Lincoln’s Wife Heard Him Say These Final Words Before Dying

The scene from that fateful night on April 14, 1865, is one that many of us have heard described over the years. It’s a commonly-known fact that President Abraham Lincoln spent the last evening of his life attending a play in Washington, D.C., but few people know the details of what followed the 10:15 pm shooting.

The true final words that Lincoln spoke to his wife have been a source of discussion and disagreement throughout the years since his tragic passing. Read on to learn what some historians believe he said to her.

A Night At The Theater

Lincoln's Murder
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

April 14, 1865, was a date that changed so much about American history, but the 16th president of the United States didn’t know that. He and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, attended Ford’s Theater to see a performance of the play “Our American Cousin” from their private box.

At 10:15 pm, a gunman named John Wilkes Booth snuck up behind the engrossed president and shot a bullet into the back of his head.

On The Heels Of Victory

Lincoln Visits Civil War Headquarters
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Just five days before Lincoln was gunned down at the theater, the American Civil War had ended. This was a great victory for the president and the nation. The Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, signaling the end of the long and bloody conflict.

John Wilkes Booth was a Confederate sympathizer and spy whose brutal act that April evening was part of a three-part plan of attack on the government of the United States.

Upset By The Abolition Of Slavery

John Wilkes Booth
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Even though the Confederacy was based in the south, John Wilkes Booth remained up north during the Civil War. Coming from a family of actors, Booth himself pursued a career on the stage.

After attending a speech in which Lincoln stated that he was in favor of granting voting rights to former slaves, though, Booth jumped into action and planned Lincoln’s assassination. He and a small group of co-conspirators had previously plotted a kidnapping plan against the president, but this time murder was the goal.

Multiple Deaths Were Planned

Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, 1860s (1955).
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Booth learned that Abraham and Mary Lincoln would be in attendance at the theater that April night and decided to commit his devastating act. He had a small team of co-conspirators who were enlisted to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson (pictured) and Secretary of State William H. Seward at the same time Booth pulled the trigger on Lincoln.

Booth believed the murders of all three important men at once would throw the Union government into chaos, allowing the Confederacy to reorganize and continue the war.

Familiar With The Theater

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's Box at Ford's Theater, Washington DC, USA, April 1865
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As a prominent actor, John Wilkes Booth was familiar with Ford’s Theater. In fact, he’d actually performed there himself a number of times so knew the building and its layout well.

The Lincolns’ attendance there in such a familiar place was the perfect opportunity for Booth to gain access to the president. Additionally, he was easily able to gain access to the president’s private box through his personal connections within the theater.

Late Arrival

Abraham Lincoln with American flag
VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images
VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

The Lincolns weren’t the only distinguished guests at the performance that night although certainly the most important and prominent. They brought as their guests the army officer Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris, who was the daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris. General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant also planned to go, although they backed out before the play.

The Lincoln party arrived late to the theater, and upon their arrival, the orchestra interrupted the show to play “Hail to the Chief.” All 1,700 people in attendance stood to applaud the president.

Lincoln’s Security Agent Left The Theater

Exterior View of Ford's Theater
Historical / Contributor
Historical / Contributor

Of course, the president didn’t attend the public event without security. A police officer named John Frederick Parker was assigned to protect Lincoln’s private box. However, he later told his family that Lincoln released him from duty until the end of the play.

So during the intermission, Parker went along with Lincoln’s valet and coachman to grab a drink at a nearby tavern, leaving the president’s box completely unguarded. John Wilkes Booth could easily gain access to the box. He quietly slipped in and locked the door behind him.

“Our American Cousin”

Portrait of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Not only was Booth familiar with Ford’s Theater and its layout, but he also knew the play that was being performed that evening. He knew it so well, in fact, that he was able to time his ambush for the exact moment that actor Harry Hawk would be delivering a humorous line that was modified in honor of the president.

As laughter filled the theater around 10:14 pm, Booth made his move. He crept up from behind and shot Lincoln behind his left ear with a pistol. The bullet passed directly through Lincoln’s brain and fractured both orbital plates before coming to rest near the front of his skull.

