[The streets] were suddenly crowded with people - men, women, and children thronging the pavements and darkening the thoroughfares. It seemed as if everybody was in tears... Men and women who were strangers accosted one another... Wandering aimlessly up F Street towards Ford's Theatre, we met a tragical procession. It was headed by a group of army officers walking bareheaded, and behind them, carried tenderly by a company of soldiers, was the bier of the dead President, covered with the flag of the Union. (KUNHARDT et al, Lincoln 362)
Overwrought with grief and excitement, mourners descended on Ford's Theatre and the Petersens' boarding house.
Wallpaper, keys, and wall molding purportedly removed from Ford's Theatre after Lincoln's assassination, and towel attributed to Lincoln's deathbed at the Petersen's house.
The first presidential assassination stunned the nation as it struggled to come to terms with the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Civil War casualties exceeded the nation's loss in all other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam. During the last ten days of the fighting, an estimated 11,000 Union soldiers lost their lives. The first war photographs brought unprecedented images of destruction to American households, just as the first televised war images brought home the brutal realties of the Vietnam war a century later. Inexpensive double photographs of the Civil War carnage were widely distributed, appearing as three-dimensional images when viewed through parlor stereoscopes.
Hand-colored stereoscope of Civil War casualties (ICHi-30938), paired with an unpainted photograph of the same scene by Alexander Gardner, War Photographs Taken on the Battlefields during the Civil War of the United States, Edward Bailey Eaton, 1907.
They tore wallpaper and gilt moldings from Lincoln's theatre box, begged locks of hair from the departing surgeons, and vied for fragments of the stained deathbed linens. Historian Ida Tarbell wrote:
A child was found at the Petersen's Tenth Street house staining bits of soft paper with the half-dried blood on the steps. (TARBELL The Life of Abraham Lincoln 251)