Lincoln and His Circle: Fanny Seward Diary - Entry Information

Engraving: The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln by Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900)

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Fanny Seward Diary Information
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Writer Fanny Seward
Place of writing Washington, D.C.
Collection Diary, 1863-1865
Date 4/14/1865
Number of pages 17
Place of writing Washington, D.C.
Notes Transcription by Patricia Carley Johnson, as part of her University of Rochester Ph.D. thesis, "Sensitivity and Civil War: the selected diaries and papers, 1858-1866, of Frances Adeline (Fanny) Seward."

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Good Friday. April 14th 1865.
Father had a better night
than any of late, and seemed the better after his re-
freshing sleep— He took solid food for the first time
since his accident—breakfasted on soft egg, milk-toast,
shad and coffee. Today a distinguished party
perform the ceremony of raising the flag on Fort Sumter,
taken from us 4 years ago.

So far I had written in pencil, in my pocket diary on
the day of the date— I think I remember beginning
the page, & wondering if I should have anything unusual
to enter there later in the day. The rest of the page is
filled with out-lines of what occurred later— from which,
& from a longer account written three weeks later
at my earliest leisure—(to relieve my mind of its weight
of recollection) I write the following account.
I can only give my remembrances, which are very
vivid in my own mind—but I cannot describe
all that took place, because in many instances
I cannot remember to have seen some who were
in the room Anna, for instance—& Robinson
part of the time.

First we had a quiet afternoon. Father so much better
that he told Donaldson18 he need not stay— I sat

[Page 183]
alone with him some time and read “Enoch Arden” to him. He
spoke very highly of it. In the evening a torch-light procession
of employees from the Navy Yard or Arsenal, visited the White House.
I think it was earlier than that, that I was some time with Mother,
in our room—part of the time she was lying down. I was telling
her how any recital of suffering affected & haunted me—and
she told me it had always been so with her. I think we
talked much together Anna & I watched the procession, &
listened to the music—they played “Rally Round the Flag,”
& were singing too I believe, as they approached the White House.
I came to my room to show Anna a book of soldier’s songs, in
which was the “Year of Jubilee,” of which I had been telling
her. Mother & she & I talked a little there. Then
came the quiet arrangements for the night, in father’s room—
Fred & Anna & Mother had been up a great deal— That
evening it was arranged that Gus should rest till 11—then
sit up till in the night when Donaldson would come—
Meantime I was to have the watch while Gus rested,
& Robinson was to be there till George, the
german nurse, relieved him. I sat ^by^ the front side
of the bed nearest the door, reading “Legends of Charlemagne,”
Robinson was near. I saw that Father seemed inclined
to sleep—so turned down the gas, laid my book on
a stand at the foot of the bed, & took a seat on
the other side. About 10 o’c—Dr Norris paid
his visit—& left us all quiet. Father fell into a
light sleep. Fred came in at the door, & glancing at
the bed, saw his father slept, and said he would

[Page 184]
come in again. After he had gone, Father opened his
eyes with a little smile of recognition as he saw me at the
foot of the bed. He was lying close on the edge,
farthest from the door— I do not remember hearing
voices outside, but something led me to think that Fred
was there with some one else. It occurred to me that
he might have some important reason for wishing to
see Father awake. Perhaps the President was there,
or had sent over. I did not stop to see if Father
wakened thoroughly, but hastened to the door, opened
it a very little, and found Fred standing close by
it, facing me. On his right hand, also close by
the door, stood a very tall young man19, in a light hat
& long overcoat. I said “Fred, Father is awake now.”
Something in Fred’s manner led me at once to think
that he did not wish me to say so, and that I had
better not have opened the door. This confused me, &
looking around I was glad to see Father going to sleep
again. Holding the door as I did, I know the
man could not see my father at all, nor could
Fred, I think. I do not remember what
Fred said to me. The man seemed impatient,  &
addressing me in a tone that struck me at once
as much more harsh & full of determin-
ation than such a simple question justified, asked
“Is the Secretary asleep.” I paused to
look at my father, He replied “Almost.”
Then Fred drew the door shut very quickly.

