Wednesday, April 15, 2015



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) At 7:22 a.m. 150 years ago, April 15, 1865, the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, died in a small bedroom at the Petersen Rooming House on 10th Street here in the Nation's Capital.

The President, who had served the United States during the length of the Civil War, lost his life as the result of a pistol shot to the back of the head as he sat in his box with his wife, Mary, at Ford's Theater the previous night.

Attending physician Dr. Charles Leale determined that Mr. Lincoln would not survive a trip back to the Executive Mansion and so ordered that he be taken to the nearest bed.  The Petersen Rooming House, now called "The House Where Lincoln Died," is located across the street from the theater.

Dr. Leale held Mr. Lincoln's hand.  The young physician later said that he did so hoping the President "in his blindness" might know "he...had a friend."

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles described the passing of the President...

"A little before seven I went into the room where the dying President was rapidly drawing near the closing moments.  The death struggle had begun. The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven."

Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton said...

"He belongs to the angels now."*

President Lincoln at his Deathbed
Harper's Weekly
May 6, 1865

*Both the President's secretary, John Hay, and Dr. Charles S. Taft recalled Stanton's words differently.  Hay would later write the words as..."Now he belongs to the ages,"while Dr. Taft's version reads..."He now belongs to the ages."

"He belongs to the angels now," although less well known, is the actual transcription written in shorthand by Corporal John Tanner. Corporal  Tanner, who lived next door to the Petersen House, had lost both legs in the Second Battle of Bull Run but he still could manage to walk on "peg legs."  

When Secretary Stanton asked one of his generals to go outside and find someone who could take shorthand, Tanner "hobbled down to take dictation."
The Corporal's task was to take down, in shorthand, everything that was said in the room where Lincoln was dying.  This is what he wrote in the moments after Lincoln died...

"The Rev. Dr. Gurley...began 'Our Father and our God' (in a) prayer that was only interrupted by the sobs of Stanton as he buried his face in the bedclothes...Mr. Stanton raised his head, the tears streaming down his face. A more agonized expression I never saw on a human countenance as he sobbed out the words: 'He belongs to the angels now.'"


"Angels and Ages," by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker Magazine, May 28, 2007,

"Eyewitness Account of Dr. Robert King Stone, President Lincoln's Family Physician," by Stacey Bredhoff, Social Education Academic Journal, March 2007,

"Now He Belongs To The Ages," American Treasures of the Library of Congress,"

"The Assassination: Death of the President," by Champ Clark, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1987.

"The Death of President Lincoln, 1865,"

The House Where Lincoln Died
10th Street, Washington, D.C.
Photo by John White (2007)