The President had been carried across the street from
the theatre, to the house of a Mr. Peterson. We entered by ascending a
flight of steps above the basement and passing through a long hall to
the rear, where the President lay extended on a bed, breathing heavily.
Several surgeons were present, at least six, I should think more. Among
them I was glad to observe Dr. Hall, who, however, soon left. I inquired
of Dr. H., as I entered, the true condition of the President. He replied
the President was dead to all intents, although he might live three
hours or perhaps longer.
The giant sufferer lay extended diagonally across the
bed, which was not long enough for him. He had been stripped of his
clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size
which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His
slow, full respiration lifted the clothes with each breath that he took.
His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to
better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there.
After that, his right eye began to swell and that part of his face
Senator Sumner was there, I think, when I entered. If
not he came in soon after, as did Speaker Colfax, Mr. Secretary
McCulloch, and the other members of the Cabinet, with the exception of
Mr. Seward. A double guard was stationed at the door and on the
sidewalk, to repress the crowd, which was of course highly excited and
anxious, The room was small and overcrowded. The surgeons and members of
the Cabinet were as many as should have been in the room, but there were
many more, and the hall and other rooms in the front or main house were
full. One of these rooms was occupied by Mrs. Lincoln and her
attendants, with Miss Harris. Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Kinney came to her
about twelve o'clock. About once an hour Mrs. Lincoln would repair to
the bedside of her dying husband and with lamentation and tears remain
until overcome by emotion.
[April 15.] A door which opened upon a porch or
gallery, and also the windows, were kept open for fresh air. The night
was dark, cloudy, and damp, and about six it began to rain. I remained
in the room until then without sitting or leaving it, when, there being
a vacant chair which some one left at the foot of the bed, I occupied it
for nearly two hours, listening to the heavy groans, and witnessing the
wasting life of the good and great man who was expiring before me.
About 6 A. M. I experienced a feeling of faintness
and for the first time after entering the room, a little past eleven, I
left it and the house, and took a short walk in the open air. It was a
dark and gloomy morning, and rain set in before I returned to the house,
some fifteen minutes [later]. Large groups of people were gathered every
few rods, all anxious and solicitous. Some one or more from each group
stepped forward as I passed, to inquire into the condition of the
President, and to ask if there was no hope. Intense grief was on every
countenance when I replied that the President could survive but a short
time. The colored people especiallyand there were at this time
more of them, perhaps, than of whiteswere overwhelmed with
Returning to the house, 1 seated myself in the back
parlor, where the Attorney-General and others had been engaged in taking
evidence concerning the assassination. Stanton, and Speed, and Usher
were there, the latter asleep on the bed. There were three or four
others also in the room. While I did not feel inclined to sleep, as many
did, I was somewhat indisposed. I had been so for several days. The
excitement and bad atmosphere from the crowded rooms oppressed me
A little before seven, I went into the room where the
dying President was rapidly drawing near the closing moments. His wife
soon after made her last visit to him. The death-struggle had begun.
Robert, his son, stood with several others at the head of the bed. He
bore himself well, but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief
and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of
Senator Sumner. The respiration of the President became suspended at
intervals, and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past
Diary of Gideon Welles.