By mid-April 1865 Jose Francisco Perea had finished his term as New Mexico Territory’s Congressional delegate. The Civil War was over and he must have been looking forward to returning home again to a quieter life.
But Perea had one more Washington DC event to experience. On Friday, April 14, 1685, he attended the Ford’s Theater production of Our American Cousin.
His seat was near President Lincoln’s box.
Perea, who had been educated at a Jesuit college in St. Louis, would have known the meaning of the words John Wilkes Booth yelled as he leapt to the theater stage from Lincon’s box. “Sic temper tyrannis!” meant “Thus always for tyrants!”
It wasn’t the first time Perea had witnessed a death as the result of rebellion. As a seven-year-old in Santa Fe, he’d watched four men who’d led a revolt against the Mexican government suffer the ultimate punishment on a cold January 1837 morning.
Now he watched as a doctor rushed to Lincoln’s side and gravely shook his head. It was only a matter of time. Booth’s shot was clearly mortal.
Perea himself would live another 48 years, dying in May 1913. Until then, he would busy himself with his business interests, the post office and hotel in Jemez Springs, and his home in Albuquerque. But he would never forget that January morning in 1837 or that rainy night in April 1865.
Sources: W.H.H. Allison, Old Santa Fe Magazine, Vol. II, Ralph Emerson Twitchell, Ed., Old Santa Fe Press, Santa Fe; John W. Kirshon, Ed., Chronicling America, Chronicle Publications, Mt. Kisco, 1987; Jerry D. Thompson, A Civil War HIstory of the New Mexico Volunteers & Militia, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 2015.