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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: 150th anniversary of Lincoln assassination

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Apr 14, 2015 8:12 AM
Lincoln box 600 x 440.jpg

Photo by Scott LaMar/WITF

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, April 14, 2015:

On the morning of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was in a jovial mood.  According to the written accounts of the day, the president was happy five days Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union commander Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  The Civil War wasn't officially over but with the main force of the Confederate army laying down its arms, the end was in sight.

Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln decided to go to the theater that night.

It was a fateful decision.

As the Lincolns watched the play Our American Cousin from a box at Ford's Theater in Washington, well-known actor John Wilkes Booth sneaked into the box and shot the president.  Lincoln died the next day.  Booth jumped on the stage and escaped.  He was killed in Virginia two weeks later.

One-hundred-fifty years to the day, Smart Talk features a discussion of the Lincoln assassination with Dr. Allen Guelzo, who is Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College.  Dr. Guelzo has authored seven books on Lincoln and others on the Civil War.  He wrote the narrative for LIFE's Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait that was released last year.

Lincoln box the view Lincol would have had 600 x 450.jpg

Photo by Scott LaMar/WITF

The view of Ford's Theater that Lincoln would have had on April 14, 1865.

Today's Smart Talk focused on the assasination of President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago. Professor Allen Guelzo of...

Posted by WITF on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-14 08:24

    Kate from Yoe PA emails:

    John Wilkes Booth had a brother, Edwin Booth, who was a renowned actor of his age. Did the assassination of Lincoln have any impact on Edwin Booth's career?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-14 08:25

    Jim emails:
    Please describe the security that the President had. Weren't there rumors of a plot? Why wasn't there more security?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-14 08:25

    Mary emails:

    If Lincoln would have lived to fulfill his second term, I wonder if he may have been the first US President to be pursued as a third term President…

    • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-14 12:44

      Allen Guelzo replies...
      Probably not. He was already talking in 1865 about what he planned to do after he left the White House in 1869, so all of his plans then were pointed to the 2nd term being the last. But, these are only indications. Ulysses Grant tried to run for a 3rd term, but was discouraged from doing so.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-14 12:36

    Dave La Torre asked...
    What became of the major who was in the box with Lincoln that night? Did that moment ruin him?

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-14 12:42

    Allen Guelzo replies...
    Maj. Henry Rathbone never quite recovered from the shock of the assassination, much less from the implication that he ought to have done more to prevent it. He married Clara Harris and entered the diplomatic service. But he gradually descended into criminal insanity, and murdered Clara. He died in an insane asylum in Germany in 1911.

  • Steven Hager img 2015-04-14 16:58

    The President requested additional security that night, and it was declined because the leaders of the War Department were involved with the plot, along with an entity in New York City. As for Edwin Booth, he was imprisoned for months, along with 2,000 others, yet few of the people mentioned in George Atzerodt's original confession were ever interrogated, much less detained. That confession was ordered destroyed and not uncovered until 1977. But then it took over 50 years just to learn that Booth's girlfriend was the daughter of a Republican Senator. You can get closer to the truth with Killing Lincoln: The Real Story by Steven Hager.

  • Steven Hager img 2015-04-15 05:04

    The same East Coast oligarchy that ran slaves and opium funded the increasingly fanatical abolition movement exemplified by John Brown. The issue should have been fought in the courts, not farms and fields. When the smoke cleared, the profiteers on Wall Street ruled the earth, the South was a banana republic, and no one considered that after the invention of the cotton gin, the Southern economy was growing much faster than the North's, sort of like how India will soon surpass Japan. The plot involved an entity on Wall Street, probably Jay Gould since he was the biggest of the profiteers and working secretly with Stanton and Eckert to maximize every battle. Sometime he bet on a Union victory, sometimes on a Union defeat, but he always bet right thanks to his inside connections. Get the real story in my book Killing Lincoln: The Real Story by Steven Hager.