[Page 185]
I sat down again. I had no means of telling the errand of the man.
I fancied some one had sent him—that he was, perhaps, a messenger
from the telegraph office. Very soon I heard the sound
of blows —it seemed to me as many as half a dozen—sharp
and heavy, with lighter one’s between. There had been an
interval of quiet. I did not fully connect this with the person
I had seen. I thought they were chasing a rat in the hall,
remembering such a chase once. But when the blows
continued, I could not tell what it meant, & said to Robinson,
who was sitting at the head of the bed, on the side nearest
the door, “What can be the matter? Do go and see.”
Then I was afraid something was wrong, and, being impatient
to find out, started, myself. I thought Robinson & I reached
the door at the same time. I did not see who opened it— It
was he. I saw that two men came in, side by side. I was
close by the door,  & the one nearest me, was Fred. The side
of his face was covered with blood, the rest very pale, his eyes
full of intense expression. I spoke to ask him what was
the matter,—he could not answer me. On his right
hand was the assassin. I do not remember how his face
looked, his arms were both stretched out, he seemed rushing
toward the bed. In his the hand nearest me was a
pistol, in the right hand a knife. I ran beside
him to the bed imploring him to stop. I must have
said “Don’t kill him,” for father wakened,
he says, hearing me speak the word kill, & seeing
first me, speaking to some  w one whom he
did not see—then raised himself & had one

[Page 186]
glimpse of the assassin’s face bending over, next felt
the blows—and by their force (he being on the edge of
the bed, where fear of hurting his broken arm, had
caused him to lie for some time) was thrown to
the floor. I cannot remember seeing him—nor
seeing Payne— wh go around the bed—but Anna
was in the room and saw it. I have no re-
membrance of going around the foot of the
bed, to the other side, but I remember standing there,
^ by the corner^ at the foot, & illegible thinking “This must be a
fearful dream!” Then I looked about and saw,
first, what I had seen before I think, but more fully now,
three men struggling beside the bed. I knew who they all
were then. I could not tell the next day. But they
were Fred & Robinson & the assassin—next I saw
all the familiar objects in the room, the bureau,
the little stand, the book I had been reading,
all looked natural. Then I knew it was
not a dream. I remember pacing the room
back & forth from end to end—screaming. My
screams wakened Gus. But I do not remember seeing
him when he came in then Payne & the others

After a little time, it seemed to me—though all
that had taken place must have been
almost in an instant, some vague idea of
calling for assistance carried me into the
hall. I think that at that time the

[Page 187]
assassin & those struggling with him were by the door in
of Father’s room, & that I passed them as I went out.
I have a very indistinct recollection of the next moment, when
I seemed to meet Mother on one side, and Anna on the other, both
saying “What is the matter,” and I said something about
the man, (Payne) who came out struggling with some one,
I afterwards learned it was Augustus. I think I
saw the assassin stab Hansell,20as he, the assassin rushed
headlong down the stairs. I do not know just when—
but I remember in the hall with Mother and Anna
asking me what happended, my saying “Is that
 man gone
,” and they said “what man.” The
first recollection I have of seeing Augustus—except
when the assassin broke away from him, was with
his forehead covered with blood. It seemed to me that
every man I met had blood on his face. It seems
to me that I saw Fred then. I did not open any
window and cry “murder” as the report of Robinson’s
statement said, neither did I leave the room
as then mentioned, but at the time I have stated.

I remember running back, crying out “Where’s Father?,”
seeing the empty bed. At the side I found what
I thought was a pile of bed clothes—then I knew
that it was Father. As I stood my feet slipped in
a great pool of blood. Father looked so ghastly I
was sure he was dead, he was white & very thin with
the blood that had drained from the gashes about his

