First, a disclaimer. I am not an authority on the Lincoln assassination. Not even close.
But close your eyes for a moment and imagine I'm some bigmouth in his cups, down at the end of the bar. (Never mind that you can't read if you close your eyes.)
I've noticed an odd parallel between the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
There's an old Ann Landers column about curiosities between the two assassinations. You've probably seen it: Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. Both secretaries warned their boss not to attend what turned out to be a rendezvous with death. Both slain presidents were succeeded by men named Johnson, and blah blah blah.
Cue the creepy music.
I'm not talking about the Ann Landers stuff.
No, I'm talking about similarities that to me, at least, suggest a pattern.
Historians know no more than the information made available to them, and for many years the United States War Department kept the records on Lincoln's assassination locked in files marked "secret."
This quotation is from a 1959 book called The Web of Conspiracy, by Theodore Roscoe. It was the first thing in that book to really get my attention. Readers familiar with the JFK case know that classifying much of the evidence "secret" is precisely what happened after the Warren Commission concluded its work in 1964.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged Kennedy assassin, was of course shot down by Jack Ruby a few days after the assassination. No trial.
In the Lincoln case, John Wilkes Booth escaped the scene of the crime and evaded authorities for about twelve days, before finally being cornered and killed in a Virginia barn.
Yet in this instance, there was a trial. Not only did Booth have co-conspirators who were captured alive; they carried out coordinated attacks on several other government officials, including Vice-President Andrew Johnson, at nearly the same moment Booth was killing Lincoln.
This is sometimes overlooked. We learn, of course, about Booth shooting Lincoln. But these other crimes are downplayed, as is the fact of conspiracy. I don't think I learned there was a Lincoln conspiracy until my teen years, and only then because I had a book of historic photographs. It included pictures of the execution of four of the eight conspirators (above).
The other four received prison sentences.
Although trial proceedings were published at the time, the Bureau of Military Justice sat on a great deal of conspiracy information, and the Army chiefs refused to release much of the data on the assassination and the pursuit of the conspirators. Not until the mid-1930s were pertinent War Department records placed in the public domain.
Why were these records suppressed for so long? Theodore Roscoe argued that within, say, twenty-five years of Lincoln's killing, no Civil War-era intelligence secrets could have been compromised.
What could be compromised was the security of a myth, or the reputation of an institution, or the concealment of some figure or group who had been party to a heinous crime.
The military censors had a field day with the Lincoln murder case. From the outset [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton held that many of the facts relating to the assassination were "not in the public interest." Eventually so much of the truth was tampered with that no one could learn the truth. Thus an immense deception was imposed and a stupendous crime was covered...
Today the cover-up is conceded by at least one Government agency which tells us in its official literature that "confusion and mystery" cloak Lincoln's assassination and "we probably shall never know all the facts"...
Does any of this sound familiar? "So much of the truth was tampered with that no one could learn the truth."
I'm seeing some definite parallels between Lincoln and JFK. It is tempting to conclude that the similarities reveal a model for the clandestine removal of a president of these United States, but I think that would be reckless.
And anyway, I'm just the loudmouth drunk down at the end of the bar.
Most of the material presented here comes from a single source: The Web of Conspiracy, by Theodore Roscoe (Prentice-Hall, 1959). I turned to Wikipedia for a few factoids, such as the location of Booth's death.