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Lincoln's Assassination Dream

Dreamed late March or early April 1865, by Abraham Lincoln

I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be death-like stillness about me.

Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered.

There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully.

"Who is dead in the White House?" I demanded of one of the soldiers. "The President" was his answer; "he was killed by an assassin!" Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream.

TWO WEEKS LATER

On April 14, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln. His casket was placed on a platform in the East Room of the White House, where it was guarded by soldiers--as in his dream.

NOTES

Lincoln had a lifelong interest in dreams, and took such prophetic dreams seriously. One of his favorite poems was Byron's The Dream, which suggests dreamworlds are phenomenologically indistinguishable from the waking world--no more and no less real.

This account is from Ward Hill Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1885, published 1911.



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