Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln was one of the last events in the American Civil War, and happened on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. President Lincoln was shot while he was watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C..

Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth, was an actor and Confederate supporter who had plotted with other men to kill the Secretary of State, William H. Seward and the Vice President Andrew Johnson. Booth hoped to create disorder and overthrow the Northern government by doing this. Booth was able to kill Lincoln, but Seward and Johnson survived. Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated.[1]

Events[change | change source]

On April 14th, Lincoln went to attend a play with his wife at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C..

During the third act of the play, following a line in the play that was the biggest laugh of the night, Lincoln was laughing at this line when he was shot; John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland, entered the presidental box and fired a pistol at point-blank range into the back of Lincoln's head,[2] mortally wounding him. Lincoln immediately lost consciousness, but he passed into unconsciousness with laughter and a smile on his face; Katherine M. Evans, a young actress in the play, who was offstage when Lincoln was shot but rushed onstage after Booth's exit stated "I looked and saw President Lincoln unconscious, his head dropping on his breast,his eyes closed, but with a smile still on his face".[3] Lincoln was carried across the street to Petersen House. He was placed diagonally on the bed because his tall frame would not fit normally on the smaller bed.[4] He remained in a coma for nine hours. He died the next morning.[5] Lincoln's secretary John Hay was present when Lincoln died; he saw "a look of unspeakable peace came upon his worn features".[6]

Booth escaped, but died from shots fired during his capture on April 26.

Lincoln's premonitions[change | change source]

It is widely believed that when he was president, Lincoln might have known of his assassination before he died.[7]

Shortly after his election in 1860. Lincoln received the news of his victory by telegraph and celebrated at home with some friends. Exhausted from the day's events, he fell asleep on the sofa. When he awoke in the morning, he happened to glance in a bureau mirror and was startled to see a double image of himself reflected.[source?] He related the strange event to Harper's Magazine:

Looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished.

On lying down again, I saw it a second time -- plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all about it -- nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as though something uncomfortable had happened.[source?]

When Lincoln told his wife Mary of the phenomenon, her interpretation was prescient: "She thought it was 'a sign,'" Lincoln said, "that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term."[source?]

It is reported by different sources that Lincoln had dreams about being assassinated several nights before he was shot by Booth.[8] According to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln's friend and biographer, three days before his assassination Lincoln discussed with Lamon and others a dream he had, saying:

About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers, 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin.' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.[9]

On the day of his assassination, Lincoln had told his bodyguard, William H. Crook, that he had been having dreams of himself being assassinated for three straight nights. Cook advised Lincoln not to go that night to Ford's theater, but Lincoln said he had promised his wife they would go. As Lincoln left for the theater, he turned to Crook and said "Goodbye, Crook." According to Crook, this was the first time. Lincoln always said: "Good night, Crook." Crook later recalled "It was the first time that he neglected to say ‘Good Night’ to me and it was the only time that he ever said ‘Good-bye’. I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten."[10]

References[change | change source]

  1. Swanson, James (2006). Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780060518493.
  2. Swanson, James. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. Harper Collins, 2006. pp. 42–3. ISBN 978-0-06-051849-3
  3. Timothy S. Good, ed. (1995). We Saw Lincoln Shot: One Hundred Eyewitness Accounts (quoting Katherine M. Evans interview from April 1915 New York Tribune). University Press of Mississippi. pp. 148-149.
  4. Steers, Edward. Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. University Press of Kentucky, 2001. p. 123–24. ISBN 978-0-8131-9151-5
  5. "Abraham Lincoln". History. AETN UK. http://www.history.co.uk/biographies/abraham-lincoln. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  6. Hay, John (1915 (1890)). The Life and Letters of John Hay Volume 1 (quote's original source is Hay's diary which is quoted in "Abraham Lincoln: A History", Volume 10, Page 292 by John G. Nicolay and John Hay). Houghton Mifflin Company. http://archive.org/stream/lifeandlettersof007751mbp/lifeandlettersof007751mbp_djvu.txt. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  7. The Diary of Gideon Welles; The History Channel Publishings, Chapter XXVI, April 14, 1865
  8. The Diary of Gideon Welles; The History Channel Publishings, Chapter XXVI, April 14, 1865
  9. p. 116–117 of Recollections of Abraham Lincoln 1847–1865 by Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1999).
  10. Lloyd Lewis (1994). The Assassination of Lincoln: History and Myth. University of Nebraska Press. p. 297. ISBN 9780803279490. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=F6HB7q8M9TIC&pg=PA297.

Other websites[change | change source]