1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre, a mere five days after the surrender of the Confederacy, officially ending the Civil War

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On April 14th, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre, a mere five days after the surrender of the Confederacy, officially ending the Civil War. Lincoln died early the next morning, and Andrew Johnson became president. Nobody in the country knew until after the capture and death of Booth that the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was actually just one small piece in a much larger conspiracy concocted by Booth and a few of his anti-Union cohorts. They planned to kill Secretary of State Seward, Vice President Johnson, and render the North helpless so the South could rise to power. With Lincoln’s death, Vice President Andrew Johnson took over as Commander-in-Chief to lead the country, taking America through the beginning phases of Reconstruction. However, Johnson was impeached because many felt he was duplicitous, inefficient, and even harmful to the country’s welfare. Given Booth’s meticulous planning in his conspiracy and the myriad ways in which things could have been different, what do you think might have happened in America had Booth’s plan succeeded? What about if it failed, and Lincoln remained president, living a much longer life?


With the completion of this Webquest, you will learn about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the secret conspiracy behind his murder, and how America moved on without their great leader to help them through Reconstruction. This Webquest will allow you to create your own history, based on facts about this particular era. It is encouraged to be as creative as possible-have fun with this! This is your chance to rewrite history your own way-you are in charge of what happens to the characters in your story. However, keep in mind that all of your theories and events must be based on historical facts. Find out all you can about Lincoln and Johnson’s politics, and based on that knowledge, write a history of how you think things would have happened in America if something different happened on that Good Friday in 1865.


Your task is to use all of the information gathered from your research on Lincoln’s assassination, the conspiracy, and the Reconstruction era, and write a counter-factual history paper about what you think would have happened had Booth and his conspirators either fully achieved their goals, or if they totally failed and never even killed Lincoln in the first place. What policies might he have implemented in his second term of office, and how might America be different today, if at all, had Lincoln been able to be president for another four years? How might the North have reacted to the deaths of more government leaders than just Lincoln? Do you think the South would have taken advantage of the North’s tragedy and taken up arms again? Your paper is to be no less than 2 pages, double-spaced, and you may go over if you have a lot to say.


Read through some of the information on the sites below about the atmosphere and some historical context of when Lincoln was killed. You don’t need to have a full-blown, analytical understanding of the intricacies of the Civil War, but make sure you understand why the Civil War was fought, what the outcome was, and have a general sense of the relationship between the North and the South.

Read about what John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators intended to accomplish, and how much of it was actually a success. Who was involved in the conspiracy? What was each person’s job?

Think about all of the people that were affected by this conspiracy, either directly or indirectly, and try to imagine yourself in this time. How would you have felt if you were a Northerner who admired Lincoln, and were filled with magnanimity over winning the war, only to have your venerable leader killed by an angry southerner? Or, if you want a southern perspective-how might you have felt if one of your own concocted this great plan to kill the president of the North and destroy their whole government, only to have the plan foiled because of failures in the plan’s execution? You don’t have to write your assignment in the first person or in 19th century dialogue, but this will help you to get into the mindset of this period in American history.

Jot down some notes first about Lincoln’s political policies on slaves and the way he felt America should be after the Civil War. Then find out what Johnson did that was so contrary to Lincoln’s beliefs.


  1. Civil War Historical Overview

With regards to this website, I recommend looking through the sections of “abolition and slavery”, “causes”, and “timeline” to get the best, most succinct historical context of the Civil War.

  1. John Wilkes Booth’s Plot

This site allows you to click on the names of each individual person involved in the plot to get a greater detail on his/her roles.

  1. Lincoln’s Religious Views in Politics

  2. Lincoln’s Political Views vs. Personal Beliefs

After reading this article, do you think that had Lincoln not been killed, he would have continued to let his personal beliefs guide his politics, or would he have done what was best for the Union, despite the welfare of many Americans?

  1. Lincoln’s 10% Plan & the Constitution during Reconstruction

  1. Reconstruction in America

  1. Why Andrew Johnson was Impeached


Research Report : Counter Factual History-the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln







Information is very organized with well-constructed paragraphs and subheadings.

Information is organized with well-constructed paragraphs.

Information is organized, but paragraphs are not well-constructed.

The information appears to be disorganized. 8)

Quality of Information

Information clearly relates to the main topic. It includes several supporting details and/or examples.

Information clearly relates to the main topic. It provides 1-2 supporting details and/or examples.

Information clearly relates to the main topic. No details and/or examples are given.

Information has little or nothing to do with the main topic.


Paper is thoughtful and very creative. Several aspects of the topic are covered, many different possibilities.

Thoughtful and creative, but paper only deals with 2-3 issues regarding the topic.

Little to no creativity. Attempts to explain cause/effect, but historically inaccurate. Only 1-2 aspects of the history covered.

Little to no creativity-paper has no effort to explain cause/effect of actions. Only focuses on 1 aspect of the historical cause/effect.

Historical Plausibility

Writes of what may have happened, and supports each idea with historical facts. No historical inaccuracies.

Writes with no more than 1 historical inaccuracy. Story matches personality and beliefs of the historical figures, and seems plausible.

Information is given to support theories, but much of it is based on historical inaccuracies. Does little to capture historical personalities.

Story is not possible given the historical context or facts. A complete disregard of historical accuracy.


No grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

Almost no grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors

A few grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.

Many grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.


Counter-factual history is not just a way for historians to play make-believe and write their own history the way they wish it would have been. By analyzing the facts of what really happened, the people involved in the event, and the historical context, we can see the decisions that people made and how those decisions affected the rest of the world. We can think about those decisions in our everyday life today, and know that every decision we make, no matter how small, can have a tremendous impact on the whole world. If you did your research well enough, you might remember that had George Atzerodt not gotten drunk in his hotel room on April 14th, he may have been able to conjure up the nerve to go kill Andrew Johnson, and then what would have happened? If William Seward still survived, then he would have become president, and how might he have handled America’s reconstruction, and how might the country, and in fact the whole world, be different today? Everything we do affects the world around us, no matter how insignificant we might think our actions may be.


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