July 7, 1865 - Booth Conspirators are executed

Certainly one sees a more indiscriminate targeting of people over time, which may or may not coincide with the emergence of total war, no?

I mean specific people in powerful positions are the early targets for the most part... Emperors, presidents, potentates, the highly placed... By the late 19th century one sees rather more nationalist terrorism that goes after lower-level figures, Irish Fenianism, the Balkans, etc. etc. By the post-WWII era there is true "terrorism" that is increasingly indiscriminate and wanton, like Algeria and other wars of national liberation. Here inflicting suffering relatively wantonly becomes a norm, perhaps driven by the experiences of WWI and WWII where entire populations are targeted and the ideas of total war are born: "If every soldier can be killed by pretty much any means--poison gas, artillery, mines, bullets, etc. etc. then why not the factory worker too? Why not the factory worker's family? Why not the soldier's family? Why not all Armenians?" The founder of modern bombing strategy, Giulio Douhet, made these objectives quite explicit in his treatises on air power... But they awaited application in the interwar period in colonial wars and in the Spanish Civil War, China, followed notoriously by the bombing campaigns of WWII in Europe and Asia... So suddenly all the Arabs or Berbers or Pied Noirs or French can be ruthlessly assailed, attacked and murdered... The Arab-Israeli conflict would be a further instance where ethno-nationalism leads to any member of the enemy group becoming, outrageously and contemptibly "fair game." By the 1970s and 1980s there is politically motivated terrorism, car bombing, train bombing, airliner bombing, mass-casualty attacks and more discriminate or targeted stuff going on all over, and the adoption of terrorist methods by nation states, and then in the post-Cold War era the commonly cited age of the internet meets 12th century fanaticism or 16th century religious wars that we presently inhabit. Add to that the phenomenon of private individual fantasies, delusions, and grudges resulting out in so-called "lone wolf" actions...
Thanks. That's an interesting connection.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Albeit a very unhappy one... Some terrorist actions emerge as "weapons of the weak" but before long assume an "ends justify the means" dynamic to them... From targeting this leader or that, to the followers, to the merely indifferent... From the architect of a particular policy, to the people who carry out the policy, to people thought somehow to be "kin" or "like" the policy... . Members of an "enemy" category, however contrived. Bottom line: There's an ideology that reduces a fellow human being into an object. That object is then subject to political violence for one rationale or the other.

As for John Wilkes Booth, his sister Asia Boothe Clarke, who left for England after the assassination and with whom John had confided documents and other materials, there is this 2015 article by Paige Williams of Smithsonian Magazine:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/hist...ng-john-wilkes-booth-is-his-sister-180954328/
 
Last edited:

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
What’s interesting about “total war” is that, although it’s often described as a modern development, it was pretty much modus operandi during, say, the Middle Ages. Raids and chevauchees made up the vast majority of medieval warfare, centered on the idea that since power was tied to land possession an inability to protect the land and its people from raiders would undermine the power base of the local ruler. We could speak in general terms to say that in the I dunno 18th century war became more of a “legal process” in which a single battle or series of battles settled the whole thing, generally sparing the civilian population outside of the immediate locality. But even then it’s a massive generalization.

Excerpt from Chanson des Lorrains, written in the early 13th century:

"The march begins. Out in front are the scouts and incendiaries. After them come the foragers whose job it is to collect the spoils and carry them in the great baggage train. Soon all is in tumult. The peasants, having just come out to the fields, turn back, uttering loud cries. The shepherds gather their flocks and drive them towards the neighboring woods in the hope of saving them. The incendiaries set the villages on fire and the foragers visit and sack them. The terrified inhabitants are either burned or led away with their hands tied to be held for ransom. Everywhere bells ring the alarm; a surge of fear sweeps over the countryside. Wherever you look you can see helmets glinting in the sun, or pennons waving in the breeze, the whole plain covered with horsemen. Money, cattle, mules, and sheep are all seized. The smoke billows and spreads, flames crackle. Peasants and shepherds scatter in all directions."
 

rob63

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Location
PA, but still a Hoosier
Almost forgot I had these photos... the Surratt boarding house is now a Chinese restaurant.

01.jpg

02.jpg
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
What’s interesting about “total war” is that, although it’s often described as a modern development, it was pretty much modus operandi during, say, the Middle Ages. Raids and chevauchees made up the vast majority of medieval warfare, centered on the idea that since power was tied to land possession an inability to protect the land and its people from raiders would undermine the power base of the local ruler. We could speak in general terms to say that in the I dunno 18th century war became more of a “legal process” in which a single battle or series of battles settled the whole thing, generally sparing the civilian population outside of the immediate locality. But even then it’s a massive generalization.

