tv American Artifacts CSPAN August 24, 2016 11:40am-12:10pm EDT
surrender. why is it a myth? because the event that supposedly took place there wasn't what it seemed. lee and grant had been corresponding for several days, since april 7, about the possibility of lee surrendering his army. and on the morning of april 9, when lee is finally ready to surrender his army, he sends a message to general grant. but general grant is moving his headquarters, he's on about a 20-mile ride, so lee's message catches up with him maybe about 11:00 that morning. he has to dispatch men to rida head to make the arrangements to meet with general lee. he dispatches william babcock and lee dunn ride ahead and meet lee. they findley resting under an apple tree at the appomattox river. general lee's artillery are on the hills behind this apple tree and they see general lee talking with him under it. he dispatches his orderly to come into the village, find a
place to meet, and eventually lee, babcock and dunn ride into the village to the mclean house. the next time the confederate soldiers see general lee, they learn they've been surrendered. they mistakenly assume that the federal officer talking to lee under the apple tree was general grant. so they went over and started to cut the tree down for souvenirs. before long, federal troops came over and asked the confederate soldiers why they were cutting down the tree, and he said this is the tree where general lee surrendered to general grant. the confederate soldiers said, i want part of that tree, too. they went to work getting souvenirs off that tree. that night all the roots had been dug up and there was nothing but a hole in the ground
where the apple tree stood. visitors will come through and bring pieces of the apple tree that their ancestors brought home to them, some of which have been donated to the park and on display here. it was removed when he wrote his memoirs. i think one of the most moving pieces in the collection is a letter written by charles minnegurre. he had joined the army, i think, maybe a little bit against his parents' wishes, and during the waning fight here at appomattox courthouse on the morning of april 9, as they shut down the richmond lynchburg stage road, fritsch lee decided to escape where he could. he didn't know they were able to take their horses. a bullet struck him and knocked him off his horse. a physician said he was a dead man, so they pinned a note to
his jacket to let his father in richmond know of his death. as he's left dying on the battlefield, he pulls out a piece of paper and writes a rather moving death letter to his mother. he says, my darling mother. i am dying, but i've fallen where i expected to fall. our cause is defeated but i do not live to see the end of it. i suffer agonies. wish to god i could die calmly, but i must see his will be done. my latest regret to leaving this world is to leave you and the rest of the dear ones. the younger children will be more comforting to you than i have been, but none of them will love you more. that is his death letter to his mother. but a fellow surgeon named norris with the new york regimen actually finds minnegurre on the
battlefield, operates on him, removes the bullet and saves his life. so in the end he doesn't die on the battlefield here at appomattox. what we've covered today are just some of the high points at the park. there are other exhibits and buildings to see if you come out and visit for yourself. appomattox is one of the most significant events in american history. this is a place where the killing of americans by americans to the tune of over 700,000 ended. it's also the place where we decided we would be one nation instead of two. the events at the mclean house on april 9, general grant's
generosity to general lee and his men and the events on the richmond lynchburg stage road during the stacking of arms set a positive course for the nation and allowed for a stronger country to emerge. please pay us a visit or even make a special pilgrimage to visit our site. >> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. 100 years ago president wilson signed the bill creating the national park service and thursday we look back on these caretakers of america's natural and historic treasures. begin ining at 10:00 eempb and throughout the day, we take you to national park service sites across the country as recorded by c-span. at 7:00 p.m. eastern we're live from the national park service's
most visited historic home, arlington house, the memorial at arlington national cemetery. join us with your phone calls at we talk with robert stanton, former national park service director, and brandon buys, the former arlington house site manager who will oversee the year-long restoration of the mansion and grounds. thursday, the 100th anniversary of the national park service live from arlington house at 7:00 p.m. eastern on "american history tv" on c-span 3. thursday marking the 100th anniversary of the national park service. tonight we bring you a number of national park service tours from our american artifacts and reel america programs some of the sites are congress hall and the courthouse. that starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3's "american history tv."
