Posts Tagged With: Seward

Grave Thursday: William Seward

Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.


William Henry Seward

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Burial Location: Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York

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Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

As Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward was targeted by John Wilkes Booth in his plot to eliminate the heads of the United States’ government. On the night of April 14, 1865, Booth assigned his conspirator, Lewis Powell, to break into Secretary Seward’s home located near the White House in order to assassinate him. Despite stabbing the Secretary several times and bringing carnage to the rest of the household, Lewis Powell failed in his assassination attempt. The attack left Seward with a permanently disfigured face evidence of which can be seen in the image above. Despite the horrors of that night and the loss of his friend, Seward remained in his position as Secretary of State during the administration of Andrew Johnson. It was during this continued service that Seward facilitated the purchase of a large chunk of land from Russia. The purchase, known in its day to some as “Seward’s Folly”, resulted in the United States acquiring the territory, and later state, of Alaska.

In his last few years, William Seward toured not only America but the world, using his contacts from his days as Secretary of State to visit China, Japan, the Middle East, and Europe. When in the States, Seward resided in his home in Auburn, New York which he had inherited from his father-in-law in 1851. Upon his death on October 10, 1872, William Seward was buried in the family’s lot in nearby Fort Hill Cemetery.

Since 1955, the Seward house in Auburn, New York has operated as a museum, telling the life story of one of America’s great statesmen. I highly recommend you visit their website, SewardHouse.org, and befriend them on social media. They provide wonderful bits of history about the life and times of William Seward. If you ever visit their museum, be sure to see their piece of blood stained linen, a poignant relic of the night Lewis Powell tried to end the Secretary’s life.

Blood stained sheet

If you are interested in learning more about William Seward, especially about his life beyond the assassination attempt, I highly recommend the book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man by Walter Stahr.

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My sincere thanks go to assassination researcher Bill Binzel for sending me images of the Seward family graves in Auburn, NY and for allowing me to use them for Grave Thursday. For more images related to the attempt on William Seward’s life, visit the Seward Assassination Attempt Picture Gallery.

GPS coordinates for William Seward’s grave: 42.924505, -76.571807

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , | 10 Comments

James Donaldson: William Seward’s Helpful Hand

When it comes to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, I often find myself interested in the little people. I enjoy looking into the lives of those who witnessed, took part in, or crossed paths with John Wilkes Booth’s plot. The recent Grave Thursday posts help to demonstrate this interest as Kate and I have been highlighting some of the minor characters that are connected, in some way, to Lincoln’s death. Today’s post shares in this theme by introducing a man on the outskirts of the events of April 14, 1865, James Donaldson.

According to his death record, James Donaldson was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1818. By 1852, Donaldson was married, starting a family, and resided in Washington, D.C., the city he would call home for the rest of his life. In 1853, James Donaldson was hired as a watchman for the State Department under Secretary of State William Marcy where he was paid $500 a year. He continued in the employ of the State Department rising through the ranks to become an assistant messenger with a salary of $700 a year. When Abraham Lincoln appointed William Seward to be the Secretary of State in 1861, Donaldson found himself under a new boss that he would become very close to as the years went on.

Being a messenger for the State Department during the Civil War was a important job. In addition to running messages for the Secretary throughout the city of Washington, Donaldson was also called upon to join Seward on his trips across the north. In August of 1863, Seward was entertaining the dignitaries of  several foreign governments, playing tour guide to the ministers of England, France, Russia, Nicaragua, Italy, Sweden, Hamburg, Spain, Prussia, and Chile. He took the ministers and some of their attaches on a brief sight seeing trip to show the ministers the wonderful resources the northern states possessed and to persuade them that backing the Union in the Civil War would be to their respective government’s benefit. Donaldson was asked to come along on this trip with Seward. One place Seward and Donaldson took the ministers was Trenton Falls in New York. At least two pictures were taken of the party at Trenton Falls.

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In the first image Secretary Seward is seated on the rock with a large hat in his hand while in the second one he is the rightmost standing figure. These images also capture assistant messenger James Donaldson who is the leftmost standing figure in both images:

After visiting Trenton Falls, the group would make their way to Seward’s home in Auburn, New York (which is now a museum) where the summit continued. After the end of the summit, Seward and Donaldson returned to the Secretary’s home in Washington, D.C.

By 1865, James Donaldson was 48 years old and had been working for the State Department for over 12 years. On April 5, William Seward was injured in Washington, D.C., when he was forced to jump out of a runaway carriage. The incident resulted in Seward receiving a broken arm, a broken jaw, and a concussion. After this accident, Seward would be bed-ridden as he slowly recovered. While Seward would be assigned two army nurses to look after him during his recovery, the whole Seward household took turns keeping an eye on the Secretary. James Donaldson, practically one of the family members by now, took his turn tending to his boss.

By the afternoon of April 14th, Seward was feeling better. James Donaldson had been with the Secretary that afternoon but was informed by him that he need not stay into the night. Donaldson obediently heeded his boss’ words but informed the family that he would return to attend the Secretary early the next morning. With that Donaldson departed the Seward home.

We all know what happened next. That night, at around 10:15 pm, Lewis Powell, one of John Wilkes Booth’s conspirators, entered the Seward home intent on murdering Secretary Seward.

Fight in the Room - The Assassination and History of the Conspiracy

While Powell failed to enact a fatal blow to the Secretary he did manage to injure five of the home’s occupants. The Secretary and two of his sons were wounded, as was the army nurse who was attending him that evening, and one of Donaldson’s coworkers, lead State Department messenger Emerick Hansell. Donaldson quickly made his reappearance to the Seward home and witnessed the carnage. With so many others already occupying the rooms with the Secretary and his sons, Donaldson made his way to the room where Hansell had been placed. His friend and coworker was suffering a deep stab wound to the spine and was not expected to live.