Excerpt from Chanson des Lorrains, written in the early 13th century:

"The march begins. Out in front are the scouts and incendiaries. After them come the foragers whose job it is to collect the spoils and carry them in the great baggage train. Soon all is in tumult. The peasants, having just come out to the fields, turn back, uttering loud cries. The shepherds gather their flocks and drive them towards the neighboring woods in the hope of saving them. The incendiaries set the villages on fire and the foragers visit and sack them. The terrified inhabitants are either burned or led away with their hands tied to be held for ransom. Everywhere bells ring the alarm; a surge of fear sweeps over the countryside. Wherever you look you can see helmets glinting in the sun, or pennons waving in the breeze, the whole plain covered with horsemen. Money, cattle, mules, and sheep are all seized. The smoke billows and spreads, flames crackle. Peasants and shepherds scatter in all directions."
True... Even in ancient times. The subjugation of the Lusitanians in what is now modern-day Portugal was considered a bit extreme by the Romans. That is really saying something. Something serious. Tacitus in Agricola has his fictional Caledonian chieftain Calgacus describing Roman ambitions as "they create a desert and call it peace" after all.

Between the Middle Ages with its crusades and "kill them all, god will know his own" and the grilling and eating of Saracen children at Aleppo and other graphic examples that might be cited, there came the religious wars of the sixteenth century with all their depravity, cruelty, savagery, and barbarism. Eventually, there arose the 17th Century and the "Thirty Years War." That actually led to some of the very first efforts to define "laws of war" and "just war doctrine" going back to Hugo Grotius and so on.

I might add that if "terrorism" is defined as the sort of "display violence" that was very routine among Asian, European, African, and New World/American rulers, designed to cow the population and dissuade them from one or another recalcitrant or obstreperous or resistant behavior, then it is very ancient indeed. Of course such a definition also renders the sorts of private political violence known as "modern terrorism" almost moot or meaningless. To better answer @John5thNJ 's initial query about how Frau Doktor Historiker Carola Dietze defines modern terrorism, she is drawing on another German scholar, Peter Waldmann that "terrorism is primarily a communication strategy" and reliant on a relatively modern mass society or mass public, mass communication, level of literacy, communication infrastructure, and technology. This leads to a discussion about how Italy and the United States were different from Prussia/pre-unification Germany and Russia that I'll leave to people who want to read the book... But that is the nub: steamships, railways, the telegraph, newspapers, mass literacy, popular press, etc. etc. Basically technology, communication, transport, and the sort of mass society absent from the pre-modern era. Acts of political violence not involving--necessarily--state actors that became somewhat "universal" and applicable in many contexts, and that could be harnessed for political ends even, or perhaps especially?, in cases of failure by creating the aura of martyrdom and so on...

I hope that helps a bit.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Terrorism was the prevailing theme in the guerilla warfare in Missouri, Kentucky and parts of Tennessee. The victims were non-combatants many times, linked by family. Then in 1865 or 1866 the KKK took over that same terrorist agenda, and caused fear among God-fearing people. Savage Indians out west were famous for their butchery and made Union troops fear being taken captive. Random acts of violence that are premeditated to a degree due to hatred goes back to Roman times. Terrorism was founded when?
Lubliner.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Very true, certainly. The use of political violence to cow a populace--"terror"--and "display violence" is as old as human history, and for all me know, may go far back into prehistory. There is the old saying "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." An Israeli scholar Boaz Ganor has noted that the first, "terrorism" is a tactic, while the second is a political objective and so that there is a sort of logical fallacy in the old statement. It might be further contrasted that top-down political terror is "terror" like the use of the term by the Jacobins or Montagnards in the French Revolution, while bottom-up political violence by non-state actors is "terrorism."

But when, how, and why and under what circumstances did terrorism become "modern?" Was it the French Revolution? Was it after the failure of the 1848 revolutions? Did it await television, and so the first "modern terrorism" was the Palestinian Black September organization's abduction and murder of the Israeli Olympic team at Munich in 1972? Hence the particular argument that modern terrorism may have had five specific "founders" using spectacular political violence, in most instances assassination, to create a statement or political theater and seek not just terror and tumult and outrage, but also sympathy even after failure and defeat... John Wilkes Booth's assassination was certainly profoundly shocking, and led to much revulsion. but the conspirators thought they were carrying out a tyrannicide and clearly sought a wider audience for their actions in defense of martyred Richmond and old Virginia, etc.

