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The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

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Thomas Polkki

on 17 May 2016

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Transcript of The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Many of you are well aware of the basics of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the first such Presidential assassination in American History, I'm now going to give you a more detailed walk through of one of the most famous events to ever occur, I'll start with the obvious...who was John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was 26 years old at the time of the assassination, he was from Maryland and was part of one of the most famous families in the country, the Booth family had several very popular actors, Booth's father Junius was considered the greatest Shakespearean actor of his time and Booth's brother Edwin is considered one of the greatest stage actors in history
John was a successful actor himself, he made $20,000 a year when the average person made around $300, that being said he never was able to be as successful and loved by the public as much as his father and brother were, he constantly heard about how great Junius and Edwin were, they were "Superstars" while John was simply a "Star"
How could this possibly lead to him assassinating Lincoln in your view?
I think jealously and wanting to be the most famous Booth did have something to do with him having the bravado to carry on this act
Aside from the issues with his family, John Wilkes Booth was a strong supporter of the South, was an extreme racist and fan of slavery, and strongly opposed Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, he actually attended the hanging of Abolitionist John Brown in order to celebrate his death
So you have a man with a desperate need to feel important who also hates Lincoln....see where this could be going?
When the Civil War started, Booth remained an actor and did not serve in the Southern Army, but he did use his connections to smuggle items to the Southern soldiers when he could, including smuggling in Quinine, a type of painkiller to Southern soldiers who could not get access to it because of Northern blockades
The Booth family was divided as Edwin was on the North's side and refused to perform in the South, while John got arrested in St. Louis, Missouri in 1863 for saying on a theater tour that "Lincoln and his government should go strait to" you can figure it out, he was charged with making "treasonous remarks" but the charges were dropped when he made an oath of allegiance to the Union and paid a heavy fine
The reason that Booth never fought for the South was not that he was a coward, his Mother knew that the 3 Booth brothers had different views about the war and she begged them not to fight because she knew they could end up fighting against each other and all three brothers listened and didn't enlist
However by 1864 when Lincoln was going to win reelection and the South was clearly losing the war, Booth became more angry and hateful towards Lincoln, he also wrote his mother and called himself a coward and began to think of ways that he could help the Southern cause
His original idea was to kidnap President Lincoln, he planned to kidnap the President while he was at his summer residence 3 miles from the White House, take Lincoln to Richmond and then exchange him back for a bunch of captured Southern Prisoners of War, Booth hoped that this would scare Northerners enough to end the war and recognize the Southern government and leave them alone and let them keep slavery in peace
Booth began to organize his kidnapping plot, he got 2 of his friends named Samuel Arnold and Michael O'Laughlen to agree to help him and the 3 of them began meeting at Confederate safe houses in Maryland
In October 1864, Booth made a trip to Montreal, Canada, which was known to be a major pro-South city, he stayed at the St. Lawrence Hall, known to be a home to the Confederate Secret Service, their version of the CIA, whether or not Booth was a member of the Southern CIA was never 100% proven but this led to rumors that still exist today that the Southern government was in on the attempted kidnapping of Lincoln, but this was also never 100% proven
When Lincoln won reelection in 1864, Booth recruited more people into his kidnapping plot, including pro-South people named David Harold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell, and John Surratt, meeting at the boardinghouse of Surratt's mother Mary
Booth attended Lincoln's 2nd inaugural and would later remark to friends that "he should have killed him when he had the chance"
On March 17, 1865, Lincoln planned to attend a play at a hospital in Washington, Booth got his group together and planned to kidnap the President while Lincoln was on his way to the play, however Lincoln canceled at the last minute and attended an event at the National Hotel in Washington instead, ironically the hotel that Booth was also staying at during the time
On April 12, 1865, Booth heard of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, with the war over, his plan to kidnap Lincoln and bring him to Richmond was ruined because Richmond was U.S. land again, because of this Booth changed his plan from kidnapping to assassination
Booth hears that Lincoln is to attend the play Aladdin at Grover's Theater in Washington on April 14 along with General Grant and he makes the decision that the assassination plan will be that night
He tells his group and gives them their instructions, he tells Lewis Powell and David Herold that they are to go to the home of Secretary of State William Seward and Powell will kill him while Herold will guard the door so to speak and help him escape
He tells George Atzerodt that he is to go to the hotel room of Vice President Andrew Johnson and kill him
Booth meanwhile will go to Grover's Theater and shoot both Lincoln and Grant, the idea being that the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and lead General would all be dead, the U.S. government would be in such chaos and disarray that it would give the South time to regroup, get more soldiers and restart the war
Arnold and O'Laughlen, the 1st 2 guys that Booth recruited, had dropped out of the plot earlier and were no longer part of it
Atzerodt wanted to leave the plot when it turned to assassination, which he never agreed to, but Booth basically blackmailed him by telling him that his name is all over Booth's letters and diary, so he is going to be taken down and hanged with Booth anyway if he gets caught, so he might as well go down swinging
On the day of the Assassination, Booth goes to Ford's Theater to get his mail, which is sent there because Booth is friends with the owner and overhears staff at the theater say that Lincoln has changed his mind and is coming to Ford's to see the comedy Our American Cousin instead