Fanny Seward, the Secretary’s daughter, recounted in her diary Donaldson’s reaction to what he saw:

In the middle of the room sat Donaldson, his face buried in his hands—crying aloud, like a child. I touched his shoulder & said— “Donaldson, you were not hurt?”

“No Miss Fanny” he said— “I wasn’t here. If I had been here this wouldn’t have happened. If I had been here I’d have been a dead man. Oh, why wasn’t I here?”

Miraculously, none of the wounds inflected by Lewis Powell on April 14th proved to be fatal and all five of the injured persons would recover to various degrees. The Secretary’s recovery, however, was not a swift one. The damage caused by Powell’s blade exacerbated Seward’s broken jaw. A new type of splint had to be designed and installed to help heal the wounds. It would not be until October of 1865 that the various apparatuses were all removed from Seward’s mouth and jaw.

During this long period of convalescence, James Donaldson was extremely attentive to his boss. Perhaps Donaldson felt survivor’s guilt at being one of the few men who escaped injury on April 14th because he was lucky enough to have been absent from the house. Regardless of the reason, Donaldson was his boss’ constant companion during his recovery.

In August of 1865, the grateful friends of William Seward decided to reward James Donaldson for his continued helpfulness to the wounded Secretary by presenting him with a gift:

gift-to-james-donaldson-1865

It was for his unceasing devotion to his boss that Donaldson was gifted $1,000 from grateful citizens. Such gifts of appreciation would continue for others who were affected by the attempt on Seward’s life. In 1871, Private George Robinson, the army nurse who was stabbed while attempting the protect the Secretary, was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal and $5,000 for his bravery. In 1876, Donaldson’s coworker, messenger Emerick Hansell, was given $2,000 for the pain and suffering he received the night Lewis Powell dropped in.

In addition to the funds, Donaldson also found that he had been commissioned as a Justice of the Peace by President Andrew Johnson himself. It does not appear that Donaldson immediately took up this role of Justice of the Peace but, instead, continued in his capacity as an assistant messenger to Secretary Seward and the State Department.

Donaldson continued under the employ of Seward throughout Andrew Johnson’s presidency, and likely could have remained at his position even after Seward’s term as Secretary of State ended. Seward was, after all, the fourth Secretary of State Donaldson had worked under. However, Donaldson had bonded so much with Seward that he likely did not want to serve anyone else after him. James Donaldson resigned as a state department messenger on March 4, 1869. Frederick Seward later wrote:

“Seward’s messenger and attendant, Donaldson, resigned his place in the department on the same day as his chief. In reply to his affectionate farewell letter, Seward wrote that he had reserved for his last official act, a recognition of his long and faithful service.”

After leaving the employment of the State Department, James Donaldson took up the job that he had been granted in 1865 and became a Justice of the Peace. He also found himself employment as a crier of the court.

james-donaldson-as-justice-1872

Donaldson’s friendship with Seward continued despite Seward having moved back to his home in Auburn. In 1871, the D.C. newspapers carried a story about Donaldson having recently traveled to visit with his old boss, who himself had just returned from a grand journey across Asia and Europe.

james-donaldson-meets-back-with-seward-1871

Though there is no record of it, it seems very likely that James Donaldson would have attended the funeral of William Seward when the statesman died on October 10, 1872. At the very least, Donaldson must have recalled his former boss and the bond the two had forged after that dark night in April, 1865

James Donaldson would outlive William Seward by fourteen years, dying on December 3, 1886.

death-of-james-donaldson

There’s no question that James Donaldson is one of the little people when it comes to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His connection to the event can be summarized as “he was lucky enough not to be present at the Seward house on the night Lewis Powell attacked and he afterwards cared for Seward during the Secretary’s recovery.” However, despite his small role in the drama of 1865, James Donaldson’s actions demonstrate a great deal of humanity. Like the nation, he wept at the blood that had been shed. He pined to know why such a tragedy had occurred and why he had been spared. Then, after the initial shock and sadness abated, Donaldson picked himself up and worked hard to help another. If nothing else, James Donaldson represents the plethora of decent men and women who tried to make things better after one of the greatest tragedies in our nation.

References:
Ancestry.com
Trent Falls photographs – Library of Congress
Newspaper extracts – GenealogyBank.com
Fanny Seward’s diary from the University of Rochester
Seward at Washington as Senator and Secretary of State (1861 – 1872) by Frederick W. Seward

Categories: History | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

What’s Missing? Episode 2

Once again it’s time to test your Boothie knowledge, resourcefulness, and observational skills with a game called, What’s Missing?

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Below you will find 20 images all related in some way to the Lincoln assassination story. Most of them have previously appeared on this website, either in the Picture Galleries or in one of the many posts. Your job is to look at the images carefully to see if you can determine “What’s Missing?” from the image. You can click on each image to enlarge it a bit and get a better look. When you’re stumped, or ready to check your answer, click on the “Answer” button below each image. Good luck!

What’s Missing A:

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What’s Missing B:

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What’s Missing C:

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What’s Missing D:

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What’s Missing E:

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What’s Missing F:

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What’s Missing G:

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What’s Missing H:

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What’s Missing I:

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What’s Missing J:

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What’s Missing K:

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What’s Missing L:

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What’s Missing M:

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What’s Missing N:

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What’s Missing O:

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What’s Missing P:

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What’s Missing Q:

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What’s Missing R:

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What’s Missing S:

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What’s Missing T:

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So how did you do? Let us know in the comments section below.

Categories: Levity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Emerick Hansell: The Forgotten Casualty

The following article was my very first foray into researching and writing about the Lincoln assassination story. It was originally published in the November 2010 issue of the Surratt Courier.


