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The best understanding of America begins or so it seems to us with the realisation that this nation is young yet that she is still new and unfinished and even now all America is man's greatest adventure. Time and space. The University of North Carolina represents American Adventure a study of man in the New World. His values and his characteristics is what he believes what he lives by American Adventure is produced on a grant and aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational television and radio sector written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton. Today's program presents appointment at Ford's. I knew Mr. Lincoln well. My name is Hill Lehmann.
I remember many days before he died. Days in spring. And in Washington. I remember his words and their inflections and his quiet face. I remember his dad. I would not tell you about his death except that there was beauty to it an attitude of destiny or so it seems to me. At any rate I believe there was more to his death than some say. Well I must admit it is also a mystery. I remember the night of April 13. That was twenty four hours before Lincoln was assassinated. He his wife and I were sitting in his office. Mary I don't know whether I want to go to the theater tomorrow night or not. Why all the people crowding around now the General Lee has surrendered they seem to have fancy me to be a hero. Well you suggested that we invite General and Mrs Grant to attend the theatre with us.
You picked the wrong theater to marry that's a poor play it forwards. Now wait Grover's I know but this is Larkins last performance in Washington and I want to see here. Wish the president could be relieved of his appointment as Lincoln. The danger is great at this time. Here you hang on to every threat of some maniac who plans to do me harm as if the threat comes from a rational giant No not at all. But if Mrs Lincoln is bound to go see a play tomorrow night I suppose nothing on earth could change your mind. Least of all me. What time is it to you. Ten o'clock. Two more hours it will be good Friday. Good Friday the day Jesus was crucified. It looks as if the Church would call it bad Friday. Yes it was a terrible thing. All that pain had driven spanks. I used to drive spanks you
know you did. I can imagine what it would be like to have a Roman soldier drive spikes through my hands and feet. I don't like that subject. But it was a good Friday when Jesus died none the less. After the pain was over it was better that way. And then there's Socrates. His death did as much to illustrate his strength as did his teachings and both could have avoided there. Mr. Lincoln Will you please stop talking about death in dreams. Those two subjects you've discussed for the last two days. Well both are rather important subjects Mary dreams are important subjects. Now don't start crying down dreams. Do you believe in them Mr. President. I can't say that I do but I had one the other night that has haunted me ever since. Nonsense. After it occurred the first time I opened the Bible it was at
the twenty eighth chapter of Genesis. You know what that chapter is here you know I certainly do not relate to the wonderful dream Jacob had. I turn to other passages and seemed to encounter in a dream or a vision wherever I look. Well now that is strange. I have the thing is God position of me and like Banquo's ghost down that he was in Macbeth Mary. He was assassinated. You know why don't you ask one of the servants to bring Mr. Lincoln some tea. Yes I will and I don't I don't want any tea Mary. Well you look so so tired. If this play has distressed you let's not go. What play. Oh yes I know it isn't the play of course will go. Well what is it. Dream I tell you I cannot shake it off.
Perhaps it would help you to tell us about today. No it's my dream he'll and I will not part with it if you're trying not to worry as you've already done so. Mr. Lincoln I cannot sleep unless I know that well in bed ten days ago 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. I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a deathlike 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. Then the silence was broken by the pitiful sobbing but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room no living person was inside but the same morning for sounds of distress met me as I passed along.
It was night in all the rooms every object was familiar to me. But where would all the people who were grieving is if their hearts would break. I was puzzled and alarmed and. 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 ended. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque on which raised a dict corpse wrapped in funeral vestments around it were station 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. Dad in the White House the president he was with you why and I suspect.
