Lincoln's Last Hours
delivered before the
COMMANDERY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
at the regular meeting, February, 1909, City of New York
in observance of the
ONE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF
President Abraham Lincoln
Originally published in 1909.
Commander and Companions of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States:
At the historic pageant in Washington, when the remains of President Lincoln were being taken from the White House to the Capitol, a carriage immediately preceding the catafalque was assigned to me. Outside were the crowds, the martial music, but inside the carriage I was plunged in deep self-communion, until aroused by a gentle tap at the window of my carriage door. An officer of high rank put his head inside and exclaimed: ':Dr. Leale, I would rather have done what you did to prolong the life of the President than to have accomplished my duties during the entire war.': I shrank back at what he said, and for the first time realized the importance of it all. As soon as I returned to my private office in the hospital, I drew down the window-shade, locked the door, threw myself prostrate on the bare wood floor and asked for advice. The answer came as distinctly as if spoken by a human being present: ':Forget it all.': I visited our Surgeon General, Joseph K. Barnes, and asked his advice: he also said: ':Cast it from your memory.':
On April 17, 1865, a New York newspaper reporter called at my army tent. I invited him in, and expressed my desire to forget all the recent sad events, and to occupy my mind with the exacting present and plans for the future.
Recently, several of our Companions expressed the conviction, that history now demands, and that it is my duty to give the detailed facts of President Lincoln's death as I know them, and in compliance with their request, I this evening for the first time will read a paper on the subject.
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