A Daring Escape

Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln
Ed Vebell/Getty Images
Ed Vebell/Getty Images

Henry Rathbone, the Lincolns’ guest, turned and saw Booth over the fallen president and tried to apprehend him. However, Booth slashed the army officer from the elbow to his shoulder with a dagger.

Booth then leaped from the box to the stage 12 feet below, allegedly injuring his left foot during the landing. He held the bloody knife overhead and according to some sources, uttered the Virginia state motto, “sic semper tyrannis,” which translates to “thus always to tyrants!”

Chaos In The Theater

Escaping Assassin
MPI/Getty Images
MPI/Getty Images

The series of shocking events set the entire theater into complete chaos, with some audience members thinking the disturbance was all part of the act.

In the confusion, Booth ran across the stage to an exit door, slashing orchestra leader William Withers Jr. on his way out. He escaped from the theater, mounted a waiting getaway horse, and disappeared into the night. A massive manhunt was soon underway for the assassin.

The Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln, Allan Pinkerton and John Alexander McClernand at Antietam during the American Civil War.
Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

John Wilkes Booth’s motive for assassinating Abraham Lincoln stems from the president’s role in the American Civil War. The war, which raged from April 12, 1861, to May 9, 1865, was fought between the Union and the Confederacy. The Union consisted of the 20 free states and four border states, which were slave states that did not secede from the Union. West Virginia was added to the border state list in 1863.

The Confederate States of America was formed by the seven states in the southern part of the country, whose residents largely opposed the abolishment of slavery and seceded from the Union.

The Confederacy Felt Threatened By Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln making his famous address
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Because Lincoln had run his campaign on a platform that opposed the expansion of slavery into the western states, members of the Confederacy felt threatened.

Lincoln was not an abolitionist but did think that the institution of slavery was morally wrong, and he disagreed with the protections that the founders of the United States had outlined for the practice when they drafted the Constitution. In 1854, Lincoln addressed the nation, outlining his oppositions to slavery. He also admitted he didn’t know exactly what should be done about it within the established political system.

Early Views

Abraham Lincoln.
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

During an 1858 debate against opponent Stephen Douglas in the race for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln said that he did not support “bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.” He held many views that would be problematic in modern society.

However, he did believe that African Americans had every right to improve their lives through hard work. Since slavery made this type of societal advancement impossible, he felt that the institution of slavery was ethically wrong.

Lincoln’s Opinions Evolved Over Time

Abraham Lincoln
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

However, Lincoln’s views changed over time. During the last speech he ever gave, on April 11, 1865, the president expressed that he felt that any Black man who had served on the side of the Union during the war should be given the right to vote.

This was a different opinion than he had expressed years earlier during the 1858 Senate debate when he’d said that African-Americans shouldn’t have the right to vote, serve on juries, hold office, or marry white people.

John Wilkes Booth’s Background

John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) murdere of Abraham Lincoln in 1865
Apic/Getty Images
Apic/Getty Images

Lincoln’s eventual assassin was from a prominent theatrical family in Maryland. His father, Junius Brutus Booth, was a noted British Shakespearean actor who, along with his wife, moved to the United States from England in 1821. John’s brothers, Edwin and Junius Brutus Jr., were both actors as well.

John Wilkes became a successful and respected actor himself, earning around $20,000 per year by the mid-1850s. To put this amount in perspective, it would be about $569,000 today.

Strong Political Views

John Wilkes Booth
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Prior to the Civil War, Booth found success as a leading actor in Richmond, Virginia, where he resided for the 1859–1860 theatre season. He was outspoken in his political views and frequently expressed a hatred of abolitionists and Abraham Lincoln. Booth even attended the hanging of abolitionist leader John Brown in 1859.

After the war began its rage across the country, he mainly appeared in Union and border states, continuing to express his support of the South and the institution of slavery.

Booth And His Family Didn’t Agree

Johne Wilkes Booth
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Like many families in Maryland, the Booth family was divided in their views on slavery. John Wilkes had many arguments with his brother Edwin, who refused to appear on stage in the South or listen to his partisan politics and fiery denunciations of Lincoln and the North. The brothers’ views on slavery were so extremely different that Edwin stopped welcoming John Wilkes into his home.

