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tv   American Artifacts The House Where Lincoln Died  CSPAN  April 18, 2021 6:00pm-6:31pm EDT

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each week american history tvs american artifacts visits museums and historic places you're looking at petersen house here in washington dc where president abraham lincoln passed away at 7:22. am on april 15th of 1865. up next a tour of the former boarding house located across the street from ford's theater where abraham lincoln was shot 150 years ago. this is an interesting house that has a great history. even before abraham lincoln was assassinated here. this house was built in the early 1850s by german immigrant to america william peterson, and he used this house as a boarding house up to 10 or 12 people lived here at a time. and so this is really a relic of 19th century civil war boarding house culture once upon a time everybody lived in boarding houses here congressman senators, even vice presidents of the united states lived in group homes. so this house aside from its history of being the place where abraham lincoln died is an
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important part of antebellum civil and civil war washington dc history aside from this being the lincoln death house. this house is also great museum of immigrant culture in washington and boarding house life in washington dc. i've been coming here for years making pilgrimages here. i started coming here in 1986 when i joined the reagan administration and i've been coming here for years and very excited that this year for the $150th anniversary. there's going to be a big commemoration for abraham lincoln because in past years, i'm usually here alone. no one comes to this house on the night of this assassination. no one comes to honor lincoln. i might find one or two people here when i sit on the steps of the petersen house and just contemplate what happened. it's interesting couple years ago the park service almost arrested me sitting on these steps because the guard across the street accused me of being a homeless lawyer and i tried to tell her i've written a book on this tonight's the anniversary this assassination i serve on the ford's theater society council advisors 10 minutes
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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's going to damage this house and one of them came to a sense is enrolled his eyes and ask me to enjoy the evening. so i've had quite a time with the last 25 years coming to this house and sadly it's been abandoned by the public for a long time. but this year the 150th anniversary is going to be lincoln arrived at ford's theater about 8:30 pm on april 14th 1865. the play was already underway. he was late and no one at the petersen house noticed lincoln arrived. the street was pretty quiet. then people were going to bars and taverns to celebrate the great union victory in the war and surrendered robert e lee on april 9th. and so it was a quite night on the street. everyone is already inside of the theater. the play was underway. so lincoln's carriage pulled up and stopped in front of that big gas lamp and lincoln went inside and then around 10 15 or 10:20 pm the doors of ford's theater burst open and first dozens then
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hundreds and over a thousand people came rushing out those there were screaming at first some people thought that theater was on fire and then they heard the shouts lincoln's been shot. the president's been killed burn the theater finally assassin and 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 in the first floor in the two front rooms, he came outside and walked into the street and he could only get halfway across and people were screaming the president was dead. he walked right up to the president's body as he was being carried across the street another border on the second floor henry safford heard the noise too. he came downstairs and went outside and he saw the commotion too and he heard the shouts that lincoln had been shot safford. couldn't get to ford's theater. there's so many people outside in the street. so he retreated came back to his house and went up these stairs and sit at the top of the staircase and he was up there watching is the soldiers pounded on the door or the house next door, and they couldn't get in
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and he saw that there was lincoln in the middle of the street being cared by soldiers and they didn't know where to take the president. so stafford went inside got a candle and stood at the top of the staircase and shouted bring him in here bring him in here and dr. leo heard that and shouted to the officers and soldiers take the president to that house. so 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 stafford take us to your best room. now the hallways narrow it was already filled with with the lincoln entourage with the doctors with the soldiers and there was a narrow staircase on the right. well stafford new the best room
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was the front parlor occupied by george and hilda francis. so he reached for the door here. 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 to the front windows. and so she was already dressed for bed. so she wanted to put on clothes and 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 stafford led them to this back room here. you can see how narrow the hallway is. there's really barely enough room for soldiers to stand on each side of lincoln and carry them 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.
