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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  May 28, 2015 5:48am-6:19am EDT

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cspan network. cspan, saturday at noon, politicians, white house officials, and business leaders offer advice and encouragement to the class of 2015. speakers include former president george w. bush and melody hob son, and former staff members reflect on the presidency of george h.w. bush. sunday at noon more commencement speeches from across the country, with former secretary of state condoleezza rice, and madeleine albright, and mayor michael nutter. events from the book expo america beginning at 10:00 live call in segments with publishers and authors through the day. sunday, on after words looking at the case of hollingsworth v perry which considers the constitutionality of proposition 8, the law allowing same sex
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couples to marry. and a conversation on first ladies with the most impact on the executive mansion. sunday, the life and death of james garfield who served almost two decades as a congressman from ohio and was assassinated 200 days into his term as president. get the complete schedule at each week american history tv visits museums and historic places. this is peterson house in washington, d.c. where president abraham lincoln passed away at 7:2 7:22 a.m. a tour of the boarding house across the street from ford's theater where president lincoln was shot 150 years ago. >> this had a great history even before lincoln was assassinated
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here. this house built in the early 1850s by a german i am grant to america, william peterson. he used it as boarding house, 10 to 12 lived here at a time. this is a relic of 19th civil war boarding house culture. once upon a time, everybody lived in boarding houses, congressmen, senators, vice presidents of the united states lived in group homes. so this house aside from its history being where abraham lincoln died is an important part in civil war washington, d.c. history. aside from the lincoln death house, this is a great museum of immigrant culture in washington and boarding house life in washington, d.c. i have been coming here years, making pilgrimages here. i started coming here in 1986 when i joined the reagan administration and i have been coming here for years. i am very excited that this year for the 150th anniversary there will be a big commemoration for abraham lincoln.
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in past years, i am usually here alone. no one comes here on the night of assassination, no one comes to honor lincoln. i might find one or two here on the steps of peterson house and contemplate what happened. couple years ago, park service almost arrested me sitting on the steps because the guard across the street accused me of being a homeless loiterer. i tried to tell them i wrote a book the anniversary of the assassination, i serve on the ford society council of advisers. two squad cars rolled up and the national park service police questioned me. how do we know you're not a homeless man who's going to damage this house? one of them came to his senses and rolled his eyes and asked me to enjoy the evening. i've had quite a time coming to this house. sadly it's been abandoned by the public for a long time. this year the 150th anniversary is different. lincoln arrived at ford's theater, a: 30 p.m. the play was under way, he was
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late rather no one at the peterson house noticed lincoln arrive. the street was quiet then. people were going to bars and taverns to celebrate the great union victory in the war and surrender of robert e. lee on april 9th. everyone was inside of the theater, the play was under way. lincoln's carriage pulled and up stopped in front of that big gas lamp and lincoln went inside. and then around 10:15 or 10:20 p.m. the doors of ford's theater burst open. first dozens then hundreds then over a thousand people came rushing out those doors screaming. at first some people thought the theater was on fire. then they heard the shouts, "lincoln's been shot, the president's been killed, burn the theater, filed the assassin." the first person who noticed what was happening was a guy named george francis who lived on the first floor of the two front rooms. he came outside and walked into the street and he could only get halfway across. he walked right up to the president's body as it was being
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carried across the street. another boarder on the second floor, henry safford, went outside and he saw the commotion too. he heard the shouts that lincoln had been shot. safford couldn't get to ford's theater there were so many people outside in the street. he retreated, came back to his house, and went up these stairs and stood at the top of the staircase. he was up there watching as the soldiers pounded on the door of the house next door and they couldn't get in. and he saw there was lincoln in the middle of the street being carried by soldiers and they didn't know where to take the president. safford went outside got a candle, stood at the top of the staircase and shouted bring him in here, bring him in here. dr. leo heard that and shouted to the officers and soldiers, take the president to that house. they crossed the street and came up these stairs. and so as lincoln was being carried up the staircase he was still alive. unconscious.
