Last May, I contacted the Milwaukee County Historical Society to determine if they had source materials for students to comb through that would shed light on local reaction to the Lincoln Assassination. The wonderful archivists there found one letter from Dr. Abner Hard (the Hard Family Collection) who was a surgeon with the 8th Illinois Cavalry and the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters. Hard’s unit was going to be an honor guard during the memorial services but as the archivist explained to me, “his next letter only says that he’ll have to tell his brother about it when he sees him next!” How amazing would it have been if he would have written of his experiences.
We do, however, get a glimpse of the event in his regimental history. Hard describes the memorial as “probably one of the most imposing spectacles every witnessed on this continent” (322).
Ford’s Theater has an excellent project called Remembering Lincoln that could fit in well in Civil War classrooms. They are collecting historical sources that document various aspects of the Lincoln Assassination from all parts of the globe. The site states, “Responses to Lincoln’s assassination give us a window into the varied emotions of a nation embarked upon the complicated task of reunion after the Civil War.” Hard’s letter (pasted below & will be shared with Ford’s Theater) shows the shock and anger that countless soldiers felt when they heard the tragic news and will be a great tool to use with my students. Hard writes, that the “traitors…have sown the wind and will reap a whirlwind.” Another point of discussion with students could be to compare Hard’s account in the letter immediately after hearing news of the assassination and that of three years later in his regimental history.