Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lincoln Assassination Letter To Be Donated To Museum

Here's an interesting little story about a Greeley, Colorado family which has possessed a letter which contains an eyewitness account of the Lincoln assassination on April 14, 1865. The family has owned the letter since the 1930's, when the letter was found in an old trunk.

The letter, written in 1897 by Ohio congressman James Morris, gives a detailed account of how the shooting interrupted the play. It also quotes John Wilkes Booth as having said "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus Always To Tyrants) on stage after the shooting before making his escape.

The letter will be donated this week to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. It's admirable that the family would do this, because they could certainly earn a few thousand dollars from selling it. Now the letter will be available for everyone to enjoy and research. The Museum has authenticated the letter. It would be interesting to know if Congressman Morris was truly at Ford's Theater that night or simply "remembered" being there.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you'd imply that Morris wasn't there when the letter clearly states that he was watching the play. Do you have reason to believe he invented the story of having been an eyewitness to the shooting?

Anonymous said...

I must agree, why the skepticism? Here is a genuine historical document, and with no reason to instill doubt I say let the evidence stand on its own.

Geoff Elliott said...

The article from which I obtained the information did not explain how the letter was authenticated. It also did not provide information about it was proven that the gentleman was at Ford's Theater. Did Morris have a ticket stub to that night's peformance to prove he was there?

One reason I'm so skeptical is because Morris' recollections of the night's events were so highly accurate. I've read articles in history magazines and books on the assassination how wildly varied the eyewitness reports were. Even the eyewitness reports taken from audience members that very night differed on what Booth said (or didn't say), whether he jumped to the stage or not, and so on. So if people weren't even clear just what happened that very night, then how can Morris recollect so accurately 30 years after the fact?

Perhaps I'm too skeptical. But it's better to be skeptical about history than it is to believe everything you read. Historians need facts and by itself, a letter written decades later doesn't prove that Morris was there. There has to be more to this story than the Lincoln Museum authenticated the letter without facts backing it up.

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