NARA Presents Unique Perspective on the Lincoln Assassination
Press Release · Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Press Release
March 24, 2009

National Archives Presents Unique Perspective on the Lincoln Assassination April 17

Harold Holzer and Edward Steers, Jr. to discuss the Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft

Washington, DC…On Friday, April 17, at 7 PM, the National Archives continues its celebration of the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth with a book talk on “The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators: their confinement and execution, as recorded in the Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft.” Moderated by Michael Beschloss, editors Harold Holzer and Edward Steers, Jr., will discuss this Letterbook, a National Archives record, for the first time and provide a “behind the scenes” glimpse of the assassination’s aftermath. This event will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, located on the National Mall at Constitution Ave. and 7th Streets, NW. A book signing will follow the program. This program is presented in partnership with the National Archives Regional Archives in Philadelphia and the Foundation for the National Archives.

Edward Steers, Jr., is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on the life and death of Abraham Lincoln, including The Escape and Capture of John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President. He lives in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

Harold Holzer is the author or coauthor of 31 books and 400 articles on the political culture of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era. In 2005, he received a Lincoln Prize for his book Lincoln at Cooper Union and performed "Lincoln Seen and Heard" with actor Sam Waterston, broadcast live on television from the White House. He lives in New York, where he is senior vice president for external affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Michael Beschloss is an award-winning Presidential historian and the author of numerous books, including Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989, and The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945.


On May 1, 1865, two weeks after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson appointed General John Frederick Hartranft as Special Provost Marshall to command the Washington Arsenal military prison, which held eight civilians accused of complicity in the assassination and would also be the site for their trial. Hartranft was responsible for the most notorious prisoners in American history and kept a meticulous official detailed account of his duties. This fascinating National Archives record provides a remarkable glimpse behind the scenes of the assassination’s aftermath and of the nation's history using military tribunals for civilians.

The publication of the Hartranft letterbook is a commissioned work by the Philadelphia regional archives. The project is a collaboration with the Pennsylvania State Archives and the Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League of Philadelphia. It is also a product for the Pennsylvania Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial commemoration. The handwritten letterbook, passed down through the Hartranft family, is held in the Pennsylvania State Archives, under an Affiliated Archives agreement with National Archives Mid Atlantic region, located in Philadelphia (NARA Record Group 393; ARC 586119). The book is published by Louisiana State University Press in its Civil War series.

NARA’s Regional Archives system holds a wealth of records that provide insight into the American Civil War. Record series detailing military recruitment and service; armaments and logistics; enslavement and emancipation of African Americans are among the most heavily used records. Filed among routine correspondence and transactional accounts are hidden treasures that can illuminate other lives or events. Among recent discoveries in the Philadelphia regional archives are additional records on the Lincoln assassination. These and the Hartranft letterbook will be featured in national teaching resources for the remainder of the Lincoln Bicentennial year, and for the upcoming 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

The Mid Atlantic Regional Administrator, V. Chapman-Smith, was appointed by Governor Edward Rendell to the Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commission to support the state’s commemoration of Lincoln and his legacy.

Related Exhibitions

Public Vaults permanent exhibition
The Public Vaults exhibition of the National Archives Experience features a Lincoln telegram, an image of Lincoln and his general after Antietam, a facsimile of all five pages of the Emancipation Proclamation, a letter congratulating Lincoln on his re-election, an interactive exhibit about the Lincoln assassination and the Booth conspiracy, and the original 1850 census volume that lists Abraham Lincoln as an attorney in Springfield, Illinois.

BIG! Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives
Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery, through January 3, 2010
The National Archives celebrates its 75th year in 2009 with a new exhibition featuring big records, big events, and big ideas. The exhibition features a number of Lincoln-related items, including an enormous map of the Gettysburg battlefield, and a rare photograph of President Lincoln at the dedication of the Civil War cemetery at Gettysburg. Also on display is a huge (175 page) telegraph from James W. Nye, governor of the Territory of Nevada, to President Lincoln, and a very large original design proposal for the Lincoln Memorial.

To verify the date and times of the programs, the public should call the Public Programs Line at: (202) 357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events online. The National Archives is fully accessible. To request an accommodation (e.g., sign language interpreter) for a public program please e-mail or call 202-357-5000 two weeks prior to the event. To contact the National Archives, please call 1-866-272-6272 or 1-86-NARA-NARA (TDD) 301-837-0482.

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For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-357-5300.


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