the stairs. and so, as lincoln was being carried up the staircase, he was still alive, unconscious. and the sight of abraham lincoln here at the top of the staircase was the last time the american people saw him alive. the doctor came in this door. and he told saffron, take us to your best room. now, the hallway is narrow. it was already filled with the
lincoln on drugs with -- lincoln entourage, the doctors, the soldiers. there was a narrow staircase on the right. he knew the best room was the front parlor, occupied by george, so he reached for the door here. it was locked. he went down to the second door here. this door was locked. francis was inside frantically getting dressed. she had seen the president being brought to the house through the front windows, so she was already dressed for bed, so she wanted to put on clothes.
they took him into this room and laid him on a spindle bed in the corner. they have no choice but to larry abraham lincoln diagonally. -- lay abraham lincoln diagonally. the doctor ordered people out. he needed to examine lincoln. he knew that he had been shot in the head but he did not know if he had other wounds. please correct him naked and examined him on the bed. -- they stripped him naked and examined him on the bed. almost everybody in the theater had seen john wilkes with the dagger. but lincoln was unwonted except for the shot of a single bullet behind the left ear.
mary lincoln and her entourage came to the front door of the peterson house and went to the front parlor. we will go that way and see what mary lincoln did. when lincoln was first brought into this house he had no bodyguard. the army was not here yet. and so strangers came into the house and observed lincoln and lingered in the hallways. it was not until 15 or 20 minutes later that lincoln was under the protection of the army. the soldiers and officers cleared everyone out that was not known to them. mary lincoln was frantic by then. she came through the house screaming "where is my husband? why didn't he shoot me?" mary lincoln entered this parlor and sat on a horse hair so fa. mary lincoln would spend much of
the night of april 14 and the early morning hours of april 15 here. she did not spend the night at her husband's side, she was with close friends. she could not stand to see her husband wounded and unconscious so much overtime was here. writing, -- of her time was here. crying sobbing. mary lincoln saw harris' dress covered in blood and she began screaming. it was the blood of major rathbone. much of his blood was on his fiancee's dress. mary lincoln was wrong. major rathbone came here and he leaned against the wall in the hallway and assume he collapsed and fainted. -- and soon he collapsed and
fainted. this is where mary lincoln spent much of the night. secretary of war stanton and secretary wells arrived shortly after lincoln was taken here. they had been at the home of secretary of state stewart. i had heard that he had been stabbed to death. he survived the -- they had heard that he had been stabbed to death. he survived the wounds. heard that lincoln was shot show they rushed over here that -- so they rushed over here. the carriage could not push through the crowd. the two most powerful members of the cabinet had to disembark from the ae carriage and pushed their way through. stanton came through this room
and into the back parlor here which was the bedroom. it was here on a table in the center of this room that the secretary of war began the manhunt for john wilkes booth. witnesses from fort's theater were brought here. stanton questions. the union army soldier who knew shorthand sat at this table was stanton and took the first testimony of witnesses who saw john wilkes booth martyr of the president. -- murder the president. stanton spent the night here organizing the manhunt for john wilkes booth. he sent messengers to the telegraph office and from that office messages were brought back here. this room became the command post for the army of the united states under the secretary of war while lincoln was dying in the back room.
stenson was one of lincoln's favorites, he had an iran will. lincoln called him his mars, his god of war. even though they did not get along well before the war lincoln knew that he was his right hand. stinson was the rocky shore on which the -- stianton was the rocky shore on which the rebellion broke. he was barking commands, sending orders to hunt for john wilkes booth on trains. orders went out everywhere. catch the assassin, find him. the manhunt which took 12 days began here before lincoln even died. once word got out that lincoln was here this became the magnetic center of attraction for people in washington. more than 100 people make pilgrimages during the night.
some came because they wanted to help. they knew that stanton would need them. some were friends of murray lincoln. others were journalists that were not allowed to enter the house. thousands of people gathered in front of the house. some try to peek through the windows or hoist others up so they could look and but the blinds were closed. rugby night with regularity officials visitors came to the front door of the peterson house and were admitted to see the dining president. -- throughout the night with regularity official visitors came to the front door of the peterson house and were admitted to see the dying president. some came so that they could tell their grandchildren decades later i was there the night that lincoln died. more people were here than needed to be here.
