The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Mrs. Schurz, April 18th, 1865


Raleigh, April 18, 1865.

I should have written yesterday if I had been able to shake off the gloom that has settled upon me since the arrival of the news of the murder of Lincoln. A thunderclap from the blue sky could not have struck us more unexpectedly and frightfully. Our good, good Lincoln! Even now, whenever my thoughts drift to some other object and then return to this terrible event, I am obliged to ask myself whether it really can be true. The murderer who did this deed has killed the best friend of the South. It is really patricide. The people of the South may thank God that the war is over. If this army had been obliged to march once more upon the enemy, not a single house would have been left standing in their path. The soldiers sat about their camp-fires, first in gloomy consternation; then you might everywhere have heard the words, “We wish that the fight were not over yet!” It is fortunate that it is over. If the war were continued now, it would resemble the campaigns of Attila. The evening after the arrival of the fearful news, all the guards in the city were doubled, and after dark the streets were all closed and every person who ventured out was arrested, because it was feared that the soldiers would vent their rage by setting fire to the city. The precaution was by no means superfluous. It will be long before I can live down these impressions. Our triumph is no longer jubilant.

Sherman has been negotiating with Johnson for the last two days. I fear that Sherman will attempt to excel Grant as mediator, since Grant has excelled him as leader in battle. Immediately after we had marched in here, he committed a great mistake. He invited the rebel governor of North Carolina, Vance, to return here, and to summon his legislature to convene. Fortunately, Vance has not yet come.[2]

  1. Translated from the German.
  2. Before this was received by Mrs. Schurz, at Bethlehem, Pa., she wrote, in German, Apr. 21, 1865: “Now you know all, and I see you sitting silent and alone, and thinking, thinking, thinking! All that Lincoln has ever said to you, the little struggles you had with each other, and the joyous hours, all must now come back to you, and make you alternately glad and sorrowful. He has been laid to rest, and yesterday all the inhabitants of our little town went in a long procession to the cemetery, where we listened to a beautiful address by Dr. Fickard, and from there we went to the church, where there was wonderful music. It was my first long walk. I went with the children. We were all dressed in black, and I felt as though we were following an old, faithful father to his last resting-place. I could cry my heart out, and Dr. Fickard's address touched the hearts of all. Now, everything is calm again, and my overwhelming, irrepressible sorrow is subsiding. I keep thinking: he could not have died a happier death—without pain, in full view of his victories, so he fell like a hero. And as you have always said, after Washington, he is our greatest President, and the greatest of all emancipators. How happy I am that you have served him so faithfully!”