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Did Jefferson Davis Order the Assassination of Lincoln?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: July 17, 2014 
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Did Jefferson Davis as head of the secret services of the Confederate States (Rebel) give the order to John Wilkes Booth personally to assassinate President Lincoln before April 1865 so the War could continue in face of the Confederacy's approaching defeat?

John G. O'Connell, III

? ? ?

Dear Mr. O'Connell,

As President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis gave no order to John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. There is no evidence of such an order and nothing in Davis' character to suggest an inclination to do so—whereas there is ample evidence for Booth, whose original plan had been to kidnap the president, assassination only coming into play when he judged the kidnapping plan impracticable.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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4 Responses to “Did Jefferson Davis Order the Assassination of Lincoln?”

  1. 1
    Jes says:

    What a ridiculous "Urban Legend". And where, pray tell, did this " head of the secret services of the Confederate States (Rebel)", come from??

  2. 2
    James Craig says:

    Presidential assassins tend to be, as Jackie Kennedy described Oswald, real "zeroes." While Booth was from a famous family of actors and had achieved a degree of recognition on his own, as an individual who really accomplished things, he hadn't done much. He wasn't the best actor in the family, hadn't branched out into other areas of theater and hadn't carved out a niche of his own. Even as a "rebel" he didn't do much until he decided to kidnap, then kill the president. He was certainly no spymaster and I doubt Jefferson Davis had heard of him in any context than as an actor. Those who have created this conspiracy theory have done history a disservice.

  3. 3
    Troy Cowan says:

    According to the Davis family oral history, Jefferson Davis and Joseph Davis had a secret meeting on or about May 2, 1863 with John Wilkes Booth. Booth was offered $50,000 in gold to kidnap Lincoln and exchange Lincoln for the Confederate prisoners. There were no plans to assassinate Lincoln.

  4. 4
    John Graham says:

    @James Craig

    Jackie would know.

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