1865 — Abraham Lincoln is fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth was a well-known actor – and less well-known Confederate spy – who was not actually performing in “Our American Cousin” on the fateful night. It was the merest chance that he even knew Lincoln would be there, Booth only learning this because the theatre was also his mailing address. But once he learned of the president’s planned visit earlier the same day, Booth resolved that the time had come to do something “decisive”.

Lincoln, for his part, had foregone his usual security precautions on the night. At the time of his assassination (about 10:25 PM), Lincoln was not guarded, his bodyman for the evening having gone to a nearby tavern for some drinks. Booth shot the president in the back of the head as Lincoln laughed at the funniest line in the play (Booth had timed this carefully, hoping that the crowd’s noise would cover the gunshot). The wound was mortal, although Lincoln did not die until nearly 7:30 the next morning. Booth fled into the night, but was eventually caught and died in a shootout on April 26.

Referenced in:
Abraham Lincoln — Clutch

1865 – Abraham Lincoln is buried

The remains of Abraham Lincoln and his son, William Wallace Lincoln, were placed on a funeral train which left Washington, D.C., on April 21, 1865 at 12:30 pm, and arrived in Springfield, Illinois, on May 3, 1865. The train retraced the route Lincoln had traveled to Washington as the president-elect on his way to his first inauguration, and millions of Americans viewed the train along the route (the reason the trip took so long was that several stops were made along the way, at each of which Lincoln’s body lay in state).

Lincoln was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. The site of the Lincoln Tomb, now owned and managed as a state historic site, is marked by a 117-foot-tall granite obelisk surmounted with several bronze statues of Lincoln, constructed by 1874. Mary Todd Lincoln and three of his four sons are also buried there. Some historians have called this event “The Greatest Funeral in the History of the United States” on account of its length.

Referenced in:
Abraham Lincoln — Clutch

1863 — Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation

Although a legendary milestone in the long fight for racial equality in the United States of America, the Emancipation Proclamation was in fact a cynical political gambit. By freeing slaves in all those areas still in open rebellion against the government in Washington D.C. – more than three quarters of the four million black slaves in America at that time – Lincoln hoped to encourage rebellions and desertions among the slave population, splitting the Confederate forces and hamstringing their economy. He made no such gesture for any of the slave holding states on his side of the Civil War – but he doubt realised that come the end of the war, he had created conditions whereby they too would expect to be freed.

The overall effects of the Emancipation were more or less as Lincoln had hoped, although less drastic in their effects than he might have wished. There were plentiful desertions by slaves; conversely, there were also desertions by Union troopers who felt that this was not what they had signed up for.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder