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Lincoln's last Cabinet meeting -- April 14, 1865

Lincoln Cabinet
Lincoln Cabinet

We know of Mr. Lincoln’s morning schedule from a letter dated April 16, 1865 and written by John P. Usher to his wife. Usher was Secretary of the Interior in the Lincoln Cabinet and accompanied the president that morning. Here’s what Usher said happened:

“On the day of the assassination of the President we had all been with him and Genl. Grant at a long cabinet meeting commencing at 11 o’clock. The meeting entirely harmonious, and the President never appeared to better advantage, he was inspired with the hope that the war and strife was nearly over, and the meeting was assembled to consider ways and means to restore to the troubled states government and security. He was full of charity to all and only thought of dealing with those who had led the people into rebellion. Among the last acts of his life before he left the chamber never to return, was to advise Stanton to book an order of his for the arrest Jacob Thompson and Beverly Tucker if they should appear at Portland Maine to take vessel for Europe. You know his goodness he was too good.”

Usher’s letter goes on to talk about the planned assassination attempts on the Cabinet and Vice President telling his wife that the telegram he had sent the night before concerning the death of Frederick Seward, Secretary William Seward’s son, “was an error” and that Frederick Seward “is still alive but insensible without scarce hope that he will recover.”

Usher was also present at the house across from Ford’s Theater and was with the president when he died on April 15, 1865 at seven twenty-two in the morning. Usher reported in the same letter that the president “never opened his eyes or spoke a word but remained wholly insensible.”

Mr. Usher told his wife in the final paragraph that “in the murder of Lincoln the rebels have killed their best friend. They may expect in the President (Andrew Johnson) a rigid enforcement of the law and the leaders but little mercy.”

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