tv Details of the Lincoln Assassination CSPAN April 9, 2016 5:01pm-6:01pm EDT
maz kanata is a former crime reporter. she tells the stories about those who are involved in the lincoln assassination. the actors performing in our american cousin. the peterson family owners of the boardinghouse where lincoln died. this is an hour-long event. >> good evening. it is my pleasure to welcome you to our talk. i want to acknowledge a special guests that we have with us tonight.
his name is peter dixon. he represents the military order of the loyal legion of the united states. which is responsible each year for the laying of reefs at the lincoln memorial. the lincoln group of d.c. has been very proud to be one of the many organizations that pays tribute to abraham lincoln and we had that opportunity courtesy of the organizing efforts of peter dixon. [applause]
our speaker tonight is catherine canavan author of lincoln's final hours. in two what it was like to be in washington that terrible night. april 14, 1865. theatereer at ford's and i've had the opportunity to visit with the thousands of americans who come to ford's theater. buy isthe things you can her book. it is a pleasure to welcome her to talk to us this evening.
>> thanks to all of you. it is an honor to be here. who is lincoln's archives digital project has made so many records available to so many researchers who aren't fortunate enough to live near the archives. thousands of people witnessed what went on on 10th street in washington on the night of the assassination.
there were 1700 patrons inside ford's theater when john wilkes booth shot the president. when the wounded president was carried across the street to the abouton house there were 24 people in the death room there. people in the parlor and the hallways. hundreds of people in the street. waiting for word on that long. too many of their stories are lost to us now. the eightod home was miles from the lindbergh kidnapping. the trial was long over when i was growing up. there were dozens of people who would witnessed some small part of that trial.
there was a man who dug ditches. i meant to ensure further lindbergh. man who had chauffeured mrs. lindbergh. overbooked theo new york news men were paying for cots in the hallways. each one of those neighbors witnessed slivers of history that nobody recorded any of it. today ist-forward to there a caterer or campaign worker who was witnessing something that would china light on this very unusual election? history is a mosaic but a lot of
times there are pieces that are missing and we don't even know it. imagine a journalist. i started thinking about those missing pieces. i had some downtime between appointments so i visited peterson house. i was standing in the dark back bedroom where president lincoln and i realized peterson boardinghouse continue to be operated as a boarding house after the president died there. he didn't even shut down for a weekend. thinking about who climb into that bed the night after the president died there. clark aillie 23-year-old government clerk. asked the guide if she could
recommend a good book about the people who live there. written a book about the peterson's and their visitors. she said they were just ordinary people. i almost ran to the library of -- lookednd booked up up all the names in their databases. it took about a year to figure out why. finding information on ordinary people 145 years after an event is really a tall order. even if it is the coast consequential murder in american history. there are two glimpses from the book i would like to give you.
the first is a 15-year-old boy trying to reach his house across from ford's theater minutes after the word from the assassination spread through washington. blocks as ifof two someone flipped a switch bewilderment became a hysteria. he heard some men yelling hang him. he so i'm not have rowdies crowded under a sycamore tree. had caught a hold of a poor man they had decided to spring -- string up. the i'veched his block one stolid massive man waving revolvers and knives and announcing the assassin. like pearl harbor the 20th century or september 11 in the 21st, no one knew what was going to happen next.
many of us have been through one or two of those events but we had the benefit of television or radio. these people had to wait until the next morning to get the morning papers to see who had been spared and who had been slain. rumors spread all right. the second piece is a soldier's view. night andorking all keeping order and searching houses because no one knew the whereabouts of the assassin. to the neighborhood outside the theater upside down. the authories were confident there was no way the attackers could escape the city. it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. the city had 230 miles of streets. 77 miles of alleys.
let's talk about the regulars on 10th street. peterson was the man who owned the house where the president died. john wilkesith booth the 26-year-old actor whose single deed that's the force of our country's history. who was the owner of that house? livingerson made a good tailoring uniforms during the war. good enough to send his oldest daughter to the same boarding school george washington's niece had attended. peterson also made money renting out rooms in his home. he rented every available space. even the second floor landing.
it was a simple matter for a person to rent out a space during the war. the city's population had tripled to almost 200,000. prices rose so much that some embassies actually moved to baltimore. mr. peterson was running the anddinghouse with a servant his wife anna and his oldest daughter were on holiday in new york. mrs. peterson was on age ever since she arrived because she was very superstitious and the room clerk gave her the keys to room 13 and she thought the number 13 was a bad omen and she
just couldn't relax. she wanted to telegraph her husband in washington and make sure everything was ok at their house. at 2:00 in the afternoon everything was fine. after 10 p.m. mr. peterson heard an upper across the street and he got up from his card game. he was not the one who invited the president's bearers to bring him to the door. it was henry stafford one of the borders who ran outside with a candle to guide them to the porch. in the rain.
mr. peterson may have been unsure of what to do with his wife away. try to remember what your house look like a friday night when you have young kids. there's a knock at your door in the bearers carry the president of the united states over your threshold and directly to one of your bedrooms. it is the 19th century. you have no electricity, no , you onlyno hot water chamber pots that you had
to empty. that's a tough situation. peterson was a little bit sore. he left the house around midnight and he went to his tailoring shop and he instructed his son to let me know what it's all over. he arrived back at his house about an hour after the president died for mr. lincoln's body was still on the bed. with the bloody bandages piled up at the door. and overwhelming stench of blood and sweat from all those people in such a small room. he noticed that one of his pillows was bloodied he snatched it from under the head of the dead president opened the window and threw it out.
i suppose all of us have lost her temper is. he threw his tantrum in front of men and women who it stood for nine hours in a very small room watching the president breathed his last. mr. peterson sent a bill to the federal government. he wanted nine hours of rent for the use of his home and he wanted payment for every piece of linen soiled by the president's blood. midnight andt at the president didn't die until overcharged $550. this at a time of the president only earned $480 a week.
and $.50.t $293 somebody in the quartermaster's office scribbled a snippy note on his paperwork. housee in the peterson charge tourists $.50 to see the bathroom. death room. the tourists ripped the wallpapers from the walls and took some items that they thought might have been used that night. when the war ended things ended badly for mr. peterson. his uniform tailoring business. eventually he lost his shop. his professional life nosedived. all but one of his borders moved away after ford's closed.
he started going out drinking sprees. he pulled out a bottle of a mixture of alcohol and opium that was legal that. he fell unconscious. that hethe sergeant liked to have $.25 worth of liquor on a saturday night. he accidentally overdosed. his body was taken back to the house where lincoln died. ferguson was the 19-year-old call boy at ford's theater. --rang down the court
curtain at fords for the last time that night. he headed across the street to his friend fritz peterson's house. they made their way up the back staircase to the death room. the president's face looked ghastly. his jaw had fallen to his chest. his right hand, the one that signed the emancipation proclamation, was twitching involuntarily. they both knew something the cabinet members did not know. that john wilkes booth had curled up on that same day just weeks before. he'd even covered himself with the same blanket that wrapped the president's body. mr. booth was friendly with many who boarded at the
peterson's. room sohem rented that was an unusual at all for him to sprawl across the bed laughing and joking. billy ferguson like many in the followed thes acting business after hollywood at the turn-of-the-century. in 1915 he played abraham lincoln in a silent movie the battle cry of peace. john matthews. this has to be one of the all-time historic coincidences. he was learning booth's atfession on the same house the same time secretary stanton was mounting the manhunt for booth.
matthews was a comic who worked at ford's theater. skin ande same light dark hair's john wilkes booth. he didn't have any of that charisma that made heads swivel when booth walked down the avenue. booth and matthews were boyhood friends from baltimore. matthews considered john wilkes booth's best friend. the afternoon of the assassination the two men ran into each other on pennsylvania avenue. booth entrusted to matthews a sealed letter to the editor. he asked matthews to deliver it if he didn't see him around town the next morning. unbeknownst to matthews it was a confession to killing lincoln.
