The Last Living Witness To Lincoln’s Assassination…Or Was He?

11 Nov

 

Contents.

  1.             Document Informatiom.
  2.             Article Context.
  3.             Article Key Points.
  4.             Persuasiveness of Article
  5.             Place of Publication and Political Affiliation Bias
  6.             Article Appeal
  7.             Appendix 1: Article Image
  8.             Bibliography                                                                            .
  1. Document Information. (Congress, 2011)
  1. Title: The Daily Inter Ocean. [1]
  2. Alternative Titles: Inter Ocean – Sunday Inter Ocean
  3. Place of Publication: Chicago, Illinois.
  4. Geographic Coverage: Chicago, Cook, Illinois.
  5. Publisher: Inter Ocean Publishing Company.
  6. Dates of Publication: 1879-1902
  7. Description: The Daily Inter Ocean, (Chicago, Illinois)
  8. Date of Publication: Sunday, May 14, 1893.
  9. Location: Pg. 19; Issue 51; Col F
  10. Title of Article: In Ford’s Theatre.
  11. Writer: Captain R. S. Collum.
  12. Category: Arts & Entertainment.
  13. Frequency: Daily
  14. Price: Single Copy 2 Cents/Per Week By Carrier 12 Cents/Sunday Single Copy 5 Cents/Daily And Sunday Per Week By Carrier 15 Cents/To Newsdealers Outside Of Chicago The Daily, $1.15 Per 100 Postage Paid/Sunday $3.00 Per 100 Postage Paid. (Ads, 1891)

 2. Article Context:

 The article “In Ford’s Theatre” was published in Chicago during a period of rapid economic and population growth between the post-Civil War and post-Reconstruction eras of the 19th century. Chicago, influenced by a radical leader of the progressive movement and Democrat Governor, John Peter Altgeld (1847-1902), considered by republicans, “a socialist and an anarchist.” (Drew VandeCreek, 2002). His ideals and philosophies were popular on the streets of Chicago. Altgeld, according to historian Philip Dray, “is synonymous with the dawn of the Progressive era.” (Dray, 2010)

 It is imperative to recognise that the ‘pro-abolition’ newspaper, edited by an African-American journalist and Civil & Women’s Rights Activist Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), ‘The Daily Inter Ocean’ was up against its greatest “pro-slavery” rival ‘The Chicago Times’ which had been “espousing the Copperhead (anti-war democrats) point of view in supporting Southern Democrats and denounced the policies of Abraham Lincoln.” (Sandburg, 1948). Wells, with her husband, newspaper owner Ferdinand L. Barnett, an early leader in the civil rights movement had spent much of her writing career documenting black lynching in the United States, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites.

 The publication of this article demonstrates a clear example of the courage of the states ‘African American’ newspaper dedicated to covering racism, advocating rights for blacks, and offering a beacon of hope for migrants from the South.

3. Article Key Points.

Published are events related to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (April 14th 1865). Historian, Captain R.S. Collum witnessed “exciting scenes following the murderous act.” He had published “History of the United States Marine Corps” (1875) and his testimony was credible because he recalled, “every detail of the terrible tragedy.”

Visiting Washington he and a colleague attended Ford’s Theatre. As they walked they met friends, and then came “a curious coincidence that makes a lasting impression.” While talking a stranger approached, whispered something, and then walked away. “Days later I had this stranger turned over to me as a conspirator.”

Only a “fair sized” house was in attendance. There were vacant rows at the front and the stage boxes on the right were also empty. It transpired that these seats were engaged but unused. Collum reports, “After Act One, John Wilkes walked about the theatre and surveyed the President’s box.”

A few moments later the assassin did his work. There was a chilling silence after the gunfire. Booth jumped from the Presidents Box, ripping the flag with his spur as he landed on the stage. He held a knife aloft as he cried, “Sic Semper Tyrannis”. (Thus always to tyrants!) The audience had realised that something dreadful had happened as Laura Keane (Actress) dashed onto the stage shouting “Kill him, kill him!” the rest is common knowledge. “I was on duty when the conspirators were turned over to us.” Booth’s body was returned for autopsy and another curious incident came about. Locks of Booth’s hair had been cut off by those handling the body to keep as relics. “An investigation was ordered but nothing came of it.”

When it came to the question of where the body was to be buried there was a suggestion to take it out to sea and throw it overboard but this was rejected. “The body was interred at the foot of the gallows where the other conspirators were hung.” It remained there for many years but was exhumed, by family request, and moved to Baltimore.

4. Persuasiveness of Article.

Historian Capt. W.S. Collum’s testimony is not convincing as he depicts some significant and relevant facts and these facts, although appearing over a quarter of a century after the event, bring further questions. The ‘stranger’, described as a ‘conspirator’ is given little attention and we are not told his name or his role in the event.

 Collum’s narrative indicates that he and his colleague went to the theatre as a last minute decision; “On the evening in question, I proposed to a brother officer, Lieutenant Nokes, since deceased, that we attend the performance at Ford’s Theatre”. He also confirms that, “It was generally known that the President and family and several prominent army officers would be present.” Combined, these facts suggest there was a strong military presence. There was also a lack of seat availability; “I recollect very distinctly noticing at the time that during the first act the three rows of seats in our immediate front were vacant.” In light of these facts, the questions remain as to how and where he acquired the tickets, at the last minute, for such a major and prestigious event or, more pointedly, was he in attendance at all?”

