Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Assassination of President Lincoln

14 April 1865 was a Good Friday. President Lincoln was attending Our American Cousin play in Ford’s Theatre, Washington DC, accompanied by Mary Todd, his wife. Little did he know that Wilkes Booth, a stage actor, had co-conspired with David Herold, George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell to assassinate him. During this period, the American Civil War was coming down to a closure. Lincoln was the first U.S. president to get assassinated after the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Andrew Jackson in 1835.

The assassination was part of wider plan to sever continuity in the U.S. government. Herold and Lewis were to assassinate William Seward, the then State Secretary while Atzerodt was to kill Andrew Johnson, the then Vice President. Eliminating the three would cripple the government. However, they did not manage to kill both Seward and Atzerodt. As the play progressed, Booth drew a derringer pistol and stepped in the president’s box. He aimed and then fired. Lincoln died the following day.

Booth was born in 10 May 1838. During the Civil War, he was a Southern and Confederate sympathizer and a racist. He hated Lincoln since he stood for everything Booth detested. Booth blamed him for the ills that were bedeviling the South. All he needed was revenge. On March 1864, Ulysses Grant, the Union commanding general suspended exchange of war prisoners. This was upon the realization such an exchanged between the South and the north was prolonging the ongoing war through return of soldiers to the manpower-starved and outnumbered South.

Booth hatched a plan to kidnap Lincoln. He wanted to deliver him to Confederate Army as a hostage until resumption of the exchange. He recruited John Surratt, George Atzerodt, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen, David Herold and Lewis Powell. Lincoln was Booth’s fan and watched him performing numerous plays. At one point in time, Lincoln invited Booth to White House but as a Confederate spy and rebel sympathizer he was, evaded it.

On 4 March 1865, Booth did attend Lincoln’s inauguration but could not manage to kill him. On 17 March 1865, Booth informed the other conspirators of Lincoln’s attendance of Still Water Run Deep play. They decided how they could kidnap him. Unfortunately, Lincoln did not go to watch the play. The Confederacy was fast falling apart. On 3 April 1865, Union Army captured Richmond, which was its capital. Their army surrendered too. President Jefferson as the Confederate president and his government panicked with the Southerners losing hope. However, Booth and his conspirators did not give up. On 11 April 1865, Booth did attend a speech by Lincoln in White House. In his speech, Lincoln offered his support to enfranchisement of former slaves. This would give Booth and his conspirators a chance to terminate Lincoln’s life since it would provide for nigger citizenship.

On 14 April 1865, Booth went to Ford’s Theatre with the intent of picking his mail in his permanent mailbox. From John Ford’s brother, Booth learnt that Lincoln and Grant would attend the theatre to watch Our American Cousin. Booth saw this as a perfect opportunity to executive his plan. The layout of the theatre was not new to him since he had performed there innumerable times. At around 7 o’clock, Booth met his conspirators. Powell was assigned to kill Seward and Atzerodt to assassinate Johnson.
Booth thought that the Grants would accompany the Lincolns in the play. Contrariwise, the Grants declined the invitation. It was Major Rathbone and Clara Harris who accepted Lincoln’s invitation. Booth and O’Laughlen realized that the Grants could not attend the play. The group arrived late and settled in the Presidential Box after receiving a standing ovation. The theatre had about 1,700 attendees. Frederick Parker was the police officer charged with the responsibility of guarding the box. An intermission ensued where Parker went to a tavern with Lincoln’s coachman and footman. What transpired has never been clear. Booth managed to gain access into the box. He barricaded the door that was behind him using some wooden stick, which was jammed between the door and the wall.

After turning around, he entered the box. Lincoln then leaned forward after recognizing Booth. Booth took advantage of the hysterical laughter that permeated the theatre to open the door and then creep forward to shoot Lincoln at a direct range. He mortally wounded him. The bullet got stuck in his head behind the left ear. It entered the Lincoln’s skull. Lincoln lost consciousness immediately and slumped in the rocking chair. Mary caught him and upon realizing what happened, screamed out.

Major Rathbone grabbed and struggled with Booth who was trying to escape. After dropping his pistol on the ground, he flashed a knife. He stabbed Rathbone violently in his left forearm, which reached the bone. Quickly, Rathbone recovered and tried to grab his coat again. In the ensuing pandemonium, Booth was injured. A lawyer, Major Stewart, started pursuing Booth who was trying to run away. The audience only realized that Booth’s actions were not part of the play after hearing Clara Harris, Rathbone and Mary’s cries. Hubbub ensued in the theatre. Some men from the audience chased Booth but could not catch him. He exited the theatre and stabbed William Withers.

After leaving the theatre, Booth approached a horse, which was waiting for him outside. Booth also struck Joseph Burroughs, who then held Booth’s horse. A doctor, Charles Leale attended to Lincoln first. Licoln was paralyzed. He scarcely breathed. Leale was assisted by Charles Taft to cut the bloodstained collar. They opened Lincoln’s shirt and saw the bullet hole. Leale attempt to get rid of the bullet but it was so deep that he could not. He only managed to dislodge the blood clot inside the wound. Accordingly, his breathing improved. Lincoln was later taken to Petersen House. This really affected Mary Lincoln.

In conclusion, 15 April 1865 7:22:10am, Lincoln died at the age of 56 years. Neither Mary nor her children were present during his death at Petersen House. People mourned him both in the South and in North. He was buried on 19 April 1865. Booth had an injured leg. He died in a Garrett farm’s porch after Corbett shot him. The assassination of Lincoln had long-lasting effects upon the U.S. Consequently, Andrew John assumed the President’s position. The assassination a new dispensation where intelligence collection was to be given premium in the president’s security. This research paper has demonstrated that indeed, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was preventable and that laxity of his security men was partly to blame. Today, the attention and resources given to the security of the American president are immense. The security of the U.S. president is an important issue that requires intention.

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