'The glory and the gloom'

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
While the obsequies associated with President Lincoln’s death and burial continued into May 1865, Regina Shober Gray’s [1] thoughts turned to other subjects as well. It would also seem that the Shober gift for descriptive writing was present in at least one of the diarist’s sisters.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Thursday, 4 May 1865: This day no doubt the weary, restless, and unparalleled funeral march for our beloved President ends in the sealed silence of the tomb, and mortal eyes have looked their last of earth upon the martyred statesman & patriot. At last he rests in peace forevermore, emphatically alone in the glory and the gloom of his immortal story. For where in all history shall we find a man risen from the very people, untrained in the “learning of the schools,” unpolished by the habitude of cultivated society, who could have so nobly acquitted himself in the high station to which God, and the people God-guided, called this true patriot and humbleminded Christian, this far seeing, cautious, yet tenacious statesman, this genial-hearted and merciful man?

Ah, his poor wife,[2] what a blank it must leave to her, for they say with all her follies & vulgarisms, she idolized her husband. How thankful she must be to know all this fitful fever of funeral pomp & progress of gazing tearful crowds & restless solemn tramp of marching men is over at last – that the loved form is at last taken to the bosom of the “friendly tomb” where

Never more shall noon day’s glance

Search this mortal countenance.

There let him rest in his far western home – his name & fame & fate will sound down the ages through all coming time – one of the few deathless themes, that that all hearts will thrill to hear of.

"Just as the coffin rested in front of our house the last rays of the setting sun broke from behind a heavy black cloud..."

The funeral procession in Philad.a passed by my sister’s house[3] in Walnut St., and she says of it:

“I shall not attempt to describe the scene of last Saturday – but the impressive solemnity of these twilight hours can never be forgotten; as the long, mournfully imposing pageant wound through our streets, the heart of the whole people thrilled with one common impulse of love, veneration, & profoundest grief, for the great, good martyred soul, who, honoured before, is now but the more deeply loved, for the ‘deep damnation of his taking off.’

“The procession reached our part of the city, between 6 & 7 in the evg., just on the ‘edge of the dark’ – light enough for everything to be visible, but sufficiently dusk to add an overpowering solemnity to the whole scene. Just as the coffin rested in front of our house the last rays of the setting sun broke from behind a heavy black cloud, which had hung like a pall over the city – flooding the tree-tops and roofs with golden radiance, and filling the air with a lurid glow which seemed to rest like a mantle of glory over the coffined dead, while the living crowd with bowed, uncovered heads, and audible sobs, stood in bitter and reverential sorrow beneath.

“The effect was indescribably grand, solemn and touching; nor can the remembrance of it ever fade from the hearts of those whose sorrowful privilege it was to witness it!”

Sunday, 7 May 1865: …Our dear old friend Mrs. Salisbury[4] was buried yesterday – a dismal rainy day it was, to lay away a beloved one beneath the sod. Mr. Lothrop’s prayer was an intolerably long one (36 minutes), a string of platitudes – so wearisome as to drive away with feelings of impatient annoyance the tender & solemn sadness due and material to the occasion. His is a very commonplace unspiritual mind to my apprehension…

Lottie Hemenway[5] lies dangerously ill of a malignant fever, wh[ich] our physicians have never seen before – some call it a malignant typhus, others hint a yellow fever – others at the new Russian plague – be it what it may she brought it from N. York last Monday, feeling poorly when she started for home and becoming desperately ill immediately on her arrival.

[This] beloved daughter, her friend, companion, & adviser, trembling on the edge of the grave...

There was a horrible story that rebel physicians were sent to Havanna by the rebel officials, to purchase infected clothing, blankets &c, and send them in packed cases to New York, that when scattered in the crowded city they should spread irremediable pestilence everywhere and so, as one of those employed in the fiendish plan said, [to] “sweep off the northern masses!” Some of these cases of goods were secured and burnt & buried but many it is feared got abroad. Perhaps the fatal illness of this innocent girl is one of the first fruits of some such hellish plan.

Poor Mrs. Hemenway,[6] so liberal, kindly, excellent a woman, how powerless her 4 or 5 millions of money must seem to her, with her husband sinking into idiocy at the Bloomingdale asylum, and this beloved daughter, her friend, companion, & adviser, trembling on the edge of the grave – and her three younger children exposed to the same awful infection.

The details of the [Lincoln] assassination conspiracy deepen in horror – and there is such proof of the complicity of Jeff. Davis and other rebel leaders, that President Johnson has published a reward of $100,000 for the capture of Davis and $25,000 each for several others. Also plots have come to light of an intention to destroy by fire several northern cities, especially Philad[elphia] & Boston. I dare say there is much exaggeration about all this, for people’s minds have fed on horrors of late – but there is also more sober & damnable truth in it all, than rebel sympathisers like Ellen Gray[7] like to acknowledge…

A terrible accident happened to John Lyman[8] & Richard Montgomery,[9] on the day our good President’s funeral [train] passed through Philad.; they were firing minute guns on Broad St., when the gun burst, blowing out both the eyes & shattering both arms of R. M. and Lyman lost one eye, had to have one arm amputated – & the other useless for life. R. M. has since died I believe; lock-jaw set in; & even his nearest felt it better he should die than live blind & so fearfully mutilated. His mother[10] was a daughter of Horace Binney.[11] Lyman’s mother was our old schoolmate Lizzie Hollingsworth[12] – a very beautiful woman once, but suffering of late from some hopeless malady – poor thing!

The lads were just about my Frank’s[13] age – how mercifully the good God has dealt with our hearts and home – so blest have we been, that I often tremble lest some sudden blow fall, to recall us to a sense of the uncertainty and insufficiency of our earthly props and joys.

Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. Entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Mary Ann Todd (1818–1882) married Abraham Lincoln in 1842.

[3] Perhaps she means Mary Morris Shober (1816–1873), the eldest of the unmarried Shober sisters who shared the family house on Walnut Street.

[4] Ann Gardner (1786–1865) was married to Samuel Salisbury 1806–49.

[5] Charlotte Augusta Hemenway (1841–1865) died that day.

[6] Mary Porter Tileston (1820–1894) was married to Augustus Hemenway 1840–76.

[7] The diarist’s sister-in-law Ellen Gray (1830–1921).

[8] Thomas Hollingsworth Lyman (1846–1887).

[9] Archibald Roger Montgomery (1847–1923). “Mr. Montgomery lost an arm, part of his left hand and his left eye by the premature discharge of a cannon, while firing minute guns at the funeral obsequies to President Lincoln, April 25, 1865” (John W. Jordan, Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, 3 vols. [1911]: 2: 1143).

[10] Elizabeth Binney (1820–1910) married Richard Roger Montgomery in 1844.

[11] Horace Binney (1780–1875), briefly a congressman and a leading American lawyer for half a century.

[12] Elizabeth Shallcross Hollingsworth (1823–1881) married Charles Augustus Lyman in 1843.

[13] The diarist’s eldest son Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904).

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward