On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth changed the course of United History. The murder of Abraham Lincoln marked the first time a sitting U.S. President had been slain by an assassin. Tragically, Lincoln would not be the last to be assassinated. John F. Kennedy would meet his tragic fate on the streets of Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Lincoln’s murder has become fodder for conspiracy theorist intent on proving that a web of deceit surrounded Lincoln paving the way for the tyrannical Booth to execute his plan. But just how much of a conspiracy was there? And did it involve members of the Confederacy? Was Edward Stanton complicit in pulling back Lincoln’s security detail? And was Mary Surratt rightfully convicted? Edward Steers, through painstaking research answers those questions and more in what is the definitive examination of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
By all accounts, the general consensus is that John Wilkes Booth committed the murder and then jumped to the stage breaking a bone in his left leg in the process. His declaration of “Sic semper tyrannis” remains some of the most remembered and chilling words ever recorded in American history. Nearly two weeks later he was shot and killed by Sgt. Boston Corbett in a barn at the Garrett farmhouse. Nearly four years would pass before Booth’s body was returned to his family for internment at Green Mount Cemetery Baltimore, MD, where it continues to rest today. But with any famous murder, rumors, suspicion and misinformation arise leading to false conclusions and even more unanswered questions. Drawing on statements by those with first hand knowledge of the crime as a witness or subsequent participant and government documents, Steers has masterfully reconstructed the events leading up to the murder, the night itself and the aftermath that followed. And what is revealed, may change the way you look at an event that had a profound impact on a nation and helped shape the modern-day United States.
The facts of the murder and grisly details are scenery for those seeking gory bits of information. But the key to viewing Lincoln’s murder lies in the reasons behind the venom that consumed Booth and his conspirators. The Civil War in all of its ugliness, serves a predicate for the murder and in this book we are shown the treasonous acts carried out by members of the Confederacy as the Union neared closer to forcing it into submission. Lincoln, the Republican star,is seen by many in the south as a deadly threat to the system of slave labor. He forever changed the course of America with the emancipation of slaves, striking a severe blow to the southern way of life. However, sympathetic supporters could be found throughout the country even in the north and it is among these groups of individuals that Booth is able to form his nexus of assassins. And had the full plan been carried out, perhaps Steers would have been forced to write even more about the events of that night.
Many years have passed since Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth took their last breaths. Their secrets went with them to the grave with each having never written a full autobiography. The two had never met before that night yet they are joined in death from a critical moment in time which remains with us today. While the possibility of more unknown accomplices does exist, Steers has put to rest many unfounded rumors that serve to detract from the true story. And doing so, he has given us a gift in the form of a book that does the most efficient job of telling us what happened on that tragic night. It is often said that hindsight is always 20/20. In this case, it’s not only 20/20 but beyond crystal clear.