by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
There are many questions that can be asked about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and most of them probably won’t be. Either they will not be thought of, or most of those who write about this event will seek to direct the questions into other areas that will fail to deal with events that should be dealt with in order to focus on the Establishment version of this history. It’s sort of like the Warren Commission Report on the Kennedy assassination. Thinking people realize the Warren Commission Report is a croc, to put it bluntly, but it is still the “official version” of what is supposed to have happened and so it is what all the court historians refer everyone to. They realize it’s all baloney. What they hope for is that you don’t. Same with the Lincoln assassination. The “official version” has lots of problems but we are all directed to it anyway in the hope we will be too stupid to know what questions to ask.
But questions have been asked. Some of them I had never thought of. Dave McGowan, who has authored the excellent series of articles Why Everything You Think You Know About The Lincoln Assassination Is Wrong has asked some of them.
For instance, he has questioned why Booth even used the weapon he did. I have never seen this questioned before, but McGowan questions it. He notes: “…after the passage of 149 years, it doesn’t appear that anyone has ever thought to question why Booth, an intelligent and educated man by all accounts, would choose such a riduculous weapon to take with him on his mission…The President is under armed guard, or at least he’s supposed to be. He’s also supposed to be in the company of General Ulysses S. Grant, who is known to always be armed. Of course, Grant has fortuitously opted to get the hell out of Dodge just hours before he was to have accompanied the Lincolns to the theater, but you shouldn’t have any way of knowing that, just as you shouldn’t have any way of knowing that Parker (the guard) will desert his post…” So, if you are Booth, “…you have to assume that you’re going to have to get past at least two armed attendants, and probably more, to get to the President. And you’re going to have to do that without firing a shot, since you only have one and you will need to save that for Abe. And since the only realistic chance you have of actually killing Lincoln with your wildly inaccurate weapon is by sneaking up behind him and delivering a contact wound to the head, you’re going to have to get past any guards without making any noise. And since Grant is also on the hit list, you’re going to have to kill him as well, which I guess you’ll have to do by bludgeoning him with your empty gun. That should work out pretty well.” Given what Booth is supposed to have known, does anyone see how ridiculous this is? Has anyone even thought of this besides McGowan? I hadn’t.
However, given the situation that Booth is supposed to have known about, him taking that little one-shot Derringer to do the deed makes almost no sense at all. Anyone with his wits about him at all would have wanted some kind of repeating pistol to go in with. And there were pocket pistols in those days he could have used. Admittedly they were bigger than a Derringer but they would still have fit in his coat pocket.
McGowan, as if talking to Booth, states: “…you have set a very ambitious goal for yourself. You must first get to the president, who is sitting in a private box in a crowded theater with at least two armed attendants. You must then kill the president with a single shot, because your weapon doesn’t allow for second chances, and also somehow kill General Grant. You must then, in an unarmed state, make an escape first from the theater and then from the city, and you must get past an armed guard at the bridge. And you have to do all that with just one bullet. It’s hard to see how anything could go wrong with such a brilliant plan.” You have to give McGowan credit for a rather dry sense of humor. But he continues: “There are other weapons available. Weapons better suited to your mission. And as an alleged Southern operative, you should surely know that.” But, is Booth the “alleged Southern operative” we have been told he is and does he know this? A Southern sympathizer, no doubt, but does that translate into an “operative”?
So you have to wonder why Booth went in with a single-shot Derringer, given the supposed circumstances. Or did he know more than we think he knew and if so, who told him?
McGowan also wonders why Booth did not disguise himself. He would have had to know that once identified his acting career would have been at and end. He noted that actors in those days often traveled with trunks full of disguises for the different parts they might play. He observes of Booth that “You could easily don a convincing disguise so as not to be easily recognized/ Then you don’t have to worry about getting out of the city alive; all you have to do is make it out of the theater, quickly ditch the disguise, and then you can circle around and rejoin the crowd at Ford’s without arousing any suspicion at all.” Yet this is not what happens.
You also have to wonder who planned the scenario that took place. It almost sounds like, the way it was planned, John Wilkes Booth was hung out to dry and didn’t realize it. Over the years as I have read about this I have had the feeling that there were lots more people involved than John Wilkes Booth and his merry little band of misfits.
McGowan asks questions I’ve not seen asked before. Theodore Roscoe asks questions no one else had dealt with. A couple years ago I read Bill O’Reilly’s book about the Lincoln assassination. O’Reilly broke no new ground. He just regurgitated the Establishment line and asked no questions the Establishment would not have wanted asked. Somehow, that doesn’t satisfy. It may be fun reading for those who don’t really want to learn anything. Real history seldom works that way and it didn’t with the Lincoln assassination and its aftermath either.