Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Village Life in America, 1852 – 1872, by Caroline Cowles Richards

April 24.—Fannie Gaylord and Kate Lapham have returned from their eastern trip and told us of attending the President’s funeral in Albany, and I had a letter from Bessie Seymour, who is in New York, saying that she walked in the procession until half past two in the morning, in order to see his face. They say that they never saw him in life, but in death he looked just as all the pictures represent him. We all wear Lincoln badges now, with pin attached. They are pictures of Lincoln upon a tiny flag, bordered with crape. Susie Daggett has just made herself a flag, six feet by four. It was a lot of work. Mrs. Noah T. Clarke gave one to her husband upon his birthday, April 8. I think everybody ought to own a flag.

April 26.—Now we have the news that J. Wilkes Booth, who shot the President and who has beenconcealing himself in Virginia, has been caught, and refusing to surrender was shot dead. It has taken just twelve days to bring him to retribution. I am glad that he is dead if he could not be taken alive, but it seems as though shooting was too good for him. However, we may as well take this as really God’s way, as the death of the President, for if he had been taken alive, the country would have been so furious to get at him and tear him to pieces the turmoil would have been great and desperate. It may be the best way to dispose of him. Of course, it is best, or it would not be so. Mr. Morse called this evening and he thinks Booth was shot by a lot of cowards. The flags have been flying all day, since the news came, but all, excepting Albert Granger, seem sorry that he was not disabled instead of being shot dead. Albert seems able to look into the “beyond ” and also to locate departed spirits. His “latest” is that he is so glad that Booth got to h—l before Abraham Lincoln got to Springfield.

Mr. Fred Thompson went down to New York last Saturday and while stopping a few minutes at St. Johnsville, he heard a man crowing over the death of the President. Mr. Thompson marched up to him, collared him and landed him nicely in the gutter. The bystanders were delighted and carried the champion to a platform and called for a speech, which was given. Quite a little episode. Every one who hears the story, says: “Three cheers for F. F. Thompson.”

The other afternoon at our society Kate Lapham wanted to divert our minds from gossip I think, and so started a discussion upon the respective characters of Washington and Napoleon. It was just after supper and Laura Chapin was about resuming her sewing and she exclaimed, “Speaking of Washington, makes me think that I ought to wash my hands,” so she left the room for that purpose.

Thursday, April 20.—The papers are full of the account of the funeral obsequies of President Lincoln. We take Harper’s Weekly and every event is pictured so vividly it seems as though we were eye witnesses of it all. The picture of “Lincoln at home” is beautiful. What a dear, kind man he was. It is a comfort to know that the assassination was not the outcome of an organized plot of Southern leaders, but rather a conspiracy of a few fanatics, who undertook in this way to avenge the defeat of their cause. It is rumored that one of the conspirators has been located.

Wednesday evening, April 19, 1865.—This being the day set for the funeral of Abraham Lincoln at Washington, it was decided to hold the service today, instead of Thursday, as previously announced in the Congregational church. All places of business were closed and the bells of the village churches tolled from half past ten till eleven o’clock. It is the fourth anniversary of the first bloodshed of the war at Baltimore. It was said to-day, that while the services were being held in the White House and Lincoln’s body lay in state under the dome of the capitol, that more than twenty-five millions of people all over the civilized world were gathered in their churches weeping over the death of the martyred President. We met at our church at half after ten o’clock this morning. The bells tolled until eleven o’clock, when the services commenced. The church was beautifully decorated with flags and black and white cloth, wreaths, mottoes and flowers, the galleries and all. The whole effect was fine. There was a shield beneath the arch of the pulpit with this text upon it: “The memory of the just is blessed.” It was beautiful. Under the choir-loft the picture of Abraham Lincoln hung amid the flags and drapery. The motto, beneath the gallery, was this text: “Know ye that the Lord He is God.” The four pastors of the place walked in together and took seats upon the platform, which was constructed for the occasion. The choir chanted “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations,” and then the Episcopal rector, Rev. Mr. Leffingwell, read from the psalter, and Rev. Dr. Daggett followed with prayer. Judge Taylor was then called upon for a short address, and he spoke well, as he always does. The choir sang “God is our refuge and our strength.”