the comedian put the envelope in his coat pocket. and promptly forgot all about it. and the excitement of performing for the president. all thee assassination ford's theater actors were fleeing. for fear of being arrested. matthews headed straight to his room. his room was in peterson house. catsetter from booth acting up and matthews pocket until it was in danger of falling out as he walked up the staircase to his room. major henry rathbone may have been sitting at the base of the step nursing his wounds. matthews had forgotten all about the letter until he went to hang up his coat in his room and he heard it plop on the floor.
he later testified that when he thought, good god that is the letter john gave me. he ripped it open and he quickly realized that it was all the evidence the police needed to hang his friend. there is no way to tell if matthews arrived before or after president lincoln was carried into the house. if the president was already there, his breathing was so loud that you can hear it in any room in the house. screamed audibly even with the parlor doors closed. matthews made a split-second decision to throw the letter into the fireplace. .nd burn it he was so frightened that he
took those ashes and mix them with the fire ashes there were already in the fire so that no one would ever be able to discern what happened. matthews was a catholic. he later told his priest what had happened. suggested he go to canada and never come back. yorkd eventually go to new and become an agent for the actors fund. his job was doling out money to indigent actors. the manych a kind man weeks he also gave away most of his paycheck. acceptd never completely that his old friend had committed america's first presidential assassination.
was so loyal to booth that he referred to the assassination is john's great mistake. this is laura keene the star of our american cousin. rushing to known for the box and holding the president's head in her lap. let's was his wife's business manager. in the midst of all the hedemonium in the theater pushed through the roaring crowd not to find his wife but to get to the paymaster's office. because friday night was paid night at ford's theater. lots made sure he got his wife's share of the gate. and sawcircled back that her diamonds were scattered across her dressing table he
squeezed through the crowd again this time he was looking for his and only to upgrade her for carelessness. this is the daughter of the boarding house owner. she was just 13 on assassination night. she was tasked with bringing cheese and mrs. lincoln. she'll most dropped the tea tray which he overheard that booth was the suspect. she feared that the police would arrest her father if they realized that booth was a regular at her house. she steeled herself and she brought the teacher mrs. lincoln. she is only 13 years old. and this is the first lady of the united states of the worst night of her life. pauline didn't really know what to do. teaserved as first ladies
but she never forgot the look on mrs. lincoln's face her face was already in blotchy from crying. her eyes kept darting back and forth as if she were expecting another attack at any moment. pauline again was frightened. several times through the night pauline looked at mrs. lincoln and she thought she looked very much like her own mother butever she lost the baby the look was 10 times worse than that. she waited with her and around removed amrs. lincoln small brooch from her dress and she pressed in the pauline's hand. pauline protested but mrs. lincoln said please take it for
everything you did for me tonight. she said you were the only one who didn't tell me what to do tonight. one bystander who became a vital part of the effort to save the president and keep the union intact was 23-year-old dr. charles leal of yonkers new york. he was just six weeks out of medical school. the best trained physicians in the country. he was a new army surgeon in washington. he'd taken extra training in head wounds before he left medical school in new york. caring for the
most severely wounded soldiers who could survive the train trip from the battlefield to washington. leal did his best to undo what booth had done. he had come to ford's theatre just see the president. episcopalian who thought he saw the market divinity in mr. lincoln. he said he just wanted to gaze upon that face one more time. he knew the president could survive for long. he spent much of the night holding the president's hand because medical training told him that the gunshot rendered the president blind but he hoped that the patient this might be
able to feel a kind touch. he wanted mr. lincoln to know he wasn't alone in this darkness especially after secretary stanton barred mary lincoln from the death room. he kept a moment that his heroic until 1909 when a veterans group implored him to come and speak about it on the hundredth anniversary of the president's birthday. he practiced medicine into his 90's. often without pay. he helped to the poorest children of new york. he learned to sign language to communicate with deaf children. 1932 just before franklin roosevelt was nominated for president. one of the strangest chance meetings on the morning of the
assassination happened to helen moss and her sister-in-law. took a stroll down pennsylvania avenue and met john wilkes booth and shook hands with him. then they walked two more blocks to the white house to the where they meton president lincoln and shook hands with him. they were wearing those flowers in their hair that night when they heard john wilkes booth shot president lincoln. on in thelse is going world, we all still fret about our own situations in our children and our families.
