Thursday, April 16, 2015

Abraham Lincoln

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The 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated on this day150 years ago.

John Wilkes Booth, an actor, shot Lincoln at point blank range in the back of his head at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC during an evening performance of "Our American Cousin." Lincoln succumbed to his injuries the next day.

Lincoln was perhaps the most instrumental factor in the ultimate abolition of slavery in the US. On his death anniversary, here’s a look at five interesting facts about the assassination.

Lincoln’s premonition about his assassination just a few days before his death

According to this story, just a few days before his assassination, Lincoln talked about a dream. He reportedly said that in the dream, he walked into the East Room of the White House to find a covered corpse surrounded by soldiers and mourners.

When he asked one of the soldiers who had died, the soldier replied, “The president. He was killed by an assassin.”

This story came to the fore when Ward Hill Lamon – Abraham Lincoln’s former law partner and friend – published it nearly 20 years after the assassination. Some historians have reservations about this account.

When the President addressed slavery in a speech, Booth vowed it was "the last speech Lincoln will ever give"

In a speech delivered from a White House window on April 11, 1865, Lincoln said that the time had come to give voting rights to African-Americans.

Booth was in the audience and according to Harold Holzer, author of the new book "President Lincoln Assassinated!", Booth “bristled at Lincoln's words, declaring that the president's message ‘means negro equality’”.

Booth then added: "That's the last speech he'll ever make."

Two years before his assassination, Lincoln went to watch a play in Ford’s Theatre in which John Wilkes Booth was the villain

According to Holzer, Lincoln not only saw Booth perform in a play in 1863 but he saw him at Ford's Theatre, where Booth would assassinate him two years later.

Lincoln watched the play "The Marble Heart" in which Booth played the villain.

Holzer said that during the play, Booth directed many of his villainous speeches towards the presidential box, prompting a companion to tell Lincoln: "He almost seems to be reciting these lines to you."

Lincoln reportedly replied: "He does talk very sharp at me, doesn't he?"

At Ford’s Theatre, the audience did not initially realise the President had been shot

Reportedly Lincoln was laughing at the line, "Don't know the manners of good society eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!" when he was shot.

The spot report filed by the Associated Press on April 14, 1865 says:

“The theatre was densely crowded, and everybody seemed delighted with the scene before them. During the third act and while there was a temporary pause for one of the actors to enter, a sharp report of a pistol was heard, which merely attracted attention, but suggested nothing serious until a man rushed to the front of the President's box, waving a long dagger in his right hand, exclaiming, 'Sic semper tyrannis,' and immediately leaped from the box, which was in the second tier, to the stage beneath, and ran across to the opposite side, made his escape amid the bewilderment of the audience from the rear of the theatre, and mounted a horse and fled.”

Booth attacked Major Henry Rathbone, who was closest to Lincoln in the theatre, and escaped.

‘John Wilkes Booth was not a deranged lone madman’

Historian Terry Alford, whose book Fortune's Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth was published recently, has been quoted as saying that contrary to what many people believe, Booth was not a lone madman. In fact, Alford said, Booth was politically motivated to assassinate Lincoln.

"John Wilkes Booth was one of those people who thought the best country in the history of the world was the United States as it existed before the Civil War," Alford said. "And then when Lincoln came along, he was changing that in fundamental ways."

Booth was born in a well-known family of actors and was a good thespian himself. He was captured 12 days after Lincoln’s assassination. 

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