On April 15th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. A podcast that examines the assassination and manhunt for Booth and his conspirators is Infamous America by Black Barrel Media. The host of the podcast is Chris Wimmer. Wimmer extensively describes the assassination and the manhunt for the guilty each step of the way in its seven episodes titled “Booth”. Through his narration, you feel like you have traveled back in time and are witnessing these events first hand. The sound effects and ominous music add to this effect. Listeners will be fascinated by the narration of Wimmer.
Prior to the assassination, the Union was in a state of jubilation. General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th,1865. This the ended the bloodiest war in U.S. history. All told, around 600,000 Northern and Southern forces were killed during the war. After Lee surrendered, Wimmer describes how celebrations in the North were widespread and the mood was joyous. Without a perceived threat, Northerners put their guard down.
While people in the North were elated, John Wilkes Booth felt the direct opposite. Wimmer provides a brief biography of his acting career and explains that despite his allegiance to the Confederacy, he did not enlist in the military. Though he still felt obliged to do something in response to the defeat of the Confederacy. Upon hearing that President Abraham Lincoln was coming to Ford’s Theater, a place he knew well from doing performances there, he planned an assassination of Lincoln with his conspirators along with attacks on Secretary of State, William Seward, and Vice President Andrew Johnson. The other conspirators included David Harold, Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Paine) and George Atzerodt. Wimmer does an superb job describing the attitude of Booth at the end of the Civil War and planning of the assassinations on U.S. leaders.
Wimmer describes the actions of Booth and other conspirators during their attacks practically on a minute by minute basis. It almost seems that he was there to witness the assassination of Lincoln and attempt of Seward’s life. I found it hard to believe the lack of security at Ford’s Theater and the booth where Lincoln was seated. John Wilkes Booth easily slipped through security and sat close to Lincoln before getting up to shoot him. He choose to attack him during a part of the play Our American Cousin when there was a loud outburst of laughter. After firing his Deringer pistol at Lincoln’s head, he clumsily made his escape out of the theater. He broke his ankle while jumping from Lincoln’s booth to the stage. Wimmer describes the debates on what Booth yelled while on stage. It is the general consensus that he shouted “Sic semper tyrannis” (thus always to tyrants). Interestingly, the first doctor to reach Lincoln after he was shot was Charles Leale who married Rebecca Medwin Copcutt in Yonkers and is buried at Oakland Cemetery.
Following the assassination of Lincoln and the brutal attack on Secretary of State William Seward by Lewis Thornton Powell, Wimmer follows the escape of Harold and Booth to Maryland where they reached the homes of Confederate sympathizers. Places that they hid included a swamp in Maryland. Amazingly, Powell wondered around Washington D.C. until he was caught at Mary Surrat’s house (where the conspirators planned there attacks). Atzerodt drunkenly stumbled around until he was caught in a hotel. I have not listened to all the episodes that lead up to Booth’s inevitable capture but I am excited to do so.
Infamous America is a similar to an exciting thriller where you are eager to found out what happens. From the first episode onwards, this podcast will maintain your full attention. Wimmer describes what seems like every aspect of Lincoln’s assassination and its aftermath, which is presented brilliantly. Infamous America will be enjoyed by a general audience.
Infamous America can be listened to on its website. You have to scroll down to get to the seven episodes titled “Booth.” The first episode was released on May 31, 2020. It can also be heard on apps such as Apple Podcast, Spotify, and many other podcast apps.
To learn more about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, take a look our reading and watching list. These materials can be placed on hold and picked up at any branch of YPL.
Adult Services-Will Branch