Troy Cowan Topic: The United States government assassinated Lincoln

The United States government assassinated Lincoln

On Friday, April 14, 1865, there were several plans to kill or kidnap Abraham Lincoln.

1) Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton's plan to kill Lincoln

On Friday morning there was only one killing in the works, Edwin Stanton’s. Before Lincoln could be killed, he had to take the bait that would place him at the location being prepared for his assassination. His killers put a statement in the morning paper saying that Lincoln would attend the play at Ford’s theater and everyone was eagerly wanting to see him there.

That morning Lincoln had no plans to attend the theater. When Lincoln read in the morning paper that people were expecting him, he and Mary believed that Mr. Lincoln could not disappoint the public and he decided to attend.

Edmund Spangler had been recruited into Stanton’s plan. At 11:30 on the morning of the assassination, he installed a brace on the hallway door leading to the president’s box. After the shot was heard, the brace on the door would prevent people from entering.

Stanton selected a confederate prisoner named James William Boyd as the assassin and released him from prison on the condition that he join them. Boyd was to enter the hallway leading to the president’s box and put a brace on the door to keep others out. Boyd would wait outside the president’s box until Spangler turned out the house lights. As the gas lights dimmed and were about to go out, Boyd would enter the box and put a bullet in the president’s head. In the darkness, Boyd would climb over railing and drop down to the stage. In the darkness, he would walk out of the theater with all the others.

There was a flaw in this plan, all Boyd wanted was to be out of prison and he could see no advantage to himself to kill the president. On Friday, he left Washington. Stanton had made all the preparations for Lincoln’s killing and had no assassin.

2) Knights of the Golden Circle plan to kidnap Lincoln

 The KGC was planning to kidnap Lincoln, Johnson, and Seward and had thirteen men practicing their kidnapping plan in Maryland. John Wilkes Booth was the KGC’s coordinator. Booth’s physical presence was not needed when the actual kidnapping was taking place. He was to learn Lincoln’s, Johnson’s and Seward’s whereabouts and inform the men in Maryland. On Friday morning, Booth knew where Johnson and Seward could be found but had no idea where Lincoln was or would be. There was no kidnapping plan for that day. Then, at 11:30 while reading his mail on the steps of the theater, he learned from Mr. Ford that Lincoln would be attending the theater that night. Booth had to go to Maryland to notify the men that the plan was on for tonight.

While Booth was in Maryland, Lieutenant Dana heard rumors of Lincoln’s assassination and ordered the bridges closed to everyone except those presenting a strong need to pass or having the password. The thirteen KGC men were dressed in Union uniforms and had no problems crossing the bridge. When Booth was stopped by the guard at the bridge and asked why he needed to pass, he stammered. The guard arrested him and put him in the guardhouse.

Booth was detained for four hours. When he was released, Booth headed for the tavern where his men were waiting for him. He discovered that half of the men had gotten themselves drunk while waiting for him to arrive. Booth had to call off the plan.

3) Vice-president Andrew Johnson’s Plan to kill Lincoln

Andrew Johnson was working with Booth to kidnap Lincoln. He was providing Booth with information on Lincoln’s whereabouts. After Booth called off the KGC’s kidnapping plan, he went to see Johnson to tell him that he was giving up on kidnapping Lincoln and planned to return to acting. Johnson convinced Booth to kill Lincoln, offered a pardon if caught, and gave Booth the password to get over the Navy Yard Bridge. Booth accepted. 

Booth also had to inform the KGC that the kidnapping was off. He also told them that he planned to kill Lincoln tonight. The KGC offered their assistance if Booth would also kill Johnson and Seward. Again, Booth agreed, but he did not want Johnson killed. Booth would give the assignment to kill Johnson to a man he knew would not do the killing. 

Booth then went to the theater to make plans. Ned Spangler had prepared the theater for Stanton’s assassination plan, but he was not told who the assassin was. That afternoon at the theater, Booth told his good friend and fellow Lincoln hater, Ned Spangler, that he was going to assassinate Lincoln tonight and needed his help. Spangler then told Booth of the brace he made for the hallway door and his other preparations. Booth was emboldened by this news and believed Johnson had done a good job of preparations, even though Johnson had nothing to do with it.


At 10:15, Booth was successful in shooting Lincoln and escaped. He made his way to his secluded farm where Izola nursed him back to health. Booth knew nothing of Stanton’s plan to assassinate Lincoln, but Boyd knew too much. Boyd needed to be found and killed. When Colonel Conger learned that Boyd was the man in the Garrett barn, Conger shot Boyd. Conger then found a dupe named Boston Corbett to receive the credit for the killing.

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