Abraham Lincoln Assassination

History Uncovered Episode 113:
The Lincoln Assassination — And The Larger Conspiracy Behind It

Published April 18, 2024

Discover the full story behind the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspiracy, from the initial plan that fell through to the other attacks that happened the night the president died.

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd decided to take a carriage ride. The last few years had been hard on the presidential couple. Not only had Lincoln been consumed by the Civil War, which was finally dragging to an end after four bloody years of fighting and the deaths of some 600,000 American soldiers, but the Lincolns were still reeling from a personal tragedy as well. In the thick of the war, back in February 1862, they had lost their 11-year-old son, Willie.

During the carriage ride, Mary remarked on her husband’s “great cheerfulness.” The president replied: “And well may I feel so, Mary, I consider this day, the war has come to a close. We must both be more cheerful in the future – between the war and the loss of our darling Willie – we have both been very miserable.”

With the war finally ending, it seemed that they would be able to turn over a new leaf — starting that night, with a trip to Ford’s Theatre to see the play Our American Cousin. Of course, things didn’t go as planned.

That evening, while watching the play alongside his wife, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

Abraham Lincoln Assassination

Public DomainThe assassination of Abraham Lincoln was one part of a three-pronged attack devised by John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators that they hoped would destabilize the Union government as the Civil War drew to a close.

But that’s not the only thing that happened on that bloody spring night in the nation’s capital. The Lincoln assassination was about much more than one man. In fact, it was designed as a three-pronged attack meant to take down the entire Union government.

At around the same time that John Wilkes Booth snuck into Ford’s Theatre armed with a pistol, two of his co-conspirators were on murderous missions of their own. Near Lafayette Square, Confederate soldier Lewis Powell knocked on the door of Secretary of State William H. Seward, armed with a knife. Nearby, German immigrant George Atzerodt sat at the Kirkwood Hotel with his knife and gun, trying to summon the courage to attack the vice president, Andrew Johnson, who was alone upstairs in his room.

The violence that gripped Washington, D.C. that night would extend far beyond Ford’s Theatre — and would reverberate far beyond April 1865. This is the true story of the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, from its often-forgotten victims to its impact on American history for decades to come.

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