Saturday, April 18, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 18, 1865

On April 18, 1865, Washington was preparing for the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, which would take place the next day. The New York Times printed this dispatch from the previous evening, telling of the efforts of people in Washington to show their grief by draping their houses in mourning.

In her book Mourning Lincoln, Martha Hodes provides further description of the public display of grief in Washington and beyond.
Washington was the first to be transformed, as workers followed orders to cloak the White House, the Capitol, the War Department, Treasury Department, Post Office, and Patent Office. Servants meanwhile created elaborate displays on the exteriors of the city's poshest residences. . . . African Americans, many of them poor, along with the city's poorer whites, displayed their sentiments with as much black cloth as they could scare up, and soon the city was shrouded in "miles upon miles of material," as a federal clerk put it. . . .
Beyond the capital, mourners worked just as hard. . . . A man traveled nearly five miles to procure a half-yard of black crepe. A woman who didn't get to the shops quickly enough had to festoon a window with her own black shawl, and widows lent their personal mourning attire to drape local church altars. . . .
Also on this day in 1865, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to General William T. Sherman near Durham, North Carolina.

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