it was certainly appropriate that the members of the cabinet for here but there were too many people in this little house. mary lincoln would sometimes come out the front door of the parlor and venture to the back. enter female friends escorted her down this hallway. -- and her female friends escorted her down the hallway. the bed had been pulled away from the wall so the doctors who treat lincoln and observe him. several times during the night mary lincoln sat on the chair right here. she really could not control herself. at one point when it sounded like lincoln was gasping and about to die she let out a terrific shriek that so unnerved secretary of war sta nton that he said to take her from the room. she did not have a lot of fans
in washington but it was not right to creature that way in the presence of her dying husband -- treat her in that way in the presence of her dying husband. she was not present when the president died. lincoln later, throughout the night, many men would have died within minutes they shut the way he was, but he rallied. and daylight came. around 6:00 in the morning, the secretary of the navy decided to go for a walk. he had decided that some officials should be at lincoln's side throughout the night in the morning hours. and he really left it to the secretary of war. to question witnesses, to begin the manhunt, begin the investigation to see if other cabinet members were marked for death. and wells was here that night more as a mourner and witness to lincoln, rather than a person who was active in the investigation and the activities
that night. so well's -- wells walked outside. he was astonished to find several thousand people keeping vigil in the streets outside. many of them were black. either freemen who had never been slaves, or freed slaves. many women gathering in silence. and wells was touched by that. by that point, there was no shouting, no screaming. a hushed crowd stood outside. and the asked him, how was the present that. he could answer that. so he came back and buy 6:30 in the morning, it was obvious that lincoln was not going to last much longer. the breathing became labored, less frequent. so the doctors took their pocket watches out because they wanted to mark the moment. and that came at 7:22 a.m. on the morning -- that is when
lincoln's heart made its last beat. the doctors recorded the time. and one of them said, he is dead. he is gone. witnesses say no one spoke for a few minutes. and then the secretary of war said to the reverend, dr., will you speak? he said a prayer for lincoln. and then edward stanton pronounced words that were immortal and remembered wrong for the last 150 years. the secretary of war stood in this room and looked at abraham lincoln's body and said, now he belongs to the angels. we remember today as, now he belongs to the ages. but extensive research has revealed that it is best remembered by the stenographer, whose pencil broke -- his only
lead pencil broke as who's writing down what was said in this room. but he remembers that stanton said angels. it is temperament how he viewed his faith, the world. he wouldn't have said something as profound as, now he belongs to the ages. i have no doubt that he's said now he belongs to the angels. people filtered out of the room one by one. stanton remained here alone with the present it. and at that point, he took a small scissors or a razor and he approached lincoln's body. and he cut off and lock lincoln's hair. not for himself, but for mary jane, the wife of the secretary of the navy. one of mary lincoln's two close friends and washington. and he sealed it in an envelope, wrote her name on it, and later she framed the lock of hair with dried flowers that adorned lincoln's coffin at the white house funeral.
so that was really the first relic take it from -- taken from abraham lincoln in this room. then, it was time to bring lincoln home to the white house. so the secretary of war sent for what was needed to convey -- take the dead body of a president to the white house. soldiers returned from a military shop a few weeks old -- a few blocks away carrying a rectangular, plain hide box. with a screwtop lid. and so, when those soldiers rounded the corner and came up 10th street with that box, the crowd moaned because they knew, intellectually, that the president had died. they saw the cabinet members leaving. but the side effects often was the real reputation of their hopes. so that coffin was taken down this hallway and laid on the floor right here.
and before lincoln's body was placed in a coffin, soldiers took a 35 star flag -- and that lincoln's naked body in the colors of the union. the stars would have been wrapped over lincoln's face. lincoln had ordered that the flag keep its full complement of stars in the civil war to symbolize that the union was permanent. and lincoln would not have minded being placed in that rough hide box. -- pine box. so stanton stood here as the soldiers took a screwdriver and screwed the lid on that box. there was no sound. you could literally hear the squeaking sound of the screws tightening and the lid being placed on. and the president was carried out this room, through that hall, done that curving staircase.
were a simple carriage awaited him at a military escort was there. it was not fancy. there was no bands, no national colors, regimental flags. the officers were all there. and the escorted lincoln home to the white house. that is not the end of the story of this house, the peterson house. once all the government officials had left, was the president body was gone, the house was open. no one was here. it was no longer under guard. anyone could come into this house, and anyone who lived in this house could do whatever they wanted. william peterson was furious that muddy boot tracks had soiled his carpets. and when he came into this room and he saw blood he bellows, bloody sheets, bloody towels, he got so angry he opened one of these windows and through all of that material out of the window into the yard behind. two brothers who lived in the
house, one was a cameraman, a photographer, the other one a painter. and they decided to bring up a bulky camera and photograph the deathbed. it still had many bloody sheets on it, a cover that was on the bed. so, they pushed the bed back into the corner to get a better photograph of the room. and so did -- they set up the camera and pointed the lens towards that end towards this hallway. as they open the front door so the morning light streamed down this hallway. and they took one or two exposures of abraham lincoln's death that, which were lost for a 100 years. i consider that for the graph to be the most vivid and shocking historical photo in american history. no one knows why they did it. they never try to commercialize it. they didn't try to make multiple copies, sell them commercially,
but it is an incredible and touching relic of the mayhem of what happened in this room that night. one interesting thing, even though a photograph was taken in this room shortly after lincoln's body was taken out, or some reason, we haven't discovered any period photographs from 1865 taken of the peterson house after the assassination. people took photographs of the stable where booth kept his horses. they photograph other places associated with the assassination, but for some reason, photographers the net set up their cameras outside of the peterson house and take photos. it is a bit of a historical mystery. i have looked for decades to find period photographs taken of the peterson house but haven't found any. no one i know has found that he. sort of a lingering mystery of the assassination.
