The only living witness re-creates the drama of that tragic night

As told to Frances Spatz Leighton in 1954

This is an eyewitness account of one of history’s great tragedies – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln – told by the only living witness to the fateful drama enacted at Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14, 1865 – The Editors

by Samuel J. Seymour, The American Weekly, Feb. 7, 1954

Even if I were to live another 94 years, I’d still never forget my first trip away from home as a little shaver five years old.

My father was overseer on the Goldsboro estate in Talbot County, Maryland and it seems that he and Mr. Goldsboro had to go to Washington on business – something to do with the legal status of their 150 slaves. Mrs. Goldsboro asked if she couldn’t take me and my nurse, Sarah Cook, along with her and the men, for a little holiday.

We made the 150-mile trip by coach and team and I remember how stubborn those horses were about being loaded onto an old-fashioned side-wheeler steamboat for part of the journey.

Samuel J. Seymour was only five years old when President Lincoln was assassinated.

It was going on toward supper time – on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 – when we finally pulled up in front of the biggest house I ever seen. It looked to me like a thousand farmhouse all pushed together, but my father said it was a hotel.

I was scared. I had seen men with guns, all along the street, and every gun seemed to be aimed right at me. I was too little to realize that all Washington was getting ready to celebrate because Lee had surrendered a few days earlier.

I complained tearfully that I couldn’t get out of the coach because my shirt was torn – anything to delay the dread moment – but Sarah dug into her bag and found a big safety pin.

“You hold still now, Sammy” she said, “And I’ll fix the tear right away.” I shook so hard, from fright, that she accidentally stabbed me with the pin and I hollered, “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!”

When I finally had been rushed upstairs, shushed and scrubbed and put into fresh clothes, Mrs. Goldsboro said she had a wonderful surprise.

“Sammy, you and Sarah and I are going to a play tonight,” she explained. “A real play – and President Abraham Lincoln will be there.”

I thought a play would be a game like tag and I liked the idea. We waited a while outside the Ford Theater for tickets, then walked upstairs and sat in hard rattan-backed chairs.

Mrs. Goldsboro pointed directly across the theater to a colorfully draped box. “See those flags, Sammy?” she asked. “That’s where President Lincoln will sit.”. When he finally did come in, she lifted me up high so I could see. He was a tall, stern-looking man. I guess I just thought he looked stern because of his whiskers because he was smiling and waving to the crowd.

When everyone sat down again and the actors started moving and talking, I began to get over the scared feeling I’d had ever since we arrived in Washington. But that was something I never should have done.

All of a sudden a shot rang out – a shot that always will be remembered – and someone in the President’s box screamed. I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat. People started milling around and I thought there’d been another accident when one man seemed to tumble over the balcony rail and land on the stage.

“Hurry, hurry, let’s go help the poor man who fell down,” I begged

But by that time, John Wiles Booth, the assassin, had picked himself up and was running for dear life. he wasn’t caught until 12 days later when he was tracked to a barn where he was hiding.

Only a few people noticed the running man, but pandemonium broke loose in the theater, with everyone shouting:

“Lincolns’s shot! The Presidents’s dead!”

Mrs. Goldsboro swept me into her arms and held me close and somehow we go outside the theater. That night I was shot 50 times, a least, in my dreams – and I sometimes still relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.


Mr. Samuel J. Seymour, the last living eyewitness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. was the mystery guest on the February 8, 1956 episode of the I’ve Got a Secret game show.   He passed just 2 months later.

Mr. Seymour (March 28, 1860 – April 12, 1956) was actually 95 years of age at the time of this appearance instead of 96.

Host: Garry Moore Panelists from left to right: Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, Lucile Ball

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  1. Did the witness noticed how Abe Lincoln’s security was deliberately withdrawn to get him executed in a simple shot?
    The same with JFK. The security details, police and military/national guard was suppressed to get him in that vehicle going through an hostile town at the time, taking the famous U-turn so that the car would slow and the military ambush style with turkey shoot is no miss.
    Forget the lone gun assassins J W Booth or L H Oswald. Oswald stated it: I am the Patsy! Even Booth, if he carried out the coup de grace, the security withdraw on Lincoln means one thing: Someones high up conspired to get him out.

  2. This would only be the second in a long history of presidential assassinations with the first attempt at Pres. Andrew Jackson for essentially the same reason: Jackson broke up the trust bankers. Fortunately the attempt failed.
    Since then other presidents have been murdered by those seeking to create a privately owned Rothschild controlled bank.
    Lincoln, however was not the great president that we all have been taught with a cartoon versions of history. He literally acted like a tyrant, especially during the war between the states.

  3. Lincoln was assassinated because he was printing greenbacks outside the usury of the private central bank, just as was Kennedy in Dallas 98 years later, printing notes outside the usary of the private Federal Reserve.

    • Of course, the Federal Reserve did not exist at that time but there were enough men inside the bankers community who were actively seeking it.

    • regarding JFK and the red Treasury notes, the late Michael Collins Piper debunks this in an article and interview. JFK was at this stage not yet ready to take the FRB. The bankers community of the times are all the residue of Hamilton, Cahoun and their loyalty was not the United States of America but mainly British?French Rothschilds. I wish the great Napoleon Bonaparte was able to win at Waterloo. If that had happened, the Rothschild scam would have been destroyed for good while it was starting to be born and growing its tentacles.

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