American Experience The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
April 21, 1865, the remains of the United States 16th president slowly departed from Washington. As Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train repeated his same 1200 mile journey on his way to his first inauguration from Washington to Springfield, millions of people stood by. This was a nation mourning not only for their authentic hero, but they mourned for each of their loved ones lost in the battle of the Civil War.
Once Lincoln had died, he had already been bigger than war, life, death, almost including America because of the life he lived. For such an event to occur seemed almost unfair to a man America held ever so dearly in their hearts. Abraham Lincoln is known as the first president to be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Often the purpose for John killing Lincoln happened because he had gone mad or was a failed actor, but in reality he was not insane. In fact, he shared constitutional views similar toward millions of southerners. Now, a question stood: Why would this rich and handsome young man murder Abraham Lincoln?
The Booth family was known as the principal theatrical dynasty of their time. John was the son of the greatest actor of America, Junius Brutus Booth. Booth had a burden on stage because he was constantly compared to his family. Just when John’s career as an actor was flourishing, theater began to lose interest in America as a whole. A much more intense drama was taking place turning brother versus brother which was the crisis of The New Slavery Agitation. South is where Booth spent much of his time therefore, he naturally adapted to the southern point of view. Booth’s views on the south included their ideal type of society, not evil but pure. He hated the anti-slavery movement.
A little known politician from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 of November. This event of an anti-slavery republican’s victory left millions of southerners angry, including John Booth. Witnessing this all, Booth felt his world had been humiliated and crushed. Two years passed and on September 22, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which transformed the meaning of war setting a new birth of freedom. In 1864 at the age of 25, he already had begun losing interest in his acting career allowing for him to direct his focus on the man he viewed was responsible for the south’s suffering. In March of 1865, at least 50,000 people came together witnessing Lincoln’s second inauguration. Lincoln reelected as president for his second term triggered something horrifying turned in Booth. Booth and some friends met two weeks later developing their plan to capture Lincoln which failed. His failure to kidnap Lincoln left him in a condition of bitterness felling ashamed. His disappointment allowed Booth to advance with an even more desperate plan, to kill Abraham Lincoln himself.
The morning of April 14, 1865, President Lincoln allowed himself for a satisfactory time because he has gone through so much pain and loss but finally feels Washington is at peace and free. The same morning when Booth went to Ford Theater to pick up his mail, he overhears that Abraham will be at the theater, being Booth’s moment. He left in a hurry said one witness as if he had already made up his mind about something. That night he arrived to Ford Theater at 8 pm. At around 10:15 pm Booth shot and killed Abraham Lincoln purposely at the peak of a performance. Some even believe that he went on the stage and announced, The South is avenged! Next he literally jumped off the stage and broke his leg, but was able to escape on his horse before anyone could stop John. People did not want their president to die in the theater so several carried him next across the street to the Peterson Boarding House where he died the next morning. Following this tragic event, people began making connections like how Christ died to save souls of man, Lincoln died saving the Unions souls. In all reality our nation grieved the death of a common man like themselves who came from the same place, but no one mourned more than the nations newly freed slaves.
- Abraham Lincoln Elected President. History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/abraham-lincoln-elected-president.
- Abraham Lincoln The Assassination (Full Documentary). YouTube, YouTube, 13 June 2016, youtu.be/fAu6wMo8tok.
- John Wilkes Booth. Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017, www.biography.com/people/john-wilkes-booth-9219681.
- Shi, David Emory, and George Brown Tindall. America Brief A Narrative History . 10th ed., W. W. Norton and Company, INC., 2016.
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