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Author Topic: Peterson House - White House Body Bearers  (Read 2289 times)
Barry Doohan
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« on: May 07, 2012, 07:43:27 AM »

While visiting the GAR Museum in Philadelphia, I came across an old, undated, framed article from (I believe) the Washington Times circa 1892. It was titled 'The Two Survivors of the Six Men Who Bore Lincoln's Body.  I can't recall reading these names on this site or in the Surratt Society newsletters. Nothing earth shattering but of some interest as it provides the soldiers names so I thought I would post a summary of the pertinent information.

"Of those six men who were detailed to carry the body of President Lincoln from the Peterson House on 10th Street where he died to the White House where he was prepared for burial, there are only two survivors. These are John E. Weaver of Philadelphia and William Reith of this city."

John Weaver apparently wrote a letter to the (Washington?) Times stating that he was one of the six men detailed to carry the body President Lincoln from the Peterson House to the White House on April 15, 1865.  Per Weaver, General Daniel Rucker directed Weaver, Reith,  Eli Morey, David Frantz, John Richardson, and Antonis Brigazzi who were assigned to the Quartermaster Department to perfrom this duty. Weaver states Rucker directed them to place Lincoln's body in the coffin, carry the coffin to the hearse, proceed to the White House, and dress the body. According to Weaver, when their assignment was completed, General Rucker gave to these six soldiers pieces of the linen shirt taken off Mr. Lincoln as 'souvenirs of the sad occasion'.

Elsewhere in the article it states that William Reith originally enlisted in 1861 for three months service in Company A, Eigth Battalion, District of Columbia Volunteers. Following this service, Reith enlisted (employed?) as an artificer in the Quartermaster's Department. At the time of this article, Reith was working as an upholsterer in DC. John Weaver originally enlisted as a Private in Company B of the 25th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Weaver was originally from Harrisburg but settled in Philadelphia following the war. Post-war pictures of Weaver and Reith accompany the article.

I don't recall ever reading that soldiers dressed Lincoln's body following the embalming and would think that was part of the undertaker's duties.

The GAR Museum is open the first Sunday of the month and they also have speakers on those days. As for assassination related memorabilia, the museum is best known for the pair of handcuffs taken from Booth's trunk, and a piece of cloth from the Peterson House containing stains of Lincoln's blood. They also have a brick marked as coming from the Lincoln box at Ford's Theatre - did Boxes 7 and 8 back up to an exterior wall? It's been some time since I was at Ford's so I have no idea what was behind the wallpaper in the rear of the box.

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rich smyth
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2012, 09:38:20 AM »

Hi Barry, Interestingly, John C. Weaver was also one of the 6 soldiers that claimed to have assisted in carrying the President from Fords to the Petersen house.
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Barry Doohan
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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2012, 04:55:45 PM »

I wasn't aware of it. I'll have to look whether any of the other soldiers named in the article were also listed as moving Lincoln from Ford's. I guess it's possible John Weaver enjoyed the notoriety / attention.
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Roger Norton
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2012, 03:37:40 AM »

Barry and Laurie, many thanks for posting this information. I was looking through some books yesterday, and in many cases these names are overlooked and not included. One that does, however, is our good ol' friend, Osborn H. Oldroyd's. He names the men on p. 38.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 04:34:31 AM by Roger Norton » Logged
Richard Petersen
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2012, 10:59:12 AM »

I am not familar with Lincoln being carried to the Peterson house; did you mean Petersen.

Sorry I couldn't resist. IF I had $5.00 for everytime my name was misspelled I would be a wealth person.
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BoothBuff
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2012, 03:46:37 PM »

     That was a neat article, Barry. The soldiers dressing Lincoln's body sounds fishy. I do remember reading Stanton personally supervised the clothing of Lincoln's body after the embalming.

