Just five days after the surrender at Appomattox, tragedy struck the nation. On the evening of April 14, President Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre in Washington to see a play. Suddenly a shadowy figure entered the president's booth, pulled a gun, and shot Lincoln in the head. The president died just after dawn the next morning. His assassin was John Wilkes Booth, an actor who had been a strong supporter of the South.
The president's death caused an outpouring of grief. Lincoln
had just been elected to a second term, and many people had counted on his
leadership in healing the deep national wounds caused by the war. The Civil War
had established the supremacy of the federal government over the states, and it
had freed the slaves. But the cost had been enormous - by some estimates, 620,000
Americans died in the war, more than in World War I and World War II and Vietnam
combined. Even when the fighting stopped, much remained to be done. The economy
of the South had been shattered by the war, and the old Southern way of life was
gone. And while blacks were freed from slavery, they were only beginning what
would prove to be a long, difficult struggle for civil rights and equality.
Still, the Union had been preserved. And in the years that
followed, the country was able to put the bitterness of the Civil War behind it
and begin one of its greatest periods of growth and expansion. (Grolier Book of