Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
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DID JOHN WILKES BOOTH AND OTHER CONSPIRATORS ATTEND LINCOLN'S SECOND INAUGURATION?
This is one of several exposures of Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration taken by photographer Alexander Gardner. The date is March 4, 1865, and the scene is the eastern portico of the Capitol. Lincoln is standing and reading his address. According to authors Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., five of Booth's co-conspirators are standing directly below the president - Lewis Powell (alias Paine or Payne), George Atzerodt, David Herold, John Surratt, and Ned Spangler. The Kunhardts place Booth in the group standing directly above the president. In their book Twenty Days, a slightly different exposure is used, and enlargements are shown that allegedly show Booth and his gang were present. If you have access to Twenty Days you can judge for yourself. It is known that Booth did attend the second inauguration as the guest of his fiancée, Lucy Hale (daughter of John P. Hale, former U.S. Senator from New Hampshire). Booth is known to have confided to his actor friend Samuel Knapp Chester, "What an excellent chance I had to kill the president, if I had wished, on inauguration day!"**

See pages 30-35 of Twenty Days for more discussion, photographs, and enlargements of Lincoln's inauguration and those who were possibly in attendance. The exposure in Twenty Days was either taken shortly before or shortly after the one shown on this web page. A careless fingerprint blotted out Lincoln as he stood at the speaker's stand in the exposure used by the Kunhardts. The authors maintain that Booth is standing above the president just beneath the marble statue. Lewis Powell, wearing a light colored hat, is allegedly below the president. John Surratt, wearing a forage cap, is standing to the right of Powell (according to the Kunhardts).

It should be noted that many Lincoln assassination experts do not agree with the Kunhardts’ analysis of this photograph. For example, in The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies, Dr. William Hanchett writes, "In Twenty Days (1865), Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., have combined hundreds of magnificently reproduced contemporary photographs and other pictures with an informed and judicious narrative of the assassination, its background and aftermath. One regrets only their claim to have identified Booth and some of the men associated with him in an enlarged (and well-publicized) photograph of the ceremony at Lincoln’s second inauguration, March 4, 1865."

** Chester testified at the Lincoln assassination conspiracy trial that this conversation took place at a table at the House of Lords saloon in New York City.


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