Narrated by Oscar winner Tom Hanks and produced by Tony Scott & Ridley Scott Killing Lincoln delivers a thrilling perspective into the criminal mind of John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators. The DVD is available today from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and we’re giving away a copy to a lucky ABAH reader!
Based on The New York Times best-selling novel, Killing Lincoln is the suspenseful, eye-opening account of the events surrounding the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. While some aspects of the plot to slay Lincoln and cripple the newly forming union are widely known, much more of the history unfolds in this insightful thriller. As John Wilkes Booth becomes increasingly obsessed with removing Lincoln from office, a secret faction of conspirators forms, and ultimately empowers Booth to carry out an event that will change America forever.
For some historicial context, here are some things you may not have known about Lincoln’s assassination:
There was a plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln before there was a plot to murder him.
Interestingly enough, before it was an assassination plot, it was a kidnapping plot. Booth wanted to kidnap Lincoln and exchange him for Southern Prisoners of War. In 1865, Booth spent about $4,000 of his own money to arrange the kidnapping. There are couple of reasons why the plot failed. At one point, Booth was lying in wait to kidnap Lincoln, but he didn’t show up at the right time. Then, a couple of days after Robert E. Lee surrendered; Booth was in attendance when Lincoln gave a speech about all citizens regardless of race having the right to vote. Infuriated, Booth decided a mere kidnap attempt wouldn’t do – assassination was the only answer.
The audience in the theatre thought the unfolding drama was part of the production.
At 10:15, Booth slipped into the box and fired his .44-caliber single-shot derringer into the back of Lincoln’s head. After stabbing Rathbone, who immediately rushed at him, in the shoulder, Booth leapt onto the stage and shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus ever to tyrants!” – the Virginia state motto). At first, the crowd interpreted the unfolding drama as part of the production, but a scream from the first lady told them otherwise. Although Booth allegedly broke his leg in the fall, he managed to leave the theatre and escape from Washington on horseback.
The search for John Wilkes Booth was one of the largest manhunts in history
10,000 federal troops, detectives and police were on the case to track down the assassin.
John Wilkes Booth’s last words were useless.
On April 26, Union troops surrounded the Virginia farmhouse where Booth and Herold were hiding out and set fire to it, hoping to flush the fugitives out. Herold surrendered but Booth remained inside. As the blaze intensified, a sergeant shot Booth in the neck, allegedly because the assassin had raised his gun as if to shoot. Carried out of the building alive, he lingered for three hours before gazing at his hands and uttering his last words: “Useless, useless.”
There were other targets to be killed that night.
While Lincoln’s death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth will likely always be remembered as one of America’s most heinous crimes, it should be recalled that Booth and his conspirators had two other targets that night, as well: Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson. Even though Lee had already surrendered to Grant, Booth reasoned that if they could kill the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State all on one night the Union would be thrown into disarray. And, with no formal right of succession – which wouldn’t be codified in the Constitution until after the Kennedy assassination – Booth might have had a point.
The night that Lincoln was murdered, Seward was laid up in bed. He had been in a serious carriage accident just nine days earlier that had left him close to death. One of Booth’s co-conspirators, Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Paine), talked his way into the Seward house pretending that he was delivering medicine. Stopped on the stairs by Seward’s son, Frederick, Powell panicked, attacking Frederick and dashing into the Secretary of State’s bedroom. He stabbed Seward multiple times, injured another of Seward’s sons and his bodyguard, and retreated into the night thinking he had mortally wounded the Secretary of State. It was only after Powell was captured the next day that he discovered that Seward was still alive; Seward went on to make a full recovery, continuing to serve as Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson. (Johnson was to have been assassinated that night by George Azerodt, but the would-be killer chickened out.)
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