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A PRESIDENT'S LIFE REMEMBERED
By Barry Denenberg
Feiwel And Friends
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One PRESIDENT DIES AT 7:22
NATION MOURNS FALLEN LEADER
Evil Deed Creates Sea Of Sorrow Across The Land
JOHN WILKES BOOTH ASSASSIN ESCAPES!
All Roads Watched, Arrests Imminent
MURDERERS POSSIBLY HEADED FOR CANADA
Hundreds Of Suspects In Custody-Prisons Overwhelmed
General Grant Ordered Back To Defend Washington
CONFEDERATE ARMY RUMORED TO BE HEADED FOR CAPITAL
Special to the National News (Original article appeared Sat. morning April 15, 1865)
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was shot by a lone gunman at approximately 10:15 PM last night. He is not expected to live.
The president, Mrs. Lincoln, and their guests Maj. Rathbone and his fiancée were watching Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater when the heinous crime was committed. Gen. and Mrs. Grant were expected to accompany the president and it is not known at this time why were absent.
Sometime earlier, John Wilkes Booth, the actor whose face was familiar to and players at Ford's, entered the building. At approximately 10:15, while the third act was in progress, Booth handed his calling card to the White House valet and was admitted into the president's box.
The Washington policeman assigned to guard the president had inexplicably left his post. His precise whereabouts during the dastardly attack are not known at this time. There are unconfirmed reports that he had a record of drunkenness, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Booth shot President Lincoln in the back of the head at point-blank range with a .44 caliber, single-shot, derringer pistol. Most of the 1,700 patrons did not hear the shot because of the laughter elicited by the particular scene being played out on the stage. Even those who did hear something believed it to be part of the plot and not the infinitely more tragic one unfolding in the box above.
After shooting the president, Booth stabbed Maj. Rathbone with a large hunting knife and vaulted over the railing on to the stage twelve feet below. He rose up holding the knife menacingly aloft and, according to some, shouted in Latin "sic semper tyrannis"-"thus ever to tyrants." The evil assassin then dashed off the stage and made his way to the alley where he mounted a getaway horse that was being held for him by an accomplice and galloped into the night.
The president was unconscious and very near death. A doctor who was in attendance examined the wound and stated that it was fatal. He judged that transporting his gravely wounded patient back to the White House would be unwise. With help from those who had gathered about he carried the president down the stairs, through the lobby, and onto 10th Street, where the crowd was cleared by soldiers. One of the residents of a boardinghouse facing the theater cried out "bring him in here."
At 11 PM Secy. of War Edwin Stanton arrived and took complete charge of the situation. The Secy. was already aware that simultaneously with the attack on the president, Secy. of State William Seward had been assailed in his home and seriously injured by a madman who wounded several members of the household in a bloody rampage. The assailant was finally beaten off and fled. His identity and whereabouts are unknown at this time.
Secy. Stanton contacted Gen. Grant:
War Department, Washington April 14 midnight (sent 12:20 PM)
To Lieut. Gen, US GRANT On the night train to Burlington
The President was assassinated at Ford's Theater at 10:30 tonight & cannot live. The wound is a Pistol shot through the head. Secretary Seward & his son Frederick, were also assassinated at their residences & are in dangerous condition. The Secretary of War desires that you return to Washington immediately. Please answer on receipt of this.
The president never regained consciousness, was paralyzed, had a very weak pulse and had great difficulty breathing. By 6 AM his condition had worsened and by 7:22 AM he was dead.
THE PRESIDENT'S DAY
Exclusive Report (Original article appeared Sun. evening, April 16, 1865)
On Friday morning, April 14, 1865, the president awoke at 7 AM, lit a fire, worked on some papers, and read the newspaper. Mrs. Lincoln and their son Robert joined him in the family dining room for breakfast. Robert and his father talked over his plans to resume his law studies.
At eleven the president met with the cabinet, including Gen. G ant. Many cabinet members noted the neat appearance the usually quite disheveled president made and his generally relaxed demeanor. They attributed these changes to the terrible burden of the war being lifted at long last from his shoulders.
After the meeting Gen. Grant informed the president that he and Mrs. Grant were going to visit their children in New Jersey and would not, as previously agreed, be able to accompany him and Mrs. Lincoln to the theater. It is well known that Mrs. Grant disliked Mrs. Lincoln: this was possibly an additional reason for their decision not to go to the theater.
Having no time for lunch the president made do with an apple and, as usual, visited the telegraph office in the War Department, issued pardons, and met with people. He also gave some visitors lemons from the tree he recently received as a gift.
