The Murder of Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, struck the American psyche like a hammer blow – opening a wound that in many ways has never completely healed.
It is impossible to answer unambiguously a question what were the circumstances of Lincoln’s assassination. It is an example of how impossible sometimes it is to reveal the truth. In this case, as well as in the case of Kennedy’s assassination, it is necessary to deal only with official versions and facts.
The Civil War finished with the capitulation of the Confederative States of America on 9 April 1865. The country had to fulfill the Reconstruction of the South and to begin the process of integration of the Blacks into the American society. In five days after the end of war, on 14 April 1865, during the “My American Cousin” performance, the supporter of the southerners – actor John Wilkes Booth got into a presidential box and shot the Lincoln at the head.
Lincoln occupied a private box above the stage with his wife Mary, a young army officer named Henry Rathbone and Rathbone’s fiancee, Clara Harris, the daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris. The Lincolns arrived late for the comedy, but the president was reportedly in a fine mood and laughed heartily during the production.
The next morning, without regaining consciousness, Abraham Lincoln died. The train carried two coffins: a big coffin with Abraham Lincoln’s body and a small one with the body of his son William, who died three years before, during the presidential campaign of the father. Abraham and William Lincoln were buried in Springfield on the Oak Ridge Cemetery. The tragic death of Lincoln promoted the creation of an aura of the martyr, which gave the life for the sake of reunion of the country and release of the black slaves.
It was considered that there is nothing clear in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the sixteenth President of the United States of America. Lincoln, the person who cancelled slavery, was supported by the Afro-Americans; however, the white slaveholders from the southern states, rich cotton planters saw a deadly enemy in him. Consequently, one of the fanatical supporters of slavery shot Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth and everybody, who helped him or was involved in the attempt to kill a vice-president Andrew Johnson, were severely punished; four of them were hung up. It seemed that all the participants of one of the major crimes in the American history were punished.
Various conjectures about the motives and secrets of this crime emerged soon after the assassination of Lincoln. According to one of the versions, assassination of Lincoln was conceived by the then Secretary of State for Defense Edwin Stanton – the next adherent and assistant to the President during the Civil War. However, these assumptions practically have no proofs. It is the most probable that the criminal plan was carried out by the group of fanatics, who acted on their own initiative.
The role, which was played by the vice-president, is still not clear. Booth entered the hotel “Washington” seven hours before the assassination. Having known that neither vice-president, nor his secretary is present, he remained the following note, “I would not like to disturb you. Are you at home? J. Booth”. Andrew Johnson’s personal secretary declared under oath that he found a note the same day in the evening. Therefore, it is quite possible to assume that Booth and Johnson were familiar with each other. Therefore, many people believed that Johnson was related to the plot.
The members of the plot included John Booth, his two classmates: Michael O’Laughlin and Samuel Arnold, carriages collector George Atzerdot, Lewis Payne, a clerk of the Washington drugstore David Harold, the owner of the apartment – a meeting place for all members of the plot – Mary Surratt, and her son John Surratt, and the worker of the Ford’s Theater Edward Spangler.
Three conspirators were hung up, one was discharged, three of them were sentenced to the life imprisonment, and one received six years of imprisonment. However, soon three survived murderers of Lincoln (one died in prison) were amnestied and released in 1869, having stayed in prison for only four years.
The special committee on the investigation of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was formed. Its main task was finding out whether Johnson was involved in the death of the president or not. The committee did not find anything that could cause suspicions in Johnson’s actions; however, he was considered involved directly or indirectly in the plot against Lincoln for many years.
The conclusion is reached that the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators was not a violation of the law of war and, therefore, was not a war crime, but was a politically motivated, treasonous act committed by Union citizens in the hope that it would help the Confederate cause.
The history of the USA endured the assassinations of four US Presidents. The Lincoln assassination was an event, which had a great historical value and often appeared in literature, cinema, and music. The memory of the president-liberator was immortalized in the memorial opened in Washington D.C. in 1922. Daniel Chester French, the chief sculptor, placed a statue (six meters high) of Abraham Lincoln sitting in muse and thoughtfulness. The walls inside the memorial include the texts of Gettysburg and inaugural Abraham Lincoln’s speeches.