The intense morning storm broke big over the old house and gravel horseshoe-shaped carriageway out front. Thick sheets of rain fell in diagonals across early, spring green grass. At dawn's early light, sharp winds thrashed landscaping, twisting, bending trees and shrubbery, as flashes of lightning filled the sky coupled with blaring thunderclaps. It was the Lord's hallelujah chorus in flinty tune. The wind shifted, and sizable raindrops pelted down tall 12 pain windows in the mansion. Rapid bursts of illumination made rooms in the great house appear overexposed with masses of vivid blue and white brilliance. The residence jolted from profound thunderbolts sending rolling waves up from the foundation's core. The Evening Star newspaper later that day portrayed the morning weather as "a disagreeable heavy gale."

Facing out the second-floor window, a man sat motionless on a black horsecloth chair as a gaslight flame cast a warming glow upon his face and beard. He was a man sitting in the shadow of death. History would forever enshrine this man in pure enduring admiration when he perished from this earth.

The day was Saturday, March 4, 1865. In his White House office, Abraham Lincoln sat spiritually transfixed on arranging thoughts and reflections for his speech at the second inauguration celebration that afternoon. Fifty-thousand people would wade through pools of water and mud on the east front of the United States Capitol to witness the ceremony. In less than six weeks, Lincoln would be dead from an assassin's single gunshot wound to the head.

Since I was a young lad, I have been fascinated by Lincoln. Growing up in Gary, I often visited New Salem and Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois, with mom, the librarian. During my work years in Congress, I spent weekends at Ford's Theater and in their scholar's library studying the man. Over the years, one question always came back to me; Who was the mastermind behind Lincoln's murder?

This column is the first in a two-part series to consider opinions, theories, evidence, and allegations from prominent researchers, historians, and scholars. This is not a search for truth. There are no footnotes. Layers of unproven conspiracy haunt the history of this homicide. I am essentially providing a chain of circumstances, a pattern of common-sense evidence, with my assumptions that may inspire you to investigate the 156-year-old conspiracy on your own.

My premise is that Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, the second most powerful man in Washington, is my person of interest. I will provide an assortment of other characters, including money men from Canada funding the scheme and agents of the Confederacy's who were acutely involved collaborators. So, my gentle reader, skepticism is a good maxim for you to adhere to considering the narrative's gravity. I would urge you to build theories based on your discovery.

Funding a plan of this size and scope is a huge task. A man with a destiny, John Wilkes Booth, visited Montreal for nine days in the fall of 1864, six months before the imperious man shot Lincoln. He checked in at St. Lawrence Hall, a hotel known as the Confederacy's Canadian headquarters. It was there that Booth met with agents of the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, to back his enterprise. After the war ended, Davis and his family sought refuge in Montreal, living in the sanctuary of a wealthy printer's household.

Montreal provided substantial pro-Southern sympathy, including essential banking capability. A considerable amount of Confederate gold was reported on deposit in the Montreal Ontario Bank to fund espionage against the Union. According to witness testimony at the assassination conspirator's trial. Booth often met with Jacob Thompson, the Confederate secret service director in Canada. Funding was in place. Far from being impecunious, Booth made his way back to Washington from Canada in November with a considerable sum of money and an introduction letter. This document helped him meet with southern sympathizers, people who became critical players in the assassination, and members of the Confederate Secret Service.

In the next column, we will put Booth's seminal plan in action, focusing on the Ford's Theater Good Friday assassination. Then, highlight Lincoln's inadequate security detail, Booth's exit strategy into Maryland, and how Stanton assembled dubious agents to track the killer and his band of assassin hitmen. More importantly, we will discuss Stanton's culpability for suppressing vital evidence in the case, including Booth's little red book.

Winner of the 2020 State of Arizona Press Club Second Place Community Column Writers Award. Jerry Wilkerson lives in SaddleBrooke. He is a former press secretary for two U.S. Congressmen, a prior Chicago CBS radio and newspaper correspondent. Wilkerson is a navy veteran and served as a Police Commissioner. Email me at franchise@att.net.


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