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The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln is a subject that for many years has attracted research interests of few historians who are professionally trained in that area, but has been popularly written about by many avocational historians. For instance, the author of many books about Lincoln has been Edward Steers, Jr. who is a research scientist by profession. The assassination of Lincoln was referred to as a horrific end to a horrific war. It is an assassination that has brought about endless speculation about what actually happened and who really were the masterminds behind the assassination. These speculations have been matched by a volley of books about the parts played by conspirators and alleged conspirators. There have also emerged endless variations on the blame game as different writers and authors look into the responsibility of the murder (Tuner, 2002).
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For many years the story of the assassination has been told simply as having been a single mad act of a disturbed person. This has been told over and over again until it has become almost accepted universally. But this assassination can be seen in another way, as a carefully calculated act of war, which was meticulously planned and executed skillfully. Many of the researches done have come up with a strong but highly circumstantial case that claims that the assassination was a conspiracy that engaged the participation of the highest levels of the confederate government. Many of the Lincoln scholars do not agree with these conclusions. Steers on the other argues in support of the many theories put forward on the assassination. In his book "blood on the moon" Steers traces the starting of the conspiracy back to the raid on Richmond, the famous Judson Kilpatrick raid, and the papers found on Capt. Ulrich Dahlgren that indicate that representatives in the high level union government approved targeting high government officials for assassination. This shows that the Union government put in place a policy in which anyone could be considered a possible target. This was of course not as a significant threat because all focus at the time was directed at military battles in which the confederate government reacted in kind. They dispatched Thomas Harney from the confederate bureau of gunmen to blow the white house, when he failed, booth being an agent to the confederate new the details of the plot and decided to duplicate the plot tohis advantage. This means that the many northern who had initially suspected Davis of being involved in the Assassination were right. All these cases have not been without controversy, it can be argued that they are just but circumstantial and not clearly proven (Steers, 2010).
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All these issues that have drawn a lot of controversy have been examined by Steers in his account of the assassination. He has tried to make the story that has been told over and over come alive and be fresh in those hearing it. In his book it is clear that Booth was a crazy actor from a family of actors who were unstable. In whatever way people may see him, his confederate involvement in the assassination, the fact remains that he was a southern patriot. He had made many attempts to kidnap the President and finally managed to kill him not because he was crazy but because he saw Lincoln as a tyrant responsible for all the troubles felt in the South. He saw a possibility of the South succeeding if Lincoln and the whole of his cabinet are eliminated; there is no doubt that any other Southern would have done the same. This does not generate much controversy as other works because Steers does not try to prove a case that has no evidence to support it as others have done. The timing of the assassination at the theater could as well not have been planned at all; it may just have been a coincidence that Booth happened to be there, Saw the President without his bodyguard as the opportune moment and grabbed it. This is because there is no solid evidence to connect the actions of that day to any planned conspiracy, what if the President had not attended that drama session? There wouldn't have been an assassination (Lincoln, 2010).
But if Booth really planned the assassination to be carried out on that day, then he was assisted into carrying out his mission. This assistance most likely came from Dr. Samuel Mudd who is also guilty just as Booth for helping him in the kidnapping plans and who without doubt knew Booth, because when Booth stopped at his home, he willingly accepted to attend to his broken leg. We can not just accept Mudd's allegation that he was just an innocent doctor who was just following his oath of profession when he dressed Booth's leg. Mrs. Mary Surratt was also not innocent at all even if little attention has been given to her role in the assassination. Confessions from the othher conspirators indicated that Mrs. Surratt was aware of the kidnapping plans of which she willingly participated in helping Booth carry them out. While this does not necessarily show that these two were involved in the murder, evidence clearly shows that they were involved in the plot to kidnap the president. For the case of Mudd, he was all along a stronger sympathizer of the Southerners who had secretly aided in fostering the confederate cause and it is also recorded that he was cruel to his slaves. It is obvious that Mudd lied about his many meetings with Booth, he therefore not only knew him when sought refuge at his house, but also assisted him in his escape after the assassination (Harper's, 2008).
The military trials of the conspirators also raised much debate. Many authors have condemned it, but when looked at from a different perspective other conclusions can be drawn. These conspirators were civilians in first place, therefore the fact they were civilians and the same time helping the enemy during war in the nation and also in planning an attack on the Commander-in-chief, meat that they were opening themselves to military justice. The military trial was therefore very much justified. But although this is seen as an option there are those who still question whether the trials were wise. These controversies would have been avoided if civil courts had been used. This is therefore a lesson to many other trials to come. Many other theories have also emerged for instance, the one that claims that Booth never died. These are to be expected as conspiracy theories will never die and many more are bound to emerge (Stone, 2006).
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As it has been discussed, the assassination of Lincoln has seen many books and articles written, but it has remained obscured in controversy. Many still question whether Booth was a madman, whether civilians should have been tried by a military commission, whether Mudd and Mrs. Surratt were innocent or not, was the assassination revenge by the Southerners, and whether Booth really died. Many authors such as Steers have tried to address these issues although contradictions still exist. The many controversies are due to the fact that many of the people who have looked at this issue have mostly been avocational historians, but once trained historians start looking at the issue the way steers is doing, more insights into this assassination will be arrived at.
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