Confederate Dead at Dunker Church, Sharpsburg, Maryland

Bodies of Confederate soldiers in front of the Dunker Church in the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, photographed in September 1862 by Alexander Gardner. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection.

The scene in 2021:

The first photo is one of the most iconic images from the Civil War, showing the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam. It was taken by renowned war photographer Alexander Gardner, who captured a small glimpse of the deadliest single-day battle in American history. In the foreground are dead Confederate soldiers lined up in front of an artillery limber, with a dead horse beneath the cart. An assortment of debris is scattered around the field, including a pair of shoes in the lower right side of the scene. Further in the distance is the Dunker Church, with whitewashed walls that bear the scars that the battle had inflicted two days earlier.

The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862, between Union forces led by General George B. McClellan and Confederates led by General Robert E. Lee. It was part of Lee’s first major offensive campaign into northern territory, which was undertaken with the hopes of undermining northern morale and support for the war. After a series of smaller battles in the area, Lee took a defensive position here at Sharpsburg, Maryland. The left flank of his army was located here in this scene, in the area around the Dunker Church, and it was here that Union forces launched their attack early in the morning of the battle.

The Dunker Church had been built in 1852 as the meeting house of the German Baptist Brethren. One of the core teachings of this Christian denomination was pacifism, but ironically their church would become the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the battle. Because of its visibility on the battlefield, Union forces used the church as a landmark to focus their attacks. Throughout the morning, the ground near the church frequently changed hands, with both sides sustaining heavy casualties without making significant progress. Over the course of the battle, the fighting eventually shifted further to the south, but not before leaving the area around the church “literally carpeted with dead and dying men,” as Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would later describe it.

By the end of the day, over 2,000 Union soldiers were dead and nearly 10,000 wounded, along with 1,500 Confederates dead and over 7,7000 wounded, making it the bloodiest day in the history of the American military. From a tactical perspective it was essentially a draw, but it was a strategic victory for the Union, since it forced Lee to abandon his invasion plans and return south to Virginia. However, the victorious McClellan faced heavy criticism. Despite having significantly more soldiers than Lee, McClellan failed to exploit this advantage during the battle, nor did he pursue Lee’s vulnerable army during their retreat to Virginia. This was characteristic of McClellan’s overly cautious methods, and it ultimately led to his dismissal by Abraham Lincoln on November 5.

In the meantime, the aftermath of the battle was extensively documented by photographers such as Alexander Gardner. The Civil War was the first major American conflict to be photographed, enabling the general public to see, for the first time, the harsh realities of war. Gardner arrived at Antietam two days later on September 19, and he spent the next few days photographing the battlefield, including scenes of dead soldiers scattered along roads and in fields. He took several different photographs of this scene in front of the Dunker Church, and it became one of his most memorable photographs of the war, perhaps because of the stark contrast between the white church in the background and the carnage in the foreground.

Following the battle, the church was repaired, as shown in the photograph in the previous post, which was taken by Alexander Gardner’s younger brother James at the end of the war. It remained in use as a church until 1899, but it subsequently fell into disrepair, in part because of souvenir hunters who damaged the vacant building by removing bricks from the walls. It ultimately collapsed in a windstorm in 1921, and the site eventually became a gas station, lunch counter, and souvenir shop.

In 1951, the Washington County Historical Society purchased the property, and then gave it to the National Park Service. It became part of the Antietam National Battlefield, and a replica church was reconstructed here on the original foundation in 1962, as part of the centennial of the battle. It still stands today, as shown in the 2021 photo, and it remains one of the most distinctive landmarks on the battlefield. Where the dead Confederate soldiers once rested is now a row of cannons, representing the Confederate artillery position here at this location. In the distant center, in front of the church, is a monument to the 5th, 7th, and 66th Ohio Infantry Regiments, which was dedicated here in 1903. Overall, the Antietam battlefield is one of the best-preserved of all the Civil War battlefields, and this scene is easily recognizable from the first photo, some 160 years later.

Dunker Church, Sharpsburg, Maryland

The Dunker Church near Sharpsburg, Maryland, around 1862-1865. Photo by James Gardner, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection.

The church in 2021:

The first photo was taken by James Gardner, and it was published in 1865 in his brother Alexander’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War. It shows the Dunker Church, which had been a major landmark during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. The original church survived the battle only to be destroyed by a windstorm in 1921, but a replica was later built on the same site, as shown in the present-day scene.