the young soldier named john ramsey came barreling through ford's very narrow lobby, just as the president's bearers were struggling to carry him out of the theater. ramses wiped the president's face with his cuff. may hearts was very shaken by the assassination, but could not help but notice that the theater treasurer, harry ford, had a six stack of pay envelopes in his coat pocket. a mental note to make sure she got her pay, because she really needed the $20. it was her first year in the theater. harry offered to walk her back
to her hotel. in her excitement, she forgot to ask for her pay. harry ford was arrested later that night and she did not receive her pay until 2 more years. ten we instinctively feel something is out of sync, but we can't put our finger on what. billy withers, the orchestra leader, went for a drink with booth right before the show. we'll worth notice that booth was particularly and see that night. he just kept talking. when he returned to the theater, and irritated withers asked one of the musicians, what has come over booth tonight? to the man who caused so many other people's lives to --
the ticket taker buckingham said he heard him singing a tune on his way to kill the president. took his fat key ring that you can see at the ford theater complex with him on the run. did he really think he would be allowed to return to any of those places those keys fit? the people on 10th street also agreed with booth that he was larger than life. werematthew said, if booth a woman, he would have been in love with him. billy told a reporter that his own admiration for booth was nothing short of hero worship before the assassination. publicity booth's
photos did not do him justice. they said they could not capture booth's love of fun. he said the three-dimensional booth was more joyous. one friend recalled that booth was always impeccably dressed, but his tie was just a little bit askew. was a crackt booth billiards player but rarely had the patience to sit through an entire game. he tried to get his friends to go out and do something else. one of the assassin's friends said he could not imagine booth pulling the trigger because his fingers were as dainty and small as a girl's. boothmembered, accidentally knocked a poor child off his feet and his rush to get to the telegraph office one day. he said he could not have known that anyone was watching, but he
picked the child up and wiped his face off with his handkerchief and said, are you hurt? then he dusted him off, got him on his feet, and pressed some coins in his hand before he left for the telegraph office. time boothmber the tried to strangle his brother-in-law on a train and the time he pummeled his younger brother's face to the point where it was unrecognizable. and the time he became enraged at a theater prompter and hurled a sharp wooden wedge within an inch of the man's eye. booth's brother edwin told a friend that when a servant awakened him to tell him his brother had killed the president, his mind immediately accepted it. count collated,
yes, john could have done such a foolish thing. however, edwin kept a picture of john next to his bed for the rest of his life. when you look at the neighbors on 10th street and what they witnessed on assassination night, and what they knew about realizessination, you that just like the people on the sidelines of the kidnapping, some of these ordinary people held extraordinary pieces of the mosaic of history. here is one piece from the book. this happened moments before the assassination, and it's from a different perspective than usual. cue toruman awaiting her go on stage cap to rise on mrs. lincoln until she saw something unexpected. musing to herself that the first lady was not wearing an evening down to match
her husband's formal attire. instead, she wore a gray and black pinchecked dres in silk -- silk with a bonnet to match. the kind of woman who would be distinguished in any company. she had a million dollars worth of that thing called personality. truman kept sneaking peeks at the first lady. favorite withas a actresses because she was courteous enough to send flowers when she enjoyed a performance. with one peak, truman saw something that would be a bright red flag in 24 hours but only seemed odd at the moment. she noticed john wilkes booth standing in the corner near the entrance to the president's box. the actors spotted her staring, and charm intact, bowed to her. later, miss truman,
who also moved to l.a., said it was ironic that the greatest drama in american history took place in a theater. assassination really fascinated people than and it still fascinates now. each year 400,000 people from around the world visit ford's theater in petersen house. when they are walking through the parlors and narrow hallways, there's lots of chatter. invariably when they squeeze into this small room, no matter what language they are speaking, they fall silent and reverent. touristse being noisy as it dawns on them what happened there. greatesthere america's president died. but it's not his death that moves them or quiets them, it's
the man and what he accomplished. and how he really did appeal to the better angels of our nature. be with youpy to tonight. it's great to be in the company of so many admirers of lincoln. thank you for inviting me. do you have any questions? [applause] [inaudible] willie clark, who caught onto the relic value of those things a little earlier than mr. willie took a few things for himself and he planned to take more, but then
the peterson's did catch on, so he wasn't able to. a lot of those things were sold. mr. peterson died in 1871. mrs. peterson died four months to the day after his death. the children liquidated everything. when the bed, the bureau, all the things in chicago now, they were all sold at that time. but they sold everything, right down to the spittoon's. anything else? >> what happened to the ford family? kathryn: i focused on the petersons, so i can't really tell you. wereford and harry ford jailed. i'm not quite sure about the others.
