Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly

Killing Lincoln

Summary
  1. O’Reilly details the end of the Civil WarLincoln’s dream of a nation once again unified and his untimely end at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. Booth is an extremely charismatic actor and very racist and can’t stand the fact that Lincoln and the North have come out on top. This book is engaging and exciting and brings to life one of the murders that changed America forever.
Key Takeaways
  1. John Wilkes Booth was a charming and successful actor but is a blatant racist, confederate sympathizer and hates Lincoln and everything that he stands for. He has compiled a group to organize the killing of Lincoln. At the presidential inauguration he lunged at Lincoln but is stopped quickly
  2. From the beginning Lincoln decides to take a lenient position when dealing with southerners. Wants to unify states and punishing severely would only hurt the cause. This angered many northerners who had revenge on their minds. Lincoln is the most despised president ever and receives daily death threats but does not take too much precaution, preferring to live his life on his own terms
  3. Booth rehearses for the kidnapping of Lincoln but it falls through. He then takes matters into his own hands. No president has been assassinated up to this point and Booth loves this idea of going into history
  4. For all the calm Lincoln portrayed to the public, he was extremely anxious and slept terribly – often having nightmares. At 56 he was exhausted and 35 pounds underweight
  5. Mary Todd Lincoln had an emotional disorder and was prone to severe mood swings. Lincoln totes on her but knows she is just one tragedy away from losing her mind
  6. When the plan shifts from kidnapping to murder, Booth blackmails the other conspirators
  7. Booth plans everything down to the last detail and has his conspirators kill Secretary Steward and VP Andrew Johnson.
  8. Lincoln is killed on April 14, 1865 on the idea of March. After Booth shoots him, he means to jump out of the state box onto the stage but trips and breaks his leg but still manages to escape the theater
  9. Lincoln does not die immediately and is taken to a home nearby but there is nothing they can do. Lincoln dies the next morning at 7:21 AM and Vice President Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the 17th president.
  10. Lincoln’s body is loaded on a train for Illinois and along the way 30M people pay their respects
  11. The other conspirators are caught and either hanged or sent to prison for life. Mary Surratt is the first and only woman hanged by the U.S. Government
  12. Mary never recovered and her mental disposition spiraled downward until she died at the age of 63. Robert Lincoln became a successful lawyer and Tadd Lincoln died at 18 of a rare heart condition
What I got out of it
  1. Amazing detail around the lives of Lincoln, Booth and Booth’s co-conspirators. Understanding the background story of these people really makes it come to life and brings you back to a different time. If you’re interested in American history or biographies, this is a great read.

  • Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are opposites in many ways – Grant is unshaven and sloppy and after graduating from West Point was an alcoholic and hardly employed. Lee was clean and organized. However, both men were savants in warfare. Grant learned s lot about logistics and warfare in the Mexican war
  • Lincoln and Grant have great respect for each other. Lincoln anxious about nearly everything but pretty carefree about his life considering how at risk he is for assassination – often traveling with few bodyguards and in war torn areas
  • Booth was such a good actor that he was able to hide his hatred for Lincoln and all his plans to kidnap or kill the president, even from his wife Lucy
  • Richmond, the confederate capital, falls in April 3, 1865 and this is a huge blow for the south. Richmond was burned to the ground. Can be considered the birthplace of America in many ways, more American than DC
  • After Richmond falls general Lee packs his men up and tries to escape the Union forces. Although exhausted and starving, they manager to get away and fight when needed
  • Lee and his army are making their way to Farmville where there are food rations. The union army figures out there plan and Rush to bum High Bridge, therefore trapping Lee and ending the war. There is a big and bloody battle where each side loses hundreds but the confederates win, allowing them to fight another day
  • The union army gives chase and manages to separate Lee’s army into 4 core units. The battles are bloody and ferocious, with the battle at sailors creek being the worst. The union army eventually wins but not without heavy losses
  • Lee surrenders on April 10, 1865 after about 4 years of hard fought battles
  • A couple days later Lincoln gives a speech to an immense Union crowd who is expecting reparations and revenge on the south. Lincoln gives a more somber speech where he stresses reintegration and forgiveness instead
  • Lincoln has a dream where the president is assassinated and he hears the people mourning him
  • The JJ Chaffey company paid booth a lot of money but nobody knows why
  • Lincoln absolutely loved Shakespeare and the Bible
  • Mary desperately wants to see Our American Cousin and Lincoln concedes. His advisors warn against it and to bring at least heavy security
  • Grant is supposed to go with Lincoln but his wife detests Mary and convinces him not to go
  • Parker, one if the presidential body guards, has a history of drunkenness and poor behavior and he’s the only guard on duty at Ford Theater. He leaves his post unattended to go grab some beer. This and several other coincidences almost seem too great and sour many conspiracy theories
  • Booth made it out of Washington but had to stop at Samuel Mudd’s house, a southern sympathizer. He splints his leg and keeps heading to Virginia, just missing thousands of troops who are hunting him and his conspirators down. Jones who is tasked with getting them across the Potomac shows up with much needed food and newspapers. However, even the most southern, anti-Lincoln newspapers are calling him a coward and an abomination
  • Booth and Powell hide in the Maryland woods for 6 cold, miserable days but eventually make it to Virginia. However, here he is tracked down and trapped by Lafayette Baker in a barn. He is shot and killed at 26 years old
  • Johnson took a vengeful mindset with the south and this angered secretary Stanton who wanted to see Lincoln’s wish fulfilled. Stanton was soon replaced by grant and there are many controversies that he was part of the group plotting to kill Lincoln but nothing has been proven
  • Johnson considered one of the worst presidents in history
  • General Custer was killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn and his death prompted Americans to want revenge on the Native Americans much like northerners wanted revenge on southerners after Lincoln’s death

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