Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated again on National Geographic tonight at 7 and 9 pm.
As only Nat Geo producers do so well, the televised retelling of history that reveals the behind-the-scenes of our 16th president’s murder is wrought with twists, turns and historical firsts that are truly riveting.
Teachers and parents should record this documentary for all school-aged children, and even history buffs will find new information in this painstakingly prepared timeline of Lincoln’s last days and the subsequent mourning of a nation.
NGC tells the fascinating story of the life of Abraham Lincoln and his struggle to abolish slavery and follows Lincoln’s journey from his early years as a rising politician, to his run for presidency and his fight to unite the country in the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln is arguably the most important figure of the past 200 years. He led the country through an extraordinary time — and became an extraordinary man.
When Lincoln won the presidency in 1860, he received very few votes from the Southern states. One of the reasons he was able to win was because the opposing party Democrats were divided amongst themselves, while the Republicans were united.
Facts from Nat Geo:
An early assassination plot against Lincoln was thwarted at the last second, just before he moved into the White House.
Thirty thousand people came to Washington to hear Lincoln’s inaugural address in March 1861.
In his inaugural address, Lincoln offered to allow slavery in places where it already existed in order to keep the Union together. This was not enough for the angry South, however, who did not want any restrictions placed on the spread of slavery.
The country was unprepared for war when it broke out in April 1861. One German observer said that the American Civil War was like watching two armed mobs chasing each other across the countryside.
Lincoln’s family suffered — two of his aristocratic Kentucky-born wife Mary’s brothers died fighting for the South.
Lincoln’s real “home” was a summer house on a hill overlooking Washington. He called the White House “The Iron Cage.”
The advantage of railroads in the North was a key factor in the outcome of the war. It greatly increased the ease with which supplies and troops could travel.
The Gettysburg Address, at 270 words, was so short that when Lincoln finished and sat down, the audience didn’t immediately understand that he was done speaking.
By the end of the war, 600,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians had died.
John Wilkes Booth was a racist actor, famous for his acrobatic, graceful stage presence. He grew up in Maryland, and was the son of a famous Shakespearean actor and English immigrant.
Shakespeare was Lincoln’s favorite playwright.
After Booth shot Lincoln in Ford’s Theater, he jumped out of the viewing box onto the stage and ran to the exit, shouting the phrase “Sic Semper Tyrannis” – “Thus, Always to Tyrants.” In the jump, he broke his leg.
Although Lincoln was shot shortly after 10 p.m., he survived the night in a house across the street from the theater. He died at 7:22 a.m. the next morning, just days after the end of the war.
As was custom, two coins were placed on Lincoln’s eyes before he was buried, to pay the ferryman who would carry him to the next world.
The reward for John Wilkes Booth’s capture was $100,000, the largest sum yet for the apprehension of a murderer.
After running for eleven days, Booth was caught in a tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia and was shot by a soldier. He died at the scene. Four of his co-conspirators, including one woman, were later hanged for aiding him.
The cost of Lincoln’s walnut and silver coffin was $1,500 – 150 times more than the average $10 price at the time.
During Lincoln’s last funeral ride from Washington to Springfield, Illinois, over seven million people viewed his opened coffin.