Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln

Background: Abraham Lincoln was elected as president of United States in 1860. He was a staunch supporter of abolition and wanted to end slavery in United States. The pro slavery southern states vehemently opposed his bid to be elected as US president and upon his success announced secession from union. By 1861 seven southern states (South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana) had seceded from union and declared themselves a sovereign nation, calling themselves Confederate States of America.

Lincoln refused to accept the secession and soon a civil war started between Northern states (union) and Southern states (Confederacy). Union forces gradually over powered confederate forces and by 1863, certain defeat was looking Confederate states in the eyes. Their most prominent and accomplished military leader, General Robert E Lee surrendered to the union forces lead by General Ulysses S Grant. Lincoln’s leadership had a direct bearing on union’s success for which he was admired in north and despised in south. On 14th April, 1865 he was shot by a stage actor John Wilkes Booth, who was a pro slavery confederate sympathizer.

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The Assassin: John Wilkes Booth was a famous stage actor who belonged to a well known family of actors. He was a rabid supporter of slavery and believed that it should not be abolished. He even attended the execution of famous abolitionist John Brown, who had raided a federal armory at Harpers Ferry.

After confederate forces were defeated on various fronts, Booth felt that if Lincoln, his vice president Andrew Johnson and secretary of state William Seward were killed, the tide of war could be changed in the favor of confederacy. He and his accomplices decided to assassinate president, vice president and secretary of state. Booth assigned himself the primary task of targeting Lincoln.

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The Assassination: On 14th April, 1865, Abraham Lincoln had gone to attend a stage play at Ford’s theater in Washington D.C along with his wife Mary. While he was seated in a special box with his wife and others, Lincoln was attacked by Booth who shot him in the back of the head. Booth escaped after shooting president. Lincoln did not immediately die from the gunshot wound and was brought to Peterson House, a house across the street from the theater. He passed away the next day in Peterson House. One of Booth’s accomplices Powell attacked secretary of state Seward but did not succeed in killing him. However, the other accomplice, Atzerodt decided against attacking vice president Johnson at the last moment.

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Fate of the Assassins: Within a few days of the assassination all the conspirators were arrested except Booth who was shot dead after he resisted arrest. In all, eight conspirators were tried for the assassination and four of them were sentenced to death by hanging. Three conspirators were handed life imprisonment and one was booked for six years.

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Aftermath: Abraham Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated. The entire American nation mourned his death. Lincoln’s death was a tragic end of an extraordinary life but contrary to John Wilkes Booth’s expectations it did not trigger a confederate revival in war. After less than a month of Lincoln’s death, the civil war also reached its logical end with a thumping Union victory.

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