it became the government building and records building until it collapsed in the 1890's. when of the interesting things about that is, bobby jacob walter, who had prayed for the president out on the street, he was one of those people that spilled the entire block, praying all night. father walter prayed for the president and that he walked to the gallows with mary surratt. when ford's theater collapsed, he was one of the first people in to rescue people. interesting trajectory. yes? >> where did you gather the information? what were some of your sources for the young man who was in the house, and the letter that was pocket, thatew's
he burned it and put the ashes with it? what were some of your resources? kathryn: the information about --n matthews was available when john surratt returned to the united states, he was tried in a civilian trial and all of that was in the record of the john surratt trial. he testified, and he testified right down to when he met booth on pennsylvania avenue, which he leaned downse over. matthews remembered in the court booth was soat nervous that when he grasped his hand, he dug his fingernails into his hand.
other pieces were in philadelphia, lancaster, pennsylvania. i am trained as a journalist, and one of the things that i did was i went back and first looked at the newspapers at the library and in very archives. one of the things that reporters in theey have to do olden days -- i'm sure they don't do it now -- on the anniversary of a major death or event, people write stories. say, "losk to, let's angeles times" because i knew many of these actors had moved to los angeles, and looked at every story around february 12
and around april 15. there was a lot of interesting information there. "the los angeles times" and "the san francisco chronicle" had wonderful reporters in when then assassination happened, but they also had wonderful reporters for years later. there were some great stories. if you know about mae hart, then you can go looking for letters about mae hart. it was a long road. yes? >> your title said "conspiracy." i do not hear you talk much about conspiracy. kathryn: i had a different title, that's my publisher's title. book -- we do talk about soe of the conspirators,
it's legit. i did not really focus on the conspiracy other than the bits about powell and harold and axelrod. i always felt very sorry for axelrod because he signed on to kidnap the president, not kill the president. he was assigned to kill the vice president. he never wanted to do that, that's not what he signed on for. sameffered the consequences. yes? >> when lincoln died on april 15, secretary warren said, now he belongs to the ages. however, maybe he said angels, not ages. do you have any insights into
the difference between the two words? kathryn: i do. wholar to a stenographer, was taking the notes -- he reached into his pocket and his pencil broke. so he doesn't have notes on that. it's really, i guess, up in the air. and i guess it always will be. >> never clarified later or something? kathryn: he said something, we are not quite sure what. there was another complicating factor. mr. stanton asked reverend gurley to say a prayer, but then mr. stanton's own crying was so loud that people weren't quite sure everyone in the room could hear it. you realize that these people hours,tly stood for 9
watching the life ebb out of america's greatest president. they were extremely tearful. i believe it was some nerd who buried his head in the sheets -- i have had those discussions with the alliance writ large. >> had to expand training flag?ses like cyber >> cyber flag is cyber command's largest exercise. not have all 28 member nations. see we mightu will
raised her feet against the box and was holding him up. he thought, how brave she was with a man having a knife fight. virtually in front of her. she still protected her husband. she went over to president lincoln. he put his handkerchief on the floor. -- first, herts of examined him of course. he thought, everyone had seen this bloody knife. jumped on the stage, brandishing this knife above his head. his first thought was that the andident had been stabbed he looked for a stab wound and could not find one. then he found the bullet wound in the back of president lincoln's head. him on the lay
ground and have men manipulate his arms and legs, trying to get him to breathe. he told a story much later that his mother had told him a bible story. about bringing a man back to life. he tried to clear the president's air pathways while having people manipulate his body. and he was able to get the president breathing. even in the box, that no one could survive this sort of gunshot. he would remove the collective blood every so often. --that the electorate president's blood could keep flowing. he had people get hot water bottles and put them next to the president's limbs to stimulate
blood. he did all he could. he knew that it was just not possible for him to survive. anybody? yes? >> someone drew a picture in the street at that time. did you do any research? in the street literally went from ford's theater. you could not squeeze through. o'burn, the man charged with bringing the vice president to peterson house in case the president died, was walking up 10th street with the vice president. even he was frightened. he had been with the irish rifles during the war. he was not a man who was ordinarily frightened.