Emerick Hansell: The Forgotten Casualty

Fight in the Room - The Assassination and History of the Conspiracy

By Dave Taylor

“I’m mad, I’m mad,” were the alleged words of the assassin Powell as he fled from the bloodied scene behind him.  Assigned by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward at his home, Lewis Powell encountered a small resistant force that hindered the battle trained Confederate from completing his task.  In his wake, Powell left a menagerie of wounds and wounded:

  • Secretary Seward’s face was slashed, opened, and forever scarred by Powell’s blade.
  • Frederick Seward, who was spared a bullet when Powell’s gun misfired, received, instead, a skull splitting slam from the butt of the insolent weapon.
  • Private George Robinson, the newly assigned male nurse to the Secretary, endured stabs and blows while wrestling with the assailant.
  • Augustus Seward joined Private Robinson in defense of his father and withstood similar swipes from Powell’s fists and knife.
  • The last victim of that night, and the subject of this article, is an oft forgotten State Department messenger named Emerick Hansell.

Even in the most detailed of assassination texts, Hansell’s involvement that night is generally summed up with a variation of the following sentence: “As Powell, raced down the stairs of the Seward home, he met State Department messenger, Emerick Hansell, and stabbed him in the back.”  With that, Emerick Hansell usually enters and leaves the pages of documented history.  However, further research into Emerick Hansell’s past and future yields further connections to his actions on April 14th, 1865.

Emerick W. Hansell was born near Philadelphia in 1817.  In 1840, he married D.C. native Elizabeth Ann Robinson and moved into the Capital.  Together they had one son, George, and two daughters, Emma and Roberta.  They also had one child who died in childbirth.  This death would be the first of many sorrows in Hansell’s life.  Hansell’s occupation prior to his government work is unknown, but by 1855 he was employed by the State Department as an “acting” messenger.  For this position he was paid $700 a year.[1]  By 1858, Hansell was a full messenger and made $900 a year, a pay rate he sustained throughout his tenure.[2]  With the onset of the Civil War, the State Department inherited ever increasing duties.  Later, Frederick Seward reflected on the department employees during wartime and stated that Hansell was a man, “of proved efficiency and integrity.”[3]  Along with his government work, Hansell was a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows, a charitable fraternity.  The Hall of Odd Fellows in D.C., a common meeting place for the Order, is also the same venue in which John H. Surratt Jr. was scheduled to appear during his post-trial lecture circuit.[4]  Hansell was also an active member in St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church, attending and teaching adult Christian classes.  By 1865, Hansell was a respected and integral employee of the State Department, ferrying messages between the department headquarters and the Secretary of State.  On the night of April 14th, Hansell’s continued “efficiency and integrity” would be tested by Powell’s blade.

In the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, the coincidental stabbing of a messenger at Seward’s was unimportant and almost undocumented in the conspiracy trial.  While Mr. Hansell’s name is included with the other wounded parties in the charges against Lewis Powell, his involvement in the affair is limited to the testimony of only one witness: Dr. Tullio S. Verdi.

Dr Tullio Verdi

Dr Tullio Verdi

When the call for doctors rang out following the massacre, Dr. T. S. Verdi was the first to arrive at the Seward home in Lafayette Park.  As he recounted in an article a month later, “I found terror depicted on every countenance and blood everywhere.”[5]  As the initial doctor present, Verdi began triage duty.  He first saw to the Secretary.  After announcing that the facial wound was not fatal and applying ice to stop the bleeding, he was told of Frederick’s condition.  Dr. Verdi barely finished applying ice to Frederick’s hemorrhage when he was sent to tend to Augustus’ stabs.  Initially, Dr. Verdi was shocked as the number of wounded increased only to have this shock eclipsed by growing terror.  After seeing to Private Robinson’s wounds, he was called to see Emerick Hansell.

In the conspiracy trial transcript as compiled by T. B. Peterson & Brothers, Dr. Verdi’s account of Hansell’s wound is limited to a single sentence: “I found Mr. Hansell, a messenger of the State Department, lying on a bed, wounded by a cut in the side some two and a half inches deep.”[6]

Luckily, Benjamin Perley Poore’s transcript of the trial did not condense Dr. Verdi’s account:  “I found Mr. Hansell in the south east corner, on the same floor with Mr. Seward, lying on a bed.  He said he was wounded: I undressed him, and found a stab over the sixth rib, from the spine obliquely towards the right side.  I put my fingers into the wound to see whether it had penetrated the lungs.  I found that it had not; but I could put my fingers probably two and a half inches or three inches deep.  Apparently there was no internal bleeding.  The wound seemed to be an inch wide, so that the finger could be put in very easily and moved all around.”  Dr. Verdi was then asked if the stab had the appearance of being just made to which he responded, “Yes, sir: it was bleeding then, very fresh to all appearances.  Probably it was not fifteen or twenty minutes since the stab occurred.” [7]

While at the conspiracy trial Dr. Verdi asserted that the wound was not fatal, there must have been some uncertainty at the time.  When Secretary of War Edwin Stanton arrived at the Secretary of State’s home, he found Seward, Frederick and Hansell each “weltering in their own gore.”[8]  Later, as Stanton was attending to President Lincoln’s deathwatch, he sent a dispatch to Major-General Dix stating, among other things, that, “The attendant who was present [at Seward’s] was stabbed through the lungs, and is not expected to live.”[9]  Contrary to Stanton’s dispatch, Hansell’s wound, like all those inflicted by Powell that night, proved to be non-fatal.

