150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Assassination

Lincoln's Assassination

Today marks the anniversary in which President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford’s Theatre. This autograph letter, by George B. Todd to his brother, is a remarkably clear and dramatic eyewitness account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln from a naval surgeon who was close to the President’s box at the theatre that very night of April 14th, 1965, and who later was reported to have been “one of the surgeons who performed the autopsy.”

This unique record reveals several important factors regarding the movements of both the President and John Wilkes Booth, such as: Booth’s interaction with the “usher” sitting outside the President’s box, Todd’s observation of the time Booth approached the President, and Todd’s mention of the President’s inspection of the “Montauk” earlier that afternoon.

These excerpts reveal the details and immense sadness surrounding this tragic event:

“The few hours that have intervened since that most terrible tragedy of last night have served to give me littler clearer brain and I believe I am now able to give you a clear account up to this hour…”

“About 10:25 P.M. a man came in and walked slowly along the side on which the ‘pres.’ box was and I heard a man say “there’s Booth” and I turned my head to look at him. He was still walking very slow, and was near the box door, when he stopped, took a card from his pocket, wrote something on it, and gave it to the usher, who took it to the box. In a minute the door was opened and he walked in. No sooner had the door closed, than I heard the report of a pistol and on the instant, Booth jumped out of the box onto the stage, holding in his hand a large knife, and shouted as to be heard all over the house – ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ (“so always with tyrants”) and fled behind the scenes…”

“Some General handed me a note and bid me go to the nearest telegraph office and arouse the nation. I ran with all my speed and in ten minutes the sad news was all over the country. Today all the city is in mourning, nearly every house being in black and I have not seen a smile. No business and many a strong man I have seen in tears.”


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