News | February 21, 2024

Newly Discovered Abraham Lincoln Document Signed Days Before His Assassination 

Raab Collection

The Lincoln document

The Raab Collection has acquired and is offering for sale an original document signed by President Abraham Lincoln just four days before his assassination, among his final acts as President. 

The document was discovered in an antique desk, where it had been kept by the family of the previous owner for decades. The contents were known only through a transcribed copy. This original appointment was signed by Lincoln, appointing a treasury position to Lincoln’s ally, who shared his fierce anti-slavery stance. The document is valued at $45,000. 

“This document is a powerful reminder not only of Lincoln’s final hours but of what the nation lost just days after it was signed,” said Nathan Raab, president of The Raab Collection and author of The Hunt for History

According to Daniel Worthington, Director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, this is “a new find” and scholars have “never had access to the original.” A contemporary copy exists at the National Archives. 

Decades ago, a man in the American Midwest passed away. Recently, his widow, sorting through his papers, found this document locked in an old writing desk her husband had used. Her research led her to Raab which confirmed that this document, representing one of Lincoln’s final acts, was not previously known to have survived. 

Abraham Lincoln’s final week in office was momentous. On April 9, 1865, he learned from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that Robert E. Lee had surrendered to the Union Army earlier that day, putting an end to the Civil War. The following day, while the capital erupted in cheers and salutes, Lincoln briefly appeared at the White House window to acknowledge the celebrations and reveal that he would give an address soon. 

On April 11, Lincoln returned to the window and delivered what would be his final prepared speech, calling for a national thanksgiving. “We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart…. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten.” He also took the opportunity to discuss the aims of Reconstruction, which incited Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth to plot the president’s murder. 
This is the very day that Lincoln signed the appointment. 

Washington, April 11, 1865. “A.M. Gangewere is hereby appointed to discharge the duties of Third Auditor of the Treasury during the absence of the Auditor caused by sickness or otherwise. Abraham Lincoln.”

The days between April 11 and the fateful night at Ford’s Theatre on April 15 were both festive and busy. Lincoln strategized with cabinet members and enjoyed time with his family. But it was to be a short respite; Lincoln’s assassination shocked the nation and changed the course of history. 
The appointee, Allen Gangewer, along with his wife, helped to found the National Colored Home, a refuge for fugitive slaves in Washington, D.C. Gangewer also ran an anti-slavery weekly in Ohio for some time before becoming private secretary to Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase. Chase later became Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury and likely advocated for an appointment on Gangewer’s behalf.