each week "american history tv"'s artifacts visits historic places. you're looking at peterson house here in washington, d.c. where president lincoln passed away at 7:22 a.m. on april 15th of 1865. up next, a tour of the former boarding house located across the street from ford's theater where lincoln was shot 150 years ago. >> this house was built in the early 1850s by german immigrant to america. he used this house as a border house up to 10 or 12 people lived here at a time. this is a relic of 19th semplg ri boarding house culture. lived in group homes.
so this house aside from its history of being the place where lincoln died is an important part of civil war washington, d.c. history. thsz a great museum of culture in washington, d.c. i started coming here in 1986. and i have been coming here for years. and i'm very excite d for the anniversary there's going to be a big commemoration for abraham lincoln. because in past years i'm here alone. no one comes on the night of the assassination. no one comes to honor lincoln. i might find one or two people here and contemplate what happened. a couple years ago the park service almost arrested me sitting on the steps because a guard across the streets of being a homeless loitering.
i serve on the society council advisers. ten minutes later two squad cars rolled up and the national park service police questioned me and they said how do we know you're not a homeless man who is going to damage this house. one came to his senses and rolled his eyes and asked me to enjoy the evening. i have had quite a time coming to this house. it's been abandoned by the public for a long time. this year the 150th anniversary is going to be different. lincoln arrived at ford's theater at 8:30 p.m. on april 14th, 1865. the play was underway. he was late. no one noticed lincoln arrived. the street was quiet. people were going to bars and taverns to celebrate the victory in the war. and so it was a quiet night on the street. everyone was inside the theater. the play was underway. . so the carriage pulled up and stopped in front of the big gas lamp and lincoln went inside. then around 10:15 or 10:20 p.m.
the doors of ford's theater burst open. first dozens, then hus, and a thousand people came rushing out the doors screaming. at first some people thought the theater was on fire. at first some people thought the theater was on fire. then they heard the shouts, "lincoln's been shot, the president's been killed, burn the theater, find the assassin. that got the attention of the residents of this boarding house. the first person who noticed what was happening was a guy named george francis who lived on the first floor of the two front rooms. he came outside and walked into the street and he could only get halfway across. people were screaming "the president is dead." he walked right up to the president's body as it was being carried across the street. another boarder on the second floor, henry safford, went outside after he heard the noise. he saw the commotion, too. he heard the shouts that lincoln had been shot. safford couldn't get to ford's theater there were so many people outside in the street. he retreated, came back to his house, and went up these stairs and stood at the top of the staircase.
he was up there watching as the soldiers pounded on the door of the house next door and they couldn't get in. and he saw there was lincoln in the middle of the street being carried by soldiers and they didn't know where to take the president. safford went inside, got a candle, stood at the top of the staircase and shouted, bring him in here, bring him in here. dr. leo heard that and shouted "bring him in here, bring him in here." the doctor heard that and shouted to the officers and soldiers, take the president to that house. they crossed the street and came up these stairs. and so as lincoln was being carried up the staircase he was still alive. unconscious. and the sight of abraham lincoln here at the top of the staircase was the last time the american people saw him alive. so dr. leo came in this door. and he told safford, take us to your best room. now, the hallway's narrow. it was already filled with the lincoln entourage, with the
doctors, with the soldiers. and there was a narrow staircase on the right. safford knew the best room was the front parlor, occupied by george and hilda francis. he reached for the door, it was locked. he went down to the second door here, this door was locked. hilda francis was inside frantically getting dressed. she had seen the president being brought to the house through the front windows, and so she was already dressed for bed so she wanted to put on clothes. so she didn't unlock this door either. and all that was left was this little room at the back of the hallway. which was occupied by a civil war soldier. but he was out for the evening. and so safford led them to this back room here. you can see how narrow the hallway is. there's barely enough room for soldiers to stand on each side of lincoln and carry him down this hallway. and so they took him into this room. and laid him on a spindle bed in the corner.
lincoln didn't even fit on the bed, he was too tall. dr. leo ordered soldiers to break off the foot of the bed. but it wouldn't come off because it's integral to the construction of the bed. the bed would have collapsed. so they had no choice but to lay abraham lincoln diagonally across the bed. at that point, too many people were in the room. it was hot. and dr. leo ordered people out. he needed to examine the president. he knew he had been shot in the head. but he didn't know if he had other wounds. so once the doctors were alone, they stripped lincoln naked and examined him on this bed. as the doctors began their examination of lincoln, they observed that he had no other wounds. they thought he might have been stabbed. because almost everyone in ford's theater had seen john wilkes booth flash that dagger onstage after he leaped from the president's box. lincoln was unwounded but for the shot of a single bullet behind the left ear. as lincoln was lying here on the
bed, mary lincoln and her entourage came through the front door of the peterson house and they went to that front parlor. so we'll go that way and see what mary lincoln did. when lincoln was first brought in this house, he had no bodyguards. the army wasn't here yet. so strangers actually came into this house and observed lincoln in that bed. they lingered in these hallways. it was not until 15 or 20 minutes later that lincoln was under the full protection of the u.s. army. they then entered the house and soldiers and officers cleared everyone out who was unknown to them and didn't belong here. mary lincoln was frantic by then. she came through that front door screaming, where's my husband, where's my husband? why didn't he shoot me? then mary lincoln entered this front parlor. and she sat on of course her sofa in this room. this was the front parlor of the boarders george and hilda francis, who quickly vacated the
premises when the first lady was brought in. mary lincoln would spend much of the hours of april 14th and the early morning hours of april 15th in this room. she didn't spend the night at her husband's side, she spent most of the night here with close friends. she was very upset. she really couldn't stand to see her husband wounded and unconscious. so much of her time was here. crying, sobbing. when clara harris, one of her theater guests that night, came in and mary lincoln saw harris' dress covered with blood, mary began screaming, my husband's blood, my husband's blood! it was actually the blood of major rathbone, miss harris' fiance. he had been stabbed by booth, he bled heavily, much of the blood was on his fiance's dress. mary lincoln was wrong, it was not her husband's blood, it was major rathbone's blood. major rathbone came here, he leaned against the wall in the hallway, soon he sat down and collapsed and fainted. he was taken from that floor and taken home.
so here's where mary lincoln spent much of the night. secretary of war stanton and secretary of the navy wells arrived at the peterson house shortly after lincoln was taken here. they were first at the home of secretary of state seward. they had heard the secretary of state had been stabbed to death in his bed, and he almost was killed. he survived the wounds. when they got to seward's mansion near the white house they heard that lincoln had been shot here at ford's theater so they rushed over here in a carriage. by the time they got here, thousands of people had gathered at the corner of 10th and f streets and the carriage couldn't push through the crowd. so there they were, the two most powerful members of the cabinet commanding the entire united states army and the navy, had to disembark from their carriage and disappear into the mob and push their way through and come into this house. so stanton came through this door into this room and he saw mary lincoln here. and he decided he couldn't
operate from here in front of the first lady. so stanton came through this room and into the back parlor here. which was the francis' bedroom. and it was here at a table in the center of this room that the secretary of war began the manhunt for john wilkes booth. witnesses from ford's theater were brought here. stanton questioned them. a union army soldier who knew a kind of shorthand sat at this table with stanton. and took the first testimony of witnesses who saw john wilkes booth murder the president. and so stanton spent most of the night here at a table in this room sending telegrams to army commanders in new york and throughout the northeast to organize the manhunt for john wilkes booth. throughout the night he sent messengers from this room to the war department telegraph office. and from that office messages were brought back here. so this room really became the command post for the entire army of the united states under the secretary of war while lincoln was dying in the back bedroom.