The church was built in 1852 for the German Baptist Brethren, who were also known as the “Dunkers” because of their practice of baptism by immersion. Their beliefs were related to other Anabaptist churches like the Amish and the Mennonites, and one of their core values was pacifism. In light of that, it is particularly ironic that their meeting house here would become a focal point in the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

The Battle of Antietam was the culmination of the first major Confederate offensive campaign into Union territory. Emboldened by recent victories such as the Second Battle of Bull Run, Robert E. Lee hoped to bring the war to the north. In doing so, one of his goals was to weaken the northern morale and their willingness to fight the war. To that end, Lee marched northwest from Virginia into Maryland. Along the way, he fought battles at Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and Crampton’s Gap, before ending up in Sharpsburg, Maryland. There, he took a defensive position just outside of the town, with his left flank positioned here in the vicinity of the Dunker Church.

The battle began early in the morning of September 17, with a Union assault on the left flank led by General Joseph Hooker. Because of its visibility on the battlefield and its location in the midst of the Confederate defenses, the church became the focal point of the Union attack. However, despite having a small numerical advantage, Union soldiers made little progress in their advance, leading to a particularly bloody scene in a corn field about a half mile to the north of the church, where both sides suffered heavy casualties.

Reflecting on the events of the battle, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson described the scene here, writing:

The carnage on both sides was terrific. The hottest fight seemed to center about Dunker Church, where there were no less than four charges and counter-charges. Each army had taken and retaken the ground until it was literally carpeted with dead and dying men.

Over the course of the morning, the battle shifted away from the church. Much of the fighting in the middle stages of the battle centered around the “sunken road” to the southeast of the church, and later in the day the fighting was even further south, in the vicinity of Burnside’s Bridge. Throughout this, neither side made significant progress. The fighting was over by early evening, leaving over 2,000 Union soldiers dead and nearly 10,000 wounded, compared to 1,500 Confederates killed and over 7,700 wounded.

Although both sides suffered similar losses, the Battle of Antietam is generally regarded as an important strategic victory for the Union. In the aftermath of the battle, General Lee abandoned his attempts to invade the north, and instead brought his army back to Virginia. He would eventually attempt one more large-scale invasion of the north less than a year later, but he suffered an even more decisive loss at Gettysburg in July 1863.

In the meantime, the Dunker Church sustained significant damage during the battle, from bullets as well as artillery fire. Photographs taken in the immediate aftermath show a number of holes in the roof and in the brick walls. However, this damage was soon repaired, and the church was back in use by 1864. The first photo was taken about a year later, showing the exterior of the repaired building. The photo was taken by James Gardner, the younger brother of prominent Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner, and it was published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War after the end of the war.

Following the war, the church continued to be one of the most important symbols of the battle, but it also continued to be used as a church until 1899, when the congregation moved to a new building. Now vacant, the old building deteriorated over the next few decades, assisted by souvenir hunters who helped themselves to bricks from the walls. In the end, the humble brick church that had survived one of the deadliest battles of the Civil War was destroyed by a windstorm in 1921.

The site of the church later became a gas station, lunch counter, and souvenir stand, but in 1951 the property was purchased by the Washington County Historical Society and then transferred to the National Park Service. It became part of the Antietam National Battlefield, and in 1962 the church was reconstructed on the original foundation as part of the centennial of the battle.

Today, despite the church being a modern reconstruction with very little original material, this scene still has largely the same appearance as it had in the 1860s. Antietam is one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields, and the reconstructed church remains one of its most distinctive landmarks. The building is open to the public, and its design is based on what the interior of the original church would have looked like in 1862.

Stone House, Manassas, Virginia

The Stone House on the Warrenton Turnpike (present-day US Route 29) just north of Manassas, Virginia, in March 1862. Image taken by George N. Barnard, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection.

The house in 2021:

These two photos show the Stone House, which is located on the Warrenton Turnpike just to the north of Manassas, Virginia. This house is a famous Civil War landmark because of its role in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, and also in the Second Battle of Bull Run a year later. Despite being in the midst of the fighting during both battles, the house survived the war, and it has been preserved in its Civil War-era appearance.