Because Booth is an actor who has performed at Ford's many times, he is allowed to walk right in during the afternoon and go up to the Presidential box and figure out how he can enter the box and the best way to plan an escape...his plan is to enter the box, jump off the balcony which was not a huge fall after he shoots the President, run to the outside where he would have a horse waiting for him that he told a Ford's worker to hang onto
Around 10 at night during the play, Booth quietly walks to the Presidential Box, nobody stops him because he is a celebrity and no one is suspicious about him, why wouldn't he be there?, he opens the door and walks right up to Lincoln and shoots him point blank in the head with a .44 caliber
General Grant canceled last minute to visit relatives in New Jersey instead, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiance attended with the Lincoln's instead, Rathbone got up to get at Booth but Booth stabbed him with a knife which he brought with him, Booth's spur on his boot caught on the American Flag banner that was put up in the Presidential Box, which caused him to trip and land awkwardly on the stage, breaking his leg, he yelled "sic semper tyrannis", which means something like death to tyrants and ran out the door to his awaiting horse
Lewis Powell went to Seward's home and stabbed him several times, wounding him greatly but Seward survived, Seward was bedridden because of a carriage accident and really couldn't defend himself, how he was unable to kill a bedridden man I'm not sure
George Atzerodt went to the bar and got drunk instead of killing Vice President Johnson, so the only man to succeed was Booth
Atzerodt and Powell were arrested pretty quickly into the investigation, Herold, who was supposed to guard the door and help Powell escape, ran off and left him when there began to be calls for help from the Seward house, Herold met up with Booth and the 2 of them went about escaping to Virginia with the hope that Southerners would take care of them and welcome them with open arms
They met up with Dr. Samuel Mudd who treated Booth for his broken leg, who told him it happened when the horse fell, Mudd suggested that they go see a man named Samuel Cox to help them further, whether or not Mudd knew who Booth was or what Booth had done has never really been proven either way
There was quickly a $100,000 reward for catching Booth and Herold as Booth was pretty quickly identified as the assassin, largely by Henry Hawk, an actor who was on the stage at the time, knew Booth, and Booth basically landed in front of him when he jumped from the box
Booth went to see Samuel Cox, Booth lied about who he was but Cox was clearly suspicious and made Booth and Harold sleep in the barn, not the house, Booth then was helped by a man by the name of Thomas Jones who hid him and Harold in the woods and provided them supplies, ironically the thing that Booth asked for most was newspapers so he could read the reaction to his act, he was surprised to find it was almost 100% negative, even Southern papers attacked him, Lincoln planned to treat the South really nice so now the South is mad at Booth because they fear the South will be punished for killing Lincoln
The U.S. Army is able to catch up with Booth because of how slow he had to travel because of his broken leg and that fact that he was not able to get as much help as he thought he would, he was in the woods for 10 days getting help from Jones until he was able to cross the river into Virginia on April 24, but Virginia is U.S. land now so it didn't make much of a difference and the Army catches up to Booth and Herold at a barn in Virginia on April 26, 12 days after the assassination of Lincoln
The Army was instructed to take them alive, Herold eventually gives up and is arrested willingly, Booth refused to be arrested alive and stayed in the barn, the Army lit the barn on fire to "smoke" him out, but before that happened, a mentally unstable soldier named Boston Corbett snuck up close to the barn, found a small hole to fit the rifle barrel in, and shot Booth in the neck
The shot severed Booth's spinal cord and he suffered in agony, paralyzed from the neck down for 2 hours before he died
The trial for the assassination of President Lincoln featured 8 people-Herold, Powell, Atzerodt, Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlen, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Mary Surratt, and Edmund Spangler, who was a worker at Ford's who was responsible for holding on to Booth's horse that he escaped on
In the end, all 8 were convicted of helping in the death of Lincoln- Powell, Herold, Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt were sentenced to death by hanging, making her the 1st women to be sentenced to death by the U.S.
Dr. Mudd, Arnold, and O'Laughlen were sentenced to life in prison but were pardoned by President Andrew Johnson 4 years later as they never took part in the actual assassination, Spangler got 6 years in jail but was pardoned at the same time the other 3 were, they were all convicted because of the anger over Lincoln's death and the need to punish anyone even remotely associated with it, in time when cooler heads prevailed, they were all freed because there was no real proof they were in on it
Mary Surratt's son John fled the country and by the time he came back to the U.S. a couple years later, the statute of limitations had expired on every charge but murder and since he did not kill Lincoln, he was declared not guilty
Boston Corbett, the soldier who shot Booth, was at first arrested for violating Army orders, but those charges were eventually dropped and he got a small amount of the reward for Booth's capture, he was more than likely what we would now call insane, he became a religious fanatic and no one really knows whatever happened to him
Henry Rathbone, the Major who attended the play with Lincoln, was attacked in the papers for not doing more to stop Booth, this effected him deeply, his mental state suffered, he went insane, killed his wife, attempted suicide, and spent the rest of life in a mental institution
Lincoln's wife Mary also went through mental anguish and weird behavior after his death and she too spent time in a mental institution
John's brother Edwin Booth took a couple of years off from performing after Lincoln's death, but the public eventually accepted that he had nothing to do with it, and he continued to have a very successful career...you know I love historical quirks...Edwin Booth in 1864 saved a 20 year old man from death when he pulled the man to safety before he fell off a platform in front a moving train, the man....Abraham Lincoln's son Robert
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