interestingly, private william clark came back the next day, the soldier who lived in this room. he was out all night celebrating the union victory. and that night, he slept in the very bed in which abraham lincoln died. he wrote a letter to relatives say, well, i am sleeping in the bed where the president died. the same cover that covered his body now covers me. strangers come, they baked to see the room. if you don't watch them, they tried to steal things. they try to steal little bits of cloth, something from the room. so souvenir hunters were trying to raid this room within hours of the president death. -- president's death. but some of the hell of cases and paolo survived. they are now in the collection of the park service at ford's theatre. and the sheets were all divided up into little swatches and all over the country in the museums and private collections, one can find little swaths of the sheets
that were on abraham lincoln's bed. many of them stayed with his blood. this room looked mary -- very much like it did the night abraham lincoln was taken here and died the next morning. the carpeting is identical, the wallpaper is identical. in fact, a number of artists came to this room and sketch it. we also know from the photographs taken by the brothers with this part of the room looked like. and the bed, of course, is no longer here. that is part of a sad story about the peterson family. in 1871, william peterson was found unconscious on the grounds of this this morning institution -- of the smithsonian institution. he had poisoned himself. the police revived him, and he confessed that he had been
taking the drug often for several years. in 1871 in the front parlor of this house, william peterson's body was laid out. four months after he died, his wife died. nanna died and she, too, was laid out in this house. only six years after abraham lincoln died in their house both petersons were dead. and both were laid out in this very house. interesting footnote, after an is death, and auction company was brought in -- afterann anna's death, and auction company was rotting. and auction took place on the site. the two most expensive things at the auction where the sofa in the front room where mary lincoln spent most of the night. that went for $15. and the better upon -- bed upon which abraham lincoln died sold for $50. which was eight or 10 times what it should have cost as simply a
dad. so an early historian to be near hunter recognized the value of the materials in this house and bought a number of things, including the deathbed and some of the other relics from this back room. that bad later was purchased by a chicago millionaire, charles guenther for $100,000. and it is now into cargo at the old chicago historical society. the peterson house had an interesting history after lincoln died. it was not immediately seized upon as an important national monument. peterson moved back in after a few days. the became a boarding house again. then, a visionary historian, who love abraham lincoln, and was obsessed with honoring lincoln occupied this house. and he created a lincoln museum in the basement and in these rooms.
and for a small price, visitors from all over the country could come to the house where lincoln died which it was known as properly, and come to this room. over decades, tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of americans came and visited this room. it was not until decades later that the national park service to custody of the peterson house and restored it to its original appearance, as it looked on the night abraham lincoln was assassinated. the peterson house is one of my favorite historical sites and washing them. partly because it is not gigantic and grand like abraham lincoln's white house. it is not huge like ford theater , where 1400 or 5000 sat. what i like about the peterson house is the intimacy. when i was working on my books about the lincoln assassination i would often come to the
peterson house. when i knew there would be very few visitors. i have stood in this room any times and imagined what it must've been like to stand here when abraham lincoln was brought down the hallway and laid on the bed in this room. and the emotion and sadness of that night were that morning really comes alive to me when i am in this room. in fact, when i wrote about lincoln coming to the peterson house and dying in this room, i wrote some of my notes while i sit in this room with a notebook and imagined what it must've been like to been here -- to have been here and stand in this spot when abraham lincoln was lying on a bed in this room, and when he died the next morning. i really feel lincoln's presence when i made this house and in this room. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
>> today, ""american history tv" is marking the 150th anniversary of the lincoln assassination. you can find hundreds of programs on president lincoln at c-span class library. here is a look at one of them. >> he was a terrifically successful actor. he was a sign of the most prominent theatrical family in the country. his father had been a great star of the stage, travel the whole country, and his brothers, two brothers, and when and -- were equally distinguished. edwin was probably the greater actor. john wilkes had performed for a number of years. he was only 26 at the time of the assassination. the youngest of the brothers. but was known across the country