John Wilkes Booth’s hatred of Lincoln continued to grow over time. He was even arrested in St. Louis in 1863 because of “treasonous” remarks he made about the president.

Lincoln Was A Theater Fan And Had Seen Booth Perform

Abraham Lincolns Last Reception, Lithograph by Anton Hohenstein, Published by John Smith, Philadelphia, 1865
Glasshouse Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Glasshouse Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to the book Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln And The Soldiers’ Home, as well as other sources, Lincoln was actually a fan of Wilkes Booth as an actor. After seeing Booth perform in “Marble Heart” at Ford’s Theater on November 9, 1863, Lincoln extended an invitation for the entertainer to visit the White House.

However, actor Frank Mordaunt later said that Booth “had on one pretext or another avoided any invitations to visit the White House.” Booth refused to meet with the president he so loathed.

April 14, 1865

Portrait Of Abraham Lincoln
Stock Montage/Getty Images
Stock Montage/Getty Images

President Lincoln went about his business as usual on April 14, 1865, obviously having no idea how the day would end. He started the morning with a cabinet meeting to discuss how to treat defeated Confederate leaders and what type of economic aid to provide to the South.

After that was a luncheon with his wife Mary before more meetings. One of those appointments was with a former slave named Nancy Bushrod, who had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.

Carriage Ride To The Theater

Mary Todd Lincoln
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

After his official business was over for the day, Lincoln and Mary went on an afternoon carriage ride together. And later that evening, their carriage picked up their guests Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris and headed to Ford’s Theater.

After being welcomed with “Hail to the Chief,” the party was seated. According to Stephen Mansfield’s book Lincoln’s Battle with God, Mary proceeded to flirt with Lincoln, asking him, What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?”

His Final Words?

Mary Todd Lincoln
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Over the years, Mary had developed a reputation for jealousy, and it’s said that she would not hesitate to chastise anyone she felt was acting inappropriately around Lincoln. As researcher Joanne Shelby-Klein reports, “Mary Todd Lincoln did not want women alone with her husband; she was notoriously jealous.’’

But at the theater that fateful night, her comments about Ms. Harris were playful rather than accusatory. The president’s response to his wife: “Why, she will think nothing of it.” For years, these words were thought to have been Lincoln’s last.

What Reverend N.W. Miner Said

Lincoln, Abraham - Politiker, am Schreibtisch
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The Lincolns’ friend and neighbor, Reverend Noyes W. Miner, later claimed that Mary told him what the president’s last words to her had been. Miner recalled the details of her revelation in a manuscript titled “Personal Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln.”

According to Mary Todd Lincoln, her husband told her that they would “not return immediately to Springfield [their previous home].” Instead, Lincoln said, “We will go abroad among strangers where I can rest.”

The Holy Land

Death of Lincoln
Fotosearch/Getty Images
Fotosearch/Getty Images

According to Miner, Lincoln’s last words were ones filled with religious faith. “We will visit the Holy Land,” Lincoln said to his wife Mary. “We will visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior. There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem.”

At 7:22 am, the following day after being shot at Ford’s Theater, the president succumbed to his injuries.

There’s Some Doubt That Lincoln Uttered These Words

President Abraham Licoln
Fotosearch/Getty Images
Fotosearch/Getty Images

These alleged final words of Abraham Lincoln were a surprise to some and are sometimes excluded from accounts of the president’s final hours. Stephen Mansfield addressed this in his book. “It is natural that some should doubt. Schoolchildren do not learn them as they do the other facts of Lincoln’s life.”

Mansfield further asserted that some scholars are reluctant to admit that Lincoln was a religious man. “Lincoln was, after all, a religious oddity. He never joined a church. In fact, he went through periods in his life when he was openly anti-religion – even anti-God.”

A Fabrication?

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Miner’s claims about Lincoln’s last words have been criticized by some, which Stephen Mansfield acknowledged. “Surely, critics will say, to insist that these words are true, or that they are any reflection of Lincoln’s faith, is part of a religious re-working of his life – part of a misguided attempt by the pious to refashion him into a gleaming religious icon of some imagined national religion.”

