Here are some of the most striking documents I encountered in writing Lincoln’s Body. Others will be added to the site periodically. [Documents (4) to (6) added in December 2015.]
(1) Journalist George Alfred Townsend’s description of Lincoln’s body as it lay in state at the White House funeral on April 19, 1865. Published in the New York World on April 20 (“Appearance of the Corpse”), it was widely reprinted across the North, and even in the South (e.g., The Colored Tennesseean, May 5, 1865).
(3) The two monumental sentences from Frederick Douglass’s oration dedicating the Lincoln “Emancipation” statue in Washington, DC on April 14, 1876 (see p. 167 of Lincoln’s Body: “an epic battle between a 155-word sentence cataloguing Lincoln’s early missteps on racial equality and a 360-word sentence listing the gains for blacks achieved ‘under his wise and beneficent rule.’”)
(4) Journalist Henry Villard’s reflection on Lincoln’s appearance in the fall of 1860, published in the New York Herald on October 20 (“The Republican Mecca”), less than three weeks before the presidential election.
(5) Maryland slave Annie David’s letter to Abraham Lincoln, inquiring about her legal status. She was writing in the summer of 1864 while still living under the thumb of her “mistress” in Bel Air (about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore). Published in Steven Hahn, et al., eds., Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, series 3: vol. 1 Land and Labor, 1865 (Chapel Hill: UNC, 2008), p. 854, n. 5, uncorrected text.
(6) Novelist Henry James, Jr.’s comment on the curiously uplifting character, for some, of the tragedy of the assassination in 1865. James turned twenty-two on April 15, the day of Lincoln’s death. (A portion of this note serves as the epigraph for Chapter 2 of Lincoln’s Body, p. 24.)
James’s observation-- published a half-century later-- is available in Notes of a Son and Brother, and The Middle Years (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011), p. 336. It anticipated the similar contention, by Edmund Wilson in Patriotic Gore (1962), that Lincoln’s death was “morally and dramatically inevitable” (see Lincoln’s Body, p. 268).