Sunday, Easter Day, April 16.—I went to church this morning. The pulpit and choir were covered with flags festooned with crape. Although a very disagreeable day, the house was well filled. The first hymn sung was “Oh God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” Dr. Daggett’s prayer, I can never forget, he alluded so beautifully to the nation’s loss, and prayed so fervently that the God of our fathers might still be our God, through every calamity or affliction, however severe or mysterious. All seemed as deeply affected as though each one had been suddenly bereft of their best friend. The hymn sung after the prayer, commenced with “Yes, the Redeemer rose.” Dr. Daggett said that he had intended to preach a sermon upon the resurrection. He read the psalm beginning, “Lord thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.” His text was “That our faith and hope might be in God.” He commenced by saying, “I feel as you feel this morning: our sad hearts have all throbbed in unison since yesterday morning when the telegram announced to us Abraham Lincoln is shot.” He said the last week would never be forgotten, for never had any of us seen one come in with so much joy, that went out with so much sorrow. His whole sermon related to the President’s life and death, and, in conclusion, he exhorted us not to be despondent, for he was confident that the ship of state would not go down, though the helmsman had suddenly been taken away while the promised land was almost in view. He prayed for our new President, that he might be filled with grace and power from on High, to perform his high and holy trust. On Thursday we are to have a union meeting in our church, but it will not be the day of general rejoicing and thanksgiving we expected. All noisy demonstrations will be omitted. In Sunday school the desk was draped with mourning, and the flag at half-mast was also festooned with crape. Mr Noah T. Clarke opened the exercises with the hymn “He leadeth me,” followed by “Though the days are dark with sorrow.” “We know not what’s before us,” “My days are gliding swiftly by.” Then, Mr Clarke said that we always meant to sing “America,” after every victory, and last Monday he was wondering if we would not have to sing it twice to-day, or add another verse, but our feelings have changed since then. Nevertheless he thought we had better sing “America,” for we certainly ought to love our country more than ever, now that another, and such another, martyr, had given up his life for it so we sang it. Then he talked to the children and said that last Friday was supposed to be the anniversary of the day upon which our Lord was crucified, and though, at the time the dreadful deed was committed, every one felt the day to be the darkest one the earth ever knew; yet since then, the day has been called “Good Friday,” for it was the death of Christ, which gave life everlasting to all the people. So he thought that life would soon come out of darkness, which now overshadows us all, and that the death of Abraham Lincoln might yet prove the nation’s life in God’s own most mysterious way.

April 15.—The news came this morning that our dear president, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated yesterday, on the day appointed for thanksgiving for Union victories. I have felt sick over it all day and so has every one that I have seen. All seem to feel as though they had lost a personal friend, and tears flow plenteously. How soon has sorrow followed upon the heels of joy! One week ago tonight we were celebrating our victories with loud acclamations of mirth and good cheer. Now every one is silent and sad and the earth and heavens seem clothed in sack-cloth. The bells have been tolling this afternoon. The flags are all at half mast, draped with mourning, and on every store and dwelling-house some sign of the nation’s loss is visible. Just after breakfast this morning, I looked out of the window and saw a group of men listening to the reading of a morning paper, and I feared from their silent, motionless interest that something dreadful had happened, but I was not prepared to hear of the cowardly murder of our President. And William H. Seward, too, I suppose cannot survive his wounds. Oh, how horrible it is! I went down town shortly after I heard the news, and it was wonderful to see the effect of the intelligence upon everybody, small or great, rich or poor. Every one was talking low, with sad and anxious looks. But we know that God still reigns and will do what is best for us all. Perhaps we’re “putting our trust too much in princes,” forgetting the Great Ruler, who alone can create or destroy, and therefore He has taken from us the arm of flesh that we may lean more confidingly and entirely upon Him. I trust that the men who committed these foul deeds will soon be brought to justice.

