Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s Announcement to the Army of the Death of Abraham Lincoln

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was present in the room when President Abraham Lincoln died on April 15th, 1865, after he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater the night before.

Scene at the Deathbed of Abraham Lincoln, Harper’s Weekly Mary 6, 1865.

While the President lay dying, Stanton organized the manhunt for Booth and his co-conspirators and generally took over running the government before Vice President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the new president after Lincoln died. Stanton also informed the U.S. Army of the death of Lincoln, and outlined the mourning procedures the army would undertake to honor the fallen leader:

General Orders, No. 66. War Dept., Adjt. General’s Office,
Washington, April 16, 1865.

The following order of the Secretary of War announces to the Armies
of the United States the untimely and lamentable death of the illustrious
Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States:

War Department,
Washington City, April 16, 1865.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton

The distressing duty has devolved upon the Secretary of War to announce to the
Armies of the United States that at 7.22 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, the 15th
day of April, 1865, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, died of a mortal wound,
inflicted upon him by an assassin. The Armies of the United States will share with their
fellow-citizens the feelings of grief and horror inspired by this most atrocious murder
of their great and beloved President and Commander-in-Chief, and with profound sorrow
will mourn his death as a national calamity. The headquarters of every department, post,
fort, and arsenal will be draped in mourning for thirty days, and appropriate funeral
honors will be paid by every army, and in every department, and at every military post
and at the Military Academy at West Point, to the memory of the late illustrious
Chief Magistrate of the Nation and Commander-in-Chief of its Armies.

Lieutenant-General Grant will give the necessary instructions for carrying this.
order into effect.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

On the day after the receipt of this order at the headquarters of each
military division, department, army, post, station, fort, and arsenal,
and at the Military Academy at West Point, the troops and cadets will
be paraded at 10 a. m., and the order read to them, after which all
labors and operations for the day will cease and be suspended, as far
as practicable in a state of war. The national flag will be displayed at
half-mast. At dawn of day thirteen guns will be fired, and afterward,
at intervals of thirty minutes, between the rising and setting sun, a
single gun, and, at the close of the day, a national salute of thirty-six
guns.

The officers of the Armies of the United States will wear the badge
of mourning on the left arm and on their swords, and the colors of
their commands and regiments will be put in mourning for the period
of six months.

By command of Lieutenant-General Grant:
W. A. NICHOLS,
Assistant Adjutant-General

Major General George G. Meade, then informed the Army of the Potomac in Virginia of the President’s death:

General Orders, No. 15. Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac, April 16, 1865.

Major General George Meade

The major-general commanding announces to the army that official
intelligence has been received of the death, by assassination, of the
President of the United States. The President died at 7.22 on the
morning of the 15th instant.

By this army this announcement will be received with profound
sorrow, and deep horror and indignation. The President, by the active
interest he ever took in the welfare of this army, and by his presence
in frequent visits, especially during the recent operations, had
particularly endeared himself to both officers and soldiers, all of whom
regarded him as a generous friend.

An honest man, a noble patriot, and sagacious statesman has fallen!
No greater loss, at this particular moment, could have befallen our
country. Whilst we bow with submission to the unfathomable and
inscrutable decrees of Divine Providence, let us earnestly pray that
God, in His infinite mercy, will so order that this terrible calamity
shall not interfere with the prosperity and happiness of our beloved
country.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major- General, Commanding.

Major General William T. Sherman’s announcement to his army can be found here.

Source: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume 46, Part 3.


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