The exact date of construction is uncertain, but the evidence seems to suggest that it was built around 1848. Two years later, the house was sold to Henry P. Matthews, along with 137 acres of land. He and his wife Jane were living here ten years later, with the 1860 census listing Henry as a farmer. His property was valued at $1,600, and he also had a personal estate of $600. His farm included a variety of livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs, and he primarily produced rye, corn, oats, and hay. Henry’s name does not appear in the slave schedules for that year’s census, although Jane was listed as enslaving a 10-year-old boy.

Just a year later, the Matthews family’s quiet farming lifestyle was disrupted by the outbreak of war. The Civil War had begun with the capture of Fort Sumter in April 1861, but the next few months were relatively uneventful, with each side gathering forces and preparing for war. For the Union, one of its major goals was capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond, located just a hundred miles south of Washington, DC. To that end, on July 16, 1861, General Irvin McDowell marched about 35,000 soldiers south from Washington to Manassas, Virginia, where General P. G. T. Beauregard was encamped with a large force of Confederate soldiers.

The ensuing battle occurred on July 21, and it was generally termed the First Battle of Bull Run by northerners, and the First Battle of Manassas by southerners. This was the first major battle of the war, and it gave a preview of things to come. Going into the battle, the Union had been confident of victory. But, by the end of the day it was apparent that this war would be much longer and bloodier than either side had anticipated.

Ahead of the battle, Confederate forces had taken a defensive position on the south side of Bull Run, a small river near Manassas. McDowell’s Union forces attempted to outflank the Confederates by crossing Bull Run to the north of the Stone House. The Confederates countered this move by occupying Buck Hill, the small hill in the distance of this scene behind the house. The Union then occupied Matthews Hill, located a little further to the north beyond Buck Hill. Confederates attacked this Union position, but they were ultimately unsuccessful, and the Union drove them southward off Buck Hill, past the Stone House, and onto Henry Hill, located about a half mile to the south of the Stone House.

Henry Hill was the site of the most intense fighting of the battle, and it was there that Confederate General Thomas Jackson earned the moniker “Stonewall Jackson.” During this stage of the battle, the Stone House was behind the Union lines, so it soon became a makeshift hospital, with its stone walls affording some measure of protection from the ongoing fight. Many wounded Union soldiers made their way here or were brought here, but over the course of the afternoon the Union lines began to crumble, eventually forcing a retreat. Unable to retreat, many of the wounded men were still here when the Confederates regained the Stone House, and they were subsequently taken prisoner.

In the meantime, the Union retreat had become a disorganized rout, as soldiers fled in the direction of Washington. It was a disastrous start to the war for the Union, which was increasingly realizing the enormity of the task at hand. The next day, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to enlist a half million soldiers for the next three years, and on July 25 General McDowell was relieved of his command as a result of the debacle.

The Confederates would occupy the Manassas area until March 1862, when they withdrew south to defend Richmond from the anticipated Peninsular Campaign. The first photo was taken around this time, showing some of the battle damage from the previous summer. Many of the window panes were still broke, while other windows were boarded up, and there appears to have been some damage to the masonry walls, particularly in the area to the right of the front door.

As it turned out, this would not be the last time that the Stone House would see combat. General George McClellan’s attempt to take Richmond from the east had stalled by the summer, so the Union sent General John Pope into northern Virginia. Knowing that McClellan was no longer a serious threat to Richmond, Confederate General Robert E. Lee moved some of his forces north in order to counter Pope’s advance.

The two armies ultimately clashed here in the vicinity of Manassas, just to the north of where the original battle had been fought. As had been the case during the first battle, the Stone House was in the rear of the Union lines for much of the Second Battle of Bull Run, so it again served as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers. The battle was fought over the course of three days, from August 28 to 30, 1862. But, just like a year earlier, the battle ended in defeat for the Union army, which was again plagued by poor leadership.

