Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
We Saw Lincoln Shot

We Saw Lincoln Shot: One Hundred Eyewitness Accounts

Copyright Date: 1995
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    We Saw Lincoln Shot
    Book Description:

    On the evening of 14 April 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford's Theatre, an entire audience was witness to the tragedy. From diaries, letters, depositions, affidavits, and periodicals, here is a collection of accounts from a variety of theatergoers-who by chance saw one of the truly pivotal events in U.S. history. Providing minute first-hand details recorded over a span of ninety years,We Saw Lincoln Shotexplores an event that will forever be the subject of debate and controversy.

    "I was present at the theater and saw it all," said Samuel Koontz. "In fact I was only about fifteen feet from the President when he was shot, although he was in a private box in the theater."

    In a letter to his parent Jason S. Knox wrote: "Dear Father, It is with sad feeling that I take up my pen and address you. Last Friday night at ten o'clock, I witnessed the saddest tragedy ever enacted in this country. Notwithstanding my promise to you not to visit the theater, I could not resist the temptation to see General Grant and the President, and when the curtain at Ford's rose on the play of 'Our American Cousin,' my roommate and I were seated on the second row of orchestra seats, just beneath the President's box."

    Although there have been many studies of the Lincoln assassination, few have been devoted to the actual event. Overwhelmingly, historians have been attracted to the conspiracy that preceded Lincoln's death or to the aftermath. Too few have relied sufficiently upon eyewitness accounts, and some, without considering how the human mind fails to preserve minute details in long-term memory, have trusted recollections transcribed many years after Lincoln died. With a sharp focus upon the circumstances reported by one hundred actual witnesses,We Saw Lincoln Shotprovides vivid documentation of a momentous evening and exposes errors that have been perpetuated as the assassination has been rendered into written histories.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-696-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-2)
  5. The Lincoln Assassination: An Overview
    (pp. 3-26)

    On April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, a war that had cost the nation six hundred thousand American lives came to an end. Yet some Confederates were unwilling to accept the loss of their cause, as would be vividly displayed at Ford’s Theatre just five days later. Abraham Lincoln, who had recently advised a policy of “malice toward none, charity for all,” would be assassinated on Good Friday, April, 14 1865, four years to the day that the Civil War had begun with the lowering of the Stars and Stripes over Fort Sumter.

    “Some people find me wrong...

  6. ONE The First Accounts, April–May 1865
    (pp. 27-73)

    Twelve of the eyewitnesses’ accounts are particularly significant because of their locations within the theater on the night of the assassination and the time frame within which they recorded their descriptions of the events they observed. Four of these crucial eyewitnesses were located on the orchestra level, six in the dress circle, one in the presidential box, and one on stage.

    Of the four eyewitnesses seated on the orchestra level, Dr. Charles Sabin Taft sat in the front row and witnessed not only the assassination but Lincoln’s death and autopsy as well. His recollections were recorded in personal notes written...

  7. TWO The Conspiracy Trial Accounts, May 1865
    (pp. 74-97)

    The conspiracy trial was held in a military court as the United States government attempted to prosecute those suspected of having assisted with Booth’s plans. Numerous witnesses were questioned about the assassination, and several reliable accounts emerged.*

    The next time I saw of him was when he jumped out of the box of the theater, and fell on one hand, when I recognized him. He fell with his face toward the audience. I said, “He is John Wilkes Booth, and he has shot the President.” I made that remark right there. That is the last I ever saw of him,...

  8. THREE The Transition, 1877–1908
    (pp. 98-123)

    The accounts written during this period are less reliable than the earlier ones. Booth’s broken leg was first mentioned by eyewitnesses in these years. Mary Todd Lincoln’s only written account of the assassination appeared in this period, as did two different accounts by John Buckingham that can be compared with his earlier one.

    My dear Lewis:

    About ten days since, I received your very welcome letter and I am now sending you an immediate reply. Truly, the past winter, has brought much sorrow with it, and you can well understand how fully, I have sympathesized [sic] with you all, in...

  9. FOUR The Last Accounts, 1909–1954
    (pp. 124-198)

    The plethora of accounts stand as testament to Lincoln’s popularity and the public’s interest in the assassination. These accounts contain numerous discrepancies. In almost all cases, the eyewitness was the focus of the account. Although the eyewitnesses were probably in the theater on the night of the assassination, their recollections were based on an event witnessed decades before and thus are highly suspect. Nelson Todd’s account is probably the best example of one that lacks credibility.

    I have not reproduced several accounts because they provide scant information on the assassination. Those accounts are those of Herman Newgarten (Harrisburg Telegraph, November...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 199-204)
    (pp. 205-212)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 213-215)