[Page 188]
face & throat. Fred was in the room till after Father
was placed on the bed. Margaret21says she heard me
scream “O my God! Father’s dead.” I remember
that Robinson came instantly, &: lifting him,
said his heart still beat—& he, with or
without aid, laid him on the bed.  Nothin
  Notwithstanding his own injuries Robinson stood
faithfully at Father’s side, on the right hand—
I did not know what should be done. Robinson
told me everything—about staunching the
blood with cloths & water. He applied them
on the right side, & I, kneeling on the bed, on the
left, put them on a wound on that side of the neck.
Father seemed to me almost dead, but he spoke to me, telling me
to have the doors closed, & send for surgeons, & to ask to have
a guard placed around the house. William22had gone
for Dr Verdi, & he came & had ice applied to the
wounds. I ran down to the butlers pantry for ice.
& saw a great many persons gathered about the door.
While Dr V. Was on Father’s right side, & I engaged
as before, the doctor who was himself  greatly
excited kept saying to me—(I was talking & making
some exclaimations [sic] I believe)  “Don’t get excited,
don’t get excited— Then Father showed his
conciousness [sic] by putting out his hand
towards me in a soothing way, as if to
bid me be calm, & reassure me. It
seemed a great while to us before the doctors

[Page 189]
came, though they probably hastened on the earliest information of what had
occurred. William23, the colored boy, having been accustomed to go for
Dr Verdi on former occasions, went for him the first thing, so he was
here sooner. The Tayloes were passing—Mr  &  Mrs T. & came in—
& stayed I think all night— Mrs Tayloe was in the hall or some other room,
& Mr T. in Father’s room. The Surgeon General came & stood by
Father on the right, & Dr Norris came next & kneeling down to examine
the wounds said something like “Assassination in the vilest form—” A clot of
blood upon father’s chest, which I had taken for a stab, was found to be only
blood that had collected there outside. We were assured that no artery was severed,
& the wounds were not fatal. The little entry outside fathers door,
 & the stairway beyond, were thronged with inquiring men of every description.
M. C.s, policemen, members of the press—etc— Everyone was
asking us to tell more than we knew ourselves.  Anna, at Fred’s
door resisted their entrance with great firmness, & I was unwilling
to have any one come into father’s room—for I could not reason
calmly, & suspected everyone. At first Mother had supposed
that the whole occurrence consisted in Father’s being more than
usually delerious, & that in that condition he had injured
Fred. She had an indistinct view of Gus and Payne struggling
at the door, & supposed it to be father with a knife.
She saw Fred’s condition & went into his room, &  was
engaged with him. He was then unable to speak. So she
was not in father’s room at first. I cannot remember
when she came in—but I remember her being there, minis-
tering to him. She & Anna went to the attic to see
if anyone was concealed there. Mother forbade me
to go then— At one time I went, & searched in some

[Page 190]
of the rooms there, then went down to the parlor floor, &
looked through three rooms & was going further when
Fosburg  [sic]  told me he had searched. (Fosburg  [sic] waited
up stairs till Payne was out of the house—then
appeared & ^stood^ at the foot of father’s bed.) I remember
going to the attic & tearing the clothing from the beds &
bringing it down for father’s bed when he had a severe
chill. While the Surgeon General was here, I
found between the door &e the bed, just in front of the
wash-stand, a hat which I supposed to be Payne’s—
as it afterwards proved to be— I showed it to Anna,
&  by her advice put it in the bureau drawer. The
washbowl on the stand had the bottom broken
out when I first looked at it. Near where
I found the hat, the pistol was picked up— I found
Robinson looking for the priming on the floor— he
said it was missing, and if stepped on might
do mischief—he soon found it. Dr Norris
sewed up the great gash in father’s cheek—which had
lain open— I was standing by the door, against the
wall while he did it. I imagined all the time
that father suffered dreadfully. I thought I heard
him moan. But Father has since told us
that he was remembers no feeling of
pain, & that he thinks he ^both^ fell a sleep
& wak woke during the operation—he rem-
embered “being sewed up.”  The Surgeon General was
sent for with the news of the assassination of the

[Page 191]
President.  Mother saw the person who came for him, who told her of the
fact. I remember hearing some one else tell her the President had been
shot. The Surgeon General sent me out of the room part
of the time while they were attending to Father,  & told me he would
send for me if I was wanted. Perhaps it was at this
time, I went into Fred’s room & saw him lying bloody &
unconscious [sic], on a lounge, where he was being attended to.
I saw Mrs Tayloe in the hall. I went into Augustus’ room_
he was lying on the bed _ & asked about Father _ (he came in
once or more to see him) he had five wounds on the
head-  & one on the hand. He told me they were not
serious. I had seen Robinson before--putting on cold water
upon his own wounds in the bath-room  For a long
time he refused to do or have done anything done for them--
& with head and shoulder  wounded & bleeding, insisted on
attending to Father. This last time I went in Gus’s
room, Robinson lay on the lounge at the side of the
room. I went & spoke with him- he was very cheerful
& called his wounds “only flesh wounds."  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.
Eliza24 the seamstress was there to attend to him.
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