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and the sight of abraham lincoln here at the top of the staircase was the last time the american people saw him alive. so dr. leo came in this door. and he told safford, take us to your best room. now, the hallway's narrow. it was already filled with the lincoln entourage, with the doctors, with the soldiers. and there was a narrow staircase on the right. safford knew the best room was the front parlor occupied by george and hill dads an sister. he reached for the door, it was locked. he went down to the second door here, this door was locked. hilda francis was inside frantically getting dressed. she was already dressed for bed so she wanted to put on clothes. so she didn't unlock this door either. and all that was left was this little room at the back of the
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hallway. which was occupied by a civil war soldier. but he was out for the evening. and so safford led them to this back room here. you can see how narrow the hallway is. there's barely enough room for soldiers to stand on each side of lincoln and carry him down this hallway. and so they took him into this room. and laid him on a spindle bed in the corner. lincoln didn't even fit on the bed, he was too tall. dr. leo ordered soldiers to break off the foot of the bed. but it wouldn't come off because it's integral to the construction of the bed. the bed would have collapsed. so they had no choice but to lay abraham lincoln diagonally across the bed. at that point, too many people were in the room. it was hot. and dr. leo ordered people out. he needed to examine the president. he knew he had been shot in the head. but he didn't know if he had other wounds. so once the doctors were alone they stripped lincoln naked and examined him on this bed.
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as the doctors began their examination of lincoln, they observed that he had no other wounds. they thought he might have been stabbed. because almost everyone in ford's theater had seen john wilkes booth flash that dagger onstage after he leaped from the president's box. lincoln was unwounded but for the shot of a single bullet behind the left ear. as lincoln was lying here on the bed, mary lincoln and her entourage came through the front door of the peterson house and they went to that front parlor. so we'll go that way and see what mary lincoln did. when lincoln was first brought in this house, he had no bodyguards. the army wasn't here yet. so strangers actually came into this house and observed lincoln in that bed. they lingered in these hallways. it was not until 15 or 20 minutes later that lincoln was under the full protection of the u.s. army. they then entered the house and soldiers and officers cleared everyone out who was unknown to them and didn't belong here.
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mary lincoln was frantic by then. she came through that front door screaming, where's my husband where's my husband? why didn't he shoot me? then mary lincoln entered this front parlor. and she sat on of course her sofa in this room. this was the front parlor of the boarders george and hilda francis, who quickly vacated the premises when mary lincoln was brought in. she spent much of the hours of april 14th and early morning hours of april 15 in this this room. she didn't spend the night at her husband's side she spent most of the night here with close friends. she was very upset. she really couldn't stand to see her husband wounded and unconscious. so much of her time was here. crying, sobbing. when clara harris one of her theater guests that night, came in and mary lincoln saw harris' dress covered with blood, mary began screaming my husband's blood, my husband's blood! it was actually the blood of
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major rathbone miss harris' fiance. he had been stabbed by booth he bled heavily, much of the blood was on his fiance's dress. mary lincoln was wrong it was not her husband's blood it was major rathbone's blood. major rathbone came here, he leaned against the wall in the hallway, soon he sat down and collapsed and fainted. he was taken from that floor and taken home. so here's where mary lincoln spent much of the night. secretary of war stanton and secretary of the navy wells arrived at the peterson house shortly after lincoln was taken here. they were first at the home of secretary of state seward. they had heard the secretary of state had been stabbed to death in his bed, and he almost was killed. he survived the wounds. when they got to seward's mansion near the white house they heard that lincoln had been shot here at fd's theater so they rushed over here in a carriage. by the time they got here, thousands of people had gathered at the corner of 10th and f streets and the carriage