Dr. Verdi’s brief testimony contains the only official mentioning of Emerick Hansell in the conspiracy trial.  While beneficial, it does little to explain Hansell’s presence and whether he had just arrived or was departing the scene when he was stabbed.  Hansell, unlike Augustus Seward, Private Robinson, and doorman William Bell, was never called to testify about his experiences.  Oddly enough, these men did not mention Hansell in their testimonies at all.  This is surprising since it seems that someone had to have helped Hansell up the stairs and into the third floor bedroom where he was found by Dr. Verdi.  These omissions led one author in the 1960’s to propose that Augustus Seward perjured himself on the stand and that it was actually Hansell who helped Robinson eject the assassin from the Secretary’s room[10].  However, further research disproves this theory.

During the trial for John H. Surratt Jr. in 1867, the prosecution recalled many of the same witnesses from the initial conspiracy trial.  William Bell, Augustus Seward, and Private Robinson returned to give their accounts.  The prosecution also brought in new witnesses: Frederick Seward and his wife Anna.  Dr. Verdi was not recalled and Emerick Hansell was still absent.  Nevertheless, in this trial, it is Private Robinson who recounts Mr. Hansell’s actions that night, “On [Powell’s] way down, on the first flight, he overtook Mr. Hansell, a messenger at the State department, who had been roused by the noise that had been made, and had apparently turned to go down stairs for help.  He came within reach of him and struck him in the back.”  Robinson was then asked if Hansell said anything to which he responded, “He started to say ‘O!’ I presume, but he did not say it exactly.  He hallooed out pretty loud.  He did not utter any particular word that I heard.” [11]

Pvt. George Foster Robinson

Pvt. George Foster Robinson

Robinson’s 1867 testimony is supported in a May of 1865 letter from Secretary Seward’s wife, Frances.  In this letter she wrote, “While [Augustus] was stepping into his room for a pistol, the man made his escape down the stairs, on his way wounding Mr. Hansell, a messenger from the department, who came out of a lower room and was going to the street door to give the alarm.”[12]

From the above witnesses, we can conclude that Hansell had taken up residence in the Seward home the night of the 14th and was awakened by the commotion upstairs.  As he left his room to either flee or raise the alarm, Powell overtook him and stabbed him callously in the back.  It was a long and deep cut that barely missed penetrating his lungs.  Then, someone in or around the Seward house helped the wounded Hansell up the stairs and into a third floor bedroom.

The bedroom he was placed in was Fanny Seward’s, the Secretary’s treasured daughter.  In her diary Fanny wrote, “I went across the hall into my own room.  I was there twice.  The first time they were dressing poor Hansell’s back (he was stabbed in the back) the second time he lay on the bed.  Eliza the seamstress was there to attend to him.”[13]

Lastly, Dr. Verdi, in an article published in May of 1865, gave the same basic story as the others with a slight change in where Hansell was sleeping and with an assumption about Emerick Hansell’s character.  All emphases are Dr. Verdi’s: “Mr. Ansel (sic), the fifth person who was wounded, is a messenger in the State Department, and was sleeping that night over the Secretary’s room, waiting for his turn of watching.  Hearing the fearful screams of Miss Fanny, he (a very weak-kneed gentleman) was making his way out of the house as fast as possible, when, after having descended a flight of stairs, he met the murderer, also on the landing.  Mr. Ansel, however, endeavored to run faster; but the assassin, fearing he might give the alarm, gave him a memento of his brutality by plunging the dagger in his back.”[14]

Dr. Verdi’s description of Hansell as a “weak-kneed” gentleman may explain why Hansell was never called to testify and is barely mentioned in the trial testimonies.  In contrast to the brave Private Robinson who fought off the assassin, Hansell was running away when he was stabbed.  His assumed cowardice made it so very little was said about his role that night.  When the media did report on him and his recovery, the matter in which he received his wound was generally left out, as this excerpt from the April 18th New York Times will show: “Mr. Hansell, the Messenger of the State Department who was stabbed in the back at the same time, is a great sufferer, but believed to be out of danger.”[15]

Emerick Hansell would be in pain for the rest of his life.  Following some time to convalesce, Hansell managed to return to his duties as a messenger and faithfully continued to carry them out.  Records show that he was still a messenger of the State Department in 1869.[16]  In 1870, however, tragedy stuck Emerick Hansell again.  On October 8th, 1870, Emerick Hansell’s wife of thirty years, Elizabeth, died of tuberculosis.[17]  The loss of his wife, along with the ever growing pain from his wound caused Emerick to retire from the State Department at the age of 56.

Nothing is known about Emerick Hansell’s life for the next three years following his wife’s death.  Some time during that period however, he must have been introduced to Mary E. Cross, a widow.  Though twenty years his younger, the two courted and on June 4th, 1873, Emerick and Mary were married.  Also during this period, a congressional action honoring Private Robinson for his bravery occurred.  In 1871, for saving the life of Secretary Seward, Private Robinson was presented a Congressional Gold Medal and awarded the sum of $5,000.

The congressional medal awarded to Pvt. George Foster Robinson for protecting Secretary William Seward.

The Congressional medal awarded to Pvt. George Foster Robinson for protecting Secretary William Seward.

By 1874, Hansell had been in constant pain for almost ten years.  He elicited the help of Dr. Verdi and his own physician, Dr. Sonnenschmidt, to write letters on his behalf explaining the nature of his wound and its impact on his physical being.  Dr. Verdi wrote back confirming that, “The wound is at present in such a condition as will preclude ever after his engaging in any active work for any length of time.”[18]  Hansell’s reasoning for such confirmations of his condition?  He was appealing the Congress to grant him a federal pension for his sustained wounds.

