Little known facts about Abraham Lincoln's assassination

Little Known Facts About Lincoln's Assassination

By Christian Nilsson, HuffPost Live producer

Wednesday is the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln, and while most Americans know the history of his assassination, many aren't aware of some of the odd facts related to his death.
The 56-year-old president was shot in the back of the head by well-known thespian John Wilkes Booth in Washington DC's Ford's Theater, but according to the New York Time's first report of the assassination, Lincoln wasn't even going to attend the play. Originally Lincoln was to attend with General Ulysses S. Grant. Neither wanted to go, but after Grant cancelled, Lincoln felt obliged. He tried to get House Speaker Schuyler Colfax to go, but he refused the invitation.

Abraham Lincoln
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Little known facts about Abraham Lincoln's assassination

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States.

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865) as 16th President of the USA

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Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). President in 1860. Monumental statue (1920). Lincoln Memorial. Washington D.C. United States.

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President Abraham Lincoln standing.

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Vintage portrait c1860s of President Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865) - the 16th US President and the first to be assassinated.

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Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait, seated and holding his spectacles and a pencil

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Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President, Circa 1861

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865) American President photographed by Matthew Brady 9 February 1864

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Black and white engraving print c1860s of US President Abraham Lincoln at home with his wife Mary and sons Thomas and Robert.

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"Abraham Lincoln" by Charles Wesley Jarvis, 1861 - Smithsonian National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC USA

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"[President Lincoln] went with apparent reluctance and urged Mr. Colfax to go with him," the Times reported. "But that gentleman had made other engagements."

Another person who wasn't in the the presidential box was Lincoln's bodyguard, Officer John Parker. According to a special report published in Smithsonian Magazine in 2010, Parker left his position to go to the saloon next door for intermission. Ironically, the same saloon where Booth was drinking just before shooting the president.

It's unclear exactly where Parker was at the time of the assassination, but he obviously wasn't where he was needed.

"Had he done his duty, I believe President Lincoln would not have been murdered by Booth," a fellow presidential bodyguard William H. Crook wrote in his memoir. "Parker knew that he had failed in duty. He looked like a convicted criminal the next day."

Somehow, Parker stayed on the White House security detail though, according to Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker, the widow blamed him for her husband's murder. He was fired three years after Lincoln's death when he was found sleeping on the job.

Speaking of little known facts about the president's security, the night before he left for Ford's Theater, Lincoln signed a bill creating the Secret Service. The same federal law enforcement agency that today ensures the safety of the president. However, in the agency's early years its sole duty was to suppress counterfeiting. The secret service didn't provide presidential protection until 1901 after president William McKinley was assassinated.

Another little known fact: Tom Hanks, who narrated the 2013 TV movie "Killing Lincoln," is actually related to the former president. The Academy Award winner is a third cousin, four times removed linked through Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks.

Also related to Lincoln through the Hanks family is actor George Clooney. According to, the "O Brother Where Art Thou" actor is linked to the former president's maternal grandmother, Lucy Hanks. Apparently Clooney is Honest Abe's half-first cousin five times removed.

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