[Page 192]
wouldn’t have happened. If I had been here I’d have
been a dead man. Oh,  why wasn’t I here?”
All the white wood work of the entry was covered with
great dashes of blood. I did not want it
washed off—but Margaret & Eliza told me
some person had directed that it should be—so
I did not interfere. It was a terrible sight—
there was so much blood everywhere. The drugget
on the stairs was sprinkled with it, all the way
down to the floor below. On the inner side
of the door of Father’s room there was, in blood,
the distinct impression of a hand, which
seemed to have clenched it from without. While
this was being wiped off I marked the door,
to show where the place had been. When
we found father there was such a pool of
blood that our dresses were drabbled in it.
Dr Norris’s assistant, Dr Nottson25 [sic] came. Dr Norris
bandaged Fred’s wounds—which he supposed much
less dangerous than they proved to be.
The Surgeon General, having been summoned, went
away. Father had been attended to & moved
to the left side of the bed. As the Surgeon
General left the room he shook hands with me
telling me Father was safe. Dr Verdi ^at first^ for some
time kept rushing around saying “Children, children,
don’t get excited—” While Father was being
attended to, some of the time I stood over by the

[Page 193]
door, leaning against the wall. I think he came & said something of
that sort once then. While I stood there Dr Norris came to
me & said “You have been a pretty brave little girl tonight,
can’t you get me a shirt for your father?” & I went
to get one of Augustus’ who left his bed, & gave met two
shirts. While I was sitting by Father’s bed a gentlemanly
officer in uniform came towards me, & said that he belonged
to the medical department & came to offer his serv  asked if
he could be of any assistance. I referred him to Dr Norris
& he told me the doctor thought he should not need his help.
I asked for his address, that we might send for him if he
should be needed. He had probably already told me
his name - Dr Wilson26-   and now informed me that his
house was next to the Secretary of War.
As he was going away I chanced to be going to
the door and met Anna, & introduced him to her
by telling her of his offer - She asked him to go and see Fred, &
took him into the other room. A Dr White27 was here
at that time - stayed in Fred’s room - Dr Whelan28
[blank in manuscript]

At one time all the doctors were in Fred’s room, & Mother & I
were with Father. Once I thought his wounds were bleeding afresh—
but it proved to be only a clot of blood. At another
time when the doctors were in the room, mother was sitting
down—& I went to her. She was ill in some way I think—
perhaps with palpitation. She showed feeling & anxiety that
must have been anguish, but she bore up with the greatest
fortitude— as we spoke together she told me she was

[Page 194]
afraid Fred could not live. By that time it had
been ascertained that his injuries were very serious. I do
not know whether it was before or after the Surgeon
General left that Dr Wilson went to see Fred—
He declined, on medical etiquette ^to examine dress the wounds^ take off the
till Dr Norris had removed the bandages
put on by himself.  It was found that  Fred's
injuries were of the most dangerous nature - the skull
fractured.  I met Mr Harrington in the
entry—& he told me not to give up about Fred,
described very serious injuries he had once sus-
tained—had been trepanned. Fred was
insensible. Father was conscious. Not very long
after the attack, when Father’s wounds had been
dressed & himself moved to the right side of the
bed, a number of distinguished gentlemen came
in & stood about the bed. Mr Stanton,
Gen. Halleck,29  & Mr Welles30 are all I remember.
It was then that I first heard about the President,
one of the gentlemen telling Mother that he was shot.
As this group stood there Father related in a
clear, distinct manner, his recollections of the whole
scene—between each ^word he drew^ breath, as one dying might speak,
& I feared the effort might cost his remaining
strength. I think we gave him tea in the
night —at his own request. I was in constant
apprehension of some fatal turn in his symptoms—
At length all was still in the room— We took our