By 1876, the House of Representatives Committee of Claims had reviewed Hansell’s petition for a pension.  Previous to this petition, federal pensions were limited to those who served the government in times of war in the Army or Navy.  Except for the recent federal judiciary pension list, no civilians were granted pensions.  Nevertheless, the Committee of Claims granted Mr. Hansell’s request.  They justified their decision thusly:

“Mr. Hansell is now advanced in years, infirm, and disabled, as stated. In the opinion of the committee he is entitled to the just and generous consideration of the Government, and the most appropriate form of relief is that adopted toward those who have honorably served the country in the common defense and been disabled in its service. They therefore recommend that the name of the petitioner be placed upon the pension roll at the rate of $8 per month, to date from the 14th day of April, 1865, and submit a bill to that effect, with the recommendation that it pass.”[19]

While Hansell did not serve in the Army or Navy, the committee construed his actions on the 14th as being in defense of Secretary Seward, and therefore in defense of the country.  His petition was transformed into “A bill (H. R. 3184) granting a pension to Emerick W. Hansell”.  Upon reaching the House of Representatives, the bill was passed, and he was put on the pension roll.

Emerick Hansell's signature

Emerick Hansell’s signature

Then the bill was looked at by the Senate’s Committee on Pensions who were concerned about the precedent this bill would set.  They challenged the House’s Committee of Claim’s justification for giving the civilian Hansell a pension.  However, they did not disagree with granting him some money for his pain and suffering.  The Senate, therefore, proposed, in lieu of a pension, the following amendment:

“That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and hereby is, authorized and directed to pay to Emerick W. Hansell, of the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sum of $2,000, on account of injuries received by said Hansell while in attendance upon the late William H. Seward, former Secretary of State, on the occasion of the attempted assassination of said Seward”[20]

This amendment was approved.  A small debate then occurred when Senator Henry Anthony of Rhode Island proposed an amendment that would increase the amount from $2,000 to $5,000.  Senator Anthony supported his amendment thusly:

“I should like very much to have the amount in the bill increased to $5,000. I think it is a great shame that this Government did not pay the expenses of the sickness, slow recovery, and surgical treatment of the illustrious Secretary of State and all others who were injured in that attempt at assassination which sent a thrill of horror throughout every part of the country, the South as well as the North. I should very much like, if it will not interfere with the bill and if my friend from Iowa will accept it, to amend it so as to give him $5,000, which I think is a very small compensation for the injuries which this faithful man suffered and which have disabled him for the whole of his future life.”

Many of the Senators asked for more information about Hansell, his injury, and his age.  Unfortunately, their only source of information was the report from the Committee of Claims based on Hansell’s petition which, assumedly, was less than specific.  One Senator, John Ingalls of Kansas, expressed his disagreement to the proposed increase fairly eloquently:

“I am aware that it is a very ungracious thing and a very difficult thing to attempt to argue against a sentiment, to resist an appeal that is made upon the ground of sympathy.  So far as Mr. Hansell is concerned, of course no Senator here desires to say that he shall not be remunerated; but it seems to me that we ought not to give any more than he has asked; inasmuch as he himself has asked for but $8 a month, I can conceive that no good will be obtained by doubling the sum…”[21]

In the end, Senator Anthony withdrew his amendment.  The new bill, granting Hansell $2,000 was renamed “A bill (H.R. 3184) for the relief of Emerick Hansell” and passed the Senate.  It was then sent back to the House for concurrence, where Representative William Holman of Indiana recited his approval of the amendment thusly:

“I want to say a single word. I do not object to this, but I think the amendments made by the Senate are very wise and prudent amendments. Although this is an entire gratuity, it is one of those gratuities, perhaps, which are proper for the Government to give…”[22]

The House concurred with the amendments of the bill and it was signed by the Presidents pro tempore of both the House and Senate.  President Ulysses S. Grant approved and signed the finished act on August 15th, 1876.  Emerick Hansell was given $2,000 for the wound he received on the night of April 14th, 1865.

While many of the Senators spoke of Emerick Hansell’s advanced age, he was only 59 when his petition was granted.  Though indeed infirmed, Emerick Hansell would live for seventeen more years after receiving his relief money.  His actions during this time are unknown except that he continued to be active in both the International Order of Odd Fellows and in St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church.

At six o’clock in the morning on February 14th, 1893, Emerick Hansell died at the age of 75.[23]  His death certificate lists “loco-motor ataxia” as his cause of death.  In addition, he had experienced partial paralysis for several years as a result of his wound.  In his will, Emerick left one dollar to each of his children and fifty dollars to St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church.  The rest of his estate was left to his wife, Mary.[24]  His funeral was enacted under the charge of the Odd Fellows.

Emerick Hansell’s final resting place is in D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery.  There, he is buried next to his first wife, Elizabeth, who preceded him in death twenty-three years earlier.  His gravestone bears the following epitaph:

HansellGrave

“Emerick W. Hansell

1817-1893

Wounded with Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Sec. of State

By the Assassin Payne, April 14, 1865.

Erected by his Grandson Marvin Emerick Eldridge”

While Emerick Hansell’s actions on April 14th, 1865 could be debated as either cowardly or valiant, the wound he sustained; the one that infirmed him for the remainder of his life, should be looked upon with sympathy.  His wound personified the savagery of the assassin Powell who deviated from his sole target of Secretary Seward, to attack and maim four others.  For twenty-eight years after his death, Emerick Hansell continued to feel Lewis Powell’s brutality in every breath and movement of his body.  When the assassination slowly faded from public memory, people like Secretary Seward, Frederick Seward, Augustus Seward, Private Robinson and Emerick Hansell bore the scar it forever.  It is due to this suffering and this constant reminder of our dark history, that Emerick Hansell was granted $2,000 from a repentant and forgetful government.

Sources:

[1] U.S. Department of State. (1855). Register of officers and agents, civil, military, and naval, in the service of the United States, on the thirtieth September, 1855. Washington City, DC: A. O. P. Nicholson. (pg. 2).

[2] U.S. House of Representatives. (1858). Reports of committees of the House of Representatives, made during the first session of the thirty-fifth Congress. Washington City, DC: James B. Steedman. (pg. 22).

