Sunday, July 1, 2012

Civil War Sunday-A CBS Game Show and The Old Man

Welcome, participants in the Ultimate Blog Challenge!  Today is my Civil War Sunday feature.

Recently, I blogged about the penmanship of the first doctor by the side of the shot President Lincoln on the fateful night in April, 1865.  He was in the theater, witnessed the assassination, and held Lincoln's hand so that the blinded Lincoln would know he was not alone as he lay dying.

I got to thinking: when did the last eyewitness to Lincoln's assassination die? The answer surprised me.

The last living eyewitness to Lincoln's assassination was born in 1860 and died in April of 1956, 3 days short of the anniversary of Lincoln's death. Two months before his death, on February 9, 1956 he appeared on a CBS nighttime game show called I've Got a Secret.  His name was Samuel Seymour.

I am fortunate that I grew up when some witnesses to the Civil War were still alive.  The last verified Union veteran died several months after Seymour, in August 1956, at the age of 109.  For Confederates, the records are murkier, for a number of reasons.  I remember the centennial of the Civil War.  I realize that, for many of my readers, all of this is "old history".  In my opinion, though, survivors are our link to history.

Consider the older man in the video above.  He was born on March 26, 1860, a little over a year before the United States Civil War started.  Slavery was legal when he was born.  People traveled by horse.  No antibiotics were known, and battlefield doctors commonly used amputation to save lives.  No commercial power stations, no electric appliances to make lives easier.  Communication was still slow.  Photography existed but in a primitive state.

 Mr Seymour is a bridge to the past.  From Ford's Theatre his life eventually took him onto network TV.  Now, we can see his testimony over the Internet on You Tube.  His story also appears in a book called "We Saw Lincoln Shot: One Hundred Eyewitness Accounts" published in 1995.

Now, as a famous radio broadcaster used to say - time for The Rest of the Story.

At the beginning of the video, host Gary Moore reveals that Mr. Seymour had fallen down in his New York hotel but decided to appear on the show anyway.  Mr. Seymour had made a trip from his home in Arlington, Virginia to appear on the show.  Ironically, the fall may have hastened his death (according to sources I read online).

We bloggers would do well to heed Paul Harvey, who made "The Rest of the Story" famous.  Our blogs must always be interesting - and we would do well to approach a story from different angles.

Finally (in case you were wondering), the first questioner of Mr. Seymour is not Matt Damon, but rather a 50's and 60's game show staple by the name of Bill Cullen.  But if you put glasses on Mr. Damon, wouldn't he look just like a young Bill Cullen?

Do you have a friend or relative who was  (or were you) an eyewitness to an event that changed history?


  1. This is fascinating! I was a big fan of I've Got a Secret when I was growing up. Didn't realize anyone even remembered it but me! I found you through the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I love Civil War info. Thanks!

    1. I was a little too young for this particular episode but I watched a lot of the game shows along with my Mom and Dad (when my bedtimes and school schedules allowed)- To Tell the Truth, What's My Line, I've Got a Secret, Truth or Consequences. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed watching your clip! We need more documentation of our current eldest generation too! They all have so much to share. This of course was really one-of-a-kind!


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