In another repeat of the previous year, the wounded soldiers here at the Stone House were captured by the Confederates, although they were paroled rather than being held as prisoners. Part of the reason for this was because, in the wake of his victory, Lee had greater ambitions. Following his success here, he north into Union territory, and just over two weeks later he fought Union forces in Maryland at the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862. In that battle, however, Lee’s advance was halted. He was forced to return south into Virginia, and Lincoln used the victory as an opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

There was no further combat here at the Stone House for the remainder of the war, and at some point the battle damage was repaired. However, Henry and Jane Matthews did not remain here for much longer, as they sold the house in 1865, shortly after the end of the war. The house would change ownership a few more times during the late 19th century. Mary Starbuck owned it from 1865 to 1879, followed by George Starbuck until 1881 and then Benson Pridmore until 1902. The next owner was Henry J. Ayers, and the house was owned by his family for nearly 50 years before it was acquired by the National Park Service in 1949.

With this change in ownership, the house and 80 acres of land became part of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, which had been established in 1936. During the 1950s, the house was used as a residence for park employees, but in the early 1960s it was restored to its Civil War appearance. It has remained this way ever since, standing as an important landmark from the two major battles that had been fought here.

Ford’s Theatre, Washington, DC (2)

The exterior of Ford’s Theatre on 10th Street NW in Washington, DC, around 1909-1919. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

The scene in 2021:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, Ford’s Theatre is famous for having been the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. The theater had opened in 1863, but after the assassination it was acquired by the federal government and converted into offices. This involved the entire reconstruction of the interior, and much of the interior was rebuilt again in 1893, following a tragic collapse of the interior floors.

The building continued to serve as government offices and storage until the early 1900s, and in 1932 it became the site of a museum in memory of Abraham Lincoln. Then, in 1933 it was acquired by the National Park Service, and in the 1960s the interior was again reconstructed, this time to convert it back into a theater.

The first photo was taken around 1909-1919, showing the exterior during its time as an office building for the War Department’s Division of Records and Pensions. Today, the exterior remains preserved in its original appearance, and the restored theater interior continues to be used for performances. It is open to the public for tours, as part of the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.

Ford’s Theatre, Washington, DC

The exterior of Ford’s Theatre on 10th Street NW in Washington, DC, in April 1865. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection.

The scene in 2021:

These two photos show Ford’s Theatre, which was the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on the night of April 14, 1865. The origins of the theater date back to 1834, when the First Baptist Church was built here on this site, on the east side of 10th Street NW, between E and F Streets. The church congregation remained here until 1859, when it merged with another Baptist church, and in 1861 the building here was sold to John T. Ford. He converted it into a theater, and it opened in 1862 as Ford’s Athenaeum.

However, the original building was destroyed by a fire in December 1862. Ford subsequently rebuilt here on the same site, and the new Ford’s Theatre opened on August 27, 1863, with a performance of The Naiad Queen. The country was in the midst of the Civil War at the time, but for many Washingtonians the theater provided a welcome diversion from the conflict. Among them was Abraham Lincoln, who regularly attended plays here, including a November 9, 1863 performance of The Marble Heart, starring his future assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln visited the new theater on at least eight other occasions. On the night of his assassination, he was watching Our American Cousin, accompanied by his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry Rathbone, and Rathbone’s fiancée Clara Harris. They were seated in the presidential box to the right of the stage when, around 10:15 p.m., John Wilkes Booth entered the box and shot Lincoln in the head with a pistol. After a brief struggle with Rathbone, Booth jumped down to the stage and made his escape out a side door.

There were several doctors in attendance at the theater. They rendered what aid they could, but determined that his wound was fatal. Rather than attempting to bring him all the way back to the White House, they instead brought him across the street to the Petersen House, where he died at 7:22 the following morning. The first photo in this post was taken only a few days after the assassination, showing the exterior of the theater and several surrounding buildings.  Immediately to the right of the theater was the Star Saloon, a three-story brick building where John Wilkes Booth had a drink of whiskey and water immediately before entering the theater to kill Lincoln.

Following the assassination, the government determined that it would be inappropriate to continue using the building as a theater. As a result, they leased—and then later purchased—it from Ford, and converted it into office space. In the process, the interior was completely gutted, and three new stories were built in the space that had once housed the theater. These floors were occupied by the War Department’s Division of Pensions and Records, and also by the Army Medical Museum.

The building would end up being the site of another tragedy on June 9, 1893. It was in the midst of being modernized with the installation of an electric plant, which involved excavation work in the basement. In the process, one of the supporting piers collapsed, causing a portion of the upper floors to likewise collapse. The building was occupied at the time, and 22 workers were killed in the collapse, with many others seriously injured.

