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“Slavery, race, and the assassination”

Mar 21, 2011 at 6:40pm | Filed Under “The Conspirator

Slavery, race, and the assassination
On the evening of April 11, 1865, a large crowd gathered on the south lawn of the White House in Washington to hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver a speech from a second-floor balcony...
from The Conspirator 56 comments


  • RickS
    04/29/2011 at 2:41pm


    The Aftermath of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

    "Confusion and mystery still surround the shooting of Abraham Lincoln, and we probably will never know all the facts......One thing is for sure his murder was part of a larger conspiracy."

    The words have appeared through the years on brochures and pamphlets issued by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology & the United States Army Medical Museum [better known as the National Museum of Health & Medicine]. Their origin comes from a formerly separate, General Biographical Research, file. In 1996, the GBR file was added to the Otis Historical Archives [named after George Alexander Otis, Major and Surgeon, who served as Curator of the Army Medical Museum], specifically OHA 233, as part of the Medical Ephemera Collection, Series III: biographical files. articles, correspondence, photographs, and manuscripts on or by people significant in medical history or connected to the Museum. Labeled “Lincoln, Assassination Conspiracy”, its story is as strange as some of the specimens stored at the “Old” Army Medical Museum itself.

    Within the Otis Historical Archives [OHA] & Anatomical Collections [AC], are found the following items of interest for those involved in the investigation of the assassination:

    OHA 108 Joseph K. Barnes Collection

    OHA 118 Booth Newspaper Clippings

    OHA 217 “Death of Abraham Lincoln” by Hermann Faber at request of Dr. Barnes

    OHA 233 Medical Ephemera Collection

    OHA 360 Winter Medical Illustration Collection

    AC 18 Presidential and Presidential Assassin Material including injured parts of John Wilkes Booth;

    Some noteworthy sample reports as regards the Lincoln Tragedy, Personal Recollections of the War of the Rebellion, as follows:

    The most melancholy mission assigned to Doctors [Army Surgeons] Woodward [Joseph Janvier] and Curtis [Edward] was that of doing the autopsy upon the body of President Lincoln, who died at 7:20 a.m., 15 April 1865. The pathologists were summoned to the White House at nine a.m. to perform the grievous task of finding and removing the bullet fired into Mr. Lincoln's head by the assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Woodward's laconic technical report, addressed to The Surgeon General [Joseph K. Barnes] gives no hint of the emotional tension under which he must have labored. After describing the bloodshot condition of the eyes and lids, and the condition of the wound and surrounding tissue, swollen with blood, he traces the course of the bullet, which entered through the occipital bone about an inch to the left of the median line, and just above the left lateral sinus, which it opened. It then penetrated the duramater [the outer sheath covering the brain], passed through the left posterior lobe of the cerebrum, entered the left lateral ventricle, and lodged in the white matter of the cerebrum just above the anterior portion of the left corpus striatum where it was found. The ventricles of the brain were full of clotted blood. A thick clot beneath the duramater coated the right cerebral lobe. There was a smaller clot under the duramater of the left side. But little blood was found at the base of the brain. Both orbital plates of the frontal bone were fractured, and the fragments pushed up toward the brain. The dura mater over these fractures was uninjured. The orbits were gorged with blood”. This account taken from a true copy of the original, certified by Maj. George A. Otis, in the collection of the Medical Museum.