He continued, saying that critics would claim that “this is the fruit of bad research and pitiful scholarship: more myth than history.” Miner’s account has received lots of support over the years, though.

Many Historians Have Supported Miner’s Claims

Emancipation_proclamation
Francis Bicknell Carpenter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Francis Bicknell Carpenter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Because Miner’s account of Lincoln’s final words stemmed from something that Mary allegedly told him, some prominent Lincoln historians have deemed his writings accurate and truthful.

One of these scholars, Dr. James Cornelius, is the curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. “We believe the words to be substantiated,” he said. Other historians such as Doris Kearns Goodwin, Allen C. Guelzo, and Wayne Temple, have also expressed the belief that Miner’s text is true.

A Clue To Lincoln’s Religious Beliefs?

Abraham Lincoln
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Seven years after Lincoln’s assassination, his widow presented their friend, Reverend Noyes W. Miner, with a personal gift: a leather-bound bible, gilded in gold, that had belonged to the president.

Miner’s family kept the bible for 150 years before donating it to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois. Ian Hunt, head of acquisitions for the library and museum, calls the bible “a new opportunity to reflect on Lincoln’s religious beliefs.” Could it be that he was more religious than some people believe? It certainly appears that way, although the topic will likely be debated for many years to come.

Lincoln’s Funeral Procession

The 'Nashville Engine of Lincoln's Funeral
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Lincoln’s funeral procession was held five days after his assassination, on April 19, 1865. His body remained in the Capitol Rotunda from April 19 through April 21 before being carried by a train called “The Lincoln Special” to its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.

This custom-outfitted train, with a large portrait of Lincoln over the cowcatcher, traveled through 180 cities so grief-stricken Americans could pay their respects and say a final goodbye to the fallen president.

A Nation In Mourning

Hearse Carrying Abraham Lincoln's Body
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along the train tracks to bid Lincoln farewell. Some had bonfires, some sang, and some stood in silent mourning as the train carrying the president’s body passed.

Some historians believe the overwhelming public reaction to the president’s sudden death was partially a “response to the deaths of so many men in the war.” Regardless, Lincoln’s assassination ushered in “a period of profound national mourning.”

Final Resting Place

Mary Todd Lincoln
Mathew Brady/MPI/Getty Images
Mathew Brady/MPI/Getty Images

Alongside his young son William Wallace Lincoln, the fallen president was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. William had succumbed to typhoid fever three years prior.

Mary did not fare well in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination. Her grief was so intense that she was unable to even attend the funeral. Mary suffered from physical and mental health problems for much of the rest of her life.

The Manhunt For John Wilkes Booth

Locket holding photos of John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln
Chicago History Museum/Getty Images
Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

After a 12-day manhunt for the president’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth was located hiding out in a tobacco barn in Maryland. He refused to surrender, even when soldiers set the barn on fire.

He was shot in the neck as he moved around in the burning barn, before being dragged outside where he died three hours later. In his pocket was his diary, in which he’d written about Lincoln’s death. “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.”

What About The Plot To Kill Andrew Johnson And William H. Seward?

Lewis Powell Mugshot
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images

Booth’s deadly plot had also involved the assassinations of Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. He assigned a Confederate soldier named Lewis Powell (pictured) to kill Seward. Powell gained entry to Seward’s home and stabbed him, attacking several other men in the process. They all recovered from their injuries.

The man assigned to kill the vice president, George Atzerodt, completely lost his nerve and didn’t make an attempt. He and Powell were later hanged for their involvement in the plot.

A Battle Of Politics And Women

Politics-And-Romance-26433
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Upon his return to politics in 1854, he frequently butted heads over slavery with his political adversary, Democrat Stephen Douglas. While the two never got along in politics, they also had issues regarding romance that went far back. The two shared the same love interest, who was a Kentucky woman named Mary Todd.

Unsurprisingly, the suave and well-spoken Lincoln won her over. This image was taken in 1854 by J.C.F. Polycarpus von Schneidau. When this was captured, Lincoln had already been married to Todd for 12 years.

