John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln AssassinationBy Timothy R. Thacker (4366173)HIST300: Research Methods in HistoryDr. Leslie KellyAmerican Military UniversityAugust 15, 2013
Throughout the years, there has been a vast amount published materials produced discussing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and in most cases the accounts of the assassination itself is widely accepted as fact. While this data has held up over time and repeated discourse, the assassin’s motives and depth of affiliation with the Confederacy has wavered under years of scrutiny from historians. John Wilkes Booth has often been described as an eccentric loner whom simply could not accept the sweeping changes, which were affecting the country during the Civil War. As the president and initiator of change; Lincoln became the primary target of Booth and his pent up rage towards the “new” America. History’s interpretationof the assassin has led many to believe that Booth acted out of personal desire and from personal motives, in retrospect it appears that his heinous act may have been orchestrated as a last ditch effort to swing the tides of war in the South’s favor (in Booth’s mind). Viewed in this sense, Booth could easily viewed as an excessive Patriot, whom loved his country (the South) and was willing to sacrifice all in support of it.Initial attempts to sway the war in the South’s favor, through Booth’s actions, were much less egregious than the assassination. Exerts from Booth’s diary highlight the need for eradication of the President have long been premeditated by Booth and his associates. Although not directly referencing any specific events, Booth alludes to failed plots and attempts in the past;until the culminating point of shooting the President.1A failed kidnapping plot was said to have been hatched in Canada after a secret meeting between Booth and a conspirators, namely Surratt,Powell, and accredited agents of Jefferson Davis. 2While the specific details of the plot are not 1 John Wilkes Booth, “The Last Diary Entry of John Wilkes Booth,” (accessed July 26, 2013). 2 David Miller DeWitt, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Its Expiation, New York: The MacMillan Company,1909, (accessed July 30, 2013). 1
completely verifiable, information provided by Booth coconspirator John Surrat, suggest that Booth was to kidnap Lincoln, while he was in route to a play being performed at the Campbell Hospital, outside of Washington. The kidnapping would then be used as leverage for release of Southern prisoners being held by the Union. 3This failed attempt, amongst other variables that would become known to officials long after the Lincoln’s death, led to the fateful night at Ford’s Theatre.