April 20, 1865: John Henry Brown’s Journal

John Henry Brown was a painter of portrait miniatures, living and working in Philadelphia. He had met Lincoln in August of 1860 when he was commissioned to paint Lincoln’s portrait for a supporter, but although Brown liked Lincoln personally, he did not agree with Republican policies.




Nothing unusual this month to record about the family or my business. At work each day. The month an eventful one in the history of the country, on Monday the 3rd we received news of the fall of Richmond, Va which caused great excitement and general rejoicing. On the 10th received news of the surrender of Gen: Lee with his whole Army to Gen: grant, it produced the wildest excitement and joy, it is regarded as the virtual closing of the War. Great preparations are being made for a grand illumination to take place on Monday evening next, in honor of the many Victories, won by our armies lately, but more especially in honor of that great and bloodless one gained by Grant over Lee. Grants easy and generous terms to Lee & the Presidents approval of them is producing a kindness of feeling amongst all classes which goes far to strengthen the hope of an early peace. I have lately said nothing in this Journal about the War, preferring to wait the development of events. On Saturday morning the 15th we were startled by the shocking news that the President was shot last night about 10 Oclock at Fords theatre, Washington City, by J. Wilkes Booth a rebel Sympathizer. The President lingered unconsciously through the night and died about 7 Oclock in the morning. It is impossible to convey in language the least shadow of the depth of sorrow this news has created. Strong men weep like children. The whole City is in mourning. Every house has exposed the emblems of death. On Wednesday the 19th, the day of the Presidents funeral, all business was suspended the places of worship were all opened for service at 12 Oclock.

For his own glory Mr. Lincoln could not have died at a better time—“He fills a Patriots grave and wears a martyrs crown.” He is now canonized and will henceforth stand by the side of Washington in history.

Time works wonders, little did I think, when I painted Mr Lincolns picture, less than five years ago, that he would ever become so great and ever so loved.


Citation: John Henry Brown, autograph journal/account book. Philadelphia, 1844-1890. AMs 573/14.1

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