    A more colorful and emotion-packed account has been left by Dr. Curtis, who wrote: “Eleven o'clock comes; the two designated pathologists are ushered into what was the bedchamber of the deceased, a room furnished in simplest style. There sit in solemn silence some officers in uniform and some civilians, while the Surgeon General paces nervously to and fro beside another silent occupant of the chamber, a shrouded figure, cold and motionless, lying outstretched upon two boards laid across trestles. The shroud is laid back, and see! A smooth clear skin fitting cleanly over well-rounded muscles, sinewy and strong. Next see at the back of the head, low down and a little to the left, a small round blackened wound, such as is made by a pistol-shot at close range. There is no counter-opening, so the missile has lodged and must now be found. The part is lifted from its seat, when suddenly, from out a cruel vent that traverses it from end to end, through these very fingers there slips a something hard — slips and falls with a metal's mocking clatter into a basin set beneath. The search is satisfied; a little pellet of lead”. So impressed was Dr. Curtis with the historical interest attached to the autopsy on the martyred President, that when he found some drops of the blood of the President upon his cuffs, Mrs. Curtis cut them off and saved them. Ultimately, they were presented to the Medical Museum where they may be seen today, along with a tiny sliver of bone which evidently had been driven into Mr. Lincoln's brain by the bullet and had adhered to the surgical instrument used by Dr. Curtis. [Note: From the bloodstains on the cuffs preserved by Mrs. Curtis, Col. Joseph H. Akeroyd, MSC, U.S. Army was able to type President Lincoln's blood as Type A].

    The pictorial resources of the Museum were also called upon in the search for the President's assassin and his accomplices. "During the month of April," says a report of 1 July 1865 from Dr. Otis to The Surgeon General, "there were printed 1,500 photographs of the assassins of the President, for the assistance of the officers of justice.” Presumably, these photographic prints were used to illustrate the reward posters of the War Department, dated 20 April 1865. This poster is illustrated with a familiar pose of Booth, but the picture of David E. Herold is that of a schoolboy, while the one supposed to represent John H. Surratt is of some other individual entirely. Later, after the conspirators had been captured, tried, and executed, the War Department revised the photo-graphic part of the poster, changing the Booth picture to another pose, the picture of Herold to one made after his capture, and the Surratt picture to one of Surratt made after his capture and return to the United States. The poster exhibited at the Medical Museum is one of the revised edition. In addition, after the examination of the cervical vertebrae and section of the spinal cord of the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, the specimens were removed from the body, officially identified as that of Booth, on 29 April 1865; and show the course of a conoidal bullet through the third, fourth, and fifth cervical vertebrae and the perforated spinal cord, all of which are now on exhibition in the Museum.

    Another connection between the Museum and the events surrounding the death of President Lincoln was the preparation by Hermann Faber, medical artist at the Museum, of the earliest and most accurate sketch of the scene at the deathbed of the President. Mr. Faber, a German artist enlisted as a hospital steward and assigned to the work of what would now be called medical illustration, entered the Petersen house, in which Mr. Lincoln had died, immediately after the removal of the body. Nothing had been disturbed, and the sketch made was approved for accuracy by Surgeon General Barnes, who had been one of the physicians attending the President and who was present at his death. The original of the sketch is among the exhibits at the Medical Museum and was presented on 30 January 1933, by Erwin F. Faber, son of Hermann Faber, to the Army Medical Museum [Letter on file in historical records of AFIP].

    In its first three years of life, the Museum had been housed in three different buildings and now, in its fourth year, Barnes and Otis were looking to move again to a perfect piece of real estate, but not without the approval of Secretary of War Stanton, who apparently objected to the concept at first according to Dr. Daniel S. Lamb, who was the pathologist of the Museum and affiliated with the Museum from the Civil War until World War 1."The Secretary of War had to be informed. He was told by General Barnes and said he would decide the matter and speak of it tomorrow. On the morrow about nine o'clock on his drive from his home to the War Office, he stopped at the Museum building, descended from his carriage, ran hastily through the Museum rooms, stamped his foot, growled ‘Ugh’, drove to his office, sent for Acting Surgeon General Barnes, and said sharply to him: ‘Are these lectures to be given in the evenings?' To an affirmative reply he growled: 'They will go to the theatre and neglect their duties. It shan't be.' And this was thought to be the end of a favorite plan for doing some good for the Medical Corps of the Army and for disseminating a more correct and general knowledge of Military Medicine and Surgery." However, Stanton, himself, had a change of heart and the rest, of course, is history. “The old Ford's theatre building in which President Lincoln was assassinated had been closed after the tragedy. Congress had authorized its use for purposes of the Museum and the Pension Records. The building had been altered and repaired and was nearly ready for occupancy and preparations were made to occupy it. Its old number was 454 Tenth Street, N.W., afterwards No. 511”.

