, ,

The Assassin


As the Civil War swept the eastern United States, New Orleans pianist and Union sympathizer Louis Moreau Gottschalk made a concert tour of the northern states. He then left New York on a steamship bound for San Francisco and was off the coast of California on April 23, 1865, when he wrote in his journal:

A steamer in sight! It is the Golden City, which left San Francisco two days ago. The captain comes on board, and, in the midst of questions from all passengers who crowd the staircase, hurls these words like thunderbolts: “Richmond is taken, Lee has surrendered, Lincoln is assassinated.”

The news, more or less true, which has been transmitted to us since the commencement of the war, has rendered us incredulous. Nothing is more probable than that Lee has surrendered, since, on the morning of our departure from New York, the news of the taking of Petersburg was confirmed–but the death of Lincoln! Some ask for the papers; a passenger has mounted in the rigging and has been requested to read with a loud voice.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Alas! There is no longer any doubt Lincoln is dead. We do not know the details of the horrible outrage–the name only of the assassin is mentioned–Wilkes Booth. I remember having seen him play a year ago in Cleveland. I was struck at that time with the beauty of his features, and at the same time by a sinister expression of his countenance. I would even say that he had something deadly in his look.

A literary lady among my friends who knew him told me that he had as much natural talent for the stage as his brother Edwin, but that his violent and fantastic character would not permit him to polish the natural brutality of his manners any more than to restrain the fury of his acting within the ordained limits of art.

Gottschalk’s voyage to San Francisco continues….