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Abraham Lincoln Assassination Conspiracies

Assassination Facts

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Photograph of Abraham Lincoln at Antietam

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln at Antietam.

Library of Congress
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is one of the most famous Presidents of the United States. Volumes are devoted to his life and death. However, historians have yet to unravel the mysteries surrounding his assassination. Here are the known facts:
  • Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln attended the play, Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865. They were to be accompanied by General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant. However, Grant and his wife changed their plans and did not attend the play. The Lincoln's attended the play with Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone.
  • During the play, actor John Wilkes Booth entered Lincoln's State Box undetected and shot him in the back of the head. He also stabbed Henry Rathbone in the arm.
  • After shooting the President, Booth jumped out of the box onto the stage, broke his left leg and yelled something that some eyewitnesses reported as, "Sic Semper Tyrannus" (As always to tyrants).
  • Co-conspirator Lewis Powell (or Paine/Payne) attempted to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward, but only managed to injure him. David Herold accompanied Powell. However, Herold fled before the deed was finished. At the same time, George Atzerodt was supposed to have killed Vice-President Andrew Johnson. Atzerodt did not go through with the assassination.
  • Booth and Herold escaped the Capital and traveled to Mary Surratt's Tavern in Maryland where they picked up supplies. They then traveled to Dr. Samuel Mudd's house where Booth's leg was set.
  • Lincoln was taken to the Petersen House across the street from Ford's Theater where he eventually died at 7:22 A.M. April 15, 1865.
  • Secretary of War Edwin Stanton stayed with the Lincolns at the Petersen House and coordinated the efforts to capture the conspirators.
  • On April 26, Herold and Booth were found hiding in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold surrendered but Booth refused to come out of the barn so it was set on fire. In the ensuing chaos, a soldier shot and killed Booth.
  • Eight Lincoln conspirators were caught over the next few days and tried by a military court. They were found guilty on June 30 and given various sentences depending upon their involvement. Lewis Powell (Paine), David Herold, George Atzerodt and Mary Surratt were charged with conspiring with Booth along with various other crimes and hanged on July 7, 1865. Dr. Samuel Mudd was charged with conspiring with Booth and sentenced to life in prison. Andrew Johnson eventually pardoned him early in 1869. Samuel Arnold and Michael O'Laughlen had conspired with Booth to kidnap President Lincoln and were found guilty and sentenced to life. O'Laughlen died in prison but Arnold was pardoned by Johnson in 1869. Edman Spangler was found guilty of helping Booth escape from Ford's Theater. He was also pardoned by Johnson in 1869.

As stated before, these are the known facts. However, who was really involved in the death of Abraham Lincoln? Over the years, numerous theories have arisen to try and shed light on how this terrible tragedy could have occurred. On the following pages, a few of these theories will be explained in depth.

Part 2: Simple Plots or Grand Conspiracies?
Part 3: Lesser Conspiracies and Conclusions

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