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Abraham Lincoln's Assassination

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Essay title: Abraham Lincoln's Assassination

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.

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.

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