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  » Appendix IX
  » Appendix X
  » Appendix XI
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  » Appendix XV
  » Appendix XVI
  » Appendix XVII
  » Appendix XVIII
Warren Commission Report: Page 506« Previous | Next »

(APPENDIX VII - A Brief History of Presidential Protection)

dense masses of soldiers that he was almost completely hidden from the view of the crowds. The precautions at the Capitol during the ceremony were almost as thorough and equally successful.7

Lincoln lived in peril during all his years in office. The volume of threatening letters remained high throughout the war, but little attention was paid to them. The few letters that were investigated yielded no results.8 He was reluctant to surround himself with guards and often rejected protection or sought to slip away from it. This has been characteristic of almost all American Presidents. They have regarded protection as a necessary affliction at best and contrary to their normal instincts for either personal privacy or freedom to meet the people. In Lincoln these instincts were especially strong, and he suffered with impatience the efforts of his friends, the police, and the military to safeguard him. 9

The protection of the President during the war varied greatly, depending on Lincoln's susceptibility to warnings. Frequently, military units were assigned to guard the White House and to accompany the President on his travels. Lincoln's friend, Ward H. Lamon, on becoming marshal of the District of Columbia in 1861, took personal charge of protecting the President and provided guards for the purpose, but he became so exasperated at the President's lack of cooperation that he tendered his resignation. Lincoln did not accept it. Finally, late in the war, in November 1864, four Washington policemen were detailed to the White House to act as personal bodyguards to the President. Lincoln tolerated them reluctantly and insisted they remain as inconspicuous as possible. 10

In the closing days of the war, rumors of attempts on Lincoln's life persisted. The well-known actor, John Wilkes Booth, a fanatical Confederate sympathizer, plotted with others for months to kidnap the President. The fall of the Confederacy apparently hardened his determination to kill Lincoln.11 Booth's opportunity came on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, when he learned that the President would be attending a play at Ford's Theater that night.. The President's bodyguard for the evening was Patrolman John F. Parker of the Washington Police, a man who proved himself unfit for protective duty. He was supposed to remain on guard in the corridor outside of the Presidential box during the entire performance of the play, but he soon wandered off to watch the play and then even went outside the theater to have a drink at a nearby saloon. Parker's dereliction of duty left the President totally unprotected. 12 Shortly after 10 o'clock on that evening, Booth found his way up to the Presidential box and shot the President in the head. The President's wound was a mortal one; he died the next morning, April 15. 13

A detachment of troops captured Booth on April 26 at a farm near Bowling Green, Va.; he received a bullet wound and died a few hours later. At a trial in June, a military tribunal sentenced four of Booth's associates to death and four others to terms of imprisonment.14

Lincoln's assassination revealed the total inadequacy of Presidential protection. A congressional committee conducted an extensive in-

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