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couldn't push through the crowd. so there they were, the two most powerful members of the cabinet commanding the entire united states army and the navy had to disembark from their carriage and disappear into the mob and push their way through and come into this house. so stanton came through this door into this room and he saw mary lincoln here. and he decided he couldn't operate from here in front of the first lady. so stanton came through this room and into the back parlor here. which was the francis' bedroom. and it was here at a table in the center of this room that the secretary of war began the manhunt for john wilkes booth. witnesses from ford's theater were brought here. stanton questioned them. a union army soldier who knew a kind of shorthand sat at this table with stanton. and took the first testimony of witnesses who saw john wilkes booth murder the president. and so stanton spent most of the night here at a table in this room sending telegrams to army
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commanders in new york and throughout the northeast to organize the manhunt for john wilkes booth. throughout the night he sent messengers from this room to the war department telegraph office. and from that office messages were brought back here. so this room really became the command post for the entire army of the united states under the secretary of war while lincoln was dying in the back bedroom. stanton was one of lincoln's favorites. he had an iron will. lincoln called him his mars, god of war. even though they didn't get along well the election, stanton once humiliated lincoln at a trial they staffed together lincoln knew he was his right hand. he once said stanton really was the rocky shore upon which the waves of rebellion crash and are broken. and they were very close. stanton was devastated but he threw himself into the work. so here tonight he was imperious. fearsome. barking commands sending orders all over the country to hunt for
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john wilkes booth. on trains, on boats. the orders went out everywhere. catch the assassin find him. and so the manhunt which took 12 days, began in this room before lincoln even died. once word got out to official washington that lincoln was here this really became the magnetic center of attraction for all important people in washington. over 100 people made pilgrimages here during the night. some came because they wanted to help. they knew stanton would need them or the secretary of navy would need them. some were friends of mary lincoln and they wanted to comfort them. others were journalists who were not allowed to enter the house. and while all this was happening, thousands of people in the street gathered right in front of this house. some tried to stand on tippy toe and peek through the windows or hoist others up so they could look in. but the blinds were closed then and they couldn't see. and so throughout the night with regularity, official visitors came to the front door of the peterson house and were admitted to see the dying president. more than a dozen doctors came.
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they knew they couldn't help lincoln. he had been shot through the brain. some people came because they wanted to see one day that they had been here. they had seen the great lincoln on the night he was assassinated. some came so they could tell their grandchildren decades later, i was there the night lincoln died. and so more people were in this house than really needed to be here. it was appropriate members of the cabinet come. but there were too many people here in this little house as abraham lincoln was dying. so mary lincoln would sometimes come out that front door of the parlor and venture to the back. and her female trends escorted her down this hallway. by then, the bed had been pulled away from the wall. so the doctors could surround it and treat lincoln and observe him. so several times during the night, mary lincoln sat in a chair right here next to the bed pulled away from the wall. she really couldn't control
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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 stanton he said, "take that woman out of this room and don't let her back in again." which was a cruel thing to say. mary lincoln did not have a lot of fans in washington but it was not right to treat her that way in the presence of her dying husband. but she was so upset and unnerved, she really couldn't bear to be in this room. and so she only made a few trips back here throughout the night. and she was not present when the president died. she was sitting in the front room. lincoln lingered throughout the night. many men would have died within minutes of being shot through the head the way he was but he rallied. and daylight came. at around 6:00 in the morning secretary of the navy wells decided to go for a walk. he had decided that some high official should be at lincoln's
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side throughout the night and morning hours. and he really left it to secretary of war stanton to question witnesses, to begin the manhunt, begin the investigation, to see if other cabinet members aside from seward had been marked for death. and wells was here that night more as a mourner and witness for lincoln rather than a person who's active in the investigation and the activities that night. so wells found it hot and oppressive and humid that morning and he walked outside. a light rain had begun. and he was astonished to find several thousand people keeping vigil in the street outside. many of them were black. either free men who'd never been slaves or freed slaves men and women, gathering in silent vigil. and wells was touched by that. the street was silent. by that point there was no shouting, there was no screaming. a hushed crowd stood outside. and they asked wells how is the
