Lincoln – a Country Divided. Again.

President Lincoln and General George B. McClellan in the general’s tent at Antietam, Maryland. Oct. 3, 1862

By Judy Berman

“The man with fourteen days to live is himself witnessing death.”

This is the opening line of “Killing Lincoln,” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Within six weeks after Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office for his second term, shortly before the close of the Civil War, he was the first U.S. president to be assassinated in office.

Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln,” focuses on efforts to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery. The book has a different focus. It reads like a thriller that counts down the remaining days of Lincoln’s presidency.

Some deride those who now want to secede from the United States, following the re-election of President Barack Obama. Such talk is no laughing matter. During Lincoln’s presidency, when our country was deeply divided, some – perhaps connected to the highest ranks in our government – attempted drastic and violent measures to alter the direction of our country.

Five days after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, Lincoln was gunned down on April 14, 1865, by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died early the next morning.

Lincoln was not Booth’s only target. Booth and his conspirators also plotted to kill Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Lincoln’s general-in-chief of the Union army.

“Rather than just kill Lincoln and Grant, he now plans to do nothing less than undertake a top-down destruction of the government of the United States of America,” the authors write in “Killing Lincoln.”

Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward also are on the hit list.

“There are rumors that General Grant will be in town. If he attends the theater with Lincoln … Booth can kill the two most prominent architects of the South’s demise within seconds,” according to “Killing Lincoln.”

Booth also despises Vice President Johnson. He “views the Tennessee politician as a turncoat for siding with Lincoln.” Secretary of State William H. Seward also has angered Confederate sympathizers for his “oppressive policies toward the South.”

Lincoln had opposition from all sides – Radical Republicans and War Democrats – as he tried to reunite the country and bring an end to slavery. He wanted the reconciliation with the South to be one of compromise and understanding.

President Abraham Lincoln – 1862

Secessionists, who wanted to break away from the U.S. government, plotted Lincoln’s death. Booth killed Lincoln. But the other intended victims eluded death and the conspirators were eventually caught.

The book and the movie on Lincoln’s death serve as a reminder that we must be vigilant in order to protect our country. Tommy Lee Jones, who played Sen. Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican abolitionist, in “Lincoln,” said the movie “gives you an opportunity to think about the fact that politics is still dirty. And that great things are done by people, working hard.”

We’re a diverse nation and we’ve weathered difficult times before. When we work together, we can achieve great things.

Official full movie trailer (2:21 min.) 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main Photo: President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George B. McClellan in the general’s tent at Antietam, Maryland, October 3, 1862.

Photo: President Abraham Lincoln – 1862,_1862.jpg

Lincoln’s final days

  1. The Day Lincoln Was Shot
    Jim Bishop

    This was a good one too. Bishop was a beloved columnist for the Miami Herald for many years until his passing some time ago. I won’t get to see the movie as father 89, cannot hear or see that well and should not leave him alone for several hours.

    1. I was looking for Jim Bishop’s book over the summer. I loved some of the columns he did on history. They were in our paper when we lived in New York. I will look for the book again, Carl. Thank you. I hope you get to see the movie soon.

    1. Check out the book, too, Kate. It’s a great read. What I loved about the movie was Lincoln’s humor at unexpected moments, and the boisterous exchange in Congress. Some sad and emotional moments as well.

  2. I’ve been concerned about the polarized tone and the tensions we’ve been experiencing, which have increased, not lessened, since the election. I also genuinely worry about the President’s safety. Hopefully things will not go so far as violent conflict in this case.

    1. Agreed. I think people who are “talking” about seceding aren’t really considering the actual impact it would have on the lives of millions.

      1. I recall presidential elections where people said they were going to buy a four-year supply of aspirins. I don’t ever recall headache medicine zooming up in the stock portfolios. Like you, arbohl, I don’t think those folks have thought thru what the outcome could be.

  3. I saw an interesting TV interview of Sally Fields about how she got the movie role. It didn’t come to her as easily as one might assume. Spielberg almost didn’t cast her–she really had to prove herself!

    1. I’m surprised Sally Fields would have to prove herself as she has an excellent range in acting. She did win two Oscars.In the TV movie, “Sybil,” (1979), based on a real person, Sally’s role of a woman with multiple personalities was compelling. She was also convincing as the tormented Mary Todd Lincoln.

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