At 3:00 PM he and Mary went for a carriage ride, as was their custom. Mary was pleased to see how cheerful her husband was. He said that: "We must be more cheerful in the future; between the war and the loss of our darling Willie, we have been very miserable."
He talked about his plans for the future, which included traveling to California and Europe. The president was looking forward to returning to his law practice in Springfield, Illinois, at the end of his term.
They returned to the White House at five, where the president had still more meetings and paperwork to confront.
At six he had dinner with the family. Mary had one of her headaches and suggested that they stay home. This appealed to her husband, who was tired to the bone. But he thought he had a better chance at getting some peace and quiet at the theater than he would at the always tumultuous White House. He felt obliged to go since his appearance had been announced already in the newspaper and he didn't want to disappoint people.
The president and Mrs. Lincoln entered their carriage at a little after eight, picked up Maj. Rathbone and Miss Harris, and arrived at Ford's Theater at eight-thirty.
The play, which had already begun, was halted as President Lincoln was greeted with a standing ovation while the orchestra played "'Hail to the Chief." He smiled, acknowledged the warm greeting, and settled into the rocking chair that had been put there for him.
Behind that rocking chair, in the shadows, the assassin lurked.
PROFILE OF AN ASSASSIN
(Original article appeared Sat. morning, April 22, 1865)
John Wilkes Booth was born in 1838 not far from Baltimore, Maryland. He was the next to the youngest of ten children but was, from the very first, his mother's favorite. His father, a mentally unstable alcoholic, was a famous actor as was John's older brother. When he was seventeen Booth made his acting debut and became known for his athletic style which featured great leaps and flamboyant sword fights.
Exotically handsome with curly black hair, an attractive mustache, and penetrating hazel eyes, Booth was as popular with the ladies as he was with audiences. Vain, stylish, moody and undisciplined Booth, like his father, was known to drink more than his share.
It appears that Booth, who was an outspoken advocate of slavery from an early age, had been plotting to kidnap the president of the United States since October 1864. The charismatic and persuasive actor was able to recruit a number of willing accomplices. Operating out of a Washington hotel, Booth funded the extensive operation with his considerable acting income.
Booth intended to take the president forcibly to Richmond where he would be exchanged for captured Confederate soldiers being held in Northern prisons. Booth speculated that this ungodly act might even throw the entire government into chaos and, somehow, lead to Southern independence.
On March 4, 1865, Booth was present during Lincoln's second inauguration ceremony. He saw how exposed the president could be at times.
Two weeks later he and the others attempted to kidnap President Lincoln at gunpoint, but their plans went awry when the president's itinerary changed and Lincoln was not where Booth thought he would be. There is also evidence that Booth planned to kidnap Lincoln from Ford's' Theater by tying him with a rope and lowering him to the stage.
In early April, when Union troops marched into the Confederate capital and, days later, the main rebel army surrendered, Booth realized that kidnapping would serve no useful purpose. Angered at the South's defeat and wanting, as always, to make a name for himself in the history books Booth began to consider killing, rather than kidnapping, the president.
On April 11, President Lincoln, standing in the window of the White House balcony, delivered a carefully considered speech about allowing blacks to vote. Booth, in the crowd on the lawn below, was enraged by this and vowed it would be the last speech the president would make.
Three days later, at noon on Friday, April 14 Booth went to Ford's Theater to pick up his mail and learned that the Lincolns were coming to the play that evening. He decided to assassinate the president that very night.
Moving frantically and working furiously all afternoon Booth met with his accomplices and implemented his, by now, expanded plan. tie now planned to orchestrate the murder of the vice president and the secretary of state. Booth hoped to decapitate the government of the United States.
By eight-thirty, when the president's carriage pulled up to the front doors of Ford's Theater, all the pieces of his nefarious plan were in place.
SECY SEWARD'S ASSAILANT AND TWO OTHERS ARRESTED
Vicious Madman Identified
Blood Found on Clothes
FURTHER ARRESTS HOURS AWAY
BOOTH'S CAPTURE ASSURED BY AUTHORITIES
Conflicting Reports Concerning Escape Route
(Original article appeared Sat. evening, April 22, 1865)
Three of John Wilkes Booth's known conspirators have been arrested by the authorities and government sources indicate that more arrests are certain to follow. Hundreds of suspects are being questioned concerning their involvement in what is apparently a vast, intricate, and well-financed Confederate conspiracy.
Details of the arrests are as follows.
Mary Surratt, 41, widow, mother of known Confederate courier John Surratt, and associate of John Wilkes Booth. Mrs. Surratt owned a Maryland tavern which was identified as a center of Confederate secret service activity. In 1864 she moved to Washington and opened a boardinghouse on H Street which also served as a clandestine Confederate communications center.