[3] Seward, F. W. (1891). Seward at Washington as Senator and Secretary of State. (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Derby and Miller. (pg. 633).

[4] Swanson, J. L. (2006). Manhunt: The twelve day chase for Lincoln’s killer. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (pg. 376).

[5] Verdi, T. S. (1865). Interesting correspondence – full particulars of the attempted assassination of the Hon. Secretary Seward, his family and attendants. The Western Homoeopathic Observer, 2(7), 81.

[6] Peterson, T. B. (Ed.), (1865). The trial of the assassins and conspirators at Washington City, D.C., May and June, 1865, for the murder of President Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia, PA: T. B. Peterson & Brothers. (pg. 82).

[7] Poore, B. P. (Ed.), (1865). The conspiracy trial for the murder of the president, and the attempt to overthrow the government by the assassination of its principal officers. (Vol. 2). Boston, MA: J. E. Tilton and Company. (pgs. 100-101).

[8] Storey, M. (1930, April). Dickens, Stanton, Sumner, and Storey. The Atlantic Monthly, 145, 463-465.

[9] Kauffman, M. W. (2004). American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln conspiracies. New York, NY: Random House. (pg. 62).

[10] Shelton, V. (1965). Mask for treason: The Lincoln murder trial. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. (pgs. 126-129).

[11] (1867) Trial of John H. Surratt in criminal court for the District of Columbia. (Vol. 1). Washington City, DC: Government Printing Office. (pg. 263).

[12] Seward, F. W. (1891). Seward at Washington as Senator and Secretary of State. (Vol. 2). New York, NY: Derby and Miller. (pg. 279).

[13] Johnson, P. C. (1963). Sensitivity and Civil War: The Selected Diaries and Papers, 1858-1866, of Frances Adeline (Fanny) Seward. Retrieved from http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?page=1420&Print=436

[14] Verdi, Interesting, pg. 85.

[15] (1865, April 18). The assassination… The New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1865/04/18/news/assassination-condition-secretary-seward-improving-new-facts-about-murderers.html

[16] U.S. Department of State. (1869). Register of officers and agents, civil, military, and naval, in the service of the United States, on the thirtieth September, 1869. Washington City, DC: Government Printing Office. (pg. 2).

[17] (1870, October 9). Obituary – Hansell. The Philadelphia Ledger.  Retrieved from http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/hansell-elizabeth

[18] House of Representatives. (1876). Index to reports of committees of the House of Representatives for the first session of the forty-fourth Congress, 1875-’76. (Vol. 2). Washington City, DC: Government Printing Office. (pg. 141).

[19] Ibid, pg. 142.

[20] U.S. Congress. (1876). Congressional record containing the proceedings and debates of the forty-fourth Congress, first session; also special session of the Senate. (Vol. 4). Washington City, DC: Government Printing Office. (pgs. 5059, 5060, 5080, 5659, 5663, 5683, 5689, 5698).

[21] Ibid, pg. 5059.

[22] Ibid, pg. 5683.

[23] (1893, February 14). Death of Emerick Hansell. The Evening Star.  Retrieved from http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/sites/default/files/Obits_Hansell.pdf

*Note* This article, along with his death certificate, lists Hansell’s age as 74.  However, basic math shows that Hansell, born sometime in 1817, would have to have been at least 75 when he died in February of 1893.  If he was born in January or early February, he would have been 76 at the time of his death.

[24] Copies of Emerick Hansell’s last will and testament along with his death certificate were courteously provided by David Vancil of the Neff-Guttridge Collection at Indiana State University.  The collection also contains a possible photograph of Mr. Hansell, though its provenance is disputed.

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“President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” at the Newseum

Located on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street in northwest D.C., the Newseum is an impressive institution devoted to the evolution of news reporting and the importance of free press in a society. The seven floor museum contains impressive permanent exhibits relating to some of the most news worthy events in American and world history. There are also many galleries in the museum which house an array of different temporary exhibits. When I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time in 2009, I made sure to tour the Newseum due to the fact that they were displaying a temporary exhibition based around James Swanson’s book, Manhunt. One of my very first posts on this site recounted that wonderful exhibit.

Since that time (and my subsequent move to Maryland), I have made many visits to the Newseum.  Their exhibits are fascinating and it is a wonderful place to bring guests from out of town.  As you might expect, there are several permanent items on display at the Newseum related to Lincoln’s assassination that I see each time I am there.  One permanent, 80 foot long display on the top terrace overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue and recounts the history of Washington’s most famous street.

Newseum Terrace

The display also points out that the site currently occupied by the Newseum was once the home to the National Hotel, the preferred hotel of John Wilkes Booth when he was in Washington.

The Newseum collection also contains different newspapers, both physical and digital, that cover the assassination of Abraham Lincoln:

However for this year, the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Newseum has created a very special exhibition:

New York Herald Exhibit Newseum

President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” is a detailed look at how one of the most widely read newspapers in the country covered the events of April 14, 1865.  Over a period of 18 hours following the shot at Ford’s Theatre, the New York Herald would publish an unprecedented seven special editions, each with new information regarding the President and Secretary of State’s conditions and the subsequent search for their assassins.  The Newseum may very well be the only institution in the world that contains copies of each of the seven editions of the New York Herald from that tumultuous time.


Coverage Chronologically

 
Seven Issues of New York Herald Newseum

The current exhibit at the Newseum contains an original of each of these editions paired with large wall displays that highlight the differences and additions between them.

