The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

By Johnny Page

Professor Jenness Lincolns Life and Legacy 20 November 2010

John's parents were British and had moved to the United States in 1821. (Kauffman. about 25 miles from Baltimore on May 10th. 1838. Booth did not enroll to fight. Lincoln called his nation to war and only 90 years into America s history. he was a confirmed and vocal enemy of slavery. John was born on a farm near Bel Air. for numerous . Junius was one of the most famous actors on the American stage although he was an eccentric personality who had problems with alcohol and spells of madness.(Kauffman. He believed that the North was a bully and that the south needed to have their voice heard in congress. Booth began to make his political views known to the public. In addition to the farm at Bel Air (where the Booth family had slaves). 108-112) By April of 1861. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln was completely unexpected and shook Americans everywhere. Boothwas making approximately $20. 1865 is a day that will remain infamous throughout American history. let it be known that they would no longer tolerate the blue uniform of the Northern Army within any of the states that had adopted the Confederate doctrine. the South seceded and the Confederate States of America were officially born. 1865 it s crucial to know Lincoln s assassin.000 a year as an actor by 1860. With political turmoil continuing to escalate in America. in retaliation. 78) He was the ninth of ten children toJunius Booth and Mary Ann Holmes. one of the most costly wars in history began. 86) After attending numerous private schools throughout his childhood. The last straw had been the election of Abraham Lincoln as 16th President of the United States. Maryland. a decision in which weighed heavily upon his conscience.Page The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln April 14. To get a better background and understanding of the events on April 14th. the family also owned a home on North Exeter Street in Baltimore where the colder months of the year were spent. There are many different theories and speculations as to what led to Lincoln s assassination and the object of this paper is to explore the different conspiracy theories and to gain a better overall knowledge of the infamous event. (Weichmann. Booth spent the next two years of his life on the road traveling with stage companies as a full time actor. John Wilkes Booth. The South.

"Something great and decisive had to be done. two others (including Wilkes) would enter the private box. one man would extinguish the house gas lamps." Booth wrote in his diary. Wilkes also had the fortune to befriend John Harrison Surratt. All of Wilkes allies were promised money as Booth made nearly $12. he could draw a large ransom for his return. Sometime around Christmas of 1864. when the nation had already bloodied itself by four years of war. He believed that if he could capture Lincoln and hold him hostage in Richmond. 226) It was a desperate plan. Canada. Booth did find ways to help the Confederacy by joining a network of spies and smugglers known as the Knights of the Golden Circle. At a particular moment in the play. a young but respected member of the Knights of the Golden Circle. (Gutman. something they would require to carry their prize across the Rappahanock River into Virginia. (Kimmell. a drifter from Florida. The original plan was foiled when Lincoln was held up on business and failed to make it . George Atzerodt.000 dollars in 1865. VA (capital of the south). he assembled a local crew of devoted low-life allies to staff his kidnapping plot. In Washington. The conspirators assembled early to take their positions. (Weichmann. operating between Richmond and Montreal. Lewis Paine. They would then transport Lincoln to Virginia. In addition. He promised his mother that he would stay off the battlefield because his father had died an she could not stand to lose one of her sons. two boyhood friends from Baltimore who had served in the war but had had enough of starving and death. a drunken German immigrant who ran a ferry boat. 174) The Knights of the Golden Circle helped transport medicine and managed a secret mail route throughout the North and were largely responsible for inciting the New York Draft Riots that burned down blocks of Manhattan. an immature star-struck boy from the tenements of Washington. he was a famous actor who made his money from his looks. 1865 at Fords Theatre. At the same time. This small band consisted of: Samuel Blaine Arnold and Michael O'Laughlen. Booth devised a plan to kidnap President Lincoln. 143) Lincoln was scheduled to attend a play on January 18th. Booth would knock the President unconscious and lower him in darkness onto the stage below where the remaining abductors would drag the body out to a covered buckboard.Page reasons. while one man held the other occupants at bay. and David Herold.

