It was Easter week, 1865. The Civil War was near its end and Washington D.C. was in full celebration. Then the news hit. President Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. He was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth while he was attending Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater. Why was Lincoln’s death reported nine days late by some newspapers?
Lincoln lingered in a coma until Saturday, April 15 when he was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m.. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton uttered the now famous line, “Now he belongs to the ages.”
Instead of stories about joyous children attending Easter egg hunts and traditional springtime games and parades, the east-coast newspapers printed black-bordered editions of stories about the grim news of the assassination conspiracy that led to the death of the president. (See our Easter blog on Lincoln and the Egg Roll “On a Roll at the White House”)
Obviously, news in 1865 travelled slower than it does today. Southern newspapers lagged behind the early reports from the Northeast. Some of those papers reported the news as late as April 20. One of those newspapers was the New Orleans Delta.
The news was reported in California on April 16. By comparison, the last report of President Lincoln’s death appeared in a Confederate newspaper. It was The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph and it appeared on April 24. That was a full nine days after President Lincoln was assassinated. The story appeared as a news clip on page four. It didn’t even have a bold headline.
For an excellent account of the Conspiracy that led to Lincoln’s Assassination:
This video shows the Funeral Train that carried Lincoln’s body to its final resting place.
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