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    6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
    Monday, June 10, 2019

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William Hanchett's The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies Revisited

Miller Branch, Howard County Library

Lecturer Mark Croatti discusses William Hanchett's theories on the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, which remains one of the greatest mysteries in American history. While we know John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger, we don't know who ordered the assassination, including who made it possible. Did Booth's team act on their own as part of a "simple conspiracy" or were they were partners in a "grand conspiracy" involving elements of the Confederate and Union governments? In his 1983 book The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies, William Hanchett revisits the three theories on who gave the order--Booth, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, or whether it could have been a Union coup orchestrated by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, as suggested by Otto Eisenschiml in his 1937 classic, Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

Hanchett's outstanding book makes a compelling case for all three possibilities, and yet, is there a fourth; could elements of the South and North have acted in unison? In 1864, former Ohio Congressman and Lincoln critic Clement Vallandigham, co-founder of the Copperheads, was arrested and deported to the Confederacy, after which he assumed control of the suddenly reorganized Knights of the Golden Circle, which included Booth. Vallandigham knew both Davis and Stanton. Even Booth had puzzling ties to Union officials; why was co-conspirator Michael O'Laughlen at Stanton's house the night before the assassination? Why did Booth visit Andrew Johnson en route to Ford's Theater? After spymaster Lafayette C. Baker accused Stanton of burning 18 pages from Booth's diary, Johnson fired Stanton in a power struggle (and was impeached). Is the role Vallandigham and the Knights played the key to Lincoln's assassination?

Mark Croatti, M.A., teaches courses on Comparative Politics and American Government at the United States Naval Academy and George Washington University.

In partnership with Howard County Historical Society.

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