    Its new quarters were in the building formerly occupied by Ford's Theater, on 10th Street, NW., where, on Good Friday of 1865, President Lincoln was shot. The building had been closed as a theater immediately after the assassination and had been in the possession of the Government since 8 July 1865. The purchase of the building "for the deposit and safekeeping of documentary papers relative to the soldiers of the army of the United States and of the Museum of the Medical and Surgical Department of the Army" was provided for by Act of Congress approved 6 April 1866, and on 7 May 1866, the building was assigned by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to The Surgeon General. Its interior fittings had been torn out and replaced with three floors, of which the upper floor was assigned to the Museum, the second floor to the surgical records of the Surgeon General's Office, and the ground floor to the Record and Pension Division of the same office. There had been an effort to fireproof the building by putting in brick floors resting on iron arches, sup- ported by columns of iron. Stairways between floors were also of iron. The building had a front of 71 feet on 10th Street, and a depth of 109 feet. Museum workshops and a chemical laboratory were housed in small wings on each side. Into this building, "the scene of the assassination of the lamented Lincoln," in the words of Dr. Woodward, the collections of the Museum were to be moved. "What nobler monument could the nation erect to his memory," the doctor asked, "than this sombre treasure house, devoted to the study of disease and injury, mutilation and death?" The movement of this "sombre treasure" from the building on H Street began on 12 November 1866, and continued until 8 December. The removal of the records, and that portion of the collection which had been housed at 180 Pennsylvania Avenue, followed between 11 December and the 21st of the month. On the 22cl, General Barnes advised the Quartermaster General's office that the former quarters had been vacated, and transmitted the keys. For the next 20 years, the life of the Museum was to be centered in the Ford's Theater building.

    From the beginning, the Museum had attracted an increasing number of visitors. Within a year of its establishment, its usefulness had been recognized by the civilian medical profession as well as by the military, and it was "weekly and almost daily" consulted by them. To the medical profession, there was added another class of visitors with a special interest. In Dr. John H. Brinton's phrase, "officers and soldiers who had lost a limb by amputation would come to look up its resting place, in some sense its last resting place." Then, too, as Dr. Brinton wrote, "the public came to see the bones, attracted by a new sensation." While the Museum was still at the H Street address, Curator Otis reported, more formally, "the number of visitors to the collection constantly increases." With the removal to the Ford's Theater building, and its tragic associations with the great appealing figure of Lincoln, [including but not limited to, of course, the bullet that ended President Lincoln's life, the instrument used to locate it, and bone fragments which adhered to it] the number of visitors mounted to such an extent that rules, approved by order of The Surgeon General and issued on 25 April 1867, were posted. Between mid-April of 1867 and the end of the year, some 6,000 persons, an average of about 25 for each day the Museum was open, had been registered in the visitor's book. Within the next 4 years, the number of visitors had trebled, 10 and the Museum had become established as one of the "sights" of Washington. When extra crowds came to the city, as upon the occasion of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's inauguration as President in 1869, the visiting hours were extended — opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 4 p.m.; and at his second inauguration, in 1873, from 8 a.m. until 4 p-m.

    In 1887, the building exclusively became a clerk's office for the War Department, when the medical departments moved out. The front part of the building collapsed on June 9, 1893, killing 22 clerks and injuring another 68. This led some people to believe that the former church turned theatre and storeroom was cursed. The building was repaired and used as a government warehouse until 1931. It languished unused until 1968. The theatre reopened on January 30, 1968, with a gala performance. The theatre was again renovated during the 2000s. The re-opening ceremony was on February 12, 2009, which commemorated Lincoln's 200th birthday. It has a current capacity of 661.

