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Abraham Lincoln

John Wilkes Booth

The Assassination - Many thanks to the students at Lexington Middle School for pointing out this link!



The End of Honest Abe

How easy is it to assassinate the President? These days, you cannot get within a mile of Bill Clinton without being thoroughly checked out by Secret Service agents. Back in the 1800s, there was no Secret Service but guns were not nearly as readily available as they are today.
A collection of busts of Abe Lincoln

What if the United States was undergoing a civil war today? Imagine this scenario: The United States is undergoing a civil war over Florida. After the election fiasco the Southerners want to give it back to Spain while Northerners think it's a nice place to send the parents. OK, towards the end of the war the North is winning and the South is about to be defeated.

Now Matthew McConaughey, who hails from Texas, is a die-hard Southerner and can't stand to see his people lose. So he comes up with a plan. The president is going to attend the movie opening for his next big film "My Little Pony". Matthew knows that since he stars in the movie, no secret service agents will frisk him, so he hides a small handgun in his pocket and enters the theater, sitting right being the president. Right during the climax of the film, when Matthew is reunited with his rustic yet curvaceous pony, the crowd erupts into applause and at that precise moment Matthew shoots the president in the head.


This sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Don't roll your eyes at my scenario, because the event actually happened in 1865. The setting was different; the assassination took place in Ford's Theater in downtown Washington, D.C. The handsome young actor who killed the president was a Shakespearean heartthrob named John Wilkes Booth. The president who died, and who ever after has been regarded as perhaps our greatest president, was Abraham Lincoln.

The Show the Audience Didn't Pay to See...


(Video Help)

Lincoln became president at the most precarious juncture of our nation's history. The future of the union depended on the battles being fought inside Congress and on the battlefields. Ultimately, the political maneuvering he made along with the sheer size of the Northern war machine brought the South to its knees.

Before the South would give up, many Southerners wanted to see the one man they felt was responsible for their demise pay. Powerful plantation owners, slave owners, businessmen and politicians wanted Abe Lincoln dead.

Like so much of history, the assassination of Lincoln has been focused on one man. The reality of the situation is that many people in the South celebrated Lincoln's assassination, and John Wilkes Booth was blown by the winds of history into his fateful meeting with the 16th president.

Booth was the theater world equivalent of Matthew McConaughey or Leonardo DeCaprio. He was young, only 26, and adored by all theater going ladies. He always did have a certain flare for drama, and the night he killed Lincoln he was at his best.


Car for Sale!

After shooting Lincoln from only six inches away, he wrestled with a young man in the booth before stabbing his way free with a five-inch knife. The crowd in the theater took notice of him when he stood in the balcony and exclaimed:

"Sic, Siempre, Tyrannus." Thus, always to tyrants. This is the State Motto of Virginia and basically a statement saying that rulers who abuse their power are bound to be killed. After saying his line, Booth leaped down from the balcony and onto the stage, catching the spur of his boot on a flag and landing awkwardly. While the audience thought that this might have been some special appearance by the famous artist, the actors on stage knew that the bloody knife in Booth's hand was no fake. They fled backstage and Booth followed them and escaped on a horse he had tied out back.

The small gun Booth hid in his pocket

Lincoln, in the meantime, was not doing so well. The bullet was lodged in his head but he was still breathing. He was carried over to a house across the street from the theater and placed in the main bedroom. For two days he suffered before finally dying on the morning of April 16th, 1865.

Booth was caught twelve days later in a barn and was shot dead. He died firmly believing he had done a great service to humanity.

Nick in front of the bed where Lincoln died

Many thousands of people were killed during the episode of America's Civil War. Lincoln's death was the most famous, and showed Americans how dangerous being president can be.


Please email me at:teddy@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Teddy - General Grant and a dozen grisly ways to die
Rebecca - If it takes every chicken in the Confederacy...
Neda - Harriet Tubman kicks some butt
Stephanie - The role of African Americans in the Civil War