Category Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Assassination, 150th anniversary

(Biography of Mary Surratt courtesy of the Surratt House Museum website)

Today is the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. In April of 1865 Daughters of Charity were on mission at Lincoln General Hospital in Washington. Sadly, no recollections of Lincoln’s assassination have come down to us from the Sisters. Thanks to the curators at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland, we do know of one tangential connection between our collections and the events of April 14, 1865. Mary Surratt, who owned the boarding house where the Lincoln conspirators met, received her early education from Mother Seton’s community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, at St. Francis Xavier School in Alexandria, Virginia. The school, connected with St. Mary’s Parish, was staffed by the Sisters of Charity from 1832 to 1839. The collections of the Surratt Museum include a receipt for board and tuition signed by Sister Bernard Boyle, who was then the Sister superior for the school. The Surratt House Museum website includes additional details about Mary Surratt’s life, the Lincoln conspiracy, and her alleged role in it.

For additional information about the Daughters of Charity and Lincoln, see these previous posts from our blog.

For more on Mary Surratt, see the website for the Surratt House Museum.


Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's, U.S. Presidents

Lincoln Assassination, April 14, 1865

List of Sisters at Lincoln General Hospital April 1865

List of Sisters serving at Lincoln General Hospital in April of 1865 (used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington. We have no first-hand accounts of Lincoln’s death, but two items in our collection do relate to it in an indirect way.

The first, seen above, is a list of the Daughters of Charity who were on mission at Lincoln General Hospital in Washington in April of 1865.

Lincoln General Hospital

Lincoln General Hospital, Washington, D.C. Lithograph by Chas. Magnus, ca. 1864. (Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,
Washington, D.C.)

Lincoln General was the largest of the military hospitals in the area built by the Army to take care of the Civil War casualties. Lincoln General was not located near either the White House or Ford’s Theater. It was located on Capitol Hill, 15 blocks east of the Capitol building, in an area known today as Lincoln Park. The hospital complex included 20 pavilions and 25 tent wards, which provided altogether a bed capacity of 2,575. The hospital also included a kitchen and dining rooms, officers quarters, quarters for Sisters who provided nursing service, barracks, guard house, separate quarters for contrabands, and service facilities such as water tank, laundry, barber shop, carpenter shop, stables and a morgue (“Dead House”). Lincoln General was taken down shortly after the Civil War. Nothing remains of Lincoln General Hospital; the area once occupied by the hospital is now a residental district.

The hospital opened in December 1862; the first Daughters of Charity were sent there in January of 1863. By the end of the war 25 Sisters were serving in the hospital. None of the Sisters left any accounts or recollections concerning Lincoln’s death, nor it is recorded in our Provincial Annals.

For more information on Lincoln General Hospital see the National Library of Medicine’s website: Historic Medical Sites in the Washington DC area

See also: Civil War Washington


Southern Almanac 1865

The Southern Almanac, 1865 (used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

The seond item is The Southern Almanac for 1865. This slim volume contains basic information concerning the Confederate government and official tallies of Confederate losses during the Civil War through the year 1864. In relation to Lincoln, the most interesting aspect of this volume is the seal found on the cover, in particular the words SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS, or “Thus ever to tyrants”, the motto of the state of Virginia. John Wilkes Booth is said to have uttered the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis” as he leaped from the presidential box to the stage of Ford’s Theater after he shot President Lincoln.

Today, Ford’s Theater is a National Historic Site and museum, as well as a working theater. See the
Ford’s Theater website for more about Lincoln and the history of the theater.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Health Care, Ministries, U.S. Presidents

Abraham Lincoln and the Daughters of Charity

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

While we have no original Lincoln materials in our collection, Lincoln’s surviving papers do contain a few references to the Daughters of Charity.

There is one known Lincoln letter to a Daughter of Charity, dated September 22, 1862 from Lincoln to Sister Mary Carroll of Providence Hospital requesting services of a Catholic Chaplain for hospitalized soldiers. The original letter resides in a private collection.

Lincoln signed the Acts of Incorporation for two Daughter of Charity institutions in Washington, DC: St. Ann’s Infant Asylum (March 3, 1863) and Providence Hospital (April 8, 1864). Our collection does not include the original documents for either institution.

The correspondence of Mother Ann Simeon Norris (provincial superior of the DC Province of the United States during the Civil War) contains a letter from Mother Ann Simeon to Congress, December 8, 1864, asking that the Sisters’ habit material be imported free from duty. In the letter, she notes that she had written to Lincoln about the matter, that Lincoln had replied that he would support such a measure but that it would require an act of Congress. Lincoln’s actual reply to Mother Ann Simeon does not survive. It is not in our collection nor is it listed in any standard collection of Lincoln’s letters. Legislation was introduced in the Senate which would have remitted the import duties paid by the Sisters, but it did not reach Lincoln’s desk. See our June 7, 2013 blog post for an image of Mother Ann Simeon’s letter and history of the legislation.

The Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress contain two letters concerning Daughters of Charity. Images and transcriptions of both items are available online.

1. Letter of William A. Hammond, Surgeon General, to Lincoln, July 16, 1862, concerning Catholic and Protestant nurses: … “I think it is a fact that the Catholic nurses predominate. This is because we found in the Sisters of Charity, a corps of faithful, devoted and trained nurses ready to administer to the sick & wounded No such organization exists among the Protestants of this country, and those whom we have employed cannot compare in efficiency and faithfulness with the Sisters of Charity. The latter are trained to obedience, are of irreprochable moral character and most valuable are their ministrations …”

2. Letter of Sister Emerentiana Bowden to Lincoln, April 23, 1864, thanking Lincoln for pardoning a Union soldier.

Further online resources for the study of Abraham Lincoln:
Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler – online version of the multi-volume book originally published in 1953 by the Abraham Lincoln Association, of Springfield, IL. This is the standard scholarly edition of Abraham Lincoln’s surviving correspondence.

The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln

Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress


Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, U.S. Presidents