The disaster did not affect the exterior walls, and the interior was subsequently repaired. It continued to be used by the Division of Records and Pensions for many years, but in 1932 it became the site of a museum in memory of Lincoln, and a year later the building was acquired by the National Park Service. Then, in the 1960s the interior was reconstructed into a theater, based on its original design.

Today, Ford’s Theatre is still standing, and it is still used as a performing arts venue while also serving as an important Washington landmark. However, because of the many renovations over the years, there is very little left of the original structure aside from the brick exterior walls. As for the adjacent Star Saloon, the present-day building is entirely a reconstruction. The original building was demolished in 1930 to create a parking lot, but it was rebuilt in the 1960s as part of the reconstruction of the theater. Both of these buildings, along with the Petersen House across the street, are still operated by the National Park Service as part of the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.

Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre, Washington, DC

The presidential box at Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was shot on the night of April 14, 1865. This photo was taken several days later. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection.

The scene in 2021:

These two photos show the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., which is famous for having been the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. Lincoln regularly attended performances here at Ford’s Theatre during his presidency, and on this particular night he was sitting in this box, watching the play Our American Cousin. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, along with Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris.

Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was a famous actor and a southern sympathizer. With the Civil War essentially over following the surrender of Lee’s army on April 9, Booth and his fellow conspirators evidently believed that killing Lincoln and other high-profile government officials was the last chance to prevent the defeat of the south.

To that end, Booth entered Ford’s Theatre at around 10:10 p.m. His presence in the theater raised little suspicion, since he was such a prominent actor, and he made his way to the presidential box. Not only was he familiar with the layout of the theater, but he also knew the play itself, and timed his shot so that it happened right after one of the funniest lines in the comedy, when he knew the sound of laughter would cover up the sound of the gunshot.

Booth entered the presidential box, produced a single-shot Deringer pistol, and shot Lincoln in the head at 10:15 p.m. He then had a brief struggle with Major Rathbone, whom he stabbed with a knife, and Booth then jumped down onto the stage, 12 feet below the box. In the process, he caught his riding spur in one of the flags that was draped on the front of the box, which caused him to land awkwardly. He then stood up, shouted “sic semper tyrannis,” and made his escape via a door on the side of the building.

In the meantime, 23-year-old Army surgeon Charles Leale was the first to arrive at the presidential box to render assistance. After evaluating Lincoln’s condition, he discovered the wound in the back of his head, and used his finger to remove a blood clot, which helped to improve his breathing. However, it was soon obvious that his wound was fatal, and that Lincoln would likely not survive a carriage ride back to the White House. Writing soon after the assassination, Dr. Leale described what occurred here in the presidential box in the immediate aftermath of the shooting;

I immediately ran to the Presidents box and as soon as the door was opened was admitted and introduced to Mrs. Lincoln when she exclaimed several times, “O Doctor, do what you can for him, do what you can”! I told her we would do all that we possibly could.

When I entered the box the ladies were very much excited. Mr. Lincoln was seated in a high backed arm-chair with his head leaning towards his right side supported by Mrs. Lincoln who was weeping bitterly. Miss Harris was near her left and behind the President.

While approaching the President I sent a gentleman for brandy and another for water.

When I reached the President he was in a state of general paralysis, his eyes were closed and he was in a profoundly comatose condition, while his breathing was intermittent and exceedingly stertorous. I placed my finger on his right radial pulse but could perceive no movement of the artery. As two gentlemen now arrived, I requested them to assist me to place him in a recumbent position, and as I held his head and shoulders, while doing this my hand came in contact with a clot of blood near his left shoulder.

Supposing that he had been stabbed there I asked a gentleman to cut his coat and shirt off from that part, to enable me if possible to check the hemorrhage which I supposed took place from the subclavian artery or some of its branches.

Before they had proceeded as far as the elbow I commenced to examine his head (as no wound near the shoulder was found) and soon passed my fingers over a large firm clot of blood situated about one inch below the superior curved line of the occipital bone.

The coagula I easily removed and passed the little finger of my left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball, and found that it had entered the encephalon.

As soon as I removed my finger a slight oozing of blood followed and his breathing became more regular and less stertorous. The brandy and water now arrived and a small quantity was placed in his mouth, which passed into his stomach where it was retained.

