This article is sourced from the archives of the Inishowen Maritime Museum, Greencastle, Co. Donegal

Lincoln’s Assassination

At around 23:00, on Good Friday, 14 April 1865, the private telegraph in the Associated Press’s New York office, received a message from Washington. The message read: “President Lincoln shot”. At that stage Lincoln was not dead, only shot.

The Associated Press Agency had a mutual exchange contract with the Reuters Agency to supply the agency, in London, with American news dispatched by the fastest available steamer. Reuters would do the same by dispatching European news to the Associated Press.

The next ship scheduled to leave the Hudson River for England was not to set sail until 17:00 on the Saturday. However, the Allen Line’s “Nova Scotian”, Captain Wylie, was due to sail about midday Saturday from Portland, Maine, bound for Liverpool. Portland was several hours’ steaming time nearer to England than New York.

Associated Press had constructed its own telegraph line Northward through to Portland so the news about Lincoln could be put on board the “Nova Scotian” without delay. Copies of the local Portland newspapers, with their own reports from Washington, were also put on board.

President Lincoln died at 07:22 on the Saturday morning. This meant that by the time the “Nova Scotian” sailed the story had been changed to “Lincoln Assassinated”, so she had the full story.

Reuter’s representative in New York, James Heckscher, also received the news on Good Friday night that Lincoln had been shot.

He discovered that Hamburg America Line’s “Teutonia”, due to call at Southampton, had just sailed and was steaming out towards Sandy Hook, at the entrance of the Hudson River. He chartered a fast tug and caught up with the “Teutonia”. He threw onboard a message to say, “Lincoln shot”. (not dead).

The “Teutonia” arrived off Crookhaven at 08:00 on Wednesday 26 April and the news of Lincoln having been shot was passed on to Reuters, in London. This information was not immediately released to the public. Instead, it was passed, privately and confidentially, to Reuters’ commercial clients such as banks and finance houses which would have given them time to react to any adverse outcome on the Stock Exchange stemming from Lincoln’s assassination.

The “Nova Scotian” was delayed by dense fog and did not arrive off Inishowen until 09:00 the same day. The news of Lincoln’s death was landed to the telegraph office, in Greencastle, at 09:45 and was received in London at 11:30.

The full information, received via Greencastle, was published in the press some hours later, with an obvious effect on the Stock Exchanges. The fact that the story was not “news” to Reuters’ commercial clients did not emerge until much later.