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The Last Newspaper to Report the Lincoln Assassination

On this, the 125th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, I thought it would be appropriate to show another side of the story. This is a dark side, one to be noted by the virtue of the reaction of one pro-southern newspaper, the Houston Telegraph.

As most of the readers know, on the evening of April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was attending a play, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Shortly after 10:00 p.m. a man, later identified as John Wilkes Booth, entered the Presidential box and fired a pistol at the rear of Lincoln's head. Lincoln lingered in a coma until 7:22 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, 1865, when he died. At that moment, Secretary of War Stanton uttered the famous line: "Now he belongs to the ages."

As the assassination and death of Lincoln took place late Friday, April 14th, most newspapers up and down the east coast put out their black-bordered editions of their papers to spread the news. Many had Extra editions with large-type, bold headlines. The southern newspapers were slow to receive the news. The Richmond Whig announced the assassination in its April 17th edition in bold-face type. The New Orleans Delta did not publish the news until the edition of April 20, an issue with black bold mourning rules on all columns on the front page. However, the most unusual announcement of Lincoln's assassination had to be in the Confederate newspaper, The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph. They did not receive the news until nine days after it happened. The news appeared in the fourth column about a quarter of the way down -- no headlines, no mourning rules, no bold typeface, nothing at all to make it stand out. But in column four in the first paragraph a small dateline read: "Washington, April 14 -- The President and his lady were at Ford's Theater . . . [when] . . . a person entered the box occupied by the President and shot Mr. Lincoln in the head. . . "

This printing of the assassination of Lincoln on April 24, 1865 had to be one of the last "first reports" in the country. (Even California learned of the assassination on April 16th.) It is also notable in the fact that this newspaper was one of the last pro-Confederate newspapers still in publication at this late date in the War. Even the editorial comment on page 4 of this paper is notable for its editorial vindictiveness". . . The killing of Mr. Lincoln . . . may be more wonderful than the capitulation of Lee's army . . ." I have to assume that the depths to which the editorial writer stooped was directly proportioned to the distance of the nearest Federal troops.