Your excellent point about the terrorist nature of much bushwhacker guerrilla warfare is well taken, and also what I was driving at:
Sectional violence begins in Kansas and Missouri between Free Soilers and "ruffians." It hits the newspapers far beyond the actual numbers of people killed. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts takes up Bleeding Kansas. Preston Brooks canes Sumner, nearly beating him to death. Northern sectional newspapers are appalled. Southern newspapers applaud. People ask for pieces of the guttapercha cane. People send him new canes. John Brown, his sons, other conspirators, the "Secret Six" plot slave rebellion launched by a spectacular act of calculated political violence. It fails, but then again, it can be plausibly argued that his actions started the civil war, no?
"I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with Blood. I had...vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done."

Then election, secession, rebellion, full scale Civil War. The Civil War ends with a Union victory and with occupation and Reconstruction in the South. Immediately, Lincoln is assassinated.
"Sic semper tyrannis! The South is avenged!"
The nation is tired and exhausted from the protracted agonies of Civil War. A fight over the control of politics and labor begins in the southern states. Explicitly, conscious terrorist groups are formed in various rifle clubs and white leagues and most notoriously, the Ku Klux Klan. This "bottom-up" campaign effectively "wins" Reconstruction. By 1909 W.E.B. DuBois writes his vindication of John Brown... By 1915 D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation premieres...
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
You guys have lost me. How is terrorism related to the Booth conspiracy?
On 30 Jan. 1835, an unemployed house painter, Richard Lawrence, approached 67-year old POTUS Andrew Jackson as he was leaving a congressional funeral at the Capitol building (such as it was then) with his aides, produced a pistol, and tried to shoot him. The furious POTUS Jackson clubbed him repeatedly with his cane/walking stick, while Lawrence produced a second pistol, which also misfired. Jackson's aides wrestled Lawrence away from the POTUS. Jackson was convinced that it was part of a wider Whig conspiracy...

On 14 April 1865, a conspiracy targeting POTUS Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and other members of the U.S. government for murder was hatched. John Wilkes Booth shot and killed Abraham Lincoln. Ex-Confederate soldier Lewis Powell invaded Seward's home, stabbed and clubbed five people, including Seward's son. Seward was bed-ridden after being thrown from a carriage, and suffered many injuries, including a broken jaw that had been fitted with a metal brace. It is thought that the metal brace saved his life, since he was stabbed in the face, throat and chest but survived. The secession crisis had led the Fire-eaters in gaining more power and popular support than they had had previously. The twin shocks of first, John Brown and the secret six's role in his attack, and second, the sectional election where Lincoln had won the plurality of electoral college votes and became POTUS even though he'd been entirely omitted from the ballot of Southern States was second. After the defeat of the CSA and the surrender of the ANV at Appomattox, Booth and the conspirators were faced with the failure of slavery and the Union remaining indivisible, followed by the failure of collective violence to preserve a utopian republic of slaveholders, and seemingly the utter demise of the earlier political order within the South... So the plot was hatched as something of a desperate and vengeful as well as symbolic action of political violence to prevent Abraham Lincoln becoming a Napoleon-type dictator. In Booth's farewell letter of November 1864, he decried Lincoln's illegitimacy, and lamented his own failings: "and begun to deem myself a coward and to despise my own existence." He had to "do what I can for a poor oppressed downtrodden people" and further, he was deeply disturbed by the "hard war" policy and the Atlanta campaign, likening the red stripes of the flag to "bloody gashes." In late 1864 Booth met with Confederate agents in Montreal, including George Nicholas Sanders, formerly of the Franklin Pierce administration who had conspired against French dictator Napoleon III. Booth apparently listened to remarks delivered by Lincoln on 11 April in which the POTUS equivocated on full citizenship and voting rights for blacks, but acknowledged that anyone who'd fought for the Union would certainly have the right to vote, as well as some of the more "intelligent" among the freedmen... At this, Booth became enraged at the idea of black citizenship rights, and his prewar background as a Know Nothing in Maryland, opposed to Catholics and other non-Protestant immigrants and so on, viewing them as providing the illegitimate "Bonaparte" [Lincoln] with a block of voters, convinced him to act and to kill the president.
 
Last edited:

rob63

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Location
PA, but still a Hoosier
On 30 Jan. 1835, an unemployed house painter, Richard Lawrence, approached 67-year old POTUS Andrew Jackson as he was leaving a congressional funeral at the Capitol building (such as it was then) with his aides, produced a pistol, and tried to shoot him. The furious POTUS Jackson clubbed him repeatedly with his cane/walking stick, while Lawrence produced a second pistol, which also misfired. Jackson's aides wrestled Lawrence away from the POTUS. Jackson was convinced that it was part of a wider Whig conspiracy...