[Page 195]
seats to watch through the night. Dr Norris remained much of
the night—& when he went away left his assistant, Dr Nottson, [sic]
saying that he was a competent ^accomplished^ physician. As we
sat through those long dark hours the thoughts they brought were
almost overwhelming. The thought that such cruel & inhuman beings,
as the man who had attacked my father & brothers, existed, made
me wish myself dead, & out of such a world, anywhere seemed better.
The anxiety of the condition of father & Fred was fearful. Although
a guard sat in the h entry, I could not reason away a feeling that
the assassin who had wounded so many might return & finish his
illegible work attempt. I had felt suspicious of every unknown face
however friendly— I was too shocked to reason. “I have supped full
on horrors,”31 rang over & over in my mind—and I retraced the dreadful
scene—& remembered the moment when I felt almost beside myself, and
Anna’s hand laid on my arm, & her voice “Fanny! Fannyl”
recalled me, & I stopped screaming to answer her inquiries & to remem-
ber that I must be quiet & calm. Blood, blood, my thoughts
seemed drenched in it—I seemed to breathe its sickening odor. My dress
was stained with it—Mother’s was drabbled with it—it was on
everything. The bed had been covered with blood, the blankets
& sheet chopped with several blows of the knife. Night
wore away while we sat there—the gray light of morning
came— “Risest thou thus gray dawn again”32 repeated itself
over & over in my mind—& that light should come, &
the sun rise, & the birds sing & the green leaves
rustle in the trees, seemed strange in such a world.
Early in the morning, by Father’s side, Dr Nottson [sic] showed
me a card on which some one told ^one^ of the surgeons that

[Page 196]
the president was growing worse. Father asked about it.
In the morning came a note from Miss Dix33 to Mother,
which I answered, offering to be of assistance, & to
send one or more women nurses. Mr Stanton came.
I think it must have been he—but perhaps it wa
s some one earlier, that answered Mother’s inquiry as
to whether any thing later had been heard from the
President— “Yes. He is dead.” He died at 7—
& we heard of it within two hours34. While
Mr Stanton was there by the bed Mother said
very gently to Father— “Henry—the President is gone.”
He received the news calmly, but seemed to
know the meaning of the words. He was not able
to talk much of the time—and com communicated,
as he had done before the last injury—by
means of a white slate & pencil—but—owing
to his exhausted state, & to his broken arm,
it was almost impossible for him to write
so that it could be read. I remember that
Mother said —in talking with the Secretary of War,
“Are you safe Mr Stanton,” as if apprehensive
of danger to him— “Not any more than
any one else” (or, the others,) he replied. He
said Mrs Stanton was down stairs— I went down
and saw her in the library— Mr Stanton
came down, and I told him about
the pistol—which was brought— I also
told him [^asking about Fred^ written in pencil] of the hat & showed

[Page 197]
it to him—he took charge of both. I
told him my fear about the guard,
there not being any at the back
door. He was very kind—& relieved my
solicitude at once. ^a little^ Later in the morning
I was called down to see Col. Pelouze35,
who said he had Mr Stanton’s in-
structions to come to me, & to place
the guard where I said. The guard
was doubled—by Mr S.’s order, after
my speaking to him. Many friends
came to inquire— I saw none of them but
Dept. people. The President died about
half past seven in thes morning. Miss Dix
sent a note which I answered—(she offered
assistance) quite early she came over—& saw
Mother & Father. Father conversed with her by using his
slate. It was very difficult to read the writing—he
was so weak. The following sentence, addressed to Miss
Dix—I copied from the slate for her. “Neither
the friends nor the enemies of our America
have left me anything to complain of. The friends
of America ought to have watched Mr Lincoln
better. His life however is the forfeit. The
Nation will do him Justice.”

I copied three other sentences which he wrote on the
slate that day—these: “__ the blows inflicted
before or after the assault on you, Augustus, & Frederick,

[Page 198]
“I was fast asleep and only saw Fanny __ up,
and the assassin. I next ___ ___ and
would kill me. Then the blow, dashing
blood in floods.” (I have to leave blanks
where the words were illegible.) “I saw all my
strength was weakness last night. I thought that
if I had still reserved forces I should make them
take me safely through in two or three days.

I am very moderate.
I have drunk tea all day—making no point of it.”
(Here this section of the diary ends.)

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