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Uncle Sam's Menagerie

Uncle Sam's Menagerie

Issued in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, the political cartoon, “Uncle Sam’s Menagerie,” conveys the Northern hostility toward the conspirators, whom the public associated with former president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis. Uncle Sam stands before a cage in which a hyena with the bonneted head of Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), president of the Confederacy, claws at a skull. Davis’ neck is in a noose, which will begin to tighten as a man at right turns the crank of a gallows. The bonnet on Davis’  head alludes to the embarrassing circumstances of his recent capture. As the Civil War drew to a close, Davis fled Richmond with his cabinet in early April 1865 and began a trek southward with federal troops in hot pursuit. While still weighing the merits of forming a government in exile,  Davis was captured by Union soldiers near Irwinville, Georgia, in early May 1865. Whether by accident or design, Davis was wearing his wife’s dark gray short-sleeved cloak and black shawl when captured.  

Below the caricature of Davis as a cross-dressing hyena, a man grinds out the song “Yankee Doodle” on a hand organ. Above, the Lincoln conspirators are portrayed as “Gallow’s Bird’s,” with their heads in nooses. From left to right they are: Michael O’Laughlin, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, Mary Elizabeth Surratt, Samuel Arnold, Edman Spangler, and Dr. Samuel Mudd. At left, Uncle Sam points his stick at a skull “Booth,” on which sits a black crow. John Wilkes Booth was killed during a government raid on his hideout on April 26, 1865.

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