2:00 AM edition:

NYH 2 am edition Newseum

3:00 AM edition:

NYH 3 am edition Newseum

8:45 AM edition:

NYH 8 am edition Newseum

10:00 AM edition:

NYH 10 am Uncovering the Plot edition Newseum

10:00 AM “Reward” edition:

NYH 10 am Reward edition Newseum

2:00 PM edition:

NYH 2 pm edition Newseum

3:30 PM edition:

NYH 3 pm edition Newseum

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge


Floor to Ceiling Coverage

 
While the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit is only contained in one small room of the Newseum, there is no wasted space.  Even the floor and ceiling contain displays.  On the floor is a map of Civil War Washington with labelled sites relating to the assassination:

Floor map Newseum

Meanwhile the ceiling is festooned with wonderful banners (several of which I wish I could own myself) relating to the assassination:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


The Stories Behind the Story

 
The displays not only provide commentary on the evolving story of how the country came to learn the details of Lincoln’s assassination, but they also introduce us to the people involved in reporting the news.  One of my favorite stories is that of Associated Press reporter, Lawrence Gobright who was responsible for the very first telegraphic dispatch covering Lincoln’s assassination:

First dispatch Newseum

In 1869, Gobright would recollect his actions that night:

“On the night of the 14th of April, I was sitting in my office alone, everything quiet : and having filed, as I thought, my last despatch, I picked up an afternoon paper, to see what especial news it contained. While looking over its columns, a hasty step was heard at the entrance of the door, and a gentleman addressed me, in a hurried and excited manner, informing me that the President had been assassinated, and telling me to come with him! I at first could scarcely believe the intelligence. But I obeyed the summons. He had been to the theatre with a lady, and directly after the tragedy at that place, had brought out the lady, placed her at his side in his carriage, and driven directly to me. I then first went to the telegraph office, sent a short ” special,” and promised soon to give the particulars. Taking a seat in the hack, we drove back to the theatre and alighted; the gentleman giving directions to the driver to convey the lady to her home.

The gentleman and myself procured an entrance to the theatre, where we found everybody in great excitement. The wounded President had been removed to the house of Mr. Peterson [sic], who lived nearly opposite to the theatre. When we reached the box, we saw the chair in which the President sat at the time of the assassination; and, although the gas had for the greater part been turned off, we discovered blood upon it…

Lawrence Gobright

Lawrence Gobright

My friend having been present during the performance, and being a valuable source of news, I held him firmly by the arm, for fear that I might lose him in the crowd. After gathering all the points we could, we came out of the theatre, when we heard that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated. I recollect replying that this rumor probably was an echo from the theatre; but wishing to be satisfied as to its truth or falsity, I called a hack, and my companion and myself drove to the Secretary’s residence. We found a guard at the door, but had little trouble in entering the house. Some of the neighbors were there, but they were so much excited that they could not tell an intelligent story, and the colored boy, by whom Paine was met when he insisted on going up to the Secretary’s room, was scarcely able to talk. We did all we could to get at the truth of the story, and when we left the premises, had confused ideas of the events of the night. Next we went to the President’s house. A military guard was at the door. It was then, for the first time, we learned that the President had not been brought home. Vague rumors were in circulation that attempts had been made on the lives of Vice-President Johnson and others, but they could not be traced to a reliable source. We returned to Mr. Peterson’s house, but were not permitted to make our way through the military guard to inquire into the condition of the President. Nor at that time was it certainly known who was the assassin of President Lincoln. Some few persons said he resembled Booth, while others appeared to be confident as to the identity.

Returning to the office, I commenced writing a full account of that night’s dread occurrences. While thus engaged, several gentlemen who had been at the theatre came in, and, by questioning them, I obtained additional particulars. Among my visitors was Speaker Colfax, and as he was going to see Mr. Lincoln, I asked him to give me a paragraph on that interesting branch of the subject. At a subsequent hour, he did so. Meanwhile I carefully wrote my despatch, though with trembling and nervous fingers, and, under all the exciting circumstances, I was afterward surprised that I had succeeded in approximating so closely to all the facts in those dark transactions…”

In addition to his quick reporting and continual dispatches throughout the night, Gobright also holds a place in history due to his brief custodianship over the derringer that was used to kill Abraham Lincoln.

Edwin Pitts holding the Derringer 1

After shooting Lincoln with the single shot pistol, John Wilkes Booth immediately dropped the gun onto the floor of the theater box. Somehow it went unnoticed during the chaos that ensued in the small box as physicians entered to care for the mortally wounded president. One of the men who had entered the box along with the physicians was a man named William Kent. Kent would later claim it was his penknife that was used to cut the collar from around Lincoln’s neck. After departing the theater that night, Kent discovered he had lost his keys and so returned to the theater and gained entry into the now empty box. He was searching for his keys when his foot struck something. Lawrence Gobright had also just arrived in the box to report on the scene of the crime:

“A man [Kent] standing by picked up Booth’s pistol from the floor, when I exclaimed to the crowd below that the weapon had been found and placed in my possession. An officer of the navy — whose name I do not now remember — demanded that I should give it to him ; but this I refused to do, preferring to make Major Richards, the head of the police, the custodian of the weapon, which I did soon after my announcement.”

As stated, Gobright did turn the derringer over to the Metropolitan Police and William Kent identified it on April 15th:

William Kent statement


Don’t Believe Everything you Read in the Newspapers

 
The New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also demonstrates how the newspapers covering Lincoln’s assassination made the same mistake as some modern journalists by printing unreliable or unsubstantiated claims in hopes of being the first to provide their audience with an exclusive.

Booth in custody Newseum

Rumors and speculation would fill every mouth, diary, and newspaper for the next twelve days as the entire country searched for John Wilkes Booth.

In addition to misinformation that was printed in a rush, the New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also brings attention to later instances that have caused unintended deception.  The New York Herald’s coverage of Lincoln’s assassination was so wide spread that even many years later, the paper was still very well connected to the event in the minds of the public.  Many advertisers attempted to benefit from this connection by creating their own, custom reprints of editions of the New York Herald.  On the face of it, the reprints appeared genuine though some, like the one below, included engravings that were never in the originals.  No matter how real they looked however, hidden either in the text of the front page or within the interior pages were advertisements for the latest miracle tonic, liniment, or some other product.