    References & Sources:
    The Army Medical Museum in Washington by Louis Bagger: (pp. 294-297) in Appletons' Journal: a magazine of general literature. Volume 9, Issue 206. 1873. New York. D. Appleton and Co.

    Last Professional Service of the War pp. 54-65, 7 October 1908 by Edward Curtis, Brevet Major, Late U.S.A.

    A History of the United States Army Medical Museum 1862 to 1917 compiled from Official Records by Dr. Daniel S. Lamb

    The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology: 1862-1962, published in Medical Annals of the District of Columbia, vol. XXXI, no. 10, October 1962; Colonel Frank M. Townsend, USAF, MC

    The Role of the Old Army Medical Museum in the Development of Pathology, by Maj. Gen. James P. Cooney; Guest Editorial by Dr. Townsend, from Military Medicine, April 1963

    The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology - Its First Century 1862-1962 by Robert Selph Henry, A.B., LL.B., Litt.D. OFFICE OF THE SURGEON GENERAL. DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY. 1964 Includes two lectures; 1st by Col. Hugh R. Gilmore, Jr., "it is doubtful if modern medical practice could have saved Lincoln's life” and 2nd by Lt. Col. George J. Hayes, M.C., Chief of Neurological Service, said “that even with the best of modern medical service, the President would have had no more than a 50-50 chance of survival, and even if he had survived, he would probably have been completely paralyzed on the right side and possibly unable to talk” at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on 25 May 1960 [Medical Aspects of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln reported in the Washington Post of 05/25/1960]

    Guide to Collections at the National Museum of Health & Medicine. Michael Rhode & Kathleen Stocker, Archivists & Editors. © AFIP 2009; within OHA 54 Museum Records & Historical Collections Records [includes Helen Purtle’s article from 1958, Lincoln Memorabilia in the Museum, wherein Ms. Purtle discusses interestingly the various Lincoln items in the Museum, and gives an account of the acquisition of each one, which was mostly by gift.

    TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2011


    With the Pathology Institute closing in the spring, there's no official requirement to do an annual report this year, but I feel that people should be able to find out what we did. Annual Reports for the time I have run the Archives, 1989-2009 are available on the Museum's website.

    Michael Rhode, Chief Archivist

    2010 was the last year of almost-normal life in the Archives, although BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure] planning began to take a large amount of time. A significant amount of time was also spent in planning for the BRAC move of the Museum, and the new storage systems that will be needed. Computerized cataloguing on the collection has continued on both the collection and item level. Cataloguing of new material coming into the museum was done for the General Medical Products Information Collection, Medical Ephemera, New Contributed photographs, Audiovisual Collection, AFIP Historical Files, WRAMC Historical Collection and other artificial collections. Implementation of a comprehensive computer catalogue for the entire Museum continued with data from the archives added to KE Software’s EMU database. New cataloguing is now done directly into EMU, unless a traditional archival-style finding aid is done. Tens of thousands of records were created or modified for the Archives after the initial data load, and in 2011, all of the IMC records and images will be added into the database. The Archives has a significant presence on the Internet including the Guide to the Collections of the Museum on the museum website which remains the main way researchers begin to use the archives..

    A Repository for Bottled Monsters, an unofficial blog for the museum, continues to attract a worldwide audience. The notice about sharing the Civil War images was first posted to the blog and picked up from there. Since January 19, 2010, transcriptions of a ‘Letter of the Day’ from the Archives files have been posted to the blog with only July 4th not having a letter found for it. Books and documents scanned by IMC were uploaded to the free Internet Archive, where they are available for downloading. Titles uploaded included a score of scans of the Museum’s nineteenth century logbooks and the three 1866 printed Catalogues of the Museum. Rhode served on the AFIP's Institutional Review Board and HIPPA committees as well as Museum committees including the Admin group, the collections committee and the database committee.

    “The National Museum of Health and Medicine’s History as Seen through Its Archives” Michael Rhode, Society of American Archivists


    In accordance with Base Realignment and Closure, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology will disestablish by September 2011.

