In the early hours of April 15, 1865, a telegram was sent by the US Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. It began:

This evening at about 9:30 P.M., at Ford’s Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. LINCOLN, Mrs. HARRIS, and Major RATHBURN, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.

The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theatre.

The pistol ball entered the back of the President’s head and penetrated nearly through the head. The wound is mortal. The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now dying.

The telegram continues, and Stanton was to send further messages as events unfolded that day, but what makes this first telegram particularly interesting (aside from the historical significance) is that it was used pretty much verbatim by most newspapers (Figure 8.1).