In hindsight, this seems the only way America’s worst moment could end. After some 600, 000 American men had died of wounds, or grossly unsanitary medical practice, Lincoln gave his second inaugural address, the famous “charity for all” speech, on March 4, 1865, one month before his death. There is a photograph of him giving this speech, which also shows John Wilkes Booth standing above and behind him, on a balcony. Lincoln ended his speech with these words: “With malice toward none; with charity for all;…let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”
Regardless of this sentiment, Booth was from Maryland, considered himself a southerner, and considered Lincoln the root cause for the destruction of the South, the deaths of its brave men, and the dishonor done to its institution of slavery. He decided that Lincoln had to die for his crimes, and conspired with David Herold, John Surratt, George Atzerodt, and Lewis Powell not just to kill Lincoln, but for Powell to break into Secretary of State William Seward’s house and stab him to death, and for Atzerodt to shoot ice President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood Hotel.
Atzerodt lost his nerve and fled without attacking Johnson. Powell successfully entered Seward’s home, knocked out his son, broke into Seward’s bedroom, shoving aside his wife, and stabbed him wildly in the dark. Seward was severely injured from a fall out of his carriage, and a splint he wore for his broken jaw is all that protected his throat from the knife. Powell then ran out into the night. Seward did not die.
Booth is the only man of the plot who succeeded. The details are well known to every American school kid. He shot Lincoln in the back of the head with a .44 caliber Derringer, percussion-cap pistol, during a performance of “Our American Cousin, ” at Ford’s Theater in Washington D. C. He then leaped to the stage, breaking his left fibula, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” and may have shouted, “The South is avenged!”
Most importantly, Lincoln’s assassination reminded humanity that when a war ends, the animosity between sides may not, and usually does not. To win a war, therefore, regardless of whether it should be fought, or which side is the good side does not put an end to the human capacity to hate. Thus, no victory will ever be the last.
It’s been mentioned more than once before on Listverse, and you’re probably familiar with it anyway, but let us not forget that with one shrewd business deal, Thomas Jefferson doubled the United States of America’s area. The U. S. paid 60 million francs, and canceled French debts totaling another 18 million, for a grand total of 78 million francs, or about $15 million. Today, that would be worth about $220 million, which is an extraordinarily good sale price for 828, 800 square miles.