On 14 April 1865, a conspiracy targeting POTUS Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and other members of the U.S. government for murder was hatched. John Wilkes Booth shot and killed Abraham Lincoln. Ex-Confederate soldier Lewis Powell invaded Seward's home, stabbed and clubbed five people, including Seward's son. Seward was bed-ridden after being thrown from a carriage, and suffered many injuries, including a broken jaw that had been fitted with a metal brace. It is thought that the metal brace saved his life, since he was stabbed in the face, throat and chest but survived. The secession crisis had led the Fire-eaters in gaining more power and popular support than they had had previously. The twin shocks of first, John Brown and the secret six's role in his attack, and second, the sectional election where Lincoln had won the plurality of electoral college votes and became POTUS even though he'd been entirely omitted from the ballot of Southern States was second. After the defeat of the CSA and the surrender of the ANV at Appomattox, Booth and the conspirators were faced with the failure of slavery and the Union remaining indivisible, followed by the failure of collective violence to preserve a utopian republic of slaveholders, and seemingly the utter demise of the earlier political order within the South... So the plot was hatched as something of a desperate and vengeful as well as symbolic action of political violence to prevent Abraham Lincoln becoming a Napoleon-type dictator. In Booth's farewell letter of November 1864, he decried Lincoln's illegitimacy, and lamented his own failings: "and begun to deem myself a coward and to despise my own existence." He had to "do what I can for a poor oppressed downtrodden people" and further, he was deeply disturbed by the "hard war" policy and the Atlanta campaign, likening the red stripes of the flag to "bloody gashes." In late 1864 Booth met with Confederate agents in Montreal, including George Nicholas Sanders, formerly of the Franklin Pierce administration who had conspired against French dictator Napoleon III. Booth apparently listened to remarks delivered by Lincoln on 11 April in which the POTUS equivocated on full citizenship and voting rights for blacks, but acknowledged that anyone who'd fought for the Union would certainly have the right to vote, as well as some of the more "intelligent" among the freedmen... At this, Booth became enraged at the idea of black citizenship rights, and his prewar background as a Know Nothing in Maryland, opposed to Catholics and other non-Protestant immigrants and so on, viewing them as providing the illegitimate "Bonaparte" [Lincoln] with a block of voters, convinced him to act and to kill the president.
I appreciate the detailed answer, thank you for that. I don't think I am going to grasp the connection, but that's ok.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Well, it's an open question, I guess? There are acts of political violence that are not terrorism, and there are acts of terrorism perpetrated during other kinds of political violence and open warfare, whether against state actors or not... Sometimes assassination is murder for unknown or private motives, while at other times it is produced by delusional world views. Any time particular political ideologies are involved in creating such self or collective delusions, people tend to think the result may be an act of terrorism. But the jury is out, as the saying goes... I wondered in my post whether terrorism played a role that has gone under-appreciated in the sectional divide, rebellion, and Civil War, and also after? So Kansas --> John Brown. That deepens and widens the schism between the Northern and Southern states around the issues of slavery, the frontier, the failure of the "compromise" system, abolitionism, and certainly hastens the coming Civil War to some--admittedly debatable--degree.

Recall that initially the plotters against Lincoln harbored the idea to abduct the POTUS and convey him southward as a prisoner. They may have thought that the secessionist movement in the Southern States could leverage Lincoln's captivity in much the way that the Texians were able to extract the Treaty of Velasco from the defeated and captured Lopez de Santa Anna? Or, they may have thought to barter an exchange of Lincoln back to the Union provided that rebel prisoners were freed or the curtailed system of prisoner swaps or exchanges might be resumed.... In that sense, aiding the Confederate war effort. But with the war basically over, the plot turned to elimination of the presumed despot who'd defeated the secessionists. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the POTUS elected more than twice--more than two terms--but a great many of Lincoln's detractors North and South feared he might obtain a third or perhaps even more terms? Perhaps Booth's assassination of Lincoln presaged the less disputable actions of political violence and terrorism that came to pass in the Reconstruction era? A sort of "we lost the Civil War, but by God we're gonna win Reconstruction..." That kind of thing. From collective violence organized by a state-in-being, the CSA, to a more informal bottom-up phase...

Certainly at the time, the U.S. government reacted in particular ways because it was thought the Confederate government might have played a direct role... Hence the military tribunals and so on and so forth. The Secretary of War, Stanton, was very explicit to try to apprehend the wanted conspirators, suspected assassins alive, but Thomas "Boston" Corbett thought that Booth continued to resist even after the building he was hiding out in was set alight... Some have it that Boston Corbett killed Booth, others think Booth may have committed suicide. The German-born Maryland conspirator who was to have killed Andrew Johnson did not make an attempt, as far as can be determined.
 
Top