 John Wilkes Booth is described as “walking about the theatre”. This implies that little or no security was in place to protect the President at a time when he was most vulnerable, this was a time when the American Civil War was drawing to a close and less than a week after the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac. The questionable freedom of movement in a confined area of a known Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of the Lincoln Administration, and outraged by the South’s defeat in the American Civil War. Booth strongly opposed the abolition of slavery in the United States and Lincoln’s proposal to extend voting rights to recently emancipated slaves. Why then was he allowed, in strong military presence to roam within the theatre and so close to the President’s box?

 Finally, Collum’s assertion that unknown people had tampered with Booth’s body; “It seems that some of those who had the handling of the body had cut locks from Booth’s long hair to keep as relics.” This is a shocking revelation that he instantly dismisses as not investigated but auspiciously implies morbid ‘Union’ contempt for the Confederates.

 In light of these questions and observations the article is not at all convincing but best interpreted as a pro-abolitionist piece of propaganda with little or no substance.

5. Place of Publication and Political Affiliation Bias.

 Under the governance of popularly elected radical and liberal-minded Democrat John Peter Altgeld Chicago in the 1890s was clearly very much a part of the new progressive era that was sweeping across America. The elimination of corruption, the promise of forthcoming prohibition, the exposing of political machines and the looming era of gangsterism, the advocating of women’s suffrage, modernisation and continuing advances in science and technology was the main focus of the new society. Progressives drew support from the middle-classes and supporters included professionals in education, science and business. Urban population was increasing and sixty eight cities boasted more than a hundred thousand inhabitants, “Between 1870 and 1900 Chicago’s population had increased more than fivefold and had more than a million residents. America had become an urban nation.” (Boyer, et al., 2011)

        In this new society the issue of slavery was not primary in Chicago as the ‘panic of 1893’ took root. Stock prices were tumbling and gold reserves sank, railroads, banks and institutions were failing. A full scale depression was underway and unemployment soared, jobless men walked the streets and protests were rampant.

        The appearance of an article in relation to an event which occurred a quarter of a century earlier, gone from the public sphere,  in a newspaper advocating anti-abolition was an indication of the irrelevance of the issue of slavery in a society distressed by new more significant issues such as unemployment, hunger and poverty.

 6. Article Appeal.

The Chicago Inter Ocean, “an upper-class arbiter of cultural tastes” (Schwarzlose, 2004) was praised by its competitors as ‘the leading republican journal of the Northwest.” (Anon., 1873) Chicago was and is traditionally a Republican state it can be concluded that the paper had broad appeal. The paper had republican roots and was originally published as a partisan newspaper that supported the Republican Party.

 The industrial revolution brought about great changes in railroad systems and thus the readership of the paper, as with all other papers of the era, expanded with easier delivery. However, the newspaper began its demise with the introduction of linotype which meant it would lose many of its non-Chicago native readers who now bought more local papers.

7. Appendix 1: Article Image.

Historian, Captain R.S. Collum.[2]

Artist Unknown but the image is clearly a romantic and noble depiction of the historian and writer Captain R.S. Collum.

8.  Bibliography.

Ads, C., 1891. Classified Ads. The Daily Inter Ocean, 15 September, Issue 175, p. 10.

Anon., 1873. News. Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, (Bangor, ME), 168(168), p. 1: Col A.

Boyer, P. S. et al., 2011. Enduring Vision (A History Of The American People). 13 ed. Boston(Massachusetts): Wadsworth Centage Learning.

Collum, C. R. S., 1893. Captain R. S. Collum Witnessed Lincoln’s Assassination. Daily Inter Ocean, 14 May, Issue 51, p. 19.

Congress, L. O., 2011. National Endowment For The Humanities.. [Online]
Available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038321/
[Accessed 29 10 2011].

Dray, P., 2010. There Is Power In A Union.. In: There Is Power In A Union.. New York: Random House/Doubleday, p. 57.

Drew VandeCreek, P., 2002. 1892-1895: 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. [Online]
Available at: http://dig.lib.niu.edu/gildedage/narr7.html
[Accessed 26 10 2011].

Sandburg, C., 1948. In: The Fiery Trail. New York: Dell Publishing Ltd., p. 90.

 Additonal Footnotes:


[1] In Ford’s Theatre; Captain R. S. Collum Witnessed Lincoln’s Assassination. (Arts & Entertainment) Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL) May 14, 1893; Pg. 19; Issue 51; Start; Column F: 1586 Words; Elec. Coll.: GT3013611910.

[2] Source: The Daily Inter Ocean, (Chicago, IL) Sunday, May 14, 1893; pg. 19; Issue 51; col F/In Ford’s Theatre Captain R. S. Collum Witnessed Lincoln’s Assassination/Category: Arts & Entertainment

 

About these ads

2 Responses to “The Last Living Witness To Lincoln’s Assassination…Or Was He?”

  1. M.Bassett February 8, 2012 at 11:28 #

    Holy Crap!!
    That is some garbage!!
    Limerick Writer? It reads like a first year history major with the most basic grasp of the subject matter.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. BCM390 – Short – Reference List. | My Uni Blog - April 6, 2014

    […] Gerry Hannan, 2011, ‘The Last Living Witness To Lincoln’s Assassination…Or Was He?’, Lincoln’s assassination, image, Limerick Writer WordPress blog, viewed 6 April 2014, http://limerickwriter.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/the-last-living-witness-to-lincolns-assassination-or-… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: