Wednesday, April 15, 2015

150 Years On: The Civil War's Last Casualty

150 years ago yesterday evening, at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington DC, Abraham Lincoln was watching a play with his wife and several others, when a man who never did anything in his life except fire a bullet, John Wilkes Booth, shot our sixteenth president in the back of the head. 150 years ago this morning, the President of the United States, the man who had saved the union and won one of our bloodiest wars, was dead.

To this day Lincoln remains in some places a controversial figure. With books entitled Lincoln’s Marxists, and others, smearing him for doing everything from imprisoning the grandson of Francis Scott Key to even fighting the South at all. There are still those, even today, which defend the Confederate States of America, saying they were on the right side in the Civil War, and Lincoln on the wrong one.
Of course, while Lincoln was not perfect, (which president ever has been?) these critics miss the point. He saved the union. He ended one of the greatest human rights abuses in history-slavery. Of course, the best way to have ended slavery would have been for there to have been no war, but that didn’t happen. Lincoln firmly believed that if the Union was worth one war to create, it was worth another to save.
The Civil War had ended, for all intents and purposes, five days before, when Robert E. Lee has finally realized at Appomattox Court House, that he could not outrun the Union Army under US Grant, and had surrendered. The war would officially end in June, but the fighting was, at this point, over.
Abraham Lincoln was the final casualty of a war that had ripped the nation apart for five years, and which was fought over things which are still argued about to this day. Although we are no longer in real danger of the nation sending armies against itself again, we are still torn by the questions of civil rights and slavery, from Ferguson to South Carolina, the debate rages on.
Abraham Lincoln died too early. With his death the Radical Republicans in congress went on a rampage to punish the South, rather than begin the healing. It lasted for years. Had Lincoln been there, they probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. So perhaps, for all of the hatred thrown against him, Lincoln was one of the best friends the South, and the Union, ever had.

Andrew C. Abbott

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