Civil War Legacies

Diary Account of the Assassination of President Lincoln

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

The assassination of Lincoln prompted an outpouring of emotion and sadness in America. As the news spread across the country buildings were draped in black, businesses closed, and cannons were fired every half hour. Some, like bookkeeper Otis Keene, recorded his feelings in diaries and journals. Keene, a Florida businessman and Union sympathizer, had fled the state after Confederates threatened him. He was in Washington at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. What began as a “lovely morning” for Keene quickly changed as he received word of the president’s death. “The most awful intelligence reaches us at 12 midnight, that the President was shot.”

Entries from the Diary of Otis Keene

Friday April 14, 1865

A lovely morning but chilly. News good. Order to stop the draft & recruiting. Genl Grant in the City. Eve. Abbie & I went down to the avenue to see the Arsenal torch light procession. Heard Secy. Stanton speak. Most awful intelligence reaches us at 12 midnight, that President was shot at 10-30 at Fords Theatre. Also that Secty Seward had been assassinated at his House at about the same hour by some [sic] by the assassin; God grant that they will be captured. Mrs Lincoln, Miss Harris & Maj Rathman were in the box with the President.

Saturday April 15, 1865

Oh Lord help our bleeding and afflicted Nation in this hour of its sad bereavement and irreparable loss. Our beloved and most noble of all Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, is no more. He has fallen by the traitorous hand of one of the poisonous instigators of this awful wicked rebellion. He expired at 7 A.M. after a lingering of a few hours. We just hear that Fredk Seward, asst secty, is dead from the effects of his wounds. Not at work to-day. Went down the avenue purchased crepe &c to drape the House & flags. The City generally is draped in mourning for the departed hero and martyr to his cause country & his people. His body was moved to the White House at 9 o’clock A.M. Intense excitement all over the City. Copperheads & traitors dare not speak or be seen.

View another Diary from Otis Keene

Text by Jennifer A. Lyon