Saturday, April 14, 2012

Remembering: The Assassination of Lincoln

John Wilkes Booth
April 14, 1865, it's been four years and two days since the Civil War began, and five days since General Lee surrendered. The North begins to celebrate the end of the war and the South begins to face the war is over, and they lost.

For the last ten days, President Lincoln has been troubled by a dream, but on this night he is going to a play at Ford's Theater, and has a small chance to relax some. His biggest ordeal is over, the country has been preserved, and soon they'll have to start working on reconstruction and try for healing.

John Wilkes Booth's plan to kidnap the President on March 20, and ransom him in exchange for southern independence, fell through because Lincoln didn't show where he was scheduled to be. Now the Southern cause he believed in lays destroyed, Richmond has fallen, Lee has surrendered, the war is over. Vengeance is all that is left.

Booth tell his conspirators of a change in the plan. Lewis T. Powell will go to Secretary of State Seward's home and kill him. George A. Atzerodt will kill Vice President Johnson. And Booth will go to Ford's Theater, where Lincoln is supposed to be and assassinate him as well. The triple death should throw the nation into chaos, without a clear chain of command. Maybe somehow the South will be able to rise out of the mess, an independent country.

Powell is successful in seriously injuring, but not killing Seward. Atzerodt loses his nerve and flees. Booth though is unnoticed as he slips into the President's box, and shoots him in the back of the head. Jumping down to the stage he shouts, "Sic semper tyrannis! (Thus always to tyrants) The South is avenged!"

Booth escapes Washington DC, only later to be cornered in a barn, by federal troops on a man hunt. Lincoln dies of his wounds the next morning, his dream having come true. Of the eight other people convicted of conspiracy four were hung, four were jailed.