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Booth's Denial of Foreknowledge of the Attack on Seward
12-29-2018, 09:41 AM
Post: #16
RE: Booth's Denial of Foreknowledge of the Attack on Seward
(12-28-2018 01:46 PM)mikegriffith1 Wrote:  Of course, another serious problem with the "decapitation" theory is that with Stanton left alive, the government would have been anything but decapitated, as shown by the fact that Stanton became the de facto president in the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's death. Even weeks later, Stanton was still practically running the executive branch.

In the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's death, can you show me any incident where Stanton exceeded his authority as Secretary of War and usurped executive powers? It was not until that summer that Johnson and Stanton split politically over the reconstruction issue. From then on Johnson was his own man.

By the time "he finally challenged Stanton and demanded his resignation" Johnson's presidency was such a disaster that it was close to re-igniting the war.

He openly enjoyed making enemies out of people who disagreed with him. He was the kind of man that philosopher Yogi Berra described as "some guys, if they don't know - you can't tell them." I'm sure you know that type of person.
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05-18-2022, 10:53 PM
Post: #17
RE: Booth's Denial of Foreknowledge of the Attack on Seward
(12-27-2018 04:33 PM)mikegriffith1 Wrote:  When Guttridge and Neff and Shelton pointed out that Booth denied involvement in the attack on Seward and even expressed “horror” over it in his diary, the denial rang true and made sense to me. Said Booth, “I have only heard what has been done (except what I did myself) and it fills me with horror.”

Surely if Booth had ordered the attack on Seward, he would have defended it just as strongly as he defended his shooting of Lincoln. If he had no qualms about admitting that he murdered Lincoln, he would have had no qualms about admitting that he ordered the attack on Seward.

Even according to the official version, Booth said nothing about taking any action against Seward. In fact, there is no record that Booth even spoke critically of Seward. Yet, we are asked to believe that on the spur of the moment, literally hours before the assassination, Booth not only decided to kill Lincoln but to have his accomplices kill Seward and Johnson.

As I have mentioned before, even when I knew little about the Lincoln assassination, the attack on Seward made no sense. Any Confederate-backed attack would have targeted Stanton, Wade, Butler, Sherman, Julian, Stevens, etc., not Lincoln, Johnson, and Seward.

Seward was known to support Lincoln’s soft, forgiving Reconstruction terms. Confederate leaders knew this quite well from the meeting at Hampton Roads when Seward and Lincoln met for several hours with CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens, CSA Assistant Secretary of War John Campbell, and CSA Senator Robert Hunter.

Booth’s denial of foreknowledge of the attack on Seward becomes even more intriguing when we consider the huge holes in the official story of the attack. One of the strongest points in Shelton’s book is his thorough and revealing analysis of the eyewitness testimony on the attack. Guttridge and Neff’s analysis is much shorter but brings up some important points about the glaring problems with the official version.

And notice that Booth felt no need to say anything about any abortive attack on Johnson or Grant, most likely because he never thought about attacking either man.