Monday, April 10. — “Whether I am in the body, or out of the body, I know not, but one thing I know,” Lee has surrendered! and all the people seem crazy in consequence. The bells are ringing, boys and girls, men and women are running through the streets wild with excitement; the flags are all flying, one from the top of our church, and such a “hurrah boys” generally, I never dreamed of. We were quietly eating our breakfast this morning about 7 o’clock, when our church bell commenced to ring, then the Methodist bell, and now all the bells in town are ringing. Mr. Noah T. Clarke ran by, all excitement, and I don’t believe he knows where he is. No school to-day. I saw Capt. Aldrich passing, so I rushed to the window and he waved his hat. I raised the window and asked him what was the matter? He came to the front door where I met him and he almost shook my hand off and said, “The war is over. We have Lee’s surrender, with his own name signed.” I am going down town now, to see for myself, what is going on. Later—I have returned and I never saw such performances in my life. Every man has a bell or a horn, and every girl a flag and a little bell, and every one is tied with red, white and blue ribbons. I am going down town again now, with my flag in one hand and bell in the other and make all the noise I can. Mr. Noah T. Clarke and other leading citizens are riding around on a dray cart with great bells in their hands ringing them as hard as they can. Dr. Cook beat upon an old gong. The latest musical instrument invented is called the “Jerusalem fiddle.” Some boys put a dry goods box upon a cart, put some rosin on the edge of the box and pulled a piece of timber back and forth across it, making most unearthly sounds. They drove through all the streets, Ed Lampman riding on the horse and driving it.

Monday evening, April 10.—I have been out walking for the last hour and a half, looking at the brilliant illuminations, transparencies and everything else and I don’t believe I was ever so tired in my life. The bells have not stopped ringing more than five minutes all day and every one is glad to see Canandaigua startled out of its propriety for once. Every yard of red, white and blue ribbon in the stores has been sold, also every candle and every flag. One society worked hard all the afternoon making transparencies and then there were no candles to put in to light them, but they will be ready for the next celebration when peace is proclaimed. The Court House, Atwater Block, and hotel have about two dozen candles in each window throughout, besides flags and mottoes of every description. It is certainly the best impromptu display ever gotten up in this town. “Victory is Grant-ed,” is in large red, white and blue letters in front of Atwater Block. The speeches on the square this morning were all very good. Dr. Daggett commenced with prayer, and such a prayer, I wish all could have heard it. Hon. Francis Granger, E. G. Lapham, Judge Smith, Alexander Howell, Noah T. Clarke and others made speeches and we sang “Old Hundred” in conclusion, and Rev. Dr. Hibbard dismissed us with the benediction. I shook hands with Mr. Noah T. Clarke, but he told me to be careful and not hurt him, for he blistered his hands to-day ringing that bell. He says he is going to keep the bell for his grandchildren. Between the speeches on the square this morning a song was called for and Gus Coleman mounted the steps and started “John Brown” and all the assenibly joined in the chorus, “Glory, Hallelujah.” This has been a never to be forgotten day.

Sunday, April 9.—There were great crowds at church this morning. Dr. Daggett’s text was from Prov. 18: 10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” It was a very fine sermon. They sang hymns relating to our country and Dr. Daggett’s prayers were full of thanksgiving. Mr. Noah T. Clarke had the chapel decorated with flags and opened the Sunday School by singing, “Marching On,” “My Country, ’tis of Thee,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Glory, Hallelujah,” etc. Hon. Wm. H. Lamport talked very pleasantly and paid a very touching tribute to the memory of the boys, who had gone out to defend their country, who would never come “marching home again.” He lost his only son, 18 years old (in the 126th), about two years ago. I sat near Mary and Emma Wheeler and felt so sorry for them. They could not sing.

Saturday, April 8.—The cannon has fired a salute of thirty-six guns to celebrate the fall of Richmond. This evening the streets were thronged with men, women and children all acting crazy as if they had not the remotest idea where they were or what they were doing. Atwater block was beautifully lighted and the band was playing in front of it. On the square they fired guns, and bonfires were lighted in the streets. Gov. Clark’s house was lighted from the very garret and they had a transparency in front, with “Richmond” on it, which Fred Thompson made. We didn’t even light “our other candle,” for Grandmother said she preferred to keep Saturday night and pity and pray for the poor suffering, wounded soldiers, who are so apt to be forgotten in the hour of victory.

April, 1865.—What a month this has been. On the 6th of April Governor Fenton issued this proclamation: “Richmond has fallen. The wicked men who governed the so-called Confederate States have fled their capital, shorn of their power and influence. The rebel armies have been defeated, broken and scattered. Victory everywhere attends our banners and our armies, and we are rapidly moving to the closing scenes of the war. Through the self-sacrifice and heroic devotion of our soldiers, the life of the republic has been saved and the American Union preserved. I, Reuben E. Fenton, Governor of the State of New York, do designate Friday, the 14th of April, the day appointed for the ceremony of raising the United States flag on Fort Sumter, as a day of thanksgiving, prayer and praise to Almighty God, for the signal blessings we have received at His hands.”