Late in April 1865, the nation was still reeling from the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14. Twelve days after the tragedy in Ford’s Theater, Union soldiers had tracked fugitive killer John Wilkes Booth to a Virginia farmhouse, set it on fire, then apprehended Booth after he was shot in the neck. Booth died a few hours later.
On April 21, as the funeral train departed Washington D.C. for interment of Lincoln’s remains in Springfield, Illinois, Kentucky Governor Thomas E. Bramlette issued a proclamation declaring Thursday, May 4 as a “day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer” for the citizens of his state. The “sad calamity which has fallen upon our country,” read the proclamation, called upon “us as a people to humble ourselves before a Merciful God, and pray Him that the sin of our people, which has culminated in such great crime, be forgiven.” He asked Kentuckians on that day to “suspend all secular business, and, at the usual hour for service, attend their respective places of worship, and engage in the solemn and earnest observance of the day. . . in this our day of affliction.”
A facsimile of Governor Bramlette’s proclamation is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections. Click here for a finding aid. For other collections relating to Lincoln and the assassination, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.