Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting slavery. The amendment was ratified by the states on Dec. 6, 1865.
General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
Matthew Vassar recorded in his diary: "Awful intellingence this Morning, Lincoln & Seward Assasinated Both dead, other members of Sewards family Injured by the Assassins—The whole Country in Sadness and Mourning—our City draped in Mourning—Such is the sensibility & feeling but few persons are seen in the Streets….”
Wednesday, April 19, 1865 “A Memorial Day—A day never to be forgotten, people sad, stores all closed, the whole City draped in Deep Mourning. Largest Procession of Citizens ever seen in Po. at 2 Ock P M. Church services held in the Morning . Immense Attendance—Dr. Raymond dined with us." Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar
"Cut magnolia to Decorate Prest. Lincoln-Coffin at R.R. Depo this Evening." Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar
Matthew Vassar noted in his diary: “Mem. of College matters yet to attended to:..Gass light-burners—Time-pieces—Bells or Gongs, Cabinetts of Insects—Ice House. Span College Carriage Horses & Vehicle or Coach—Floors Oiled—Beds&bedding—Gass Light in ‘Observatory’—Class Books for College. Chemical department fitted up—Unfinished Masonry Halls &c. Steps front Entrance—Building for Gynestic or Riding School. Kitchen Department—Crockery and Cooking Utensils etc. &c. &c. Gass House Roof strengthened &c. Iron Railing—Gallery of Chapel—Cushions. Ditto in Art Gallery. Unfinished Roads. Painting. Coal. Lighting Rods. Stone steps to tours. Water Hoses Reals & Hoses. Equipment for Riding School &c &c &c." Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar
President John Raymond wrote to his wife and family, still at their home in Brooklyn. The first students were all in residence. “I am very tired, and have to preach my first sermon tomorrow. So you will not expect much of a letter.
“It seems like a dream, the sudden transmutation of this great lumbering pile of brick and mortar, which hung on my spirit like a mountainous millstone, into a palace of light and life. Last evening, about nine o’clock, I got out for the first time after dark, walked quietly down the front avenue to the gate-lodge under the dim light of the stars, and then turned to look at the College. It was illuminated from end to end. I then returned and walked around the whole. On every side it sparkled like a diamond…. The blinds were generally open, and many of the windows; and everywhere fair young forms were moving around, and merry voices were heard in conversation and song. At the rear the pianos were going, and you would have thought the building had been inhabited for years instead of hours.” John Howard Raymond, Life and Letters of John Howard Raymond, Edited by his Eldest Daughter
Vassar Female College opened with 353 students—including a Civil War widow—between the ages of 15 and 24. The annual fee for tuition and residence was $350. The faculty numbered 30: ten professors, of whom two were women, and 20 women as assistant teachers. John H. Raymond was president and professor of mental and moral philosophy, and Hannah W. Lyman was lady principal.
The other professors were: William I. Knapp, ancient and modern languages; Charles S. Farrar, mathematics, natural philosophy and chemistry; Sanborn Tenney, natural history, including geology and mineralogy, botany, zoology, and physical geography; Maria Mitchell, astronomy; Alida C. Avery, physiology and hygiene, also resident physician; Henry B. Buckham, rhetoric, belles‑lettres, and the English language; Edward Wiebé, vocal and instrumental music; Henry Van Ingen, painting and drawing.
The extracollegiate departments included the School of Vocal and Instrumental Music and the School of Design. Preparatory courses were offered in addition to the regular curriculum. The college buildings consisted of the Main Building, the Observatory, the Gate House and the Boiler and Gas House.
Speaking in 1927 to Alumnae at reunion, one of the first students and one of the first four to graduate, in 1867, Harriet Warner Bishop recalled the conclusion of the college's first day as the entire college gathered in the chapel in Main Building. "I will never forget," she said, "the expression on Mr. Vassar's face, as he realized what had come to pass." The Miscellany News
Vassar's first Library, located on the third floor of Main Building, directly opposite the chapel, opened for student use. The Library was thirty by thirty-five feet in area, and although reports vary, the collection probably contained some 2,400 volumes.
Students visited Springside, Matthew Vassar's country estate. John Guy Vassar, nephew of the Founder and a founding trustee of the college, conducted the tour of the grounds, designed by America's preeminent landscape architect, the late Andrew Jackson Downing .
The first student organization, a literary society, was founded. The following June, the students wrote: “We all met as strangers, unclassified, and inexperienced in college life. There were no societies, literary, social and athletic…” Professor Henry Buckham agreed to be the society’s president until elections could be held, and President Raymond was elected to lead the group in its first year. “We do not mean to insinuate anything about weakness trying to prop itself up with strength,” the group noted the following year, and by 1868 all administration of the society was in student hands, where it has remained.
At first called Philalethia—for Greek: “truth-loving”—the group arranged lectures, held chapter meetings and presented a festivity in June. In 1890, when someone discovered that “Philalethia” didn’t exist in Greek, the name was changed to the current “Philaletheis.” In time the organization had several “chapters,” each with a distinctive emphasis.
The student paper, The Transcript, reported that chapter meetings were devoted to “essays, poems, debates, selections prose or poetical, either read or recited, papers, music, impromptu speaking, dramatic performances, political news, and gossip varied at the discretion of the President.” By the early 1870s dramatic activities predominated, and this remains the focus of the modern organization. Vivian Gurney ’15, “Philaletheis,” The Vassar Miscellany, Vassar 1865-1915, From the Undergraduate Point of View, Fiftieth Anniversary Number