A period cancelled FORD’S THEATER ticket is shown here superimposed over an April 30, 1865 letter from Thomas Hopkins, to his mother at home in Mount Vernon, Maine. Pvt. Hopkins had been in the military since he had enlisted in the 16th Maine Volunteers in the summer of 1862. He was eighteen. Recorded as hospitalized in the early fall of 1863, young Pvt. Hopkins had been transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in May 1864. Writing from Washington City,Hopkins tells his mother of recently seeing President Lincoln standing in a White House window before a small group. I had not seen him since his return from Richmond and felt pleased he had returned in safety, writes Hopkins.
Excerpts from his letter home offer the insight of our Maine soldier as he experiences history.
But Oh!! I cannot tell how I felt when I heard he had been shot! I had just fallen asleep when Tom came running upstairs and woke me. I knew something unusual was the matter when he opened my door. I asked what is the matter Tommy what has happened!? After a moment he said the President had been shot and Mr. Seward assassinated in his bed! All in the house were aroused and most got up and left. They would go out and return to report what was said around the house where the president was carried. James said he was alive and that he would survive. Early in the morning were so anxious all this time. All this time I had not shed a tear but felt as if my heartwere so anxious all this time. All this time I had not shed a tear but felt as if my heart shall ever be glad to have seen Mr. Lincoln. His pictures do not convey the noble kingly good looks. I think President Lincoln the greatest That the many poor slaves he had made free men of could see their deliverer. The colored people here after his death, looked as if they had lost their best friend. It was fitting that some of those same colored troops who were the first to enter Richmond took the front rank in the funeral procession. They had come up the river and come in the city after the procession began and by chance took the lead. Beginning at the capital when the procession came I had an opportunity of seeing the military and the hearse and that was all I cared to see. In all the crowd, on the streets, the shed rooftops, fences and every place where a person could stand or sit, all were most quiet. There was no loud talking or disrespect from mourners. I tried to see his remains at the White House and after standing in line with the crowd was told there would be no admittance. But saw him after he was carried to the capital. He looked very natural, dark but was not disfigured by the shot and was not conscious of his being murdered. He went to the theater that night to gratify the people. Had he died in some other place I should have been glad. I feel as if I had lost a personal friend and father but he is gone.
Mrs. Hopkins preserved the souvenir of Ford’s Theater and her son’s poignant letter in their original envelopes.