The Assasination of Abraham Lincoln
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln represents a defining moment in the history of the United States. Coming during the closing days of the Civil War, the former country lawyer from Illinois had just guided the nation through some of its darkest hours only to fall victim to an assassin’s bullet. Carried out by one of the most popular stage actors of the day, the death of Lincoln sparked the largest manhunt the nation had ever seen. The first assassination of a sitting U.S. president was, however, just the primary component of a much larger plot designed to plunge the Federal Government into chaos by eliminating its most powerful officials.
Among other aspects relating to this significant historical event, this book relates the various Confederate abduction plots targeting President Lincoln, Booth’s initial kidnapping plan and its evolution into an assassination scheme, the elaborate 13-day cross-country funeral services held for the dead president, the prosecution of the conspirators by a military tribunal, and the execution of six members of the conspiracy.
At the age of thirteen, an encounter with a gypsy fortune teller would play a significant role in the life of John Wilkes Booth. While attending a carnival in Harford County, Maryland, John received a palm reading from a gypsy, that predicted he would “make a bad end” after living “a fast life—short, but a grand one.” Furthermore, the fortune teller informed the shaken teenager that she had never seen a worse hand, while also expressing the wish she had never laid eyes upon it.
Entering the rear of the theater, John Wilkes Booth opened a trapdoor leading to a set of stairs that descended below the stage. Crossing beneath the stage as the actors continued to ply their trade above his head, Booth reached another flight of stairs that led to another trapdoor on the opposite side of the theater. Walking along the building’s south wall, Booth exited through a door opening to an alley that ran between Ford’s Theatre and the Star Saloon next door. Making his way into the saloon, John Wilkes Booth ordered himself a drink. During his many appearances at Ford’s Theatre, the twenty-six year old actor had become a frequent caller to this particular saloon.
By the morning of Thursday, April 20, John Wilkes Booth had grown increasingly impatient to escape the ruggedness of the pine thicket. With his leg injury causing considerable pain, the assassin found his austere surroundings particularly uncomfortable. With little to do as the hours dragged by, Booth and Herold passed the time by carrying on long discussions. Reflecting upon the years before the war, the actor took such opportunities to relate several details of his youth to his attentive companion.
Possessing a strong attraction to collecting antique newspaper articles and American history in general, this is Kate R. Gillett's latest book for Inland Expressions.