Fake NYH Newseum

This type of “historical advertising” was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.  People were more likely to hold on to the advertisement if it had something compelling on it.  Another example of this type of advertising is this reproduction CDV of John Wilkes Booth’s escape on a bag for dysentery syrup:

John Wilkes Booth Dysentery Syrup

While the newspapers were well known to be advertisements in their day, as time has passed reproductions like the one above have fooled many unknowing treasure seekers into thinking they have a genuine (and pricey) piece of American history. Most of the time, however, a careful read through (especially of the interior pages which are usually just full page ads for the product) will reveal it is a reproduction.  You can see a small sampling of some of the many advertising reproductions of the assassination editions of the New York Herald here.


Plan Your Visit

 
I highly recommend a visit to the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit at the Newseum.  It is located on the 4th floor of the museum which is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Tickets to the Newseum cost $23 for adults and allow you to return the next day for free.  While this price may seem a bit expensive compared to the federally funded museums in D.C. that offer free admission, the Newseum has many wonderful galleries and exhibits that make the price more than worth it.  This special New York Herald exhibit only runs until January 10, 2016 so be sure to visit the Newseum before it is gone.

References:
President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum
Recollection of men and things at Washington during the third of a century by Lawrence Gobright (1869)
National Archives
Library of Congress

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New Gallery – Seward Assassination Attempt

“Crashing into a wall, Powell sought to disengage [Frederick’s] iron hold.  Together they maneuvered toward the secretary’s room, and Powell crashed against the heavy door with his shoulder.  His own weight, combined with that of his clinging adversary, burst the door wide open, and together they stumbled across the threshold…The enraged intruder now drew his knife, and, stumbling into Robinson, sent the man reeling across the floor with a quick slash on his forehead…Powell frantically thrust Fanny Seward aside and bounded upon the old gentleman’s bed.  Placing his left hand on Seward’s chest, he struck repeatedly with the knife.  As the secretary was supported by a framework backrest, the weapon glanced off the metal in a shower of sparks…” -Betty Ownsbey in “Alias Paine”

The newest Picture Gallery here on BoothieBarn highlights illustrations and images relating to the other attack on an elected offical that occurred on April 14th, 1865: the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Henry Seward by Lewis Thornton Powell.  Click here to see the new Seward Assassination Attempt Picture Gallery!

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The Seward Site: Then and Now

When Booth was committing his deed at Ford’s Theatre on 10th Street, Lewis Powell was simultaneously entering a residence in Lafayette Square with malevolent intent.  His mark was Secretary of State William H. Seward, an integral member of Lincoln’s cabinet and political team.  Powell’s house-wide knife attack would wound five but none fatally.

The house the Secretary of State occupied was a stone’s throw from the White House.  Commissioned by Commodore John Rodgers, the building would serve as the home of many important politicians like James Blaine, James Paulding, Roger Taney, and William Worth Belknap.  When the White House was being renovated in 1845, President Polk used the house for his temporary residence.

In 1894, the Rodgers House was sadly demolished.  The Lafayette Square Opera House was built on the house’s site.

In 1906, the theater was bought by new owners and became The Belasco Theater.  The theater saw the likes of Al Jolson and Will Rodgers perform within its walls.  As times changed, the Belasco converted into a movie theater, but its career as such was short lived.  In 1940, the federal government bought the Belasco and nearby buildings.  The inside of the theater was remodeled and used as office and storage space, not unlike Ford’s Theatre had been.  During WWII, the building was reopened as a social club for Armed Forces members called The Stage Door Canteen.  Aside from a temporary revival as a military club during the Korean War, the building was used as offices for the USO.

Finally, in the 1964, the end came for the old Belasco building.  The old theater was razed in order to create the Federal Court of Claims building.  The Court of Claims still resides on the property.

While the house that was a silent witness to the assault of Secretary of State Seward is long gone from Lafayette Park, the history of the site is not forgotten.  While slightly hidden within the courtyard of the Federal Court of Claims building, there is a plaque to remember not only Lewis Powell’s presence on the site, but the other individuals and businesses that were once the President’s neighbors.

References:
Library of Congress

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George Robinson’s Grave

Just a quick post today as I’m still in the process of getting set up in my new Maryland residence.

During a brief site seeing trip I took with two of my family members who helped me make the move from Illinois, we visited Arlington National Cemetery. I have been there before, but every time I visit it I am still humbled by the white, uniformed acres of sacrifice before me.

One grave related to the Lincoln assassination in Arlington belongs to George Foster Robinson.

20120806-115912.jpg

On April 14th, 1865, Robinson was an army private tending to Secretary of State William Seward after the latter suffered a carriage accident. When Lewis Powell slashed his way into Seward’s bed chamber, it was largely Robinson who discharged him. He was credited as saving the Secretary’s life and was given many accolades. Robinson would receive Powell’s knife as a memento, be presented with a gold congressional medal and $5,000, and, 100 years later, a mountain in Alaska was named after him for saving the man who later purchased the territory of Alaska from Russia.

Today he rests in Arlington next to his wife Roxinda Aurora:

20120806-121442.jpg

The Robinsons are located just a stone’s throw from Bobby and Teddy Kennedy’s graves. In the background of the pictures you can see the large white fence that currently shields Teddy Kennedy’s grave. So next time you’re at Arlington make the minor detour into the section in front of the Kennedy brother’s and pay your respects to a true Civil War hero: George Foster Robinson.

20120806-122557.jpg

References:
http://www.eighthmaine.com/Pages/OurHero.aspx
http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/gfrobinson.htm

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