He Had A Sense Of Humor

GettyImages-640472547-31624
Alexander Hesler/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Alexander Hesler/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

On top of all of his political triumphs and being a respected president, he was also known for having a great sense of humor. Alexander Helser took this image, and apparently, Lincoln kept ruffling his hair when the photographer kept trying to keep it in order.

One of his acquaintances once commented, “Mr. Lincoln abounded in anecdotes, of which he seemed to possess an inexhaustible fun. His stories, though rude, were full of wit. He generally laughed as loudly as others at his own witticisms, and provoked laughter as much by the quizzical expression of his homely features.”

Growing A Beard To Gain Votes

GettyImages-640455817-64439
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Lincoln’s image can be found on two pieces of United States currency: the penny and five-dollar bill. His likeness can also be seen on Mount Rushmore, countless postage stamps, and across pop culture. He is usually depicted with a beard.

Apparently, the suggestion to grow his facial hair came from 11-year-old Grace Bedell, who suggested it would help him gain votes for the presidency. She wrote him a letter which stated, “all the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” He was the first of the 16 initial presidents to do so.

Spotting President Lincoln

Spotting-President-Lincoln-89962
Library Of Congress
Library Of Congress

Although there are plenty of pictures of Lincoln that were taken of him while he was alive, he’s not always the easiest to find. Especially in pictures taken of him in a crowd, it can be borderline impossible to locate Honest Abe. For example, can you spot him in this photo? If not, don’t feel bad, because it took eagle-eyed historians around 150 years to do so.

This was eventually accomplished by Disney animator Charles Oakley. This photograph was taken on November 19, 1863, and shows the crowd preparing to listen to Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg Address. It is considered to be one of the most monumental speeches in American history.

A Needle In A Haystack

Needle-In-A-Haystack-18740
Public Domain
Public Domain

While it may seem impossible to find him among all the people and with the grainy quality of the photo, someone still did! After being able to pinpoint Secretary of State William Seward, historical records tell us that he was standing next to Lincoln.

After a closer look at Seward’s surroundings, the mystery was solved. Lincoln is seen wearing his signature stovepipe hat, which makes people sure it was him. It’s incredible this image was captured because the speech only lasted two minutes and there was only one photographer.

He Was Captured In A Photo Again

Captured-Again-77870
National Archives
National Archives

In another photo taken of the Gettysburg Address, which was found in the National Archives, we can see Lincoln once again. In this one, however, we can see Lincoln actually giving his landmark speech.

Lincoln had a rather unusual way of giving speeches and would write brief ideas on a scrap of paper that he would bring with him. This was no different at Gettysburg, and even though Lincoln didn’t think much of his speech, at his funeral, Senator Charles Sumner stated, “The battle itself was less important than the speech.”

His Presidential Campaign Photo

abc-television-documentary-file-photo-abraham-lincoln-feb.-1864-photograph-by-matthew-brady.-12490
Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

While preparing for his upcoming presidential re-election in 1864, he hired photographer Matthew Brady to take his official photo. The result was one of the most iconic pictures of Lincoln ever captured.

On November 8, 1864, with 400,000 popular votes, Lincoln also had the electoral college, and therefore, won the re-election. It’s assumed that he won because of the fall of Atlanta on September 1, 1864, when the Confederates finally surrendered.

Lincoln And His Boy

Lincoln-And-His-Boy-1198452502-37607
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Over the years, Lincoln formed a bond with photographer Alexander Gardner and commissioned him to take pictures of more than just himself. Gardner took pictures of Lincoln on seven different occasions, including snapping this photo of Lincoln with one of his sons, Thomas, in February 1865.

In total, Lincoln had four sons: Thomas, Robert, Eddie, and Willie. Unfortunately, only two of his sons outlived him, with Thomas, nicknamed “Tad,” dying just six years after his father’s assassination.

Lincoln’s Most Valuable Photo

Most-Valuable-Picture-93895
Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain
Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain

Not too long after receiving little Grace Bedell’s letter, he decided to write her back, asking, “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?”

Nevertheless, Grace Bedell turned out to be right. After this picture was taken in 1961, it became one of the best-known photos of the president. Today, it is the most valuable photo taken of him and was auctioned for more than $200,000 in 2009.