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dr. leila 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 and the bed would have collapsed so they had no choice but to lay abraham lincoln diagonally cross the bed. at that point too many people were in the room. it was hot. and dr. leal 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 and so once the doctors were alone. strip lincoln naked and examined him on this bed. is the doctors begin their examination of lincoln? they observe 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 on stage after he leap from the president's box, but lincoln was unwounded but for the shot of a single bullet behind the left ear and as lincoln was lying here on the bed mary lincoln and her entourage came through the front door the petersen house. and they went to that front
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parlor. so we'll go that way and see what mary lincoln did. when lincoln was first brought in this house, he had nobody guards. the army wasn't here yet. and so strangers actually came into this house and observed lincoln in that bed. they lingered in these hallways and it was not until 15 or 20 minutes later that lincoln was under the full protection in the us army. they then entered the house and soldiers in officers cleared everyone out who was unown to them and didn't belong here. mary lincoln was frantic by then. she came to that front door screaming. where's my husband? where's my husband? why didn't he shoot me? and then mary lincoln entered this front parlor. and she sat on a horsehair sofa in this room. this was the front parlor of the borders, georgia hilde francis who quickly vacated the premises when when the first lady was brought in. mary lincoln would spend much of the night of april 14th in the early morning hours of april
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15th in this room. she didn't spend the night at her husband's side. she spent most of the night here with some close friends. she was very upset. she really couldn't stand to see her husband wounded and unconscious and so much of her time was here crying sobbing when clara harris one of her theater guests that and i came in and mary lincoln saw. harris's dress covered with blood mary began screaming. my husband's blood. my husband's blood. it was actually the blood of major rathbone miss harrison's fiance. he had been stabbed by booth and he bled heavily and much of the blood was on his fiance's dress. so mary lincoln was wrong. it was not her husband's blood. it was major rathbon's blood major rathbone came here. and he leaned against the wall in the hallway and soon he sat down and collapsed and fainted and then 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
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secretary of the navy wells arrived at the petersen 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 and 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 street 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 a disembark from their carriage and disappear into the mob and pushed 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's bedroom?
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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 question 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 from 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 or god of
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war even though they didn't get along well before the election stanton once humiliated lincoln at a trial. they staffed together lincoln knew he was his right hand. he once said that stanton really was the the rocky shore and put on which the waves of rebellion crash in our 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 and 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
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navy would need them some were friends of mary lincoln and they wanted a 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 petersen house, and we're admitted to see the dying president. more than a dozen doctors came. they knew they couldn't help lincoln. he'd been shot through the brain. some people came because they wanted to say 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 who really needed to be here. it was certainly appropriate that the members of the cabinet come. but there were too many people here in this little house as abraham lincoln was dying.
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so mary lincoln would sometimes come out that front door the parlor and venture to the back. and for female friends 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 said in a chair right here next to the bad 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 and 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
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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 six o'clock in the morning secretary of the navy wells decided to go for a walk. he had decided that somehow official. should be at lincoln's side throughout the night in the morning hours, and he really left it to secretary of war stanton. a 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 i found it hard and oppressive and humid that
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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 had never been slaves or freed slaves men and women gathering in silent village. 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 was the president what was to happen? and he couldn't answer them. so he came back and 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 am on the morning of april 15th. 1865. that was when lincoln's heart.
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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 our 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 today as now he belongs to the ages. but extensive research has revealed. that it's best to remembered by the stenographer tanner who's pencil broke? his only lead pencil broke as he was writing down. what was said in this room, but he remembered that stanton said
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angels plus it's characteristic with stanton's temperament how we viewed his faith how we viewed the world. he wouldn't have said something as profound is 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 adorn lincoln's coffin at the white house funeral and so that was really the first blood relic taken from abraham lincoln.
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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. plane pine box an ammunition create a rifle crate with a screw top lid. and 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 side of that coffin was the real refutation of their hopes that lincoln could live. so that coffin was taken down this hallway and late on the floor right here. and before lincoln's body was placed in the coffin. soldiers took a 35 star flag
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possibly a 36 star flag for the final state added to the union and 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. it was really the rough hewn coffin for a rail splitter. and 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 placed on. than 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 in a military escort was there.
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it was not fancy. there was no band. no, no national colors regimental flags. the officers were all bareheaded. and they escorted lincoln home to the white house. that's not the end of the story of this house the petersen house. once all the government officials had left once the president's body was gone one 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 money boot tracks and soil carpet and he when he came into this room and he saw a 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 borders who lived in the house two brothers the oakey brothers one was a cameramaner
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photographer. photographer. the other was a painter. and they decided that bring up a bulky camera and photograph the deathbed. still had many bloody sheets on it bloody pillows a coverlet was on the bed. and so they pushed the bed back into the corner to get a better photograph of the room. and 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 open 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 as card to visit sell them commercially, but it's it's a incredible and touching relic. of the mayhem of what happened
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in this room that night one interesting thing even though 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 petersen 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 petersen 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 petersen house shortly after lincoln died, but haven't found any and know what i know has found any it's just one of the little lingering mysteries of the assassination. interestingly private william clark came back the next day the soldier who lived in this room.