     As far as the box's location near bricks, I checked The Restoration of Ford's Theater, and it's confusing. The box was very near and may have abutted the south wall. Laura Keene supposedly entered it by way of the south addition, but I see no clear location of a door through the southern brick wall near the box.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 03:48:33 PM by BoothBuff » Logged
BoothBuff
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2012, 05:45:21 PM »

     One door that's mentioned for sure went from behind the dress circle to the second floor of the Star Saloon building. I'm thinking there was another closer to the box that also accessed that building or maybe a staircase behind it, and that's how Keene bypassed the crowd to get into the box.  With the north and south additions, it really looks like a it was a maze at that time.
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Barry Doohan
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2012, 06:39:55 PM »

The GAR Museum in Philadelphia is a centralized location of the collections of all the former GAR Posts in the city.  A lot of odds and ends that the veterans picked up during and after the war. I thought the brick might have been obtained following the 1893 building collapse but the only provenance was that written on the brick itself.

They also have the US flag flown over Independence Hall during Lincoln's funeral ceremonies in the city and a swatch from the flag that Lincoln raised over Independence Hall in 1861.

Mea culpa for the spelling error Mr. Petersen.
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Roger Norton
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« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2012, 03:31:14 AM »

As far as the box's location near bricks, I checked The Restoration of Ford's Theater, and it's confusing. The box was very near and may have abutted the south wall. Laura Keene supposedly entered it by way of the south addition, but I see no clear location of a door through the southern brick wall near the box.

Joe, Laura Keene's actions that night have always been a mystery to me.  On the far end of the spectrum we have Clara Harris' statement that, "No, that was a falsehood: Laura Keene did not enter the box from first to last. She might have been with the crowd who were trying to get in at the door, but only a very few were admitted, and she was not among the number." As far as I know the first time Dr. Leale mentioned her presence was in 1909. She is not mentioned at all in his earlier statements.

Other eyewitness accounts do have her present. In addition to the "holding Lincoln's head" accounts there are many stories that she brought water.

J. A. Covel said, "She (Laura Keene) obtained the water from some source, and as I was near at hand, I helped her down from the stage and she passed up to the box where the President was dying."

For some reason that statement isn't clear in my aging brain. Can someone kindly explain to me what Mr. Covel is saying?  Many thanks. Does it mean she entered the box via the same door the Lincoln party and Booth did?
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 06:35:11 AM by Roger Norton » Logged
BoothBuff
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2012, 05:41:56 AM »

     That's always been a question I've wanted to know, too, Roger. Keene went outside somehow, from what I gather and got to the box by another doorway other than the one the Lincoln party used. I'm thinking there was a doorway near the rear steps of the south addition. Did you look at The Restoration?. I found it very confusing. If there wasn't another door near the box, maybe she came through the one that accessed the second floor of the south addition lounge and was located at the rear of the dress circle.
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Roger Norton
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2012, 06:30:54 AM »

I totally agree on the confusion you allude to. My understanding is that there were doorways connecting Ford's to the building that housed Taltavul's on all three floors. Is it possible to get to the State Box by exiting Ford's, walking over Taltavul's, and then re-entering Ford's into the passageway in back of the State Box? Is that what you are suggesting? Once again, I admit to being confused as to the method Laura Keene used to get into the State Box.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 06:33:42 AM by Roger Norton » Logged
BoothBuff
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2012, 06:44:39 AM »

Quote
Is it possible to get to the State Box by exiting Ford's, walking over Taltavul's, and then re-entering Ford's into the passageway in back of the State Box? Is that what you are suggesting? 

     Yes. From looking at the restoration book, there were doors connecting the two buildings on all three floors, but I didn't see one near the box.
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John Stanton
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2012, 08:17:02 PM »

I'm drawing on a memory 25 years old. As i recall, you come to the door that was held shut by the stick. That lets you into a small passage way, and the Box is to your left, with a door that had a peep hole ( - to see Lincoln). Since Lincoln's Box is actually two boxes, when he isn't there, there is a door for the second box in that left wall.  At the far end of the passageway is another door that leads to the back of the building. I assume that, that is where the doors to the next building would be.  Anyone see anything other than that?
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BoothBuff
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2012, 08:42:30 PM »

     That's what so baffling about how Keene got there, John. The contemporary sketch that was in the papers of the "anteroom", "hallway", or whatever you want to call it, only shows two doors - both leading into the boxes. Nothing on the rear wall.
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Jim Page
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2012, 08:51:49 PM »

Here's a plan of the Lincoln theater box from The Great American Myth, if it would be helpful.

--Jim

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