The Final Photographs

The-Final-Photograph-2643784-67774
Alexander Gardner/Getty Images
Alexander Gardner/Getty Images

There has been a division among scholars regarding which was the last picture taken of Abraham Lincoln. For decades, it was believed to have been taken by Alexander Gardner on April 9, 1865. Others are convinced that it was taken in February of the same year.

If it was indeed taken on April 9, that means it was only days before his death. On April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C., Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play.

Another Photo From 1865

Neither-Of-The-Other-Pictures-88777
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Years later, experts discovered that there indeed was another picture that has since been considered the president’s final picture. In 1894, the picture was published to prove that it was the final photograph taken of Lincoln.

According to Lincoln’s personal secretary, John G. Nicolay, the picture was taken five days before his assassination, on April 10, 1865. He also revealed that his Lincoln’s friend Alexander Gardner didn’t take it, but Henry F. Warren. It was taken at the White House, the day after Robert E. Lee surrendered.

It Was Clear He Had Been Through A Lot

Been-through-A-Lot-1204264653-29867
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Because photos during those days required people to stay still for an extended amount of time, it’s obvious why not everyone smiled for pictures. In almost all of Lincoln’s photographs, he has a very stern and solemn expression except for a few in which he has a slight smirk.

The famous poet Walt Whitman, who lived during Lincoln’s time, once described his face as containing “a deep latent sadness,” and it’s totally understandable considering all that he had gone through during his presidency.

Smiling Because Of His Jacket

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Encyclopedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images
Encyclopedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images

This picture of Lincoln was taken by Samuel Alschuler, and historians believe they know exactly why there appears to be a smirk on Lincoln’s face. Supposedly, Alschuler didn’t that Lincoln’s jacket wasn’t entirely appropriate for the photo, so he lent him his own velvet-collared one instead.

As most know, the president stood at 6′ 4″ and the photographer was a whole foot shorter, so Lincoln had quite the laugh when he put on the ridiculously small coat and had a hard time not laughing during the picture.

A More Serious Look

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Encyclopedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images
Encyclopedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images

This is a picture taken by Samuel Alschuler in 1858, and it’s clear in this photograph that Lincoln means business. This is most likely because it was taken around the time that he had been nominated to become the Senator of Illinois.

Although the speech he gave on June 16, 1858, has become an integral part of history, including lines such as “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” it didn’t produce the results that he wanted. Unfortunately, he would lose to his long-time rival, Stephen Douglas.

Photographing The Funeral

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APIC/Getty Images
APIC/Getty Images

Another project that photographer Alexander Gardner was commissioned to cover was Lincoln’s funeral. He was hired specifically to take pictures of the funeral procession.

The procession was held five days after the assassination, on April 19, 1865, and traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Lincoln’s body remained in the capital for a week until it was eventually moved to Springfield, Illinois, for burial. The event was a huge deal because he meant so much to the citizens of the country.

Taking The Train Home

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Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

On April 21st, Lincoln’s body was transferred by a train called “The Lincoln Special” to its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. This was no ordinary train either, but was outfitted for the president. It had a large picture of Lincoln on the front over the cowcatcher.

It would travel through seven states and 180 cities in which citizens packed the train stations to say their farewells and pay respects to their former leader.

Arriving In Philadelphia

Philadelphia-1268483089-90798
Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images
Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Here is a picture of “The Lincoln Special” arriving in Philadelphia. The train procession in this city was different than the others. The president’s body was laid out in his coffin in Independence Hall because nearly 90 years before Lincoln arrived in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence was signed there on August 2, 1776.

This was an important site not just to Lincoln, but any American citizen that enjoyed the privileges granted to us by the Declaration Of Independence.

Lincoln’s Wasn’t The Only Coffin On The Train

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Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

Although the funeral procession was for the fallen president, his wasn’t the only coffin aboard the train going to Springfield. With him was his deceased son Willie, who had passed away of typhoid fever in the White House three years prior.

Unfortunately, the boy was just eleven during his father’s second term. His coffin had to be disinterred in order to be buried alongside his father. Pictured above are Willie, his younger brother “Tad,” and their cousin Lockwood Todd.

