A day that will live in infamy, oh wait that was already used once before. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the passing of a great President. A time rife with much mixed emotion amongst a nation divided and of great change for the American people. Lincoln brought the American nation out of a brutal civil war, but Confederate sympathizers of the south continued. A look at the conditions that fueled the tragic end of Abraham Lincoln and his killer. The finally scene of the Presidents last minutes painted by some of those by his bed side on that day, April 14th 1865.
President Lincoln’s Assassination was the result of one confederate sympathizer and his affinity for fame and recognition, a place in history for his actions. In the early part of 1865 the North and South were nearing the end of the Civil War that had been raging from around 1861 up to 1865, but the end of the war was not necessarily the end of conflict for many on both sides (Appomattox web). Just days before the presidents ill fated day at the theater, General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his military position bringing the Civil War to its end for all intensive purposes (Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination).
It was on the 8th of April 1865 General Ulysses Grant had effectively surrounded Lee’s men, on the 9th Lee had informed Grant the his men were willing to lay down their arms and surrender. They met that day the 9th in the home of Wilmer McLean which came to be known as the Appomattox Court House (Appomattox web). The Civil War although a source of much stress for Lincoln at this time was not the only, Lincoln had also issued the Emancipation Proclamation only 2 years before. Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter in 1864 to some of his fellow people in which he stated, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong (Emancipation Proclamation web).
The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves of the South in an act of the President utilizing his war powers as Commander-in-chief(Emancipation Proclamation web). An Act that greatly separated the South’s supports from the North. Slavery was the financial backbone of the south, blacks tended the farms, processed the gin. With out black slaves the Confederate’s war efforts would be stonewalled and their anger flaring in resentment to the President. The tension amongst the people was palpable and the President was aware of the threat of a would be assassin.
The morning of the assassination April 14th 1865, Edwin Stanton the Secretary of War, attempted to persuade Lincoln to remain at home that night because he sensed that a rebel may attempt to attack him (Lincoln is Shot web). Both Lincoln and his wife were eager to get out and find some entertainment, and surely Lincoln needed some reprieve from to unwind from all of the stress of the his duties and changes taking place at this time. It would be easy to assume that at any minute someone would want to make an attempt at the President.
Remaining under constant protection and lock down is no way to live and it is understandable, considering this mans position, that he would want to take the risk regardless and attempt to enjoy a night out with his wife. In an excerpt from The Diary of Horatio Taft on April 30th, 1865, Horatio mentions that Mr. Lincoln was hesitant to attend the show that night, but went against his judgement (Taft Diary). Horatio Taft was close to the theater the night of the 14th and wrote about that night and was close by that evening.
Horatio worked for the U. S. Patent Office as an Examiner and also noted for his relationship as a friend of Mr. Lincoln. Mr and Mrs Lincoln arrived at Fords Theater around 10:30 accompanied by Major Henry Rathbone and his fiance and the took their seats in Mr. Lincoln’s personal box. A police guard, John Parker, was stationed just out side the door to their box seats that night (President Lincoln is Shot). The guard who was supposed to be watching the door ended up leaving his post to get a drink at the bar across the street leaving the president unknowingly vulnerable. John Wilkes Booth the man who killed Abraham Lincoln was famous actor and also a staunch Confederate sympathizer.
The combination of abolitionist and the South seceding as a result of the Civil War fueled his ambivalence towards the North and the Union. It was in 1863 when Booth began performing the Ford’s theater which aloud him to become familiar with all the ins and outs of the theater and him gaining access to the Presidents box (John Wilkes Booth web). Shortly after John Parker left his post Booth ascended to the door of the President’s box and stealthily slipped inside the door way standing over Mr. And Mrs. Lincoln. He raised his pistol to the back of Mr. Lincoln’s head and fired a single round into the President’s head.
President Lincoln slumped into his wife’s arms as Booth hurriedly moved to the banister of the booth. Major Rathbone attempted to stop the assailant, but was cut and his arm severely slashed open. Booth leaped over the rail, a stunt which he had done many times before acting, yelling, “Sic Semper Tyrants”, “Thus always to tyrants (Abraham Web). In his attempt a spur of his boot had clipped a flag on his way to the stage causing him to land wrong and broke his left leg below the knee (Abraham Web). Booth manage to escape out a back door from the stage and get away, but his life on the lamb would not be long lived.
Charles Taft a surgeon who was present was lifted up to the President’s box and he immediately administered stimulants and treatment to stop the President’s bleeding (Taft Diary). The first responders transported Mr. Lincoln across the street from the Ford’s Theater to a house owned by Mr. Peterson. They placed him in a small bed at the back of the house. Several doctors were eventually present at his bed side to feverishly attempt to save the President’s life. They worked on him all night while Mrs. Lincoln waited in the room just next to her dying husbands coming in every so often to check on him.
The Family Pastor, Dr. Gurley, was also there having arrived a few hours after President Lincoln was moved to the house. At around 3:30 am the morning hours just after the shooting he lead those in attendance of a moving and emotional felt pray, as President Lincoln’s breathing began to slow and heat beat falling. An then it was at just a few moments past 7 am on the morning of April 15th, 1865 the 16th President of the United States, Mr. Abraham Lincoln drew his last breath and was gone for ever (Unknown Correspondence NYtimes).
John Wilkes Booth would later be apprehended by on April 26 held up in a arn on a farm in Virginia by soldiers of the Union. The men surrounded his position in the barn which became engulfed in flames, possibly set but the soldiers to flush him and his constituents out into the open. One sergeant fired at Booth hitting him in the neck, he was carried out. 3 hours after he had been shot by the Union soldier Booth made his last words, “Useless, useless. ” (Uknown Corespondence NYtimes) These words probably uttered as he may have been attempting to move, but do to his wound from the gun shot to the neck was unable to move and was lamenting the uselessness of trying any more before he died.
His broken leg from his stage leap made it impossible for him to run any longer and had no choice to surrender, but Booth was not going looking to be taken alive. His greed for fame and becoming a part of history ultimately was what killed him in the end. To become a martyr for Confederate sympathizers in his killing of Lincoln, would amount to nothing more then a black eye to the South and his families name.
President Lincoln was killed for his work to ending slavery in the south which at this time was a way of life and economy. Southern states relied on the vast numbers of enslaved black farm workers to gain the votes they needed to have control over the federal government. The Civil War’s destruction and bloodshed reshaped America’s future for ever. The end to slavery and a shift of powers granted the Union its dominance of the country from the slave owning plantations to a modern capitalist country (Foner 544).
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