Election of 1864

General Grant met skillful resistance in the South, and suffered thousands of casualties. Many people called him “the butcher” and condemned Lincoln for supporting the cigar-smoking commander. In 1864, the Republicans and War Democrats who supported Lincoln’s military policies-formed the National Union Party. In June, the party nominated Lincoln for President. It selected former Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a leading war Democrat for Vice President.

The Democrats chose General George B. McClellan as their candidate for President, and Representative George H. Pendleton of Ohio for Vice President.

A group called Radical Republicans persuaded General John C. Fremont to run for President, but he withdrew a month before the election.

Lincoln became less popular as the summer wore on. I late August, he confessed privately that it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected.

Then the military trend changed. Rear Admiral David G. Farragut had won the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, and Sherman’s troops captured Atlanta on September 2.

A series of Union victories cleared Confederate forces from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Many discouraged Northerners took heart again.

The Union victories helped Lincoln win reelection. He defeated McClellan by an electoral vote of 212 to 21, and a popular majority of more than 400,000 votes.

Second Inauguration

The end of the war was clearly in sight when Lincoln took the oath of office a second time, on March 4, 1865. General Grant had besieged Lee’s weary troops to Petersburg, Virginia. The Southern armies were wasting away in Grant’s building grip. Sherman left a wide track of destruction as he marched through Georgia and the Carolinas.

As a result, Lincoln could concentrate on reuniting the nation. In his second inaugural address, he explained that the Civil War had to be fought to abolish slavery. It was God’s will, he declared, that to North and South together pay the price for slavery. He urged the people the maintain their faith in God’s goodness ad justice even if the war should continue ‘until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword. He closed with a knowing plea for merciful treatment for the South and for all victims of the war.

Photographs taken of Lincoln shortly after his second inauguration show the effect of four years of war. His face had become gaunt and deeply lined. He slept little during crises in the fighting, and his eyes were ringed with black. Lincoln ate his meals irregularly, and had almost no relaxation.

In spite of his exhaustion, Lincoln continued to see widows and soldiers who called at the White House. His delight in rough humor never deserted him. More than once, he shocked members of his Cabinet by reading to them from such humorists as Artemus Ward and Orpheus C. Kerr. Even so, the strain of melancholy that had appeared in him as a young man deepened. Lincoln came to have a quiet confidence in his own judgement as he met the trials of war. Yet he had no false pride. He was a man of genuine humility. The war brought out his best qualities. He could rise to each new challenge. He was a master politician and timed his actions to the people’s moods. He led men by persuasion.

End of the War

On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Under authority from Lincoln, Grant extended generous terms to Lee and his army. A great wave of joy swept the North when the fighting ended. Many people inside insisted that Lincoln decide if “the seceded states, so called, are in the Union or Out of it”.

No matter, said the President in his last public on April 11, 1865, “finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad”. Lincoln admitted that the new government of Louisiana was imperfect.


On the evening of April 14, 1865 on Good Friday. Lincoln along with his wife Mary Todd attended a performance of Our American Cousin at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC.

A few minutes after 10o’clock, a shot rang through the crowded house. John Wilkes Booth, one of the best known actors of the day, had shot the President in the head from the rear of the presidential box.

In leaping to the stage, Booth caught his spur in a flag draped in front of the box. He fell and broke his leg. But he dimpled across the stage brandishing a dagger and cry out: “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (Thus always to tyrants), the motto of Virginia.

John Wilks Booth (1838-1865)

was an American actor and assassin, who murdered President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th-century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor.

He was also a Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of Lincoln, and strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Booth and a group of co-conspirators originally plotted to kidnap Lincoln but later planned to kill him, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy’s cause.[3] Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered four days earlier, but Booth believed that the American Civil War was not yet over because Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s army was still fighting the Union Army.

Of the conspirators, only Booth was completely successful in carrying out his part of the plot. He shot Lincoln once in the back of the head, and the President died the next morning. Seward was severely wounded but recovered, and Vice President Johnson was never attacked at all.

Following the assassination, Booth fled on horseback to southern Maryland, eventually making his way to a farm in rural northern Virginia 12 days later, where he was tracked down. Booth’s companion gave himself up, but Booth refused and was shot by Boston Corbett, a Union soldier, after the barn in which he was hiding was set ablaze. Eight other conspirators or suspects were tried and convicted, and four were hanged shortly thereafter.

Lincoln was carried unconscious to a neighboring house. Lincoln’s family and a number of high government officials surrounded him. He died the next morning at 7:22 AM, on April 15, 1865. As President, Lincoln had been bitterly criticized. After his death, even his enemies praised his kindly spirit and selflessness. Millions of people had called him Father Abraham. They grieved as they would have grieved as the loss of a father. The train carrying his body started west from Washington. Mourners lined the tracks as it moved across the country. Thousand swept as they looked upon his face for the last time. On May 4, Lincoln was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

Trial of the Conspirators

After killing Lincoln, Booth fled to Maryland on horseback. A friend David E. Herold, former druggists clerk, joined Booth there to help him escape to Virginia. On April 26, 1865, federal troops searching for Booth trapped the two men in a barn near Port Royal, VA. Herold surrendered, but Booth was killed.

Several people were believed to have been involved with Booth in both Lincoln’s assassination and a plot to kill other government officials.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered agents his department to arrest them. Besides Herold, the conspirators included George Atzerodt, a carriage maker, for planning to murder of Vice President Andrew Johnson, Lewis Powell a former Confederate soldier, for attempting to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Mrs. Mary E. Surratt, the owner of a Washington Boarding house, for helping the plotters. Booth and the others supposedly planned the crimes in Mrs. Surratt’s house. The Department of War also accused Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin, boyhood friends of Booth’s of helping him plan the crimes. Samuel A. Mudd, a Maryland physician who had set Booth’s broken leg after the assassination of Lincoln, was changed with aiding the plotters. Edward Spangler, a stage hand at the Ford’s Theatre, was charged with helping Booth escape.

A nine-man military commission tried the accused conspirators in Washington. The trial began on May 10, 1865 and lasted until June 30. The Commission convicted all eight defendants and sentenced Atzerodt, Herold, Paine (Powell) and Mrs. Surrat to death. They were hanged on July 7, 1865. Arnold, Mudd and O’Laughlin received sentences of life imprisonment, and Spangler received a six-year sentence. O’Laughlin died in prison of yellow fever in 1867. President Andrew Johnson pardoned Arnold, Mudd and Spangler in 1869.