Dr. C. F. Taft and Dr. A. F. A. King now arrived and after a moments consultation we agreed to have him removed to the nearest house, which we immediately did, the above named with others assisting.

The nearest house proved to be the Petersen House, which was located directly across the street from the theater. The men carried him there, and laid him on a bed on the first floor. Over the course of the night, other physicians arrived to evaluate him, but there was little that they could do beyond removing blood clots. He died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, without ever having regained consciousness following the shooting.

Lincoln’s death turned the Union’s victory at the end of the Civil War into a period of national mourning. Soldiers eventually tracked down Booth, who was killed in a shootout 12 days after the assassination, and the other conspirators were arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged on July 7.

Here at Ford’s Theatre, owner John T. Ford planned to reopen the theater on July 10, with a performance of Octoroon. Proceeds from the ticket sales would have gone toward a national monument fund for Lincoln, but many thought that it would be in poor taste to continue using the building as a theater. So, the War Department took control of the building prior to the performance, and the government began leasing it for $1,500 per month, before purchasing it outright from Ford in 1866.

The first photo was taken sometime in April 1865, only days after the assassination. It shows the presidential box as it had appeared on that night, including the five flags and the framed lithograph of George Washington that had decorated the box. Several of the chairs and the sofa are also visible inside the box. At the time of the assassination, Clara Harris had been sitting in one of the chairs on the left side, with Major Rathbone in the sofa. Mary Todd Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln had been sitting further to the right, and the chair on the right side of the box appears to have been the president’s rocking chair.

This photograph, along with a similar one taken at the same time, proved to be a valuable resource for historians. Soon after leasing the building, the government began the process of converting the interior of the theater into office space. This involved essentially gutting the building, and the presidential box was dismantled sometime in August 1865, about four months after the assassination. The project was completed in November, by which point the former theater had been transformed into a three-story government office building.

Over the next few decades, the building would house the Army Medical Museum, along with the War Department’s Division of Records and Pensions. However, as it turned out, the Lincoln assassination would not be the deadliest tragedy to occur in this building. By the 1890s, the building was showing signs of serious structural problems. These were exacerbated by excavation work in the basement, which weakened a load-bearing brick pier. This pier collapsed on June 9, 1893, causing a large section of the interior structure to collapse as well. Many government workers were trapped in the debris, and a total of 22 were killed in the disaster.

The interior of the building was subsequently repaired, and it continued to be used by the Division of Records and Pensions into the 20th century. By this point, though, there were increased calls to preserve the building as a museum and memorial in honor of Lincoln, rather than just using it for storing government records. Among those who advocated for such a plan was Congressman Henry Riggs Rathbone, the son of Major Rathbone and Clara Harris. He died in 1928, before any action had been taken, but in 1932 a Lincoln museum opened on the first floor of the former theater, featuring the extensive collection of Osborn H. Oldroyd, which had previously been housed across the street at the Petersen House. Then, a year later, the building came under the control of the National Park Service.

The building’s interior remained in its altered form until the mid-1960s, when it underwent a massive restoration. As was the case a century earlier, the interior of the building was gutted, leaving little more than the exterior walls still standing. The theater was then reconstructed inside the building, including the presidential box, which was furnished and decorated as it would have appeared on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. It reopened on January 30, 1968, with a nationally-televised event that included dignitaries such as Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Today, Ford’s Theatre continues to be used as a performing arts venue, and it is also open to the public for tours. With the exception of modern wiring, this view of the presidential box looks essentially the same as it did in the first photo, although in reality there is probably nothing in the present-day scene that predates the 1960s restoration. However, some of the artifacts from the first photo do still exist. Three of the five flags are accounted for, with one in the museum here at Ford’s Theatre, one at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, and one at the Pike County Historical Society in Milford, Pennsylvania. The door to the presidential box, the sofa, and the lithograph of Washington are also in the Ford’s Theatre collections, although the latter two are not on public display.

As for Lincoln’s rocking chair, it was taken by the government as evidence after the assassination, and it remained in storage for many years. But, in 1929 it was returned to the Blanche Ford, widow of the chair’s original owner, theater treasurer Henry C. Ford. She then sold it at auction, and the buyer in turn sold it to a different Henry Ford, of automobile fame, who was not related to the original owner. The chair is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it is one of the highlights of the museum’s collections.