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How did common people mourn Lincoln after his passing?

Historians in the News
tags: Lincoln, Lincoln assassination



On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died after being shot the evening before by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attack came five days after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., effectively ending the Civil War. You’ll find these facts in just about every American history book. 

What has remained largely undocumented, though, is the fallout: how a nation deeply splintered by war and slavery reacted to the news of Lincoln’s assassination. In her new book, “Mourning Lincoln,” Martha Hodes, a history professor at New York University, has carefully woven a record of the innermost thoughts of common people around the country. In advance of a lecture at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on Monday, the Gazette spoke with Hodes about Lincoln’s legacy, as seen through the eyes of his supporters and critics alike, in the days following his assassination.

GAZETTE: What sort of personal accounts did you collect for “Mourning Lincoln”?

HODES: To research “Mourning Lincoln,” I read hundreds and hundreds of diaries, letters, and other personal writings, including Union and Confederate, black and white, soldiers and civilians, men and women, even children.

GAZETTE: You have an upcoming lecture at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. Did you find anything of interest in the Schlesinger Library there?

HODES: I found many wonderful archival collections at the Schlesinger Library, most important among them the Browne Family Papers. Two of the protagonists in the story I tell are husband and wife Sarah and Albert Browne, white abolitionists from Salem, Massachusetts. Albert was down South working for the Union Army, so he and Sarah wrote each other long letters, and Sarah also kept a diary at home in Salem. Apart from the Brownes, one of my favorite documents from the Schlesinger is the account book of an anonymous seamstress, which includes mention of Lincoln’s assassination squeezed into the woman’s financial records. ...

Read entire article at Harvard Gazette


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