The life of Abraham Lincoln was a very eventful one. He passed through several challenges from a young age, overcame the hurdles in the political terrain and eventually became the 16th President of the United States of America. Born February 12, 1809, he lost his mother when he was nine years old and is well remembered for leading the country through a bloody Civil War and abolishing slave trade. His parents were Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. He was self educated and was elected to the Illinois State House of Representatives and also to the United States House of Representatives. He is seen as one of the great Presidents that have led the country. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by popular stage-actor, John Wilkes on the 14th of April, 1865.
In this article, we shall be looking at how he died including the background which led to such an unfortunate incident.
Towards the end of the civil war in the country, Abraham Lincoln was the target of a conspiracy that was intended to revive the Confederate. The plan was to assassinate three of the most important officials of the United States government. It was planned by John Wilkes Booth, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt and David Herold. The President, Abraham Lincoln was to be killed by John Booth while George Atzerodt was to kill the Vice President, Andrew Johnson. David Herold and Lewis Powell were the ones assigned to kill the Secretary of State, William H. Seward. It is widely believed that the motive
behind this plan as I earlier stated was to restore legitimacy to the cause of the confederates as their strongholds were gradually falling to the United States Army. Several theories have been put forward as being the motive behind the plot. It was reported that he wrote his mother stating that he would avenge the South and to promote their interests. Another had to do with the bitter rivalry that existed between John Booth and his brother, Edwin Booth who was a loyal Unionist. Both brothers had different ideologies regarding the war. While Edwin and other members of their family sided with and supported the Unionists, John hated Abraham Lincoln especially for abolishing slavery and restoring dignity to blacks. This brought about heated arguments between members of the family whenever they gathered together. It was reported that the initial plan hatched by him was to kidnap the President, in fact on the 17th of March 1863, he and his co-conspirators had planned to execute their plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln as he returned from a play which he was to attend at Campbell Military Hospital. Fortunately, the President was unable to attend rather he was at a ceremony held at the National Hotel which was the residence of John Booth at that time. He would have easily carried out his plan if he had not gone to the hospital that day. The planning continued as they waited for an opportune time to strike.
There have been recorded reports that Abraham Lincoln had some premonitions about his death. One of these accounts was given by Ward Hill Lamon, who was a close friend and former law partner. He said that just a few days before the assassination, Lincoln recounted a dream he had with a few people which included his wife and Lamon. He said that in the dream, he walked into the East Room where he saw a corpse that was guarded by soldiers and a group of mourners. He said he had asked the soldiers who had died to which they responded, "The president. He was killed by an assassin." This account has been disputed by many as an afterthought by Lamon because he did not mention it at the time of the murder.
On that fateful day, John Booth while visiting Ford's theatre to pick up his mail learnt that the President
would be coming there later that night. He quickly put his plans together to attack that day. He was familiar with the theatre grounds because he had performed there severally and knew the staff there very well. He also met with the others one last time that night. Each of the groups was to attack their targets at exactly the same time in their various locations. Meanwhile, Lincoln prepared to leave for the theatre accompanied by his wife, Mary who had developed a headache but he insisted they must go. It is also reported that one of his bodyguards advised him not to go but he insisted. He arrived late for the show and was ushered into his sit while the orchestra played a welcome song in his honor. He and his wife then settled in to enjoy the show. A short while after, John Booth walked into the box where they were seated with their guests and fired a shot at the President after barricading the door from inside. He timed his shot to occur during one of the best parts of the play to keep Abraham Lincoln distracted as he approached. The shot made direct impact with the President's skull. He then tried to escape capture in the theatre and successfully escaped from there and a manhunt began for him. The President was attended to by Surgeons who were present in the theatre at the time and was eventually moved to a house nearby. It was determined that he would not be able to survive it. His wife remained at his side while other members of his family and top government officials began to arrive. The Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton ran the government from the house while also coordinating the manhunt for Booth and his conspirators. Abraham Lincoln finally passed away on the 15th April, 1865 after which the Vice President, Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President by Chief Justice Salmon Chase. This marked the end of the life of a remarkable leader who had led the country to victory against those who wanted to divide it.
John Booth and his conspirators were located a few days after but John refused to be taken alive. He was shot and killed by one of the soldiers at a farmhouse where he was hiding. The rest were arrested, tried for about seven weeks after which they were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.