It Was A Closed Funeral

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Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Traveling the 1,654 miles from Washington D.C. to Springfield took two weeks before the train arrived at its destination on May 3, 1965. The next day, Lincoln was buried in his hometown. Surprisingly, the only two of his relatives who attended the actual funeral were his son Robert and his cousin John Hanks.

Unfortunately, his widow had to stay behind at the White House. Considering the country’s respect for him, it’s surprising the funeral wasn’t made into a public event.

Building The Memorial

Building The Memorial
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Considering that Abraham Lincoln saved the country and ended the worst war ever to take place on its soil, it’s no surprise that many American citizens adored him. It was only right that he was honored with his own memorial that would symbolize the impact he had on the country, and that it was located in Washington D.C.

Construction on the Lincoln Memorial began in 1915, and when it was unveiled on May 30, 1922, over 50,000 people came to see it. Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s only surviving son, was also in attendance.

A Lot Of Thought Went Into The Project

A Lot Of Thought Went Into The Project
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Construction of the Lincoln Memorial was no easy task. Designed by Henry Bacon, it has 36 columns representing the number of states in the Union at the time of his death.

The mammoth statue of Lincoln himself, designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French, is 19 feet high and made out of Georgia white marble. It had to be assembled in 28 separate pieces before it could finally be completed and dedicated.

People Think His Childhood Home Still Exists

People Think His Childhood Home Still Exists
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For nearly 100 years, people were under the impression that the log cabin in the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park was the exact spot where he was born. Yet, Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, and this picture of the cabin was taken in 1900, so there’s little evidence that Lincoln was actually born inside.

Furthermore, records indicate that the cabin wasn’t even there at the time of his birth, and wouldn’t be built until the 1840s, which would have made Lincoln in his 30s.

His Wife Had A Favorite Picture

His Wife Had A Favorite Picture
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Like most wives or girlfriends, Mary Todd Lincoln had a personal favorite picture of her husband. This photograph was shot in 1859, not long after he was defeated by his rival, Stephen Douglas, for a seat in the Senate.

However, the Republican party was still getting its bearings, and Lincoln had plans to use it to his advantage. So, when still planning what he was going to do, he had his portrait taken. The photographer that owned the studio claimed, “Mrs. Lincoln pronounced [it] the best likeness she had ever seen of her husband.” It showed his determination and ambition.

Lincoln Had His Favorites, Too

Lincoln Had His Favorites, Too
Matthew Brady/Rischgitz/Getty Images
Matthew Brady/Rischgitz/Getty Images

Most people have a favorite photograph of themselves, and this was no different for “Honest Abe.” This photo was taken on February 27, 1860, the same day he gave a speech at New York’s City’s Cooper Union, which eventually helped him win the Republication nomination for president.

Lincoln would later go on to say that “Brady [the photographer] and the Cooper Institute made me president,” as he used this photo during his campaign.

Helping Out A Friend

Helping Out A Friend
The Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Although Lincoln was completely devoted to politics by 1858, he went back into the courtroom to help his friend William “Duff” Armstrong. He had been accused of murder and Lincoln took on the case pro bono.

When Lincoln cross-examined the witness who claimed to see the murder, he used an almanac to prove that there wouldn’t be enough moonlight on the night of the death to have been able to see the distance the witness claimed. Duff was acquitted and this photo was taken after the trial was over.

A Tense Conversation

A Tense Conversation
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When Lincoln was inaugurated in January 1861, he already had a lot on his hands since seven states had already seceded from the Union over the results of the presidential election. Just three months later, the Civil War began when the Confederate States of America attacked the Union Stronghold in Charleston Harbor.

This is a picture of Lincoln with his least favorite general, George McClellan. While Lincoln insisted on attacking the Confederates, McClellan defied his orders and continued to do so, resulting in him being removed from his position.

After The Battle Of Antietam

After The Battle Of Antietam
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This is a photo of Abraham Lincoln with General McClellan after narrowly winning the Battle of Antietam and failing to chase after the Confederates. Also featured in the picture is George Armstrong Custer, who is standing the furthest to the right.

The battle took place on September 17, 1862, and although it was a close victory, it helped Lincoln to establish the Emancipation Proclamation three months later. To further the feud between the president and the general, McClellan ran against Lincoln in 1864 but lost by a significant amount.

