Lincoln Conspiracy Trial (1865)

Every American schoolchild learns the tragic story of the assassination, just as the long nightmare of the Civil War drew to a close, of President Abraham Lincoln. They know of the shot fired by John Wilkes Booth into the brain of the great President as he watched Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865. They know of Booth's dramatic leap from the presidential box to the stage, his cry as he ran of "Sic Semper Tyrannus!," his escape on horseback, and of his own death by bullet twelve days later in a burning Virginia barn. Far fewer Americans, however, know that Booth's evil deed was part of a larger conspiracy of Confederate sympathizers--a conspiracy whose targets included Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward and which had as its goal destabilization of the entire federal government. Fewer Americans yet know the fascinating story of the trial of eight conspirators before a specially appointed military commission in Washington.

APRIL 14, 1865

For President Abraham Lincoln, things looked brighter on Friday, April 14, 1865 than they had for a long time. Five days earlier, General Robert E. Lee effectively ended the long nightmare of the Civil War by surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia, and just the previous day, the city of Washington celebrated the war's end by illuminating every one of its public building with candles. Candles also burned in most private homes, causing a city paper to describe the nation's capital as "all ablaze with glory." The President decided he could finally afford an evening of relaxation: he would attend a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in downtown Washington.... Continued