Abraham Lincoln’s Premonition Of Death

Only three days before Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865 to see a performance of the play Our American Cousin, he has a strange and eerie dream.

Lincoln’s Dream Before His Assassination

Did Abraham Lincoln Have A Premonition Of His Death?

Abraham Lincoln told his wife Mary and a few close friends of an odd and frightening dream he’d had. According to Ward Hill Lamon, this is what Abraham Lincoln said of his dream:

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln

“About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”

Our American Cousin

Assassination of President Lincoln

Assassination of President Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln, Mary, and their guests Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, were all enjoying the Our American Cousin performance at Ford’s Theatre when assassin John Wilkes Booth slipped into the presidential box and fired a round ball shot from a single-shot derringer into the back of the president’s head. Lincoln died the following morning at 7:22.

A President’s Premonition

Abraham Lincoln Now Belongs to the Ages

President Abraham Lincoln Died On April 15, 1865 At 7:22 In The Morning

Upon Abraham Lincoln’s death, it was reported Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said:

“Now he belongs to the ages.”

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was a tragedy and the nation was in mourning. Lincoln’s funeral train traveled its way on a sad thirteen-day long journey to Springfield, Illinois. Thousands and thousands of people came to pay their respects to the fallen president as the Lincoln Special train passed through their cities, towns, and small villages.

“Marched at half past five. The news came today that President Lincoln, Secretary Seward and son have been assassinated, resulting in the President’s death and severely wounding the others. And now, while the nation is rejoicing with unspeakable joy at its deliverance, it is suddenly plunged into the deepest sorrow by the most brutal murder of its beloved chief.”
…The April 21, 1865 words of Union Sergeant Lucius Barber.

Mourning for the death of President Abraham Lincoln was not universal. Some in the defeated South were joyous over the news of Lincoln’s death… it had been a long, hard, bitter, and bloody war. Others in the South realized they had lost a friend on their path to reconstruction and healing after the war.

Lincoln’s death was not good news for the people of the South. Some leaders coming to power after Lincoln’s death would not have Lincoln’s conciliatory ideas for the South.

The Lincoln Memorial

Almost immediately after his assassination discussion begins for a memorial of some type for President Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was dedicated in 1922. The Lincoln memorial has 36 columns to signify the number of states that were in the Union during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Carved into the marble of the south wall of the memorial is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Abraham Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial faces toward Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s former home of Arlington House located across the Potomac River.

Lincoln’s Tomb, Springfield Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Attends The Play Our American Cousin

On April 14, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln spent his day visiting with callers and attending a Cabinet meeting. Included at this Cabinet meeting was General Ulysses Grant and Lincoln explained to Grant that he was having a recurring dream about a ship “moving with great rapidity toward a dark and indefinite shore.”

Now that the Civil War was over, topics of discussion at the Cabinet meeting were the problems of reconstruction and the treatment of former Confederate leaders.

A Trip To Ford’s Theatre To See A Play

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln

That evening, the Lincolns were planning a visit to Ford’s Theatre to see the play Our American Cousin. Lincoln asked General Grant to be his guest that night, but Grant declined the president’s invitation. Instead, Lincoln and his wife Mary would attend the performance of Our American Cousin accompanied by two other guests, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Miss Clara Harris.

Previously, President Lincoln had found some brief refuge from the Civil War when he attended a play at Ford’s Theatre on November 9, 1863. Lincoln then saw a play named The Marble Heart and cast in this play was a young and well-regarded actor named John Wilkes Booth. Booth would not be acting in Our American Cousin on the evening of April 14, 1865 but he planned to be at Ford’s Theatre during the play’s performance.

The Lincolns, Major Henry Rathbone and Miss Clara Harris, were all enjoying the play. Two of the play’s characters exchange the following lines during the third act:

Mrs. Montchessington: I am aware, Mr. Trenchard, that you are not used to the manners of good society.

Asa Trenchard: Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal – you sockdologizing old mantrap!

A Single Shot From A Derringer

John Wilkes Booth

Assassin John Wilkes Booth

After the above lines in the performance of the play the audience would always burst out loudly in laughter. John Wilkes Booth knew that at this particular moment in this scene of the play the audience’s loud laughter would happen as if on cue. At this time, Booth used a .44 caliber derringer to shoot President Lincoln in the back of his head at nearly point blank range.

Booth slashed Major Rathbone with a knife and then leapt onto the stage as he shouted: “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”). Booth broke his leg as he landed on the stage, but he escaped out of Ford’s Theatre to a back alley and a waiting horse. All this occurred at about 10:15 P.M. It was Good Friday.

President Lincoln was unconscious but still alive. He was moved across the street from Ford’s Theatre to the Peterson house. Taken into a back bedroom, the six-foot-four inches tall Lincoln was placed diagonally upon a bed that was too short for him.

President Lincoln’s head wound was very severe. There was nothing much that could be done for the president now, except to watch and wait.