A Lincoln assassination attempt conceived by a country doctor

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Of course, pretty much everyone is aware of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.  On April 14th 1865, Booth fatally shot Lincoln in the back of the head while he was seated next to his wife watching a play in a theater. Lincoln died the next day. There was, however, another attempt at Lincoln’s life that most folks are not aware of. Author Michael Kanazawich shares the story in his book Remarkable Stories of the Lincoln Assassination:

“One of the more elaborate attempts on Lincoln’s life originated in the mind of a down-home country doctor by the name of Luke Pryor Blackburn. Blackburn was considered an authority on the treatment of yellow fever, and being the ardent Confederate that he was, he thought that if he could spread the deadly disease throughout the North, it would hamper Lincoln’s war effort physically and psychologically, as well as help boost antiwar sentiment throughout the Union states.

The exact cause of yellow fever was unknown at the time. (In 1900, Dr. Walter Reed discovered it was spread from person to person by the female mosquito Aedes aegypti.) In the 19th century, “the perception that it was highly infectious and easily spread among the population was widely accepted as fact.” In other words, people believed you could catch the disease by coming into contact with the sick or their belongings, such as clothing.

In the spring of 1864, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in Bermuda. Blackburn heard of the outbreak and went there both to help treat the victims and to collect all the infected clothing that he could. His plan was simple: He was going to distribute the clothing throughout the north through used-clothing merchants. Though the diabolical scheme was intended for the general population and members of the Union Army, he also wanted his assistant, Godfrey J. Hyams, to take a valise filled with “elegant,” infected shirts to President Lincoln himself. Hyams refused. We now know that there was no way Lincoln could have ever contracted yellow fever had the shirts been delivered, but it’s the thought that counts.” 

 

 

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