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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lincoln eye-witness accounts murky

(Image by Currier & Ives)
With death rows teeming, and innocents held for years on scanty evidence, it’s all the more essential for eye-witness accounts to be thoroughly scrutinized.

Analyzing the allegedly first-hand reports of Lincoln’s assassination gives perspective as to just how varied such accounts can be.

On this 150th anniversary of the tragic event, Phil Edwards of explains how shock may have distorted the impressions of witnesses.  Lincoln’s fellow theatergoers gave numerous versions of how John Wilkes Booth fled the scene.

The theater box within which Booth shot Lincoln was 12 feet off the ground.  Some say that Booth jumped down; others say that he carefully lowered himself “on a flagstaff.”

Some describe Booth as “limping in pain” after this maneuver; others say that he “ran with lightning speed across the stage.”

Did Booth shout “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”) before and/or after the murder?  Some say he yelled it “after reaching the stage.”  Others claim that he instead shouted “Freedom.”

What we do know for sure is that Booth managed “to escape a theater full of hundreds of witnesses, many of them soldiers, after killing the president in clear view.”

Apparently, though, “clear view” isn’t always reliably transparent…    


Copyright April 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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