On April 11, 1865, two days after Lee's army surrendered to Grant, Booth attended an evening speech at the White House. Lincoln stood at the window over the building's main door, a place where presidents customarily gave speeches. Reporter Noah Brooks held a light so Lincoln could read his speech, while young Tad Lincoln grasped the pages as they fluttered to his feet. The speech introduced the complex topic of reconstruction. For the first time in a public setting, Lincoln expressed his support for black suffrage. Booth decided on assassination and is quoted as saying: "That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever give."
|John Wilkes Booth|
Friday, April 14, 1865, began as a lovely spring day in Washington, D.C. Hugh McCulloch, the new Secretary of the Treasury, remarked that on that morning, "I never saw Mr. Lincoln so cheerful and happy". For months, the President had looked pale and haggard. Lincoln himself told people how happy he was.
|Tad Lincoln and his father|
Lincoln met with his cabinet at 11 am, and later had a brief meeting with Vice President Andrew Johnson, the first between the two since Johnson had shown up drunk to take the vice presidential oath on Inauguration Day, six weeks prior.
|Mary Surratt's Boarding House|
|Derringer that Booth used to shoot Lincoln|
Contrary to the information Booth had overheard, General and Mrs. Grant had declined the invitation to see the play with the Lincolns. Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris (daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris accepted.
At 7:50 pm, former Congressman George Ashmun arrived at the White House without an appointment. Lincoln decided to see Ashmun; at 8:05 Lincoln's business with Ashmun was still unfinished, and he requested a return visit in the morning. Lincoln wrote out the last message of his life: "Allow Mr. Ashmun & friend to come in at 9:00 A.M. tomorrow." The note was signed "A. Lincoln, April 14, 1865."
|Presidential Box at Ford's Theatre|
Lincoln's chair was a black walnut rocking chair with red upholstery. It had been brought down from the Ford family's personal quarters located on the 3rd floor above Taltavul's Star Saloon.
|The Rocking Chair Lincoln was sitting in|
|William Petersen's Boarding House|
|Illustration of the Room Where Lincoln Died|
"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.
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 especially-and there were at this time more of them, perhaps, than of whites - were overwhelmed with grief. 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 seven."
~ Gideon Welles