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Lincoln's Last Days

The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Lincoln's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly
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Part One: The Beginning of the End of the War (pages 1-58)

1. Explain why the Battle of Petersburg was a turning point in the war.
2. State why Ulysses S. Grant was Lincoln's favorite general.
3. Interpret the reason the Confederate army laid waste to Richmond, Virginia. Why was the first
American flag flown there after its capture symbolic of the future?
4. Classify the treatment that the Union army and President Lincoln faced from both its black and
white citizens.
5. Analyze why Robert E. Lee and his troops lost hope at Amelia Court House. What decisions did
Lee make?
6. List all of Lee's challenges in Virginia, then rank them, in your opinion, from most important to least.
As a class debate the results.
7. Explain why High Bridge was so important to both North and South strategies for success.
8. Diagram Colonel Francis Washburn's strategy when faced with a battle where he was clearly
outnumbered by calvary and foot soldiers. Why did his bold plan fail?
9. Choose a winner in the battle to secure the town of Marshall's Crossroads. Defend your choice
with proof from the text.
10. Justify Lee's decision to utter the most despicable word to a military leader: surrender.
11. Interpret Grant's generous terms he offered Lee and his Confederate troops while at Appomattox
Court House. Do you think these terms were already negotiated with Lincoln or not? Why?
12. List ten of the most important facts every American ought to know about this important part of our
history. Discuss and refine your choices with a partner.

Part Two: The Conspiracy to Assassinate (pages 59-91)

1. Describe the mood in Washington, D.C., after news of Lee's surrender has been reported.
2. Characterize the relationship and connection that John Wilkes Booth had to Jefferson Davis. Compare his original intentions with his new plan.
3. Determine why the content of Lincoln's speech so inflamed Booth and his comrades.
4. Discuss the three different elements that convinced Lincoln he would die in office. How did he decide
to live with that fear?
5. Outline Booth's expanded plan. What purpose did it serve? Who was brought into the plot? Why?
6. Argue whether you think Lincoln or Grant was more beloved to the residents of Washington, D.C.
What about at the national level?
7. For general discussion: What evidence and sources does the author use to substantiate his claims in
the text? Which sources are best to use for historical research such as this one? How do you evaluate
the authenticity of a source?

Part Three: Lincoln's Last Days (pages 93-184)

1. Describe Lincoln's last morning. What does this reveal about his character?
2. Propose a list of reasons Lincoln decided to attend the theater on the fateful night of April 14. How could one decision have changed history?
3. Why were people at Ford's Theatre excited that the Lincolns would be in attendance? Who else was happy with the news?
4. How was Lincoln's last cabinet meeting a good example of his leadership skills and style?
5. List the steps Booth took to set his plan into action. How and why did he attempt revenge on John Matthews?
6. Evaluate the role security played in the president's assassination. In what ways was this an area of weakness?
7. Explain why Lewis Powell was the only member of the conspiracy who was actually qualified to pull off his part of the plan. What did he do? How did his part turn out?
8. In detail, what was Booth's elaborate plan? What Latin words did he use to mark his dramatic exit? Did he have any misgivings about his goal?
9. How was Booth able to gain easy access in the theater and ultimately the president? Why was this allowed?
10. Summarize Powell's vicious attack on Secretary of State Seward and his family. What part of the plan succeeded, if any? What failed? Why?
11. Examine George Atzerodt's actions the night of the assassination. Defend whether you think he was still as complicit or as guilty as the other members of the conspiracy.
12. Did everything go exactly as Booth planned in the theater? What complications did he face with his evil plan?
13. At the drawbridge, mentioned on page 160, why did sentry Silas Cobb allow the riders to cross the bridge though he stated, "But I don't know I ought to"? Have you ever regretted doing something that you felt was wrong but did it anyway?
14. Also on page 160 the authors note that "When the war started in 1861, a curfew was established around the capital and strictly enforced." Discuss with students why this was done and its significance. You may also want to relate and discuss how and why this was done in other wars including World War II.
15. How did young Dr. Charles Leale attempt to save Lincoln? Did any of these techniques seem absurd or familiar in any way?
16. What did the famous actress, Laura Keene, do in the theater once she heard Lincoln was shot? Why? What might have been her motives? What were the repercussions?
17. Defend the choices the doctor and Lincoln's closest associates made about his care and removal from Ford's Theatre. What guided their decisions? Why was it ironic Lincoln died in the particular room that he did?
18. Do you think all the people who entered Lincoln's room and stood vigil at his passing could predict the significance of the event at the time? In your opinion, what would have been the worst part? How was Mrs.Lincoln treated during this episode? Why?