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president? what was to happen? and he couldn't answer them. so he came back. by 6:30 in the morning it was obvious that lincoln was not going to last much longer. the breathing became more labored, less frequent. and so the doctors fished pocket watches out of their suit coats. because they wanted to mark the moment when abraham lincoln died. and that came at 7:22 a.m. on the morning of april 15th 1865. that was when lincoln's heart made its last beat. the doctors recorded the time. and one of them said, "he's dead, he's gone." witnesses say no one spoke for a few minutes vr and then secretary of war stanton said to the reverend dr. gurley, lincoln's minister, "doctor, will you speak?" he said a prayer for lincoln. and then edwin stanton pronounced words that really
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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 it today as now he belongs to the ages. but extensive research has revealed that it's best remembered by the stenographer tanner, whose pencil broke, his only lead pencil broke as he was writing down what was said in this room, but he remembered that stanton said angels. plus it's characteristic of stanton's temperament, how he viewed his faith, how he viewed the world. he wouldn't have said something as profound as "now he belongs to the ages." i have no doubt that in this room stanton said, "now he belongs to the angels." people filtered out of the room one by one. stanton remained here alone with the president. and at that point, he took a small scissors or razor and he approached lincoln's body.
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and he cut off a lock of lincoln's hair. not for himself but for mary jane wells the wife of the secretary of the navy. one of mary lincoln's few close friends in washington. and he sealed in an envelope, wrote her name on it, and later mrs. wells framed the lock of hair with dried flowers that adorned lincoln's coffin at the white house funeral. and so that was really the first blood relic taken from abraham lincoln in this room by secretary of war stanton. then it was time to bring lincoln home to the white house. so the secretary of war sent for what was needed to convey the body of a dead president home to the white house. soldiers were sent. and they returned from a military shop a few blocks away carrying a rectangular plain pine box. an ammunition crate, a rifle crate, with a screw-top lid.
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so when those soldiers rounded the corner and came up 10th street with that box the crowd moaned. because they knew intellect actually that the president had died. they saw the cabinet members leaving. they knew. but the sight of that coffin was the real refewtation of their hopes that lincoln could live. so that coffin was taken down this hallway and laid on the floor right here. and before lincoln's body was placed in the coffin, soldiers took a 35-star flag, possibly a 36-star flag, for the final state added to the union in the civil war, and they wrapped lincoln's naked body in the colors of the union. and if they followed tradition, the stars would have been wrapped over lincoln's face. lincoln had ordered that the flag keep its full complement of stars during the civil war to symbolize that the union was permanent. and lincoln would not have minded being placed in that rough pine box. there was really -- the
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rough-hewn coffin for a rail splitter. 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 creeking sound of the screws tightening and the lid being placed on. then the president was carried out this room through that hall to the front door and down that curving staircase. where a simple carriage awaited him and a military escort was there. it was not fancy. there was no band, there were no national colors, regimental flags. the officers were all bare headed. and they escorted lincoln home to the white house. that's not the end of the story of this house, the peterson house. once all the government officials had left, once the president's body was gone once stanton left, 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
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this house could do whatever they wanted in this room. william peterson was furious that muddy boot tracks had sailed his carpet. when he came into this room and he saw bloody pillows, bloody sheets, bloody towels, bloody handkerchiefs, he got so angry he opened one of these windows and threw a lot of that material out the window into the yard behind. two bodiers whoy ers boarders who lived in the house, two brothers. one was a cameraman photographer, one was a painter. they decided to bring up a bulky camera and photograph the deathbed. it still had many bloody sheets on it, bloody pillows, a coverlet was on the bed. they pushed the bed back into the corner to get a better photograph of the room. so they set up the camera at the end of the room and pointed the lens towards the bed and towards this hallway. and they opened the front door so the morning light streamed down this hallway.
