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Abe Lincoln Essay, Research Paper

Abraham Lincoln?s assassination was a malevolent ending to an already bitter and spiteful event in American history, the Civil War. John Wilkes Booth and his group of co-conspirators developed plans in the late summer of 1864 to only kidnap the President and take him the Confederate capital of Richmond and hold him in return for Confederate prisoners of war. Booth?s group of conspirators: Samuel Arnold, Michael O?Laughlen, John Surratt, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Mary Surratt (John?s wife), made plans on March 17, 1865, to capture Lincoln, who was scheduled to see a play at a hospital in the outskirts of Washington. However, Lincoln changed plans and remained in the capital (”Booth” 98)

On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox. Two days later Lincoln delivered a speech in front of the White House to a group that had gathered outside. Booth, being present in this group, heard Lincoln suggest that certain voting rights should be granted to the blacks. Infuriated, being a racist, Booth?s plans now turned from the kidnapping of Lincoln to his assassination (Lewis, Neely 115)

Three days before his assassination Lincoln told of a dream he had to his wife and one of his friends, Ward Hill Lamon. According to Lamon, the President said:

“About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been waiting up for some important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of the state of things so mysterious and shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ?Who is dead in the White House?? I demanded of one of the soldiers, ?The President,? was his answer; ?he was killed by an assassin.? Then came a loud burst of grief from the crows, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”((Online) http://members.aol.com?)

Was it possible that President Lincoln knew of his assassination before it actually happened?

On the morning of Friday, April 14, Booth stopped by Ford?s Theatre and found out that President Lincoln and General Grant were planning on attending the evening performance of Our American Cousin. Booth then held one final meeting with the conspirators and said he would kill Lincoln at the theater, he had found out that Grant had left town. Atzerodt was to kill the Vice-President Andrew Johnson at Kirkwood House where he resided. Powell and Herold were assigned to kill the Secretary of State William Seward. Both attacks were scheduled to take place simultaneously at approximately

10:15 p.m. that night. Booth hoped that the resulting chaos and weakness in the government could lead to a comeback for the South (:Lewis, Neely 187)

At about 7:00 p.m. William H. Crook, Lincoln?s bodyguard, was relieved three hours late by John Parker. Parker was told to be on hand at Ford?s Theatre when the Presidential party got there. Crook said, “Good night, Mr. Lincoln.” The President replied, “Good-bye, Crook.” According to Crook this was a first. Lincoln ALWAYS previously said, “Good night, Crook.”(Reck 148) Around 8:00 p.m. the Lincolns left the White House in a stage coach and proceeded to pick up Clara Harris and Major Rathbone. Parker led the way into the theater, with the play already in progress. When Lincoln entered the acting stopped and they played “Hail to the Chief.” The audience rose to their feet and applauded the President. Once he was seated in the state box the play continued.

Booth arrived at Ford?s Theatre at 9:30 p.m. armed with a single shot derringer and a hunting knife. Joseph Burroughs, a boy who worked at the theater held his horse in the rear alley while Booth went to get a drink at a nearby saloon. He reentered the theater at 10:07 p.m. and slowly made his way towards the state box. John Parker had just left his post. At about 10:15 p.m., Booth opened the door and shot Lincoln in the back of the head at near point-blank range, and struggled with Rathbone. Booth stabbed Rathbone in the arm and jumped about eleven feet to the stage. When he crashed to the floor he snapped the fibula bone in his left leg. Many in the theater thought they heard him yell “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” latin for “as always to tyrants.” Booth flashed his knife to the crowd and made his way across the stage in front of more than 1,000 people. It happened so quick no one had time to stop him. Booth escaped out the back door and left the city (Lewis, Neely 261-263).

The other half of the plan to kill Vice-President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward was basically a failure. Atzerodt made no attempt to kill Johnson, and Powell stabbed Seward but it failed to kill him. Herold escaped from the capital using the same bridge, the Navy Yard Bridge, as Booth The two met in Maryland and stopped briefly around midnight in Mary Surratt?s tavern, where they had supplies ready to flee to the South. At around 4:00 a.m. they arrived at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd who set and splinted Booth?s broken leg.

Back in Washington, the bullet had entered Lincoln?s head about three inches behind his left ear and traveled about seven and a half inches into the brain. The first doctor to attend to the President was Charles Leale. He knew right then that the wound was mortal and the President wouldn?t be able to recover. Lincoln?s body was carried across the street to the Peterson House. Armed soldiers guarded the house while a night long death watch began. Doctor?s said an average man with this type of wound would have died in two hours, Lincoln lasted nine. At 7:22 and 10 seconds a.m. on April 15, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln was dead. Upon hearing of the news Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Federal authorities caught up with Booth and Herold at Garrett?s farm near Port Royal, Virginia on the morning of April 26. Hiding in a barn, Herold gave up, but Booth would not so he has fatally shot. Within days of their capture the co-conspirators were arrested by the government. All were found guilty by a military tribunal. Mrs. Surratt, Powell, Atzerdot, and Herold were all hanged on July 7, 1865. Dr. Mudd, O?Laughlin, and Arnold were given life terms in prison. John Surratt fled to Canada and then escaped to Europe, where he was captured and was tried in 1867 in a civil court. The jury was deadlocked and Surratt went free. Dr. Mudd and Arnold were all pardoned by President Andrew Johnson early in 1869.

“Booth, John Wilkes.” Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. 1979 ed.

Lewis, Llloyd, and Mark E. Neely. The Assassination of Lincoln: History and Myth.

Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

(Online) http://members.aol.com/RVSNorton/Lincoln46.html, 10, January 1999.

Reck, Emerson W. A. Lincoln: His Last 24 Hours. Omaha, N.B.: University of Nebraska

Press, 1994.

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