Remembering Honest Abe, 150 years later

  • This photograph was made during President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s first sitting in Washington, D.C., just a day after he arrived by train. 
  • Abraham Lincoln’s campaign rally in front of his home in Springfield, Ill., Aug. 8, 1860. 
  • President Abraham Lincoln stands with Pinkerton detectives while visiting Union forces at Antietam, Md., Oct. 3, 1862. 
  • President Abraham Lincoln visits officers at the Civil War front in Antietam, Md., on Oct. 3, 1862, after General McClellan (also pictured) hesitated to attack Robert E. Lee. 
  • Though this photograph became known as the “Gettysburg Portrait,” it was actually taken on Nov. 8, 1863,  three weeks before Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, in a Washington, D.C., studio. 
  • Abraham Lincoln (center, right of man wearing tall stove pipe hat), preparing to deliver the Gettysburg address at the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery. 
  • Abraham Lincoln, standing in the center of the photo, on the east front of the U.S. Capitol, delivering his second inaugural address as president of the United States, in Washington, D.C., 1865. 
  • This image was made Feb. 1865, the last year of the Civil War, when the weight of presidency had begun to wear on Lincoln. It was used as a reference from which American artist Matthew Wilson painted his portrait. 
  • The box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. 
  • View of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, with his coffin pulled along the street, 1865. 
  • Funeral procession for Abraham Lincoln on Pennsylvania Avenue, on the way to the railway station, 1865, Washington, D.C. 
  • President Lincoln’s funeral train, pictured here in 1865 in Philadelphia, near the start of its 13 day, over 1,500 mile journey from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill.  
  • View of the funeral procession of assassinated American President Abraham Lincoln as arrives at City Hall, New York City, April 25, 1865. A banner above the entrance reads “The Nation Mourns.”
  • Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad engine, with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln mounted on the front, 1865. The engine was one of several used to carry Lincoln’s body from Washington, DC, to Springfield, Ill. 
  • Portrait of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, 1865. 
  • Lewis Powell, also known as Lewis Payne, a member of the Lincoln assassination plot, is pictured in irons aboard the warship USS “Saugus,” where he was incarcerated after his capture, 1865.  
  • George Atzerodt was one of four people hanged for their involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln in 1865. He intended to also assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson, but lost his nerve. 
  • Michael O’Laughlen sits with his hands in restraints after his arrest for his role in the assassination plot, 1865. O’Laughlen was sentenced to life at Fort Jefferson and died there of Yellow Fever. 
  • Samuel Arnold, arrested for conspiring to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln, 1865. Arnold abandoned the plot before it became assassination and was sentenced to life in prison, but released in 1869. 
  • Edward Spangler worked at Ford’s Theatre and was involved in preparing the box that Lincoln used on the night of his death. He was sentenced to six years in prison and pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. 
  • U.S. Gen. John F. Hartranft reads the death warrant to the conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on the gallows’ scaffolding, July 7, 1865 in Washington, D.C. 
  • Public execution of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination conspirators. On the far left of the gallows is Mrs. Surrat, in whose hotel the conspiracy took place. 

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On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln sat alongside his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, in his state box at Ford’s Theater for an evening performance of “Our American Cousin.” His bodyguard, John Parker, left the theater during the intermission to drink at a saloon next door.

On that night, John Wilkes Booth’s bullet met its target—the 16th President of the United States of America. Booth, a Confederate spy from Maryland, had originally conspired with others to kidnap the president and use him as leverage to secure the release of Confederate prisoners.

The president died nine hours after the shooting, on the morning of April 15, 1865. His coffin traveled 1,500 miles by train, over three weeks from Washington, D.C., to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln was finally buried on May 4, after what a reporter called “the grandest procession ever seen on this continent,” parts of which freed slaves were ordered not to attend.

With Lincoln’s assassination taking place just days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox, the president was left with no time to see through the end of the Civil War and the national restoration that followed.

One hundred and fifty years later, some still wonder: how might Reconstruction have gone differently had Lincoln — who was for the enfranchisement of freedmen unlike his successor, Andrew Johnson — lived? What would the landscape of race relations in 2015 United States look like? Would the lines drawn across the country, those that Lincoln strived to eradicate with the end of the Civil War, be burning any differently today?

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