Surrender at Appomattox by Tom Lovell

April 11, 1865: Columbus, OH Learns of Appomattox

Most people know Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. How many of you did the math to realize this was 150 years ago? While researching for my latest work-in-progress, I’m counting down the days from Appomattox (the Confederate surrender) to Lincoln’s death. Both because it is the hook that kicks off my work-in-progress, and in memory of the great humanitarian, Lincoln.

As part of my work-in-progress, I’ve wanted to include snippets from Columbus newspapers. This is most likely where my characters would have looked for information about the nation, and Lincoln’s killer. The timeline of Booth’s plans to “abduct” the president (I’ll get into this in a different blog post), the shooting, and the twelve day chase after Booth is a pretty anxious reading of the local newspapers.

Seriously, it’s like reading about 9/11, but without the benefit (or unfortunate awareness) of having watched the planes crash on the TV myself. No one knew what had happened for certain, except that Lincoln was dead. But! I’m getting ahead of myself. So far in history, all Columbus knows is that the war is over.

Surrender at Appomattox by Tom Lovell
Surrender at Appomattox by Tom Lovell

Think about it… today on April 11, 1865, Columbus had just heard the news that the war had ended at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. That would be like hearing today that the War in Afghanistan is finally over. That the first ever draft had come to an end. That the bloodiest war in the history of the United States had concluded.

Columbus, Ohio had plans to celebrate! You see, people had no idea what was coming, as you can tell from this snippet, which was published today 150 years ago…

GOVERNOR’S PROCLAMATION. The State of Ohio, Executive Department, April 8, 1865.

The God of Battles has blessed our armies, and the glorious cause of human freedom. Under His approving smiles the patriotic and brave men in the field have achieved unparalleled triumphs.

The rebel Capital has been conquered, and given back to the Union, and the army that held it in rebellion has been broken and scattered. The military power of the rebellion–the strongest obstacle to peace–has received a terrible shock, and our gallant armies are pursuing it to final extinction….

Daily Ohio Statesman. (Columbus [Ohio]), 11 April 1865 : 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

 Columbus had plans for a big parade, all the lights to be lit on homes at night, etc… and it was made known that every loyal citizen of the Union had the duty of making the celebration a success. Columbus was going to celebrate the results of what happened at Appomattox, and they were going to party hard.

Quite obviously, things were still pretty charged in the nation, including Ohio. Sure, Ohio was a supporter of the Union and sent the most soldiers of any Union state to support the Federal Army.

But Copperheads i.e. Northern Democrats who supported negotiations with the Confederate States, also wrote newspapers in the central Ohio area. They were not so excited about the Union victory, but what could they say?

LAND HO!

After four years of dreadful and desolating war, we seem to be approaching peace. After four years of absolute and bloody disunion, we appear to be on the eve of a restored Union. Many have believed the thing impossible. We have not been of that number.

The idea of conquering, subjugating and territorializing the Southern States is about to be abandoned by the Administration North, while on the other hand the project of a separate government South, is being abandoned by the men there who chiefly have given dignity and importance to the struggle, and they who opposed secession at the first, and who have been reconstructionists ever since, are getting the control.

All that is wanting now, is fair and honorable terms–“the Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was.” That “true reconcilement” may yet grow between the sections and stronger bonds of Union than ever, all history attests….

Dayton Daily Empire. (Dayton [Ohio]), 11 April 1865: 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

 A couple of days later, Lincoln and his wife would be attending a play, hoping to have a nice evening out after having won a momentous war. Columbus would be lighting candles and having parades, intent on celebrating the same.

It’s rather mind-boggling, how innocent the country still happened to be, before Booth aimed that revolver.