    New Location: The Joint Pathology Center (JPC) 606 Stephen Sitter Avenue Silver Spring, MD 20910.

    from April 1865: Lincoln, Washington City, and the Civil War's End
  • RickS
    04/28/2011 at 10:51pm



    Thought you might consider another couple of comments as to whether Mary Surratt died in vain or not; re: death penalty, behalf of Southern woman, etc.

    "Mary Surratt - Mother of all Conspirators...Although during her trial, newspapers and public opinion considered her guilty, after her execution the tide swung the other way. Mary Surratt’s situation pointed out the changing roles of women in society, particularly during the Civil War where women not only served as nurses but also as soldiers, spies, abolitionists, wearing pants in public. Women particularly working in espionage posed a dilemma for Union soldiers and federal officials. Did they treat them like they would a man? Or did they deserve special treatment because of their sex?" - Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, author of "Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women"

    "Someone, probably [JAG] Holt, said they would hang Mary [Surratt] for all the Southern women spies etc. who supported the South during the war and got away with it". - William L. Richter, author of "Sic Semper Tyrannis: Why John Wilkes Booth Shot Abraham Lincoln" & "The Last Confederate Heroes: The Final Struggle For Southern Independence & The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln"

    from The Private Life of Mary Surratt
  • RickS
    04/20/2011 at 10:32pm


    The Expansion & Extension of the Executive Privilege in Wartime Washington

    Traditionally, the President and his Cabinet do not have to claim "executive privilege", but rather instead they are able to rely on the common law deliberative process privilege or the "privilege of secrecy". The stakes are obviously much higher if the constitutionally-based executive privilege is invoked. The doctrine of executive privilege, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, is founded upon the basic principles contained within Article II, Section 1, Clause 1. History and precedent recognize Congressional power to oversee – and after all, the Constitution by no means contemplates total separation of each of the three essential branches of Government; Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The power of Congress follows from the system of checks and balances favored by the framers of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has been careful to limit Congressional power. The Court has found that Congress must have a valid legislative purpose. In addition, the Court has of course recognized the existence of executive privilege, but the Court has also found the privilege is not absolute. That being said, however, the Supreme Court has never been called upon to render a decision whether executive privilege can overcome a congressional demand.

    Presidents will attempt to increase their power at the expense of other branches of government and even the people. This despite those provisions of the Constitution that make it clear that powers not granted specifically should not be inferred. That this proclivity should increase in time of war should surprise nobody. Presidents for the most part seem to take the Constitution seriously but unquestionably war will strain their abilities to live within its bounds. War will strain the ability of all its participants to uphold values that routinely pertain in normal times. Presidents use wars and security concerns to replace the old Constitution, which limited federal powers, with a new one that does not. The argument could be made more simply without sacrificing much accuracy: The federal government expands its powers by all available means, and the written Constitution has little power to prevent this. An excellent example of the enabling of the expansion and extension of executive privilege ensued after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln when the executive branch [which still existed, of course, in the form, manner, and shape of Stanton] not the legislative or judicial, controlled the trial of the so-called conspirators.

    “The Constitution has never greatly bothered any wartime president,” wrote Francis Biddle, F.D.R.’s attorney general during World War II. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, and in several states he ordered the trial of civilians by military tribunals. “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” [Article 1, Section 9, clause 2, U.S. Constitution]. During the Civil War, once Congress classified the conflict as a “Rebellion” it clearly had the right to suspend hapeas corpus. Although Congress explicitly authorized Lincoln to suspend the writ, it was a draconian measure that the president believed essential to preserve the Union. “Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?” he asked. Lincoln, of course was responding to an armed insurrection which threatened the nation’s survival. Most historians have judged his action as commensurate with the threat. There is an old legal maxim that in time of war the laws are silent: Inter arma silent leges. But the critical and crucial issue is the extent to which the nation is threatened.