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and they took one or two exposures of abraham lincoln's death bed which were lost for almost 100 years. i consider that photograph to be the most vivid and shocking and sad historical photograph in american history. no one knows why they did it. they never tried to commercialize it. they didn't try to make multiple copies sell them commercially. but it's 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, for some reason we haven't discovered any period photographs from 1865 taken of the peterson house after the assassination. matthew brady went inside ford's theater and took a number of photographs. people took photographs of the stable where booth kept his horses. they photographed other places associated with the assassination. but for some reason photographers did not set up
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their cameras in front of the peterson house and take photos the day lincoln died or the day after, the week after. it's a bit of a historical mystery. i've looked for decades to find period photographs taken of the peterson house shortly after lincoln died. but haven't found any and no one i know has found any. it's just one of the little lingering mysteries 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 saying, well, i'm sleeping in the bed where the president died, the same coverlet that covered his body now covers me. strangers come, they beg to see the room they offer money to come and view the room. if you don't watch them they try to steal things. they try to steal little bits of cloth, the sheets steal something from the room. and so souvenir hunters were trying to raid this room within
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hours of the president's death. the coverlet is long gone stolen at the illinois state fair at the turn of the century. but some of the pillow cases and pillows survive. they're now in the collection of the park service at ford's theater. and the sheets were all divided up into little swatches and all over the country in museums and private collections, one can find little swatches of the sheets that were on abraham lincoln's bed, many of them stained with his blood. this room looks very much like it did the night abraham lincoln was brought here and died the next morning. the prints are the same ones that were on the walls that night. the carpeting is identical. the wallpaper is identical. in fact, a number of artists came to this room and sketched it and also described it. we also know from the photograph taken by the oakey brothers what this part of the room looked like. and the bed, of course, is no
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longer here. and that's part of a sad story about the peterson family. in 1871, william peterson was found unconscious on the grounds of the smithsonian institution. the old castle. he had poisoned himself with laudanum. the police revived him and he confessed that he had been taking laudanum often for several years and he died. so in 1871, in the front parlor of this house, william peterson's body was laid out. four months after he died from laudanum poisoning his wife died anna died. and her body was brought to this house and she too was laid out in this house. and so 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 anna's dead an auction company was brought in to sell the contents. so once again, strangers gathered outside, came into this
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house, came down the halls, came into the parlors. the auction took place on the site. the two most expensive things at the auction were the sofa in the front room where mary lincoln had spent much of the night. that went for $15. and the bed upon which abraham lincoln died sold for $80 which was eight or ten times what it should have cost if it was simply a bed. so an early historian and souvenir 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 bed later was purchased by a chicago candy millionaire, charles ganther, for $100,000. and it's now in chicago 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
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monument. the petersons moved back in after a few days. boarders came back. and it became a boarding house again. then a visionary historian, osborn oldroyd who loved 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. so over decades tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of americans came and visited this room when it was a privately operated museum. it was not until decades later that the national park service took 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 in
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washington. partly because it's not gigantic and grand like abraham lincoln's white house. it's not huge like ford's theater where an audience of 1,500 or 1,800 sat and watched the mayhem that happened across the street. 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 at hours when i knew there'd be very few visitors. and i've stood in this room many times all by myself and imagined what it must have been like to stand here the night abraham lincoln was brought down that hallway and laid on the bed in this room. and the emotion and sadness of that night and that morning really comes alive for me when i'm 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 from my book "manhunt" while i stood in this room with a notebook and
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imagined what it must have been like 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'm in this house and when i'm in this room. our road to the white house coverage continues with two more candidates joining the presidential race this week. coming up on c-span former new york republican governor george pataki makes his announcement from exeter, new hampshire, live at 11:00 a.m. eastern. and saturday, expect another spree for the democratic bid. former "duck dynasty" governor and baltimore mayor martin owe rally will officially declare his candidacy. see that event live 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span.


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