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The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

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To most of us, Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents of US history. However, at the time he served, he was also one of the most controversial men to ever hold the office. Lincoln was a popular Republican who worked to eliminate slavery and keep the Union together during the Civil War. These efforts made many southerners angry and eventually led to his assassination on April 14, 1865. On this night, Lincoln was in Washington D.C watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. John Wilkes Booth, a prominent actor, and Confederate sympathizer shot the President during the play. Lincoln’s assassination shook the nation and the world and Lincoln was mourned for many years after.

John Wilkes Booth strongly disliked Lincoln and opposed giving freedom and liberties to Black people in the United States. He saw Lincoln as a tyrant, taking away the South’s rights to secede and create a slavery-based society. Booth was even reported saying that he wished the President and government would go to hell. Booth initially recruited George Atzerodt, Michael O’Laughlen, Lewis Powell, David Harold, Mary Surratt, John Surratt, and Samuel Arnold to help him kidnap and ransom Lincoln for the release of Confederate prisoners of war. Subsequently, he decided to kill the President along with Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson. The conspiracy failed and the only successful part of the plot was Lincoln’s assassination. Booth’s motive for the assassination is disputed, but the main belief is that the conspirators wanted to revive Confederate efforts to fight and “avenge the South.”

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On the night of April 14, 1865; John Wilkes Booth arrived at Ford’s Theatre. He entered the vestibule of the Presidential Box and waited for actor Harry Hawk to deliver the play’s funniest line. As the laughter from Lincoln and the audience erupted, Booth opened the door of the Box and fired a single shot into the back of Lincoln’s head. Lincoln immediately passed out, and Major Henry Rathbone stepped forward to try to stop Booth. Booth wounded Rathbone’s arm with a dagger and jumped onstage, breaking his leg. Brandishing the bloody dagger, he yelled “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” and “The South is avenged!” The audience thought that Booth was part of the play, and many didn’t realize the actuality of the situation. Doctors Charles Leale and Charles Sabin Taft from the audience examined Lincoln and declared that the bullet passed through his brain, fractured both orbital plates and that he would die that night.

Soldiers carried Lincoln’s body into the nearby house of William Petersen and laid him in the first-floor bedroom as they waited for more doctors to arrive. They all agreed that he could not survive, and Lincoln died the following morning. Meanwhile, Booth managed to escape and jump onto a horse outside of the theatre. In his diary, he states that “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.” He also said that he did not care what became of him and did not repent the murder. He fled through Maryland but was shot and killed by the 16th New York Cavalry while hiding in a tobacco farmer’s barn. The remaining conspirators were arrested and tried. Some were hanged or otherwise executed, while others were released and pardoned.

Booth may have succeeded in killing the President, but he failed to achieve his other goals. His conspiracy failed to eliminate the other targets, and he did not aid the south in their cause. The Civil War had ended, the slaves were freed, and he did not destroy Lincoln’s legacy. Today Lincoln is remembered and revered as an American hero, while Booth is remembered as nothing more than a villain.

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The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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