It was believed that if the plot the plot . there are many theories that put into question the motives and plans of the conspirators. 185)Co-conspirator Lewis Powellattempted to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward. George Atzerodt and Mary Surratt were charged with conspiring with Booth along with various other crimes and hanged on July 7. 188) Eight Lincoln conspirators were caught over the next few days and tried by a military court. 1865 Booth got the opportunity he had been waiting for. Johnson also pardoned him in 1869. David Herold accompanied Powell. there was a great deal of speculation as to whether or not there was even a plan that considered abduction. Herold fled before the deed was finished. The first question that needs to be addressed when considering any conspiracy theory is whether or not assassination was the goal. George Atzerodt was supposed to have killed Vice-President Andrew Johnson. Over the following months no other opportunity was presented as Lincoln was re-elected and inaugurated on March 4th. Edman Spangler was found guilty of helping Booth escape from Ford's Theater. There were several kidnapping attempts on the president and until the south surrendered. Atzerodt did not go through with the assassination. Samuel Mudd was charged with conspiring with Booth and sentenced to life in prison. The most common conspiracy theories will be discussed in the following pages in detail. At the same time. On April 14th. Booth found his way into Box 7 and fired a lead bullet into Lincoln s head eventually killing the President at 7:22 AM on April 15th. (Kelly. Lincoln was set to watch a play that evening at Ford s Theatre. However. (Bishop. David Herold. but only managed to injure him. Andrew Johnson eventually pardoned him early in 1869. it is believed that Booth had no intention of killing the president. Lewis Powell (Paine). O'Laughlen died in prison but Arnold was pardoned by Johnson in 1869. The general consensus today is that the original intent of the conspirators was to kidnap the president.Page to the play. Dr. Until just recently. (Bishop. however. Samuel Arnold and Michael O'Laughlen had conspired with Booth to kidnap President Lincoln and were found guilty and sentenced to life. 1865. 38) These are the facts that are said to be completely true and undisputed. They were found guilty on June 30 and given various sentences depending upon their involvement.

Coded letters in Booth s possession linked him to the confederacy. It also states the original intent of the conspirators was to kidnap Lincoln. The theory of a Confederate grand conspiracy portrays Booth as a rebel agent working to organize a band of men to kidnap Lincoln. When Richmond fell. Booth saw himself as a hero. This theory believes that the confederates planned on blowing up the white house but failed to execute. scholars. (Kelly. The theory of Confederate involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is accepted by several of the current Lincoln assassination historians. and writers. The actual trigger for Booth's actions was the April 10th capture of . 166) First. 246) When Abraham Lincoln Secretaries Nicolay and Hay wrote their ten-volume biography of Lincoln in 1890 they "presented the assassination as a simple conspiracy." (Hanchett. In his diary. (Furstwangler. Their goal was to give the South a chance to rise again. (Hanchett. there was the failed effort to blow up the White House followed by the successful effort to kill Lincoln at the theater. Even the judge advocated that talk of an abduction plot might have led to an innocent verdict for some if not all of the conspirators. researchers. the plans turned to assassination. some if not all of the hung conspirators would be exonerated. the conspirators were to also assassinate Vice-President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward at the same time dealing a major blow to the government of the United States. They are believed to have suppressed important evidence such as John Wilkes Booth's diary. which eventually resulted in assassination. John Wilkes Booth claimed that Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant and that Booth should be praised just as Brutus was for killing Julius Caesar. In fact. 163) The Simple Conspiracy Theory The simple conspiracy theory believes that Booth was the original conspirator and that all other conspirators were hung for their acts.Page were indeed to kidnap Lincoln. 102) The Confederate Grand Conspiracy Theory The grand conspiracy theory states that Booth was a part of a greater scheme established by the confederacy to eliminate Lincoln.

to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton being the operation mastermind. It's the life in your years. the simple conspiracy theory has also gained significant prominence over the years. In conclusion. -Abraham Lincoln . Booth. knowing Harney's mission had failed. no theory can be proven to its fullest and the absolute truth will never be known. (Kelly. Harney who was on his way to Washington to bomb the White House. 146) There are many different lesser theories that range from the Roman Catholic Church being behind the assassination.Page explosives expert Thomas F. it's not the years in your life that count. In the end. tried to make up for Harney's disaster by taking matters into his own hands and killing the president at Ford's Theatre. What we do know is that the death of Abraham Lincoln shook the United States to its core and changed the course of history. The confederate grand conspiracy theory immediately gained most people s acceptance however.

Page References Bishop. 1964. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies. Pitman. Wilstach&Boldwin. Stanley The Mad Booths of Maryland. Richard J. William. Weichmann. Floyd J. 1989. 2006. Kauffman. . New York: Alfred E.6th ed. Gutman. Benn. IL: The University of Illinois Press.University of Illinois Press. Albert Assassin on Stage. & Kellie O. Random House Trade Paperbacks. Inc. New York: Harper & Row. Military Commission (1865).. 1969. Chicago & Urbana. 406. John Wilkes Booth Himself. MA: Hired Hand Press. New York: Dover Publications.Knopf. ed. Furstwangler. 1991. Jim The Day Lincoln Was Shot. 2005. 1979. Print. p.. United States Army. (Risvold. Print. Kelly. Lewis J. William Morrow.The assassination of President Lincoln: and the trial of the conspirators.) A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and of the Conspiracy Trial of 1865. Hanchett. Dover. Martin. Print.S. Cincinnati and New York: Moore. Michael W. Abraham Lincoln Assassination Conspiracies. 1975. Kimmell.

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