he kept his badge, cap showing his badge, as he walked, so no one would come near them. people were brandishing knives and guns. they were very frustrated. no knowledge of what had happened except that the president had been shot. the people who had seen what had squared on lafayette were running up 10th street to tell the president what had happened. the secretary of state had had . -- jaw slit. people were telling them the president that had been shot. there were all kinds of rumors. there was no tv, radio.
there were all sorts of rumors that all kinds of things had happened. several other people had been killed. people really did have to wait until the morning papers to find out. often, families who had been out wouldating, the males stay and try to do something. the women would go back to their houses and keep all of the lights out. they were sure the confederates might raid. horseer they would hear hoofs, they would reach out the good ornd see if it was bad. horror inight of washington for everyone. yes? s arrested? the ford >> billy withers was arrested.
there were so many people rds, with theh fo theater, that were arrested that night. hart was told to return to washington. they wanted to arrest her because she was seen speaking to john wilkes booth in an alley that day. actually, she had never even met booth. it was actually another actor who looked a great deal like booth. yes? >> do you have information on john serrat and what happened to him after the incident? >> he was fascinating. in palmyra, new york, on assassination night.
he did what anyone would do in that circumstance since he was not in on the kidnapping plot. he went to canada and overseas guard for a papal wild, actually. then he probably had the worst luck of any papal guard. someone from america came as a tourist to italy and recognized him. they told vatican, and the vatican immediately had him arrested. they had no idea he was wanted for the murder of the president. they had him sent back. he escaped once. she was returned to america. -- he was returned to america. it was much later.
it was a civilian trial, not a military trial. he was not convicted. -- one of francis scott key's relatives. they had many children and he lived to a ripe old age. yes? >> i stumbled across a book last year written by a man who lived in washington during the time of the civil war. he happened to discuss on one page something about the assassination. he described peterson as a ranked secessionist. do you know if that is true? might that have accounted for his behavior that way? --one of the ministers who from the pulpit that month, that
lauded the peterson's as a good, christian home -- i think not, really. maiming --h street, many of those people had secessionist leanings. who lived next door, little annie sardo was six years old on assassination night. that was one of the homes they targeted to bring the president to. but the crowd ended up at petersons. little annie sarto, the one thing she remembers from assassination night, she remembers the horrible noise that she could hear so much more from her perspective. she lived into her 90's.
she took her grandchildren on a john wilkes booth escape tour of her making. one of the things she told them was that many of the people on 10th street were secessionist. anybody? thank you very much. [applause] >> i am a history buff. back roads of the our country and how they work. >> american artifacts. a fantastic show. >> with american history tv, it gives you that perspective.
>> author and professor gary gallagher discusses questions stemming from robert e. lee's surrender to ulysses s grant in appomattox in 1816 five. -- 1865. he analyzes if appomattox was the definitive end of the civil war and looks at the wartime goals of the union and if they were achieved. this talk was part of a daylong symposium and now, is the director of the john now -- nau