    In the case of Lincoln, the survival of the United States hung in the balance. A president will be forgiven by his contemporaries, though not necessarily by later generations and historians, for acting outside the law when that is the case. As more than one Supreme Court justice has said, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. When national survival is not threatened, however, it is essential for a chief executive to resist an unwarranted enlargement of his powers. Though the best case for the Confederacy to succeed was still a long shot, does anyone seriously argue that suspending the writ of habeas corpus for the supposed “enemy within” in the North materially influenced the outcome of the Civil War? I seem to recall that the Supreme Court reprimanded Abraham Lincoln when he ignored a writ of habeas corpus, and he continued to do so in spite of the court’s decision: ex parte Merryman. Therefore, it’s no accident the one president who had legitimate Constitutional authority to do what he did- Lincoln- is remembered as the greatest President of them all.

    from April 1865: Lincoln, Washington City, and the Civil War's End
  • RickS
    04/15/2011 at 12:11pm


    Colonel Borch

    I beg to differ with you, sir. The causes and effects of the Civil War had everything to do with John Wilkes Booth's assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I doubt Booth would have willingly thrown away his liberty, livelihood, and, in the very end, his life.

    After all, it was on the evening of December 1, 1860 that Booth stood on the stage, with actress Margaret Julia Mitchell [known affectionately though the Southern states as "Our Maggie"] of the newly opened Montgomery Theatre [on October 14, 1860], on the corner of Monroe and Perry Streets in Montgomery, Alabama, on the occasion of the Booth Benefit his then manager, Matthew Canning, had scheduled.

    It was indeed a special evening; Booth, previously billed as just "John Wilkes" up until that night, performed both "Rafaelle" and "Richard III" with Maggie Mitchell's comedic turn as "Katy O’Sheal" sandwiched in between them. [The "Daily Post", Montgomery's newspaper, would note the name change] In effect and in fact it was John Wilkes Booth's "coming out" party, as he spoke to a standing room only, adoring Alabama audience, itself reeling from the recent election of Abe Lincoln. It would be the first time and the first of many words he'd write and/or voice from a new script:

    “Thank you so very much, dear Margaret Julia, and you as well, citizens of Montgomery. Your down home Southern hospitality is without equal. This Complimentary Benefit has humbled me. Without your outpouring, during my all too brief stay, especially due to result of the recent election, I fear I might have been stricken speechless, or worse yet, useless. However, do not despair for me my friends, my anguish has been lifted being amongst you. I believe the South shall survive and succeed without Abraham Lincoln and Washington City. You all feel the fire of abolition now raging. It is a fire lighted and fanned by Republican fanaticism. A fire which only blood and justice can extinguish. Fierce civil war will follow. What then? Why God alone can tell the rest. So help me God, I dedicate this show tonight to you all. God bless my sweet second home, Alabama!”

    The sentiments of which would lead his soon-to-be-estranged elder brother, Edwin, to later state, after John Wilkes 1865 death: "He was a rattle-pated fellow, filled with Quixotic notions...a wild-brained boy...insane [about secession and Lincoln's election] which drove him beyond the limits of reason".

    In closing, Colonel, the die was already cast, 150 years ago. A damned Booth and a doomed Lincoln were both destined to add perpetual punctuation to a un-Civil War

    from Historians View the Assassination
  • RickS
    04/09/2011 at 11:58am


    In my forthcoming book "Dixie Reckoning: A Reassessment of the Lincoln Assassination and Lost Confederate Treasury" I make a case that there were actual two "crime{s} of the century" in the Civil War era from 1850 to 1880. In addition to assassination of Abraham Lincoln, there was also the "plundering" [Stanton's phrasing] of the Confederacy's Treasury. [not to be confused of course with the mythical Confederate "Treasure"]. What's not a well-known historical fact is that several countries or states, legal or otherwise, have defaulted on their bonds. Major all-time defaults are summarized as follows: China $90 million, Russia over $1.5 billion, Confederate States of America $712 million, Mexico $12 million, and the State of Mississippi $7 million. In closing, following the monies, motives, and movers and shakers is what Dixie Reckoning is all about.

    from Motives for the Assassination
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