Jefferson Davis heard of Lincoln’s death upon his arrival in Charlotte, and in a dispatch from General John C. Breckinridge. The President was heard to say: “Oh, the pity of it” and passed it to a gentleman with the remark, “Here are sad tidings.” The Northern press reported that Davis cheered when heard of Lincoln’s assassination; the Radicals of the North were now satisfied that the man they hated was finally out of the way.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Wrath of the North
[After the assassination of Lincoln] Indignation and memorial meetings simply flayed the South alive. At one New York Custom House, when the grieving, exasperated people did not know whether to weep or to curse the more, or to end it by simply hanging us all, Mr. [Lucius E.] Chittenden [of Vermont] rose and said: “Peace, be still!” And declared the death of Lincoln providential, God removing the man of mercy that due punishment might be meted out to the rebels.
Before the pacific orator finished, people were yelling: “Hang Lee! and “The Rebels deserve damnation!” Pulpits fulminated. Easter sermons demanded the halter, exile, confiscation of property, for “rebels and traitors . . .”
The new President, Andrew Johnson, was breathing out threatening and slaughter before Lincoln’s death. Thousands had heard him shout from the southern portico of the Patent Office, “Jeff Davis ought to be hung twenty times as high as Haman!”
In Nicolay and Hay’s Life of Lincoln . . . “Among the Radicals in Congress . . . though they were shocked at his murder, they did not, among themselves, conceal their gratification that he was no longer in the way. In a political caucus held a few hours after the President’s death, “the thought was universal,” to quote the language of one of their most representative members, “that the accession of Johnson to the Presidency would prove a godsend to the country.” The only people who could profit by Lincoln’s death were in the Radical wing of the Republican party. These extremists thought Johnson their man. Senator [Benjamin] Wade [said:] “By the gods, it will be no trouble now running the Government!”
“Treason,” said the new President, “is the highest crime in the calendar, and the full penalty for its commission should be visited upon the leaders of the Rebellion. Treason should be made odious.”
It is told as true as true “inside history” that the arrest and execution of Lee had been determined upon [thought General [E.O] Ord stated that] “Should I arrest [Lee and his staff] under the [parole] circumstances, I think the rebellion here would be reopened.”
Governors, generals and statesmen were arrested in all directions. No exception was made for Alexander H. Stephens, the invalid, the peace-maker, the gentlest Roman of them all. After Lincoln’s death, leniency to “rebels” was accounted worse that a weakness. The heavy hand was applauded. It was the fashion to say hard things of us. It was accounted as piety and patriotism to condemn “traitors and rebels.” Cartoonists, poets and orators, were in clover; here was a subject on which they could “let themselves out.”
(“Dixie After the War, An Exposition of Social Conditions Existing in the South, During the Twelve Years Succeeding the Fall of Richmond,” Myrta Lockette Avary, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 89-97)