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Local History

The Conspirator

"The Conspirator"

This Sunday, April 15, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Library Center auditorium for adults.

Join us for a screening of "The Conspirator," rated PG-13, about Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the U.S. government following her arrest for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. The movie was inspired by The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln by Kate Clifford Larson. Stick around following the film for a discussion about the film and the conspiracy against Lincoln.

Thomas Hart Benton Dunnegan was 19 years old when he joined the 8th Missouri State Militia Cavalry on December 18, 1861 in Jefferson City. In 1925 he wrote about his memories on the sixtieth anniversary Lincoln's death. A retired banker, he died in Bolivar on June 19, 1934.

quot;Memories of Lincoln's Death," Bolivar (Mo.) Free Press, April 16, 1925, page 4.

"Today, April 14th, is the Sixtieth Anniversary of the assassination of the Immortal Abraham Lincoln, which occurred in Ford's Theater on this, he breathing his last Saturday, April 15, 1865 at 7:22 a.m., in a building just across the street from the theater, where Secretary Stanton broke the silence of the assembled mourners by saying, 'Now he belongs to the Ages.'

"While I am in a reminiscent mood, I will jot down a few things that I recall of those eventful days.

"I was mustered out of the service of my country in St. Louis, Mo., on January 25, 1865, after a continuous service of three years, one month and seven days. After spending a few days in St. Louis, myself and several comrades started homeward via the Missouri Pacific Railway, stopping off a few days at Jefferson City, where the Legislature was in session and of which our Colonel Joseph J. Gravely, was a member, being the Senator from our district, composed of Polk, Cedar, Dade, Jasper, Barton, and perhaps another county or two.

"After a few days visit with him and some other friends, members of the Legislature and others in the city, for we were mustered into the service in the Sate House Yard in December 1861, and spent the first winter of the Civil War in Jefferson City, we continued our journey homeward via the said Missouri Pacific Railway as far west as Sedalia, where after staying all night, we, with some eight or ten other passengers filled an old Concord stage coach drawn by four horses, paying ten dollars for the privilege of riding part of the time and walking the balance of the time and carrying a fence rail to pry the stage out of the mud holes, of which there were many, it being in the month of February. After plowing through the mud for about forty-eight hours we arrived at Bolivar.

"I went to my father's who lived near where the town of Dunnegan is now. After a few weeks, some time in the month of March 1865, I came to Bolivar with an uncle and aunt (my father's sister), Mr. and Mrs. John S. Davison, my uncle buying an old store house of the Littleton-Leachman, which stood at the southeast corner of the square where the Public Library stands, moving into it a small stock of goods we had in Fair Play, Missouri.

"A few weeks after our removal to Bolivar, on Sunday April 16, 1865, I went down town late in the afternoon, I suppose to see if there was any mail for us. We did not get much mail in those days, and found that the stage from Springfield had passed on north, and the streets were almost deserted, but I met a man in front of the old Rains store house that stood on the west side of the Public Square where John Moore's hardware store is now. I don't remember now who he was, but he dumfounded me by telling me that Abraham Lincoln had been shot by an assassin.

"I sat down on the platform in front of the store. My informant, whoever he was, went on his way. There was no one else in sight. I don't know how long I sat there nor can I describe how I felt. I only remember that for some time I did not care to see or talk to anyone for I just wanted to be alone.

"I don't remember now if I had been intending to go to St. Louis or not, but anyway I got busy that night and next morning myself, Captain T.A. Peters and H.J. Gordon started to St. Louis by way of Sedalia in a light open spring wagon drawn by a pair of white pony horses, arriving at Sedalia at the end of the third day, and the next morning took the train for St. Louis, where we arrived that evening. We found the city shrouded in gloom and sorrow. In fact, the whole country was for several days wondering what would happen next.

"We remained in St. Louis about a week, over the following Sunday and Monday and perhaps longer. During the week a tall catafalque was erected in the rotunda of the St. Louis Court House, surrounded by a white marble bust of Lincoln surrounded by tall lighted candles, with a military guard standing at attention at either end of the catafalque.

"On Sunday morning the doors of the Court House were thrown open to the public and a stream of people surged through the rotunda past the funeral pyre all day far into the night, most all of them with sorrowful countenance as if mourning for a very dear friend or relative.

"There were sold on the streets thousands of little badges for the coat lapel consisting of small tintype miniature of the martyred President about one inch square attached to a small army flag surrounded by a spread eagle pin shrouded in black crepe. I bought one of course and I have it yet, the little miniature after sixty years is about as clear as if made yesterday.

"The theaters of the country were all closed until after the President's funeral and on their opening the second Monday night after the assassination we attended the Old Varieties Theatre , which opened by the reading of a special poetic address written for the occasion, after which a choice selection of sacred vocal and instrumental music was given by the whole company, concluding with an amusing tableau in commemoration of the Nation's loss. I still have the program of that night's performance.

"We also attended one night, I think it was in the hall of the old Mercantile Library, the performance of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' given by the Women's Christian Sanitary Commission, an organization during the latter part of the Civil War similar to our Red Cross of today, and I remember that just before the performance started a venerable looking old gentleman, Mr. Jas. E. Yateman, a noted banker and philanthropist then and afterwards appeared before the curtain and said, "Fellow citizens, the Government at Washington lives, and so does the Women's Christian Sanitary Commission,' and then proceeded to give a very eloquent patriotic address.

"Although sixty years have elapsed since I saw and heard them, yet they seem as clear and real today as though they occurred on yesterday for those were the days that stirred men's blood, if he had any patriotic blood in his veins.

T.H. B. Dunnegan "

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