Imagine a President of the United States attending a black-tie event at Ford's Theater, waiting for the comedy to begin, only to have an actor sneak pull back the curtain of the Presidential box, cock and firing a single round into President Abraham Lincoln.
The actor, John Wilkes Booth, then leaped to the stage shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannous" - "this is what happens to tyrants" - only to miss his landing and break his leg.
He was spirited out of Washington by a series of Confederate sympathizers, many of whom were highly placed in the government or who had vested interests in seeing the south brought low after the war (making it effectively a northern colony) so they could dump their shoddy merchandise at inflated prices on the South.
If you aren't familiar with the history of the United States, you might have considered this just another story. However, when you stick the name Bill O'Reilly on the book, it suddenly develops "gravitas," as people recognize him. O'Reilly is already an accomplished author and host of the "O'Reilly Report." His name and that of Martin Dugard assure that the book is based on good history and research.
That O'Reilly can take history, look at it closely and turn it into good, solid entertainment is just a plus for the writing team. O'Reilly's skill as a historian and commentator, plus Dugard's skill as a researcher, has taken what is likely the most egregious act of cowardice in the last 147 years and has turned it into a first-class police story.
That the work also includes a fiery gun battle, the arrest of some high-ranking Union officers and officials, just adds to the work. O'Reilly and Dugard have a right to be proud of the work they have done. They have refocused the public's eye on one of the most cowardly acts in US history. Who knows what would have happened had Lincoln lived out his term? Would Johnson have been the next president or would another pragmatist? How about Seward? In other words who knows and to think that it took a TV show host to get us thinking about ourselves in a new way.
One thing that Lincoln's shooting was to change forever was the security service surrounding the president. A new "Secret Service" was established whose sole function is protection of key Washington players and the Presidential family. If the Secret Service (or even just the Pinkertons) had been on duty that night our history might have changed for the better because Lincoln likely would have survived, as would have Seward and several other lower level members of the Lincoln team. As O'Reilly posits it would have been a different country, wouldn't it?
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