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Video transcript

in the video where I give an overview of American history through the Civil War I commented that it's unfortunate that Abraham Lincoln is assassinated shortly before the end of the Civil War and although that is technically correct what I want to do is clarify that comment a little bit in this video because in actuality by the time he was assassinated Lincoln knew that the Union was very very very likely to win the war that the major the major Confederate armies had already surrendered to the Union although it wasn't formally done there were still some fighting going on in some parts of the south so if we go back to April 9th 1865 you have the battle at Appomattox Courthouse and after that battle the Confederate Army is essentially routed it has to surrender this right here is robert e lee robert e lee and on april 9th 1865 after that battle he surrenders to ulysses s grant ulysses s grant and one point of confusion some people often have and i had this the first time i learned it is that a poem attics courthouse is the name of the city that the surrender actually did not take place in the courthouse in that city and i actually shouldn't even call it a city it was like a little town of a handful of buildings it took place in this gentleman's house Wilmer McLean and I'm showing his image because his his set of circumstances or how he is tied to the Civil War is frankly fascinating because in 1861 the first battle of the Civil War occurred on his property in Manassas Virginia this is in northern virginia he was sympathetic with the confederate army he did not like that northern virginia was so close to the the north-south border so he picks up his bags and his family and he moves them down to the small town of Appomattox Courthouse which is in central Virginia so the very first major land battle of the Civil War literally occurs on this guy's property and the vet and the last major or the the the really the major surrender of the city war occurs inside this guy's house after he moves and it's all coincidence he just happened to have the nicest house near the battlefield where everyone felt that it was appropriate to have this kind of major end to a major war but regardless that happens on April 9th 1865 the major Confederate Army surrenders to the Union Army the reason why this is not the formal end of the Civil War is that you still had 175,000 Confederate troops other places in the south continuing to fight on you have to remember that we didn't have a telephone at this point in time so we didn't have instant communication so these people who are fighting many of them did not even know that the that the Confederate Army had already surrendered to the Union but to some degree this major surrender is what leads to Lincoln's assassination because this was you know for most people this is this tells you hey there's a 99.9% chance that the Union has won it just has to either these people need to find out that their major army has surrendered or the Union has to go and essentially force these all of the rest of the armies to surrender so you go to April 14 1865 Lincoln already knows that robert e lee's army has surrendered he knows that victory is imminent but you have this gentleman right over here John Wilkes Booth John John Wilkes Booth who is sympathetic to the Confederate cause and in his mind all is not lost yet he does see this as a major blow to the Confederate cause and he thinks that they need to do something desperate if they want to have any chance of being able to come back being able to maintain their independence from the Union so he coordinates with a couple of his buddies and he says hey our only chance is if we assassinate not only Abraham Lincoln but also Andrew Johnson who's the vice president and ulysses s grant and ulysses s grant and we assassinate seward who is the Secretary of State and the idea if you assassinate everyone who was in line to become president that it would just throw the entire union leadership in disarray and maybe it would give these characters over here fighting chance to maintain their independence or maybe come back against the Union Army unfortunately for John Wilkes Booth or I guess he well you could you could take it either way the other three people were not able to fully execute on their plan Seward was injured the he actually did get stabbed in the face and all that but he was not assassinated and John Wilkes Booth was the only person who was able to carry out his assassination so you have on April 14 1865 shortly after 10:00 p.m. Abraham Lincoln is watching a play at Ford's Theatre and his booth the guy who was supposed to guard the booth was out drinking with his buddy so I guess the Secret Service really you know the the security was not back then what it is now hopefully what it is now and John Wilkes Booth who actually used to act at this theater who he picked a time in the play where everyone would laugh and clap and he said hey I'll just shoot right then people would think it's part of the play or something or they wouldn't notice as much and then I'll be able to run out and so he is able to write at that moment shortly after 10:00 p.m. shoot Abraham Lincoln and assassinate him on April 14th 1865 but the whole point here is to just understand that Lincoln did know that that that robert e lee's army had assassinated had had surrendered at the time of his assassination so he at least was feeling pretty good about the course of the war