Page images
PDF
EPUB

Two scenes are indelibly fixed in my mind, that will illustrate the sudden plunge of the nation from the highest delirium of jov to the lowest depth of sorrow.

I was in the beautiful little city of Richmond, Indiana, during the closing scenes of the rebellion. Monday morning, April 10, 1865, was as bright and beautiful as any that has dawned upon the earth since the creation. After an early breakfast I entered my office and commenced work for the day. I had been there but a short time until there appeared to be some unusual commotion in the streets. I went down, and after a little inquiry learned that a telegram had just been received announcing that the whole rebel army of northern Virginia, that had evacuated the Confederate capitol but a few days before, under General Lee, had surrendered to General Grant the day before, at Appomattox Court House.

All understood that this was virtually and end of the rebellion; men shouted the news to each other. Grant has captured the rebel army! Lee has surrendered to Grant! The rebels are defeated! The war will soon be over, and then Peace! Peace!! Peace!!! Such shouts as these were mingled with all other imaginable expressions of delight. Business houses were closed ; in fact, some had not yet been opened for the day. Men and boys snatched each other's hats and coats; some even turned their coats inside out, and ran and shouted as if they had lost their reason. Some laughed, and some shed tears of joy.

The principal street of the town is a beautiful wide avenue, lined on either side for nearly a mile with business houses. These houses nearly all had wooden awnings in front. Some of them were old and delapidated, and even those that were comparatively new, having been built without any effort at uniformity, destroyed the beauty of the street. For several weeks a formidable party had been trying to get an ordinance passed to have them all removed, but they were not successful. The City Hall was on a cross street, a short distance from this main thoroughfare. On the morning of which I am writing, and while the excitement was at its highest point, one of these men, with his coat turned inside.out, ran from the direction of the City Hall, and yelled at the top of his voice that the City Council had just passed an ordinance that all those wooden awnings should be removed. Men never stopped to think that it was not possible for the Council to have assembled at such a time. But all rushed for the awnings, and in less time than it has taken me to write this, every house was stripped from one end of the street to the other. All the materials, old and new, were piled in the middle of the street. At night, bonfires were made at every street-crossing, and all the rubbish consumed. As soon as the work of demolition commenced, an enterprising photographer placed a huge camera at one end of the street, and produced one of the most comic historical pictures on record.

The other scene was enacted at the same place five days later. I was in my office again, quite early on Saturday morning, April 15th. A genial, jovial friend, who had stepped in to say good morning, left the office laughing and talking, but very soon returned with the tears coursing down his manly cheeks, and with faltering voice said: "President Lincoln and Secretary Seward were assassinated last night.” After exchanging a few words with him, I went out on the street. The day was as bright and beautiful as the Monday before had been. Some houses were open, and others were being opened, but all thoughts of business vanished. Men gathered in groups, and in subdued language communicated the sad news. The telegraph office was besieged for more news until it was known that the President was certainly dead, but that Mr. Seward was yet alive and might possibly recover.

Men wandered about in silence, or stood in groups and talked of the horrid crime and its probable effect on the country. Many were the expressions of sorrow for the martyred President, and from none were these more heart-felt than the many Quakers who reside in that city and vicinity. Some business houses and private residences were draped in mourning. Thus the day wore away, and from the beginning to its close sadness and gloom were depicted on every countenance.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER IX.

When the sad tidings of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln were conveyed upon the wings of the telegraph to all parts of America on the morning of April 15, 1865, there was no place where it fell with such crushing weight as in the city of Springfield, where his trials and triumphs were personally known to all. This was Saturday morning. Only five days before, Monday morning, April tenth, the news had been received that the largest part of the rebel army, under General Lee, had surrendered to our own General Grant. On the reception of the news of that surrender in Springfield, flags leaped as if by magic from public buildings and private residences all over the city. An hour later, all business was suspended, and the people were assembled in and around the State House square, to congratulate each other on the glorious news. The excitement increased with the crowd, and found expression in hurrahs, songs and grotesque processions, and the church and fire bells all over the city rang out their merry peals. This was continued for hours, and until all classes, old and young, joined in the general jubilee. Flags, large and small were attached to houses, horses, vehicles, hats, coats, and every other place where a flag could be displayed. Business houses and private residences vied with each other in their display of patriotic emblems. A splendid flag was thrown to the breeze from the old home of President Lincoln.

In the afternoon a procession, civic and military, chiefly grotesque and ludicrous, paraded the streets. The principal object of interest was the old dark bay

[ocr errors]

horse that Mr. Lincoln had ridden many hundred miles on professional business and in his political campaigns. “ Old Bob,” or “ Robin," was decorated with a rich blanket, red, white and blue, thickly studded with flags, and bearing the inscription,“ Old Abe's Horse." He was soon robbed of his flags, they having been secured by the people as mementoes.

About half past six o'clock p. m. a salute of twenty guns was fired, followed by a fine display of fire-works. Many of the public and private residences were then illuminated. By eight o'clock an immense crowd of citizens had assembled in the State House and grounds surrounding it. Patriotic speeches were made by a number of prominent men, interspersed with music by a fine band. At a later hour the citizens dispersed to their homes; the noise died away, and the city was at rest. It was but a day or two until an order was issued by the Secretary of War for all recruiting and drafting to cease. This assured the people that the government regarded the war to be virtually at an end, and gave a new impetus to the rejoicing all over the land. This description of the way the people acted in Springfield will apply to hundreds and thousands of towns and cities all over our country. The people continued to meet each other, everywhere, with broad smiles and words of congratulation, up to Friday night, April 14.

We will return again to the citizens of Springfield, and describe their actions as an illustration of the sudden change in the feelings of the people all over the land, from almost a delirium of joy, to the lowest depths of sorrow.

On the fatal Saturday morning, April 15, the citizens of Springfield, half dressed, and, perhaps, yawning from the effects of a full night's sleep, as they sauntered out to their front yards and took ир

the morning Journal, saw nothing unusual in the paper at first, but on opening it and finding the rules reversed, displaying heavy dark lines between the columns, they

« PreviousContinue »