Murder & Memory


R. B. Milliken.  Letter to [?] Byron, Washington, D.C., April 16, 1865. Manuscript.

“With feelings of the most profound sorrow and heartfelt grief I take the pen to write you” is how R. B. Milliken opens this letter.  Milliken, who was at Ford’s Theatre the night of Lincoln’s assassination, describes to an unknown correspondent the terrible event he had witnessed. During the play, Milliken’s attention was drawn to the president’s box “from whence came a report of a pistol.  There was a slight noise as though someone was struggling with another, then almost instantly a man sprung to the front of the box and jumped recklessly upon the stage, and he rose to his feet…and swiftly darted across the stage.”  At first Milliken thought that what he had seen was part of the play, but then quickly realized that he had “witnessed the tragic end of him we all loved so well, and I exclaimed Lincoln is killed!”

Lincoln Collection. Abraham Lincoln, Miscellaneous Papers (54)  The William Whiting Nolen Collection of Lincolniana.