Mrs. Surratt was arrested within hours of the infernal act at her H Street boardinghouse.
Lewis Powell, 21, Alabama-born rebel soldier taken prisoner at Gettysburg and released. Two brothers killed in war and one who lost his leg. Large, strong, silent, and violent he is known to have kept the skull of a Union soldier as an ashtray.
Powell has been identified beyond any doubt as the man who attacked and nearly killed Secy. of State Seward. He is believed to have been abandoned by his partner, 22-year-old David Herold who is still at large. Herold was to have guided Powell through the streets of the city and into Maryland. However, when he heard the bloodcurdling screams coming from the Seward house he, apparently, ran for his life, leaving Powell lost in the unfamiliar Washington streets.
Powell was arrested by soldiers stationed at Surratt's boardinghouse where he unexpectedly appeared.
George Atzerodt, 29, alcoholic, German immigrant, and carriage painter. Atzerodt was arrested on April 20 at his cousin's house in Maryland. Reportedly he balked at his assigned task of murdering Vice President Andrew Johnson and wandered the streets alone that night. He has given the authorities valuable information about the inner workings of the conspiracy.
OUR MARTYRED PRESIDENT
Tragedy of the Century
Funeral Held in East Room of White House
Lincoln Lies in State Awaiting Trip Back to Springfield for Burial
Funeral Train to Take Same Route as Four Years Earlier
"Now he belongs to the ages"
BOOTH CAPTURED AND KILLED
Unprecedented Twelve Day Manhunt in Maryland and Virginia
Discovered in Tobacco Barn Herold Surrenders
Booth refuses le be taken alive Barn set on fire Shot in neck and dies hours later
BOOTH CAPTURED & KILLED
(Original article appeared April 26, 1865 in A National News one-page Extra)
After committing his cowardly and dastardly deed, John Wilkes Booth raced his getaway horse down the alley behind Ford's Theater, into the nighttime streets of Washington and past unsuspecting soldiers. He was headed for the Navy Yard Bridge, the quickest route across the Potomac into southern Maryland and the safety of the South.
Booth reached the bridge at 10:45 PM on April 14 and was detained, as required, by the sentry who asked his name, residence, and destination. The bold killer, calling on his well-known acting abilities, calmly and candidly answered all questions put to him.
The sentry warned that he would not be permitted to return and then let the assassin of the president of the United States escape.
A few minutes later David Herold, who had left Powell at the Seward house, arrived and was stopped by the same sentry and also allowed to pass.
Booth and Herold, traveling faster than the news of their foul deed, were able to stay ahead of the government dragnet that had already begun to descend over them.
Herold caught up with his leader and they headed, as planned, eight miles south, to the Surratt tavern. Encountering no one on the road at that hour they arrived at midnight and picked up rifles, ammunition, and field glasses-all of which Booth had ordered Mary Surratt to have waiting for them. They also took some whiskey for the pain in Booth's leg which he apparently had broken while leaping from the president's box to the stage at Ford's Theater.
Booth and Herold immediately headed for I the house of Dr. Mudd, another one of the vast network of rebel accomplices Booth had put in place over the past year. Arriving four hours later, the good doctor put a splint on Booth's leg so he could hobble around and fashioned crude crutches to further aid the fugitive's mobility.
Leaving Dr. Mudd, the assassin and his underling continued to flee. Along the way they were helped by more rebel soldiers, agents, and Southern sympathizers who provided them with food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and places to hide from the constantly closing federal forces.
By April 25 Booth had been spotted. By 2 AM the next day the soldiers of the 16th New York Cavalry had tracked him down to a Virginia farm sixty miles south of Washington where he and Herold were hiding in a tobacco barn.
The soldiers descended on the farm and surrounded the barn. Herold surrendered but Booth refused. He challenged the soldiers to step back from the barn so he could emerge and engage them in a fair fight. Wanting to capture him alive, the soldiers set fire to the barn hoping to smoke Booth out.
Booth's movements could be seen through the openings in the barn walls. He retreated to the center of the barn away from the rapidly encroaching flames. Wary soldiers watched as he attempted to support himself on one of Dr. Mudd's crutches while bracing and readying his rifle against his hip.
Fearing that he was about to start firing at them, one of the soldiers, acting on his own and hoping only to wound the dangerous assassin, shot him. Booth, mortally wounded, was taken from the barn and died in agony a few hours later.
Excerpted from LINCOLN SHOT by Barry Denenberg Copyright © 2008 by Barry Denenberg. Excerpted by permission.
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