The death of a president: April 14, 1865

The body of President Abraham Lincoln is carried on a horse-drawn carriage to Public Square on April 28, 1865.

Image courtesy Cleveland State Library Special Collections

April 14 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was the first US president – but sadly not the last – to be assassinated and, much like later assassinations, controversy remains as to what really happened in the killing of arguably our greatest president.

The closest Lincoln ever came to Westlake or Bay Village, unless he passed this way on a train, was a night he spent in the Weddell House Hotel (where the Rockefeller Building is now), just off Public Square on Feb. 15, 1861, as he stopped in Cleveland on his way to his inauguration as president.

His funeral train, carrying his body back to Springfield for burial, also stopped in Cleveland, on April 28, 1865. His body was presented on Public Square where an estimated 10,000 people per hour passed by his coffin all day.

Just two days before that, his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was shot and killed during his capture. I was taught in my early school years that Lincoln was killed by a crazy actor but there is much more to the story than that. Booth did not act on the spur of the moment, nor did he act alone. There are also conflicting opinions as to the extent of the involvement of the Confederate government in Booth’s actions.

I’ve studied all aspects of Lincoln’s life and death for years. No one’s death altered the course of our country’s history more than his – postponing the healing of our nation, full citizenship for African Americans and civil rights for decades. The story of Lincoln’s assassination reads like fiction but it’s all too real.

I’ll be telling the full story of what really happened in a talk on Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m., at Westlake Porter Public Library, using slides to show who was involved and the places where the events took place. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Mel Maurer

Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 10:01 AM, 04.07.2015