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  • Writer's pictureBrian Powers

Episode 17 - Murder in Lafayette Square: Conspiracy

Lewis Powell. What a schmuck. He tried to kill five different people. All of them survived. Point at him and laugh. LAUGH AT THE FOOL.

Look, we almost got away from Lincoln in this one. Almost. Not really. I regret nothing. But how great is the mental picture of Lincoln, casually laying across Seward's bed with his head propped up on his hand like a teenager, excitedly telling him the good news about the war? And Lincoln had just been to visit the capital city of his seriously recently vanquished enemy, which is...impressive. Also, that anecdote was relayed by artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a painter who lived in the Lincoln White House for six months and witnessed a great many powerful moments with the man.

It's easy to say that Powell's assassination attempt was a failure, but the amount of trauma visited on the Seward family ended in at least one death, if not two, and they would never be the same. Frances Seward only got a small shout-out here, but she deserves a little more attention - she and William were dedicated abolitionists, so much so that Frances opened their house in Auburn, New York, up to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. For his part, William Seward's abolitionist sympathies were fostered from a young age when, as a boy, he made friends with an enslaved boy about his age. The boy was badly beaten and ultimately disappeared. Seward fought the cause of slavery from then on.

The conspirator George Atzerodt went into a hotel bar to drink himself some courage enough to head upstairs to kill Andrew Johnson, who was staying at the hotel. Atzerodt instead drank himself OUT of killing Johnson and wandered out into the city before checking into a different hotel. Of course, he had checked into the FIRST hotel under his own name, and when he was linked to the conspiracy, they immediately searched his room and found evidence to tie him to the others. These were not smart people.

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