Lincoln And His Assassin

Lincoln And His Assassin
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

After defeating George McClellan in the 1864 election, this picture was taken of Lincoln giving his second inaugural address. What makes this photo so interesting is that in the grandstand, behind Lincoln’s left shoulder, is his future assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

For those wondering why he didn’t assassinate him at that perfect moment, it’s because he was involved in a previous plot to kidnap the president and bring him to Richmond. However, when the plan failed, they resorted to assassination.

Lincoln And His Secretaries

Lincoln And His Secretaries
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Historians have noted that Lincoln typically enjoyed entertaining guests in the Red Room in the White House after he ate dinner. Supposedly, this picture was taken during one of these occasions, and feature Lincoln along with his personal secretary John G. Nicolay on his left and his Assistant Secretary John Hay on his right.

Both his secretaries had been friends since childhood and became great friends with Lincoln, even publishing a 10-volume biography about the president.

He Was Gardner’s First Subject At His Studio

He Was Gardner's First Subject At His Studio
Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images
Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

When the photographer Alexander Gardner first opened up his studio in Washington D.C., he begged Lincoln to be his first subject. Lincoln agreed and had to sneak into the studio on a Sunday in order not to be recognized. Gardner took this photograph of the president, and the two became friendly.

After the war and Lincoln’s assassination, Gardner gave up photography. Following his death, his other pictures focusing on the Civil War came under scrutiny after some claimed that he moved bodies on the battlefield for a better shot.

The Campaign Button

The Campaign Button
Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

In 1860, election pins were released that featured a tintype photograph of then-candidate Lincoln on one side, and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin, on the other.

What makes the picture of him special on the pin is that it was copied from an ambrotype that was done by Roderick M. Cole of Peoria III. Smart man that he was, Lincoln always used the latest in photography technology during his campaigns to gain an edge over his opponents.

A Picture To Show The People

A Picture To Show The People
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This is a portrait of Lincoln taken by the now-famous photographer of the time, William Marsh, on behalf of Marcus Lawrence Ward. What makes this portrait particularly special is that it is one of the only five photographs taken by Ward.

The photo served a purpose. While many people in the eastern part of the country had read Lincoln’s impressive speeches, few had actually seen what their potential representative looked like. So, this provided them with an image of the man they had been reading about.

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The Portrait During An Impressive Speech

The Portrait During An Impressive Speech
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

This picture is assumed to have been taken by Preston Butler shortly after Lincoln delivered one of his best speeches. Taking place in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln condemned racism, claiming that it was going to lead the human race to “ultimate extinction.”

In his speech, he also attacked his long-time rival Stephen Douglas, stating that he supported the principles of equality that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence. He had further debates with Douglas over the years.

The Second Time’s The Charm

The Second Time's The Charm
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

During the summer of 1860, a photographer by the name of M.C. Tuttle sent a letter to Lincoln requesting that he had a negative taken of him and sent in order to use it for his campaign. President Lincoln agreed and had a negative sent to Tuttle.

Unfortunately, the negative was accidentally broken during transit, so Lincoln was willing to have has his picture taken again. When he sent it again, he included a note that said, “got a new coat.”

His Time In Decatur

His Time In Decatur
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

At one point, Abraham Lincoln was in Decatur in order to attend the Illinois State Republican Convention. Also there was photographer Edward A. Barnwell, whose goal was to take a picture of “The Biggest Man.”

The next day, Lincoln met the “Rail Splitter,” which was a convention of delegates that unanimously endorsed Lincoln for the presidency. Then, on May 18, the National Republican Convention meeting in Chicago nominated him as the party’s candidate. This is a picture of the time when he was there.

The Second Earliest-Known Photograph

The Second Earliest-Known Photograph
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Taken around October 27, 1854, this is considered to be the second earliest photo ever taken of Lincoln. This picture was originally owned by George Schneider, who was the former editor of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, considered the most prominent anti-slavery newspaper in the west.

In 1864, Isaac N. Arnold invited Lincoln to dine with him and after dinner, the two took a walk downtown where Arnold insisted that Lincoln had his picture taken to remember the occasion.