Jefferson Davis and the Assassination

The prosecution presented a number of witnesses linking Confederate President Jefferson Davis to the plot to abduct or assassinate Abraham Lincoln.  Some of the witnesses described a cipher from Davis that reached Confederate agents in Montreal on April 6, 1865.  Lewis Bates, the witness whose testimony is excerpted below, describes Davis's reaction upon learning of Lincoln's assassination.

For the Prosecution.-May 30.

I reside in Charlotte, N. C., where I have resided a little over four years. I am Superintendent of the Southern Express Company for the State of North Carolina. I am a native of Massachusetts. On the 19th of April, Jefferson Davis stopped at my house in Charlotte, when he made an address to the people from the steps of my house. While speaking, a telegram from John C. Breckinridge was handed him.

[The following telegram was here read to the Commission:]

Greensboro, April 19, 1865.

His Excellency President Davis : 
President Lincoln was assassinated in the theater in Washington on the night of the 11th instant. Seward's house was entered on the same night, and he was repeatedly stabbed, and is probably mortally wounded.

In concluding his speech, Jefferson Davis read that dispatch aloud, and made this remark, "If it were to be done, it were better it were well done." I am quite sure these are the words he used.

A day or two afterward, Jefferson Davis and John C. Breckinridge were present at my house, when the assassination of the President was the subject of conversation. In speaking of it, John C. Breckinridge remarked to Davis, that he regretted it very much; that it was very unfortunate for the people of the South at that time. Davis replied, " Well, General, I don't know, if it were to be done at all, it were better that it were well done; and if the same had been done to Andy Johnson, the beast, and to Secretary Stanton, the job would then be complete. No remark was made at all as to the criminality of the act, and from the expression used by John C. Breckinridge, I drew the conclusion that he simply regarded it as unfortunate for the people of the South at that time.

For the Prosecution-May 30.

I reside in Charlotte, N. C., and am engaged in the telegraphing business, in connection with the Southern Express Company.  The telegram to which Mr. Bates has just testified is a true copy of the message that was transmitted to Jefferson Davis on the 19th of April last, and signed John C. Breckinridge. I was standing by the Operator when the message was received. Jefferson Davis received the message at Mr. Bates's house in Charlotte, to which place he had come from Greensburg or Concord, where he had stopped the night before.

For the Prosecution.-June 9.

I reside in Springfield, Mass. I have known Lewis F. Bates for about twenty-five years. For the last five years I have not known any thing of his whereabouts, until I learned from him that he had been living in Charlotte, N. C. He was in business as baggage-master on the Western Railroad, Massachusetts, while I was conductor, and I never heard any thing against his reputation for truth.

For the Prosecution.-June 9.

I am the agent of Adams's Express Company in New York Eastern Division. I nave known Lewis F. Bates since 1848, and have never heard anything against his reputation as a man of truth and integrity.

For the Prosecution.-June 9.
I left the South a year ago last April I have known Mr. L. F. Bates for two or three years quite intimately; he occupied a position of great trust and responsibility, and is a man of truth and integrity. He bore the best reputation possible. His character is without reproach, as far as I know.

For the Prosecution.-June 9.

I reside in the city of New York at present; for the past few years I have lived in Columbia, S. C. I knew Mr. L. F. Bates; he bore the reputation of a truthful and reliable man, in every respect, to the best of my knowledge. We have been intimately connected in business for the last three or four years. The position he occupied was one of high responsibility and trust.

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