No more that night. I wish you had told me. I'm glad I don't believe in dreams. I should be in terror. But it is only a dream a day that say no more about it and try to forget it. That night one day before Lincoln was shot down. I walked to the great empty rooms of the White House I'm able to leave the building looking for some meaning to what I feared might be a coming tragedy and some way to a point and at last I went up the stairs and down the hall to Lincoln's door to ask the guard if all was well. But to my amazement there was no guard there. 10 minutes later the guard appeared a man named Parker. He was munching on a
sandwich. Where have you been all right. Hello Mr Layman I thought you went home. Where have you been. I didn't have any dentist. I was hungry you understand no I don't not at all. Not remotely. Yes you had flown last Parker I have finally gotten the president to submit to some protection but it is a chain we hold around him and anyone link that break. Understand. Believe me I'm sorry. Parker I should dismiss you on the spot. Look I've never done anything like this before I swear to you. All right my man never again desert the man I sleep in and those never fate has a way of working her will through our failures. This nation needs a man in there. Yes I know said I swear. I believe you. Good night partner Good night.
Good night. Next time take care how you talk to me. Have another biscuit Bob Noyce said. It was good of you to get up to breakfast with me I hate deed alone. Oh I'm used to getting up early. One does in the army. How did you like the army. I didn't care for it. No it isn't a good way of life. Were you afraid. Yes. Good good. Cause death is an enemy. Use it. Terrible invisible hand. And when he and Nancy is that he is close by and the sensible man
must gather himself to face him. I think with some fear. Did you have a first man shot at me once since you've been president. Yes but don't tell him laymen I don't Harold Hill those things he gets nervous. Yes but one night when I was riding alone a man put a bullet through my head and then some people got excited about my trip to Richmond now it's true I had no business going to Richmond while the war was on but I wanted to look around for myself. Have there have there been any other attempts to assassinate your father. There have been threats. Many of them I have received. Eighty eight others have been called to my attention some of been published in newspapers. Then you have faced death as in a war every time you leave this building or even in this building every minute you're in a battle. In a sense in a sense that's true but you've exaggerated father you need protect
Now the kebab I can't go around being afraid to stick my head out the door. The president owes it to the people to be seen. This is a democracy. The danger I must learn to live with it. Can you imagine a coward as president of the United States. I don't want you to be a coward sir but we have come for a man who faced danger every day and they grew strong on it. Have you ever considered how it would be to stand on the edge of an own continent with an ocean at your back. They were brave men and father. Isn't there a difference between being brave and food hearty. Oh yes. Which were the early pioneers. I don't DOS or I suppose they were food hearty and brave. Well anyway Bob I have sent men into battle and a man who sends other men to face death cannot back off from death himself
and live with himself. Later in the day Mr. Lincoln walked to the War Department offices accompanied by a guard as was his custom. There he talked to Secretary Stanton. Also there was a major Eckert who later told me what was said. Stanton do you know that accurate here can break a poker ovaries. No. Why do you ask such a question. Well Stanton I have seen a good break five pokers ovaries on one after the other and I am thinking he would be the kind of man to go with me this evening to the theater. May I take you. Mr. President I have asked you repeatedly to avoid showing yourself in public. I have asked and I ask now for you to put aside this is going to the theatre and stay in your offices. There are men in this city who are here to kill you. Yes I know. Now look at this paper.
President and Mrs. Lincoln will be accompanied by Lieutenant General and Mrs. Graham to the Ford Theatre this evening for the showing of our American cousin and I know I know Stanton except for that newspaper article I wouldn't go but we shouldn't disappoint the public. It is this newspaper article that makes it impossible for you to go Mr. President. You haven't no but time and place for anybody who wants to do you harm. Now Stanton That's all very well and that's why I want good to go with me. A man that can break a poker row resolved Mr. President. No. I have very important work for Eckerd to do this evening where I would put it directly to major record again. So I made you come along with me. You can do Stanton's work tomorrow and Mrs Lincoln and I want you with us. Thank you Mr. President. But the work that Secretary Stanton referred to is pressing and shouldn't be put off.