stanton was one of lincoln's favorites. he had an iron will. lincoln called him his mars, god of war. even though they didn't get along well the election, stanton once humiliated lincoln at a trial they staffed together, lincoln knew he was his right hand. he once said stanton really was the rocky shore upon which the waves of rebellion crash and are broken. and they were very close. stanton was devastated but he threw himself into the work. so here tonight he was imperious. fearsome. barking commands, sending orders all over the country to hunt for john wilkes booth. on trains, on boats. the orders went out everywhere. catch the assassin, find him. and so the manhunt, which took 12 days, began in this room before lincoln even died. once word got out to official washington that lincoln was here, this really became the magnetic center of attraction for all important people in washington. over 100 people made pilgrimages here during the night. some came because they wanted to
help. they knew stanton would need them or the secretary of navy would need them. some were friends of mary lincoln and they wanted to comfort them. others were journalists who were not allowed to enter the house. and while all this was happening, thousands of people in the street gathered right in front of this house. some tried to stand on tippy toe and peek through the windows or hoist others up so they could look in. but the blinds were closed then and they couldn't see. and so throughout the night, with regularity, official visitors came to the front door of the peterson house and were admitted to see the dying president. more than a dozen doctors came. they knew they couldn't help lincoln. he had been shot through the brain. some people came because they wanted to see one day that they had been here. they had seen the great lincoln on the night he was assassinated. some came so they could tell their grandchildren, decades later, i was there the night lincoln died. and so more people were in this house than really needed to be here. it was appropriate members of
the cabinet come. but there were too many people here in this little house as abraham lincoln was dying. so mary lincoln would sometimes come out that front door of the parlor and venture to the back. and her female trends escorted her down this hallway. by then, the bed had been pulled away from the wall. so the doctors could surround it and treat lincoln and observe him. so several times during the night, mary lincoln sat in a chair right here next to the bed pulled away from the wall. she really couldn't control herself. at one point when it sounded like lincoln was gasping and about to die, she let out a terrific shriek that so unnerved secretary of war stanton, he said, "take that woman out of this room and don't let her back in again." which was a cruel thing to say. mary lincoln did not have a lot of fans in washington but it was not right to treat her that way in the presence of her dying
husband. but she was so upset and unnerved, she really couldn't bear to be in this room. and so she only made a few trips back here throughout the night. and she was not present when the president died. she was sitting in the front room. lincoln lingered throughout the night. many men would have died within minutes of being shot through the head the way he was but he rallied. and daylight came. at around 6:00 in the morning secretary of the navy wells decided to go for a walk. he had decided that some high official should be at lincoln's side throughout the night and morning hours. and he really left it to secretary of war stanton to question witnesses, to begin the manhunt, begin the investigation, to see if other cabinet members aside from seward had been marked for death. and wells was here that night more as a mourner and witness for lincoln rather than a person who's active in the
investigation and the activities that night. so wells found it hot and oppressive and humid that morning and he walked outside. a light rain had begun. and he was astonished to find several thousand people keeping vigil in the street outside. many of them were black. either free men who'd never been slaves or freed slaves, men and women, gathering in silent vigil. and wells was touched by that. the street was silent. by that point there was no shouting, there was no screaming. a hushed crowd stood outside. and they asked wells, how is the president? what was to happen? and he couldn't answer them. so he came back. by 6:30 in the morning it was obvious that lincoln was not going to last much longer. the breathing became more labored, less frequent. and so the doctors fished pocket watches out of their suit coats. because they wanted to mark the moment when abraham lincoln died.
and that came at 7:22 a.m. on the morning of april 15th, 1865. that was when lincoln's heart made its last beat. the doctors recorded the time. and one of them said, "he's dead, he's gone." witnesses say no one spoke for a few minutes. and then secretary of war stanton said to the reverend dr. gurley, lincoln's minister, "doctor, will you speak?" he said a prayer for lincoln. and then edwin stanton pronounced words that really were immortal. and remembered wrong for the last 150 years. the secretary of war stood in this room and looked at abraham lincoln's body and said, "now he belongs to the angels." we remember it today as now he belongs to the ages. but extensive research has revealed that it's best remembered by the stenographer tanner, whose pencil broke, his only lead pencil broke as he was
writing down what was said in this room, but he remembered that stanton said angels. plus it's characteristic of stanton's temperament, how he viewed his faith, how he viewed the world. he wouldn't have said something as profound as "now he belongs to the ages." i have no doubt that in this room stanton said, "now he belongs to the angels." people filtered out of the room one by one. stanton remained here alone with the president. and at that point, he took a small scissors or razor and he approached lincoln's body. and he cut off a lock of lincoln's hair. not for himself but for mary jane wells, the wife of the secretary of the navy. one of mary lincoln's few close friends in washington. and he sealed in an envelope, wrote her name on it, and later mrs. wells framed the lock of hair with dried flowers that adorned lincoln's coffin at the white house funeral.
and so that was really the first blood relic taken from abraham lincoln in this room by secretary of war stanton. then it was time to bring lincoln home to the white house. so the secretary of war sent for what was needed to convey the body of a dead president home to the white house. soldiers were sent. and they returned from a military shop a few blocks away carrying a rectangular plain pine box. an ammunition crate, a rifle crate, with a screw-top lid. so when those soldiers rounded the corner and came up 10th street with that box, the crowd moaned. because they knew intellectually that the president had died. they saw the cabinet members leaving. they knew. but the sight of that coffin was the real refutation of their hopes that lincoln could live. so that coffin was taken down this hallway and laid on the
floor right here. and before lincoln's body was placed in the coffin, soldiers took a 35-star flag, possibly a 36-star flag, for the final state added to the union in the civil war, and they wrapped lincoln's naked body in the colors of the union. and if they followed tradition, the stars would have been wrapped over lincoln's face. lincoln had ordered that the flag keep its full complement of stars during the civil war to symbolize that the union was permanent. and lincoln would not have minded being placed in that rough pine box. there was really -- the rough-hewn coffin for a rail splitter. so stanton stood here as the soldiers took a screwdriver and screwed the lid on that box. there was no sound. you could literally hear the squeaking sound of the screws tightening and the lid being places on. then the president was carried out this room through that hall to the front door and down that
curving staircase. where a simple carriage awaited him and a military escort was there. it was not fancy. there was no band, there were no national colors, regimental flags. the officers were all bare headed. and they escorted lincoln home to the white house. that's not the end of the story of this house, the peterson house. once all the government officials had left, once the president's body was gone, once stanton left, the house was open. no one was here. it was no longer under guard. anyone could come into this house and anyone who lived in this house could do whatever they wanted in this room. william peterson was furious that muddy boot tracks had soiled his carpet. when he came into this room and he saw bloody pillows, bloody sheets, bloody towels, bloody handkerchiefs, he got so angry he opened one of these windows and threw a lot of that material out the window into the yard behind. two boarders who lived in the
house, two brothers. one was a cameraman photographer, one was a painter. they decided to bring up a bulky camera and photograph the deathbed. it still had many bloody sheets on it, bloody pillows, a coverlet was on the bed. they pushed the bed back into the corner to get a better photograph of the room. so they set up the camera at the end of the room and pointed the lens towards the bed and towards this hallway. and they opened the front door so the morning light streamed down this hallway. and they took one or two exposures of abraham lincoln's death bed, which were lost for almost 100 years. i consider that photograph to be the most vivid and shocking and sad historical photograph in american history. no one knows why they did it. they never tried to commercialize it. they didn't try to make multiple copies, sell them commercially.
but it's an incredible and touching relic of the mayhem of what happened in this room that night. one interesting thing, even though a photograph was taken in this room shortly after lincoln's body was taken out, for some reason we haven't discovered any period photographs from 1865 taken of the peterson house after the assassination. matthew brady went inside ford's theater and took a number of photographs. people took photographs of the stable where booth kept his horses. they photographed other places associated with the assassination. but for some reason, photographers did not set up their cameras in front of the peterson house and take photos the day lincoln died or the day after, the week after. it's a bit of a historical mystery. i've looked for decades to find period photographs taken of the peterson house shortly after lincoln died. but haven't found any and no one i know has found any. it's just one of the little lingering mysteries of the