150 years ago in a theatre, a man was watching a play with his wife and another couple. They had lived in a time where their nation had just finished four years of warfare, destruction, death, pestilence and disease. As they sat watching that play, they wondered what their lives would be like now that this war has come to an end. Peace would come on her own terms and the nation, only 89 years old, was almost torn apart, turned asunder by the issue of slavery and states’ rights. A war-weary nation would finally be able to breathe.

They sat and watched a play and were entertained without many worries. That changed when a man, a sociopath that thought that people that did not have the same color of skin as his would and should be treated like chattle, entered their box in that theatre and shot him once. That shot changed things for all time.

The theatre? Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The couple? Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.

The shooter? John Wilkes Booth.

The day was April 14th of 1865 and the Civil War had come to an end in Appromattox, Virginia some two days earlier when Grant accepted Lee’s surrender. A war that divided a nation, set friend against friend and brother against brother, that destoryed farms and cities, killing those that not only fought but those that were the victim of circumstances of war, had come to an end. It was a costly war, not just in monetary terms but in lost production in factories and farms, as well as destruction of property. The Civil War was Lincoln’s worst nightmare and almost divided the nation. It was the “house divided” that Lincoln didn’t just fear, he loathed it.

April 14th wasn’t just a day on the calendar that year. It was Good Friday and Easter would be some two days later. Lincoln had just won re-election the year before in a landslide and he preached “malice toward none, charity toward all.” When he said that in his Inaguaral address, he stressed that message and wanted it made known that the South was going to be treated fairly but sternly. After all, they were the ones that caused this rebellion and carnage. While he was delivering that message, like Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount, Booth, an actor and Southern symphathizer, had a plan in place and that plan was to kill Lincoln. It would be sort of like Judas betraying Christ, without the 30 pieces of silver.

Booth’s original plan was to kidnap Lincoln and exchange his for Southern prisoners of war that were sitting in places like Elmira, New York, Chicago, Illinois and Camp Randall, Wisconsin (which is in Madison and now a football stadium is in that place). That plan failed and Booth needed to set his new plan into motion and he went about enlisting the aid of others to attack Secretary of State Seward and vice president Johnson in order to send the government into chaos. With the help of a loose-knit band of Southern sympathizers, including David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell (also known as Lewis Payne or Paine) and John Surratt, a rebel agent, they set the plan in place, meeting routinely at the boarding house of Surratt’s mother, Mrs. Mary Surratt.

The Lincolns had talked about plans for the future, including a trip to Europe when his term in office had come to an end and going back to Springfield so that he could practice law again. It was a somewhat uneventful Friday as they prepared to go to Ford’s Theatre to watch one of the President’s favorite plays “Our American Cousin.” Those plans came to a halt that April evening with Lincoln being shot and later dying early the next morning.

Had it not been for Dr. Charles Leale, that last breath might have come nine hours earlier, as Lincoln lay in the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre with an assassin’s bullet in his brain. As blood clotted over Lincoln’s wound, Leale kept removing the clot, to relieve pressure on Lincoln’s brain. He accompanied Lincoln across the street to a boarding house and was with him through the night and at his death. Even though Leale – who had seen plenty of gunshot wounds in his work at an Army hospital – had pronounced Lincoln’s wound as mortal, he held Lincoln’s hand for much of those nine hours, “to let him know,” he said later, “in his blindness, that he had a friend.”

Lincoln was seen as a Messiah-figure, out to save a nation from itself. Booth was nothing more than Judas Iscariot. In his mind, he thought that his actions were heroic. In point of fact, it was the opposite as the seething hatred for the South by Northerners would fall upon them like a plague of locusts. While Lincoln was hailed as a hero for bringing a nation that was war-weary back together, Booth was cursed, a target with the mark of Cain on his head. Booth would eventually die 12 days later in a tobacco barn at the hands of Union soldiers.

Abraham Lincoln only got to see five days of the peace that he had longed for to end a war that threatend to divide a nation, turning it into a “house divided.” He was more than willing to treat the South humanely, even though they were the ones that started the four-year war that saw neighbor against neighbor, friend vs. friend and family vs. family, as well as destruction, pestilence, starvation and death, not just on the battlefield but innocent civilian lives being lost.

Abraham Lincoln drew his last mortal breath at 7:22 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, 1865 – 150 years ago. Even in that moment when he drew that last breath on this Earth, his legacy was sealed forever as a leader that guided a nation in the darkest of times. At the same time, his killer became the most hated person in America before O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony. Lincoln and Booth are two names that will be forever linked to each other and there’s nothing we can do to break that link.

Even in the darkest times, he was a light that shone brightly for all. Booth for his actions though he could dim the light but in the end, Booth failed and died in almost the same manner as his victim, winding up paralyzed from the neck down. Heroes get hospitals, stadiums, schools and roads named for them. Their killers get nothing but scorn. In the end, it was Booth that would be the loser in the end.

Their paths crossed that April 14th, a Friday and Good Friday at that. Lincoln was the Jesus figure and Booth acted as Judas and Pilate. In the end, it was Lincoln that turned out to be the winner.

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