O'Reilly does a tremendous job at pointing out the great man that Lincoln truly was. His character was practically unblemished. He was a man of faith, starting each morning with Bible reading, prayer, and meditation before having his usual hard boiled egg for breakfast. He was an honest man who loved to tell stories. And he loved the USA. His greatest desire was to keep the Union in tact at all cost. Understanding what it would cost him, he pressed on with the war. He believed in the equality of all men and would not rest until slavery was extinguished from America. His heart was tender in that he was a very forgiving person later seen as he sought to bring the southern states back into the Union without penalty or punishment in the way of treason and subsequent lynching. Life hadn't been kind to him. He lost his mother at 9. Later in life, he and his wife Mary lost two of their children. The loss broke Mary and after Lincoln's death, her remaining son had to commit her to a mental institution as she suffered breakdown after breakdown. Lincoln struggled with Mary's condition most of their marriage after the death of their boys. Life certainly was not easy for President Lincoln.
If these events taught him anything, he learned to not fear death. In a time where so many hated him from both the North and the South due to the war, losses, and beliefs, Lincoln, against better wishes, constantly traveled alone from town to town. He's casually walk into towns and greet people. His White House policy was so open that people would literally sleep on the first floor of the White House in hope of getting a glimpse of the president or possibly a word with him. Lincoln said he didn't fear death. He stated that a person can only die once, but if that person spends everyday thinking about it and worrying about it, he has died everyday. Two weeks before he was killed, Lincoln would have a dream however about his own death. He dreamed he was assassinated and told his wife and close friends about the dream one evening much to the dismay of them all.
The way Lincoln was killed was honestly a perfect assassination. Booth had spent weeks researching Lincoln and trying to understand all of his mannerisms, goings, and pastimes. Like a sniper hired to take down a target, Booth became obsessed with Lincoln. Booth himself was more than a Confederate sympathizer. He was actually a secret agent of the Confederacy. He helped launder money and gold past the Union into a CSA account in Montreal, Canada. As a popular actor, he had quite a following, but it's doubtful many knew of his intense hatred for Lincoln and the slaves. He believed slavery to be the only way to live and that minorities had no place but under the thumb of the white man. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation angered Booth beyond words. The same feeling came through when Booth heard Lincoln's victory speech outside the White House after Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. When Lincoln suggested that blacks be allowed to vote and own property, Booth almost fired at him then. Restraining himself, Booth put a team together of five men to not only murder Lincoln, but also to take out Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward. His goal was to cause complete Union upheaval in a last ditch effort to encourage the South to keep fighting.
Booth and his men met regularly at Mary Surrat's house, a known Confederate sympathizer. On their planned night, Booth dispatched two men to kill Seward and one to kill Johnson. Seward was almost killed in his bed after being stabbed multiple times. The assailant stabbed and sliced several people in the house including Seward's son. Thinking they were dead, Lewis Powell left the house to head for safety. His partner had already left him however due to the length of time it took and the commotion. Johnson's would be assassin never made it for the attempt after getting so sloppy drunk that he couldn't organize himself to do the deed. Booth however was scrupulous. He had been on the stage of the Fox Theater many times as an actor. The owners and stage hands knew him personally. He knew all the in's and out's of the theater. The fact that Lincoln's wife chose to attend the Fox Theater that night played into Booth's plans perfectly. Earlier that day, Lincoln subconsciously said farewells to some of his closest friends. He himself sensed his life would be nearing an end. Though he spoke of the future and his desire to see America healed, he chided that he would probably not living long enough to accomplish what was in his heart to do.
The night of the play, Lincoln's bodyguard, who was to keep watch at the staircase leading to the state box, got bored and decided to take Lincoln's other security guard and go next door to a tavern to drink. In fact, Booth himself set a few feet away from him in the same tavern trying to drink enough liquid courage to do the deed. With no one blocking the way up to Lincoln and the precise time in the play approaching when Booth had decided to shoot Lincoln for dramatic effect, he left the tavern, checked his Deringer and knife, and made his way to Lincoln. The rest is history.
Lincoln was shot at precisely 10:15 PM on Good Friday and died at 7:22 AM the next morning. The bullet left him mostly brain dead the moment he was shot, yet a young Dr. Leale helped keep him alive a while longer as he sought to find a way to save the president's life. Booth meanwhile jumped from the state box onto the stage with a cry of, "Freedom!" His spur got hung on the presidential flag causing him to fall awkwardly breaking his fibula completely in two. Booth's ultimate goal was to go down a hero and be revered by history, but the next morning even anti-Lincoln newspapers were slandering Booth's actions and name. The manhunt would go on for almost a week after Lincoln was shot, but Booth and one of his co-conspirators were captured in northern Virginia as they tried to escape to Mexico. Booth was shot by a cavalryman in the back of the neck paralyzing him, yet leaving him conscious, until he died hours later. Lincoln on the other hand was practically gone the moment the shot hit him. His body was fighting to stay alive and at the sound of his wife's words, a faint attempt to utter something came from his lungs. But it was too late. Lincoln became the first president assassinated and one of the greatest presidents America ever knew was gone.
In the wake of the captures, Booth's conspirators were hanged including Mary Surrat marking the first and only time the USA government has ever hung a woman. Conspiracies abound however concerning some of Lincoln's cabinet members in regards to his assassination. Secretary of War Stanton was never fond of Lincoln and had made several clandestine decisions with a known spy, Lafayette Baker, that bothered Lincoln greatly. Baker had a money connection to Booth though neither claimed they knew one another. When Lincoln became curious as to Baker's dealings, he was mysteriously let go of his Washington duties and sent to Canada and later New York. When Lincoln was murdered, Stanton called Baker to inform him of the shooting and to request his help in tracking Booth down. No one had been able to find Baker since he left Washington. With one call, Stanton found him. And while Booth had escaped into the Maryland countryside, upon coming to Washington, Baker miraculously pinpointed Booth's location in Virginia within a couple of miles simply by "guessing." In his investigation, Baker found Booth's diary and other personal effects and turned them in directly to Stanton. Not long after Booth was killed, Baker himself was murdered in cold blood in his own living room. It would be a few years before authorities realized Stanton had Booth's journal and when ordered to turn it over, they found that 18 pages had been torn out after the fact. What was on the pages, we don't know. Did Stanton have something to do with Lincoln's death? We'll never know that either. We do know that Andrew Johnson faced impeachment hearings after trying to fire Stanton twice. He obviously had power and influence.
As with Kennedy's assassination, Lincoln's could have been avoided. Unlike Kennedy's death, Lincoln's was almost expected. He brought the nation through its toughest time and maintained his integrity and faith through it all. Lincoln truly is an American hero and worthy of every accolade America can bestow upon him. This book is a must read for those who like history, Lincoln, or just a good book. I can only hope O'Reilly will write a few more dealing with the other two presidents that were assassinated.