As you take Major Rathbone along to have somebody to protect me or here a layman will try to resign again. But I would rather have you made your records since I know you can break a poker over your own. Mr. President I was just talking to that woman about her husband's service pay it. It hasn't come through when she's in need of money to feed her children. So I told her she would have the money tomorrow. What can I do for you. Come to talk to you way about this theater performance this evening. Oh I know that he'll The minute you came in with that scowl on your face. I knew I was guilty of poking my head out of doors. I suppose I'm going to be assassinated again. The danger is great Mr. President. You
remind me of the story. Don't change the subject. There was a fisherman back in Illinois who was known to be a terrible braggart and the people called on to him. So we purchased a set of scales in order to prove his stories about the weight of his fish. And this worked very well until the people next door to him had a baby. So they borrowed this scale to weigh it. And they found that the newborn baby weighed forty eight pounds. AB I have the darndest way of throwing a man completely off his balance with one of those food stories so it is with you here you exaggerate. But I know what you're using. I'm not exaggerating the danger is great. And then you go for a walk or go to the theater unattended. I have never been to the theatre unattained know the last time I believe you were accompanied by Charles Sumner and a foreign minister neither of whom could defend himself against unable bodied woman. What was worrying you now the dream that among several things we don't worry about that dream I wouldn't Mr. President if I thought you were concerned about the
danger. Do you think I'm not I don't know what to think. I believe you realize that you may be struck down at any time but you're going to go right on with your head poked up above the trenches. It's this dream you had as the first healthy sign of worry I've seen in you. By the way he was speaking of dreams. Do you remember that point Byron wrote about them. What. Yes I used to know it by heart let me see if I can remember it for you. Oh Abe for the Lord's sake listen listen. Sleep has its own world a boundary between the things misnamed death and existence. Sleep hath its own in a wide realm of reality and dreams in their development have breath and tortures and the touch of joy. They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts. They
take a weight from all our waking toys. They do divide our bee. I think Byron call that poem the dream. Oh right here I ask one favor and then I leave you ask anything you want here but I'm going to the theatre tonight. Isn't that all right what is it. I want to have somebody else take your message to Richmond. I want to go to the theatre with you. No I need you to go to Richmond Mr. President I have two good pistols on me right now and a bowie knife. I've carried them ever since I first knew of the danger to your life I can use them. You may need me now if you will just send somebody else No I think I'll get one of the guards to go with me to night. All right then go alone. You're the only man in the country strong enough to steer a level course the only man who can keep Sumner and Wade and Ted Stevens from grinding the South into a section of
white and negro slaves. But go on. If you die the whole course of history will change millions of people will live poorer lives but go. Send me to Richmond. Then make a pretense of protection prove whatever it is you're trying to prove. Pull out of the theatre cold here to run for Congress you are a persuasive man and I can see to many things adding up a battle then dreams dotted all this I should have kept it to myself kept too many things to yourself I expect. However I think you should go to Richmond. All right. Would it help you to know that I had another dream last night a good dream. The Mirror. No no that wasn't a dream that was real. I remember and I was back in Springfield. I looked in a mirror and I saw two images of myself one death like pavement. But this dream last night was more pleasant. What was it I was on a vessel. I couldn't clearly see. Moving to an invisible shore and
indescribable vessel moving toward an invisible shore. I take it as a sign that good times are on the way I had the same dream before on Gettysburg St. river Vicksburg Wilmington all those other victories. It's a strange green so I feel better about it on a day and you must to hear good news is on the way I was going to the theater with you. General great to see you General and Mrs. Grant on go in but no I think Mrs. Grant is still angry with Mary. At any rate the ongoing so I have asked Major Rathbone and his fiance to accompany us. I'm very worried about all this. Well don't get me worried or out put in a poor appearance. The good news is on the way here that's the only attitude. Or croak. Yes most laymen who was on duty tonight. Parker serves same as last night.
