Physicals Reveal Scars of Slavery, Lincoln Attends Play Starring Booth

November 8, 1863/2013
Volume 4, Issue 45 (161 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Physicals of New Colored Recruits Reveal the Scars of Slavery

On November 6, 1863, Lt. Lawrence Van Alstyne, recruiting officer in the Ninetieth U.S. Colored Infantry (USA), wrote in his diary:

Lt. Lawrence Van Alstyne

Lt. Lawrence Van Alstyne

“My company was examined and almost every one proved to be sound enough for soldiers. A dozen at a time were taken into a tent, where they stripped and were put through the usual gymnastic performance, after which they were measured for shoes and a suit, and then a another dozen called in. Some of them were scarred from head to foot where they had been whipped. One man’s back was nearly all one scar, as if the skin had been chopped up and left to heal in ridges. Another had scars on the back of his neck, and from that all the way to his heels every little ways; but that was not such a sight as the one with the great solid mass of ridges, from his shoulders to his hips. That beat all the anti-slavery sermons ever yet preached. But this is over now, and I don’t wonder their prayers are mostly of thanks to Massa Linkum.”

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council executive director


Diary of an Enlisted Man, Lawrence Van Alstyne, pp. 213-14.

Lincoln Watches Play Starring John Wilkes Booth

November 9, 1863. A fan of the theater, President Lincoln enjoyed a play entitled The Marble Heart. It starred John Wilkes Booth.


Chronicles of the Civil War: An Illustrated Almanac and Encyclopedia of America’s Bloodiest War, John Bowman, General Editor, p. 128.


Signed letter by John Wilkes Booth, dated September 17, 1863, arranging to appear in a play at Ford’s Theater that President Lincoln will attend.

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1863

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