Part Four: Chasing the Assassins (pages 185-239)

1. Reconstruct the steps the investigators took to gather evidence in the case of Lincoln's assassination and Seward's attempted murder. What locations did they focus on? Who did they believe were the key players? Were they correct on all counts?
2. Why did Dr. Samuel Mudd provide medical attention to Booth? What ailed him? How could it have spoiled all his plans? Do you think Mudd was as guilty as Booth and the others? Should he have faced the same consequences or not? Why?
3. Discuss Lafayette Baker's connection to the investigation. How much credit should have been given to him? Why? Who deserved the most credit? Why?

4. In your opinion, who was guiltier of collusion: Dr. Mudd (and his wife) or Thomas Jones? Why? Who else helped the fugitives?
5. Explain why Booth was disappointed by the accounts of the tragedy in the newspaper. How did he hope to counteract those reports?
6. Trace the steps that led to Lewis Powell being taken into custody. How was coincidence a key to the authorities bringing him to justice? Who else did it implicate?
7. Debate whether communication was a barrier to the investigation or not. What technology was used to aid it? What hindered communication?
8. Describe the plan Dr. Mudd intended to follow based on his answers to investigators' questions. Why did the plan fail?
9. George Atzerodt's part was nearly undetected. What mistakes lead to his capture?
10. Describe the funeral rites for President Lincoln. Where is his final resting place? Why? How was his journey there symbolic?
11. Why did detective Lafayette Baker believe John Wilkes Booth's only hope to escape was through Kentucky?What is a hunch? When should you follow one?
12. Summarize the steps that Lieutenant Luther Baker and Colonel Everton Conger took to bring Booth to justice. Why were they sent to Virginia? What motivated these two soldiers?
13. Describe the events as they unfolded at the Garrett Farm. How were Booth and David Herold captured?
14. Evaluate what the sentences given to the conspirators involved. Did each one deserve the death penalty? Who did many people think should have been pardoned or at least spared the death penalty? Do you agree?

Afterword (pages 240-255)

How do the authors present the facts concerning Booth's body? Why are there still theories about its location? How do the authors dismiss theories that Booth not only survived but escaped? What choices must historians make about conflicting facts?

Summarize the legacies of each of the major players in Lincoln's assassination in a single sentence, including his own family. Which one surprised you the most? Who do you think suffered the most from his loss? Include the section on Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Their Children (pages 260-263).

Lincoln's World (pages 256-265)

A Walk Through W ashington, D.C., in the 1860s (pages 256-259)

Compare and contrast the Washington, D.C., of the 1860s to today's national capital, using both the description in this section, and the maps on pages 257 and 292. Would you want to live during the momentous time in America's history described in the book or not? Would you like to live there or visit now? Which sites would you most like to see in D.C.?

Did You Know? (pages 266-282)

Twenty Important and Interesting Facts About the Civil W ar (pages 266-272)

Review this section in small groups and discuss the following questions: Which of these facts did you find most interesting? Why? How do you think the author authenticated these facts? What sources do you think he used?
Which fact would you want to explore in more detail? Where would you go to look for more information regarding this topic? Would it be a primary or a secondary source?
Have a debate about this section of the book. Which facts are easiest to substantiate? When are facts considered the truth and not just a theory? Which of these facts would you consider true? Which could still be debated? In their groups, allow students only a half hour in the library to try to substantiate or authenticate one of the facts. Discuss the reliability of their sources.

Transportation During the Civil W ar (pages 273-274)

How would your life, including your hobbies and friendships, be different without the technology and transportation options you've come to depend upon?

Flags of the Civil W ar (pages 275-276)

Why are flags important? Why did the Confederate flag go through so many different designs? Were you surprised to learn that the Stars and Bars was never the official flag of the South but only a battle flag?

Weapons of the Civil W ar (pages 277-279)

How did the technology of warfare change during the Civil War? How did it work in the favor of the North?

Medicine During the Civil War (pages 280-282)

How was the practice of medicine during the Civil War closer to medical care in the Middle Ages than to care today?
What implications did this have for soldiers? Would it have made a difference to Lincoln himself?

Time Lines (pages 283-290)
Have students compare the time lines of Lincoln and Booth. What interesting facts do they notice? Discuss how time lines help readers understand more about a topic. What did they learn from this section that was not covered in the rest of the book?

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); August 2012
192 pages; ISBN 9780805096767
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Title: Lincoln's Last Days
Author: Bill O'Reilly; Dwight Jon Zimmerman
 
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