Lowell Happenings in April 1865 by Jim Peters

Jim Peters has another installment of his review of events in Lowell in April 1865.  Also, remember that the Pollard Memorial Library will present a free program this coming Thursday (April 9) at 7 pm commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  The event is free, open to the public, and will feature a talk by me called “The Road to Appomattox.”

Abraham Lincoln’s “long term goals remain as fixed as a rock: end the war and revive the Union. {Jay Winik; April, 1865, the Month That Saved the Union; Page 211.}  Lincoln’s own people did not agree with him when it came to how to save the Union.  There were Senators and Representatives who wanted there to be voting only for the African Americans.  “True, there were fleeting moments of cooperation.  He and the Radicals had happily collaborated on Lincoln’s boldest stroke, the historic Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery forever.” {ibid}   In Lowell, the news was about a black (colored, African American, etc.) robber named Woodbine.  The headline for the day was “Victory, Union, Liberty.” {Lowell Courier, Pg. 2}.

     This was the news for April 11, 1865…They, the citizens of Lowell, had a Lowell party to celebrate the end of hostilities.  The “Old Lowell Brass Band,” was stationed in the gallery.  Many woman came.  A Mr. Webber remarked to the paper that “Their capitol is hell for we read that the spirits of the wicked are turned into hell.” {Ibid}  The governor, Mr. Felton named the twentieth as a day of festivities and a day of Thanksgiving.”
    On April 12, 1865, the President shared a dream he had with his Cabinet.  In the dream he (Mr. Lincoln), heard muffled crying and going down to the East Room in the dream, saw a casket with a body in it.  He asked one of the guards who was in the casket and the guard told him that the President had been murdered and he was in the casket.  When his wife Mary Todd Lincoln cried out that that was too horrible to think about, Lincoln put on his game face and said, “Mary, it is only a dream.”
     On April 13th., the paper said that there was some question on the statehood of Louisiana and a caution “to the colored man” to wait for his right to vote.  Lincoln, at this time, was more interested in putting the Union back together than he was getting the vote for the “colored man.”
     In his Second Inaugural Address, which was considered his best speech after the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln had admonished the crowd with the observation that slavery might be around until 1900.  This flew in the face of the 13th. Amendment, which still had to be passed.
    On April 14th. 1865, Lincoln would be shot in the back of the head by a man who remains a mystery to this day.  Did John Wilkes Booth act alone, and if so, how did he know that the only bridge that was open on that night was the 14th. Avenue bridge?  How did he know that that was the only bridge that he could take to fashion an escape.  Many Unionists and Americans believed that he was part of a conspiracy.  Lincoln would die on the 15th. of April, 1865.  After his death, Edwin Stanton, whose behavior in his office would become exceedingly strange, was the one to offer the first words of a strange goodbye.  Secretary Welles, who had noticed that the body was laid out diagonally because it was too big for the bed, said,
“On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred colored people mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss.” {“Growth of the American Republic; Morison and Commager; 1962}
     There is no page of the Courier for the 13th., 14th., and 15th. Those pages did exist when as a student in high school, I looked up on the original books of newspapers dated April 15, 1865.  It seems in the processes of saving valuable literature, the pieces were missing.  There is no explanation on the microfilm for their absence.
     Nothing remains of the 17th. either.  On the 18th., the newspaper read, “We regret that we are unable to announce the apprehension of the murderer of Mr. Lincoln.  Although several persons suspected of having knowledge of it are under arrest are under arrest in Washington.” {Winik}  The newspaper goes on to say that a hole was cut in the wood box so Mr. Lincoln’s body could be seen.”  “The seats and chairs were also arranged to the best advantage for the assassin.”  In other words, John Wilkes Booth’s way was made easier by someone intent on killing the President on that day.
    Governor Andrew, who had been governor throughout most of the Civil War, gave an address, the newspaper read.  “Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, is no more…in happy recognition of the triumphant victories just received of the rebel armies of Virginia.”  “The memory of the generation to which we belong.  The great man, the good President, the fortunate head of the Union, had died.”  On April 19th. the newspaper read, “Yesterday the public were admitted to the White House to look upon the remains of President Lincoln for the last time.” {Courier, Pg. 2}
    Sarratt was arrested and admitted to being the author of the letter called “Sam” found in the Wilkes Booth box.
     They formed a prayer for President Andrew Johnson.  “With malice towards one…” was defined as malice “It could not desroy the government or overturn the State, but it could assassinate the individual.” {ibid. Pg.2}
     The other news of the day was that the Nashua Telegraph was being put up for sale.  Life would go on.  Secretary Seward, who had been stabbed, was sitting up for fifteen minutes and having some soup.
April 19th., which was supposed to be the day that the Ladd and Whitney Monument was dedicated, was just another day of mourning for the dead President.  It is a good place to stop.  The churches of the city, which I wrote about earlier, each remembered the President in their own way.  I will list those services in the next installment.