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he was out all night celebrating the union victory. and that night he slept in the very bed in which abraham lincoln died. he wrote a letter to relatives saying well, i'm sleeping in the bed with the president died the same coverlet that covered his body now covers me strangers come they beg to see the room they offer money to come and view the room and if you don't watch them they try to steal things. they try to steal little bits of cloth cut the sheets steal something from the room and so souvenir hunters. we're trying to raid this room within hours of the president's death. the coverlet is long gone stolen at the illinois state fair at the turn of the century, but some of the pillow cases and pillows survive. they're now in the collection of the park service at ford's theater. and the sheets were all divided up into little swatches and all over the country and museums and private collections one can find little swatches of the sheets that were on abraham lincoln's bed many of them stained with his blood.
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this room looks very much. like it did the night abraham lincoln was brought here and died the next morning. the prince are the same ones that were on the walls that night. the carpeting is identical the wallpapers identical in fact a number of artists came to this room and sketched sketched it and also described it. we also know from the photograph taken by the oke brothers. what this part of the room looked like and the bed of course is no longer here and that's part of a sad story about the peterson family. in 1871 william petersen was found unconscious on the grounds of the smithsonian institution the old castle. he had poisoned himself with lawton. the police revived him and he confessed that he had been taking laudanum often for several years and he died. so in 1871 in the front parlor of this house william petersen's
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body was laid out four months after he died from lawton and poisoning. his wife died anna died. and her body was brought to this house and she too was laid out on this house. and so it only six years after abraham lincoln died in their house. both petersons were dead and both were laid in this very house. interesting footnote after anna's death an auction company was brought in to sell the contents. so once again strangers gathered outside came into the house came down. the halls came into the parlors the auction took place on the site. the two most expensive things that the auction were the sofa and the front room where mary lincoln had spent much of the night that went for 15 dollars. and the bed upon which abraham lincoln died so for eighty dollars. which was eight or ten times what it should have cost if it simply a bet so an early historian and souvenir hunter
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recognized the value of the materials in this house and bought a number of things including the deathbed and some of the other relics from this back room. that bed later was purchased. by a chicago candy millionaire charles gunther for $100,000. and it's now in chicago at the old chicago historical society. the petersen house had an interesting history after lincoln died. it was not immediately. seized upon is an important national monument. peterson's moved back in after a few days borders came back and it became a boarding house again. then a visionary historian osborne oldroyd who loved abraham lincoln and was obsessed with honoring lincoln occupied this house and he created a lincoln museum. in the basement and in these rooms and for a small price visitors from all over the
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country could come to the house where lincoln died, which it was known as papa lee. and come to this room so over decades tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of americans came and visited this room when it was a privately operated museum. it was not until decades later that the national park service took custody of the petersen house and restored it to its original appearance as it looked on the night abraham lincoln was assassinated. the petersen house is one of my favorite historical sites in washington. partly because it's not gigantic and grand like abraham lincoln's white house. it's not huge like ford's theater word audience of 1500 or 1800 sat and watch the mayhem that happen to cross the street what i like about the petersen house is the intimacy. when i was working on my books about the lincoln assassination, i would often come to the petersen house. at hours when i knew they'd be very few visitors and i've stood
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in this room many times all by myself and imagine what it must have been like to stand here the night abraham lincoln was brought down that hallway and laid in a bed in this room. and the emotion and sadness of that night and that morning really comes alive for me. when i'm in this room, in fact when i wrote about lincoln coming to the petersen house and dying in this room. i wrote some of my notes for my book manhunt while i stood in this room with a notebook and imagined what it must have liked to have been here and stand to this spot. when abraham lincoln was lying on a bed in this room and when he died the next morning, i really feel lincoln's presence when i'm in this house and when i'm in this room. american history tv is on social
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media follow us at c-span history. up next the us holocaust memorial museum hosts an online panel discussion titled. how did young americans respond to the nazi threat two museum historians are joined by a university of michigan doctoral candidate to explore the mindset and actions of american youth in the 1930s and 40s the us holocaust memorial museum provided the video for the program in 40 minutes irish historian, christine. kenneally discusses frederick douglass's time in ireland during an 18-month trip to promote abolitionism abroad in 1845 and 46 and in an hour and 30 minutes on the presidency. susan eisenhower granddaughter of dwight d eisenhower on how ike led the principles behind eisenhower's biggest decisions. good morning, and thank you for joining us for the museum's stay connected facebook live sie


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