He's to go to the theater. Yes or is the president Alright Mr Layman. Why do you ask. Well he seemed to be feeling well enough when I walked over to the War Department with him this morning he said he was happy as he'd ever been in his life that he planned to go abroad when he finished being president and then go back to Springfield and enter law maybe buy a farm in the Saigon River. Yes I seem to have not a care in the world but when he passed some drunks on the street he said. There are men in this town who intend to kill me and I don't doubt that but they'll do it. He said that I said I hope you're mistaking sir Mr. Coke I want you to go with the president tonight. I don't want Parker to go with him. I can't go. Why not. Look if you have plans you must set them aside. But I can't go I asked Mr. Lincoln if I could and he said he wouldn't have his guards working day and night too. Then he said good bye good bye now. Always before you said good afternoon good morning Brooke. But to day he said good
by. Why I don't know Mr. Lehmann but it struck me as strange. Yes. No sense to be made of it. So Park will have to go with him tonight. I'm not happy about that. I checked into Parker today. There's reason to believe he applied as a White House Guard in order to avoid army service such men cannot be trusted. No sir but I talked to him. I talked to him last night in no uncertain terms. I am sure he will stand his post this evening at least. You best be going to Richmond sir it's growing late. I know it is and I've done all I can do. If only Mr Lincoln were a bit less insistent on proving to himself that he can face death as readily as a soldier in his army. Yes well I leave now Croque. There's nothing more I can do. I was not in Washington on the night Lincoln went to the play. But there are many who have told
us what happened and I will tell you. How Lincoln rode in a carriage from the White House to the theater and pushed his way through the crowd not knowing but that at any moment a gun might fire and silence everything there was applause when he and his wife and Major Rathbone and his fiance took their seats in the box that overlooked the station. Take your place here a little. Bit. O regulation left. And if anybody opens that door at the end of the corridor or enters the corridor you're to challenge him you understand. But nobody's coming in here. Nobody is to come into this corridor. Not to come near this door out of the president's box. Are you armed. Yes. All right. Close the door to the president's bomb. But Major I can't see you can't see what was the play Parker. You're not here to watch the play but to guard the president. There had been a hole drilled through the door of the president's box. But Parker didn't
see the doors to the corridor in the president's box wouldn't lock but Parker didn't notice. There were other signs of an evil intent but Parker was trying to listen to the play and when he found that he could not do that from his place in the corridor he left his post. He walked down the corridor and away from the president and went through the corridor door. And walked down into the audience in the balcony and found himself. And then at intermission he went out and had a. I cannot tell you how it feels to tell this about a man who had a duty a strong duty. This American this guard who had as his responsibility the protection of the man in this country whose every word and action could change a chapter in this nation's history.
He went out and had a drink. Then booth. Came up the steps to the balcony. For an actor with a great clear voice booth a man who had played the towering characters in Shakespeare's plays this little man came up the stairs opened the corridor door. Close to it. And then without a sound he walked down the corridor to the door of the president of the United States and knelt down and peered in at Lincoln and watched him and wait wait until at last he threw open the door and stood beside the president and fired the shot. One of the most fatal shots in the history of the war.
Why I said there was a beauty to Lincoln's death. And so there is at least to me. Oh I know full well that someone looked on it as a sequence of imprudent actions nothing more. Perhaps it is more than that to me because I know that Lincoln had a sense of the mystic. And the dream to Lincoln was a warning as was his double vision in Springfield when he looked into the mirror. So he interpreted them to be. Only with that understanding. Can one appreciate his strength bravery and his willingness plays a part in the vast romantic tragedy of mankind. Looking back. I remember the words he quoted to me on more than one occasion.
Prophetic words. From Shakespeare's Macbeth. Duncan you see any easy way. After Life fitted with a fever he sleeps with. Trees and has done his worst. Or Steve. Poizner has managed businesses. Around and. Nothing again you're touching him. Sleep well Mr. Lincoln. And may all your dreams be pleasant. On that indescribable vessel which moves rapidly. Toward the invisible shore. American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton and is produced
by the communication center of the University of North Carolina. Earl when Director these programs are produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational radio and television center Charles Kuralt was Hil them on. Johnny Lee was Abraham Lincoln. American Adventure is produced and recorded in the studios of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is the n AB network.
American adventure
Appointment at Ford's Theatre
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
A radio play that dramatizes the last hours of Abraham Lincoln's life.
Series Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
Ford's Theatre (Washington, D.C.)--History--19th century.
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Actor: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Actor: Ehle, Gail
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-17 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:45
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Chicago: “American adventure; Appointment at Ford's Theatre,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
MLA: “American adventure; Appointment at Ford's Theatre.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <>.
APA: American adventure; Appointment at Ford's Theatre. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from