Take Your Choice
By Jack McGuire
When I think of Assassin’s the name John Wilkes Booth heads the list. A first rate actor according to all accounts of his life, someone who characteristically often played the villain. Booth was arrested and taken before a Provost Marshal in 1862 for saying “So help me holy God, my soul, life and possessions are for the South,” most certainly remarks that were at least indicative of where his allegiance or loyalty lies.
While he didn’t take up arms or fire on the flag, his assaults on the Union were of a more devious nature. In the summer of 1864 he recruited a group of fellow scalawags and scoundrels in a plot to kidnap the President. Booth learned President Lincoln would be attending a play at the Campbell Hospital just outside Washington. The plan was to take the President to Richmond and exchange him for Confederate Prisoners being held in Union Prison Camps. Fortunately, rather than attend the play President Lincoln decided to speak to the 140th Indiana Regiment and present a captured flag to the Governor of Indiana. Thankfully, putting an end to John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators plans.
At this point Booth’s beloved South was in its death throes. On April 8th 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox. But strangely enough it wasn’t until April 11th when President Lincoln, giving what would be his last speech at the White House discussed possible new rights for certain blacks and considered voting rights on the very intelligent and on those who serve our cause as soldiers. Booth became enraged and said “Now, by God I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he’ll ever make.” His avowed views on slavery were “That the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us} that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation.”
The cowardly manner in which President Lincoln was assassinated has been well documented, but this was a contrived plan to revive the Confederate cause by eliminating the administration’s top three people. Booth’s co-conspirators were Lewis Powell and Davy Herold who were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward. George Atzserodt, Booth’s other henchman was to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. Powell gained entrance to Seward’s residence by using the ruse he was delivering medicine for Seward’s whose jaw was injured in a carriage accident, but Assistant Secretary of State Frederickl W. Seward became suspicious and told Powell his father was asleep. Undaunted, Powell promptly stabbed Frederick. He then rushed into the bedridden Secretary of State’s room stabbed him repeatedly, but although severely wounded and suffering permanent facial scarring Seward survived the assault. Powell’s accomplice David Herold became frightened and left the scene long before Powell galloped away into the night shouting “I’m Mad, “I’m Mad.”. George Atzerodt Vice President Johnson’s would be assassin lost his nerve and left Washington.
We have eight or more Traitors, Southern Sympathizers, Confederate Spies, Malcontents take your choice, but the man who General Grant said was “Incontestably the greatest man I ever knew” would never celebrate the fruits of his victory, they were stolen from him in the prime of his life. Thankfully, what will live on for the ages is his Gettysburg Address.
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