Terry Morrow: Eight facts spinning out from 'Killing Lincoln'

John Wilkes Booth (Jesse Johnson) and Abraham Lincoln (Billy Campbell) star in "Killing Lincoln," airing Sunday night.

John Wilkes Booth (Jesse Johnson) and Abraham Lincoln (Billy Campbell) star in "Killing Lincoln," airing Sunday night.

Finely detailed and engaging, "Killing Lincoln" will have history buffs mesmerized from beginning to end.

Hosted by Tom Hanks, the two-hour mixture of scripted drama and documentary-style narrative details the months leading up to the murder of Abraham Lincoln. The piece divides its time between Lincoln and his murderer, John Wilkes Booth, through those final months.

Frankly, "Killing Lincoln" sparked my fascination in history again. The book, co-written by Bill O'Reilly, is a page turner, and the TV version (8 p.m. today, National Geographic Channel) never fails to impress on every level.

Here are a few of the nuggets that came out of "Killing Lincoln." (Naturally, like many bits of history, they can be called into question):

Around 1,500 people witnessed the assassination of Lincoln. However, no two accounts matched up.

Tad Lincoln, the president's youngest son, died of heart failure about six years after his father died. Tad was only 18.

Five major plots were formulated to kidnap or kill Lincoln. None of them was significantly executed.

Booth was a well-established actor of his day and was on his way to being an A-list star. Of course we're talking theater since that was the primary venue for actors in those days.

In August of 1864, Lincoln was riding alone in the middle of the night — a habit he apparently enjoyed — when a bullet barely missed him. The bullet left a hole in his hat, though, showing just how close he came to being shot.

On April 2, 1865, just days before his murder, Lincoln dreamed of his own death. Reportedly Lincoln had other such dreams previously. This dream, though, seemed particularly vivid.

Lincoln's Secretary of State was attacked in his home on the same night Lincoln was killed at the theater. The Secretary of State was targeted by Booth and his co-conspirators.

Lincoln was too tall to fit into the bed where he died. Lincoln was 6-foot-4.

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or morrowt@knoxville.com.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 4

Jeff_1 writes:

Lincoln's Secretary of State was attacked the night of April 14, 1865 by Booth accomplice, Lewis Powell or Paine, but although gravely wounded, he was not killed. He continued as Secretary of State for Andrew Johnson throughout the remainder of the term. William Henry Seward is best known during this period for his purchase of Alaska, "Seward's Folly." Mr. Seward definitely did not die at the time of the Lincoln assassination.

tntim writes:

in response to Jeff_1:

Lincoln's Secretary of State was attacked the night of April 14, 1865 by Booth accomplice, Lewis Powell or Paine, but although gravely wounded, he was not killed. He continued as Secretary of State for Andrew Johnson throughout the remainder of the term. William Henry Seward is best known during this period for his purchase of Alaska, "Seward's Folly." Mr. Seward definitely did not die at the time of the Lincoln assassination.

Thanks Jeff, when I first read that he had been murdered I thought huh???

NoChildLeftaDime writes:

I would call just about anything into question that had Bill O' Reilly's name on it, but most of the salient stuff above is common history. To add to the above posters comments, there were actually three targets for assassination that night. Lewis Powell and David Herald were sent to dispatch William Seward, and mucked it up pretty good stabbing him in the neck, just missing his jugular. Then stabbing his two sons and someone else as they fled from his home. A character named George Atzerodt was assigned the task of killing VP Andrew Johnson, but lost his nerve and got drunk instead. Booth killed Lincoln, of course.

There is a fascinating play and movie concerning the plot focusing on Mary Surratt who was hanged along with the other plotters, but I can't recall the name off hand. Jessica Lange played Surratt in the movie.

NoChildLeftaDime writes:

in response to NoChildLeftaDime:

I would call just about anything into question that had Bill O' Reilly's name on it, but most of the salient stuff above is common history. To add to the above posters comments, there were actually three targets for assassination that night. Lewis Powell and David Herald were sent to dispatch William Seward, and mucked it up pretty good stabbing him in the neck, just missing his jugular. Then stabbing his two sons and someone else as they fled from his home. A character named George Atzerodt was assigned the task of killing VP Andrew Johnson, but lost his nerve and got drunk instead. Booth killed Lincoln, of course.

There is a fascinating play and movie concerning the plot focusing on Mary Surratt who was hanged along with the other plotters, but I can't recall the name off hand. Jessica Lange played Surratt in the movie.

Correction. Robin Wright Penn played Mary Surratt in The Conspirators directed by Robert Redford.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login