Sorry to be a few years late to this discussion. In regard to "And notice that Booth felt no need to say anything about any abortive attack on Johnson or Grant, most likely because he never thought about attacking either man. I believe Booth already knew Grant had left on the train. If he had attended the play with Lincoln, Booth probably would have armed himself with a revolver rather than the derringer. Grant would have been a bonus but was not critical to his objective.
As far as Johnson as a target, I feel confident Booth was covering most of Atzerodt's expenses and directed Atzerodt to get the room at the Kirkwood House to at least have an idea of Johnson’s location at the time for the attacks. I believe Herold was the primary assigned to attack Johnson with Atzerodt as his partner. Booth likely had a good idea of Atzerodt’s character – a drunk and unlikely a killer. The coat found in Atzerodt’s room was almost certainly Booth’s, probably lent to Herold. (See Dave Taylor’s excellent analysis of the envelop found in the coat pocket. It had poetry on it written by Booth, his girlfriend Lucy Hale, and her cousin. Also, the handkerchief with the “H” monogram probably came from Hale.) The revolver and knife were likely Herold’s. When captured, Herold did not have a coat and claimed all the weapons (the carbine, two revolvers, and large knife) were Booth’s. We know Booth and Herold picked up the carbine from Lloyd. Mudd claimed Booth had two revolvers when he was at Mudd’s home. I personally believe Booth picked them up from Mudd’s place. Thomas Harbin said Booth showed him one of the revolvers after he crossed into Virginia. Herold admitted to carrying the carbine at Garrett’s farm.
Atzerodt tossed his knife in the street and pawned his revolver on his way out of DC. This and much of what Atzerodt claimed was verified. I believe he was telling the truth when he said Herold was assigned to kill Johnson and asked for the key to the Kirkwood House room and Atzerodt told him he didn’t have it. There is a good chance Herold was the unknown person heard running down the hall and banging on the door at the Kirkwood House. He had probably been searching frantically for Atzerodt so he could get the weapons and carry out the attack on Johnson. Clearly, Herold did not check the right bar, which probably wasn’t one of Atzerodt’s usual watering holes.
No one claims to have seen Herold at or near Seward’s house around the time of the attack and there is no good reason to believe Powell needed an escort to find his way. Herold escorting Powell appears to be a case of someone making an assumption in telling the history and it has been repeated so often that even historians believe it to be true. Only two witnesses claim to have seen Herold between 10 and 11PM on 14 April. The first was Fletcher who just came out of the bar where he happened to be drinking with Atzerodt. Herold was approaching the Kirkwood House when Fletcher spotted him and tried to flag him down to get the overdue horse returned to the stable. Herold may well have been searching for Atzerodt even then. But when spotted by Fletcher, Herold bolted for the bridge. Although Herold used an alias when he reached the bridge, the man Sergeant Cobb allowed to cross the bridge shortly after Booth had crossed was clearly Herold. Herold must have been reasonably certain Atzerodt did not decide to attack Johnson on his own. So, once Herold caught up to Booth, Booth likely realized no attack was made on Johnson. They probably got confirmation that only Lincoln was killed from Mudd, once he came back from his quick trip into Bryantown looking for a carriage (unsuccessfully) for Booth to use for his escape because of his broken leg. I don’t recall seeing anything to indicate Booth made a habit of admitting to his failures, so why would he bother saying anything about abortive attacks on Johnson and Grant? Stanton could have pulled an Alexander Haig thing, but there would have still been chaos and possibly a Constitutional crisis.
In short, I am confident the targets were Lincoln, Johnson, and Seward.
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05-19-2022, 06:24 AM
Post: #18
RE: Booth's Denial of Foreknowledge of the Attack on Seward

There is strong evidence that many more federal officeholders were targeted for assassination on the night of April 14, 1865, in Washington and on the train to Burlington, New Jersey, than Lincoln, Johnson and Seward. See Decapitating the Union, pp. 255-258 for evidence of the attack on Stanton; pp. 258-260 for evidence of the attack on Grant. See also the May 10, 1865, letter from the Union agent in Paris in which he quotes the Confederate agent "Johnston", who said that if everything had gone according to plan, 15 Yankees would be dead, not one (pp. 260, 262, 328, 330, 341, 372) and see the T.I.O.S. letter in which the writer speaks of one assassin assigned to each member of Lincoln's cabinet (pp. 256. 262, 323, 351, 372).

I am happy to tell you that Decapitating the Union received five-star reviews from 57 of 62 reviewers at its Amazon entry. Inasmuch as you clearly have an interest in the subject, and are a digger rather than a superficial scholar, may I recommend it to you? McPherson told me that he loved the book because it was loaded with detail and that "I am a detail man".

John C. Fazio
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05-19-2022, 02:04 PM
Post: #19
RE: Booth's Denial of Foreknowledge of the Attack on Seward
Thanks John. I have several books yet to acquire and read. I'll be sure to include yours. I would not be surprised of the existence of other targets and plots, but i'm not sure multiple cells were to act simultaneously on the 14th. I believe the one Booth launched after O'Laughlen and Arnold bowed out and John Surratt conveniently left town was only going after Lincoln, Seward, and Johnson - and Grant had he attended the play with the Lincoln's. It's possible Herold may have contemplated going after Stanton before heading back towards the Kirkwood house area. I don't think Booth had another group of conspirators under his lead. Perhaps the plot to blow up the White House would have targeted the whole cabinet, but it does not seem Booth had a role in orchestrating that one. If that had successfully occurred, there would not have been a need for Booth's actions. I believe the last straw that pushed Booth to act on the 14th was Lincoln's speech suggesting Blacks should be able to vote. Booth's rashness may have derailed other plots. I have a lot more research to do before I get too confident about much of anything. More truth may be out there, but most of it has likely gone to graveyards more than a century ago.
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