Abraham Lincoln

1861-1865 - In the White House, Assassination

After his death, Lincoln laid in state for in the East Room of White House for a period of days. After this, an extended funeral procession brought him west by railroad to Springfield, in an eerie bookend to the inauguration journey that had borne him ea st just over four years earlier. Stops were made in various locales, and people all along the line turned out to pay their respects. At last, on May 4, 1865, Lincoln was laid to rest at Oak Ridge Cemetery, near Springfield, Illinois.

Meanwhile, attempting to flee justice, Booth escaped to Maryland on horseback and was later smuggled into Virginia. But on April 26 federal agents trapped Booth in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia, where he was shot and killed. Thereafter, several ot her conspirators involved in the grand assassination plot were brought to justice. Seven men and one woman faced trials in the summer of 1865. Four of these were later hanged, one died in prison, and the other three were pardoned by President Johnson in 1869.

With this last chapter closed on the life of Lincoln, the legend began its long and fruitful blossom. In recent years, much has been made of the similarities between the lives and deaths of Lincoln and President John F. Kennedy. The two men were first e lected to Congress and as president 100 years apart. Each man was keenly concerned with civil rights, and each man had a troubled marriage, losing a child while in the White House. Both men were shot on a Friday, in the head, by a Southerner, and both w ere succeeded by a Southerner named Johnson. In addition, both assassins were known by three names, born 100 years apart, and assassinated themselves before they could be brought to trial.

Such are the coincidences that sustain the myths of both Lincoln and Kennedy today. But at the time of Lincoln's assassination, the event had a religious, rather than secular, significance. Because he was assassinated on Good Friday, Lincoln was viewed for years afterward as a martyr to and savior of the causes of emancipation and union. And ironically, in assassinating Lincoln, Booth may have killed the South's own last best chance at salvation. For after the death of Lincoln, reconstruction took on an even greater tone of vengefulness.