Lieutenant Doherty and President Lincoln’s assassin

In honor of President Lincoln’s upcoming birthday I am reblogging content about him including new information. I write frequently about Irish history and just learned that the man who led the capture of Lincoln’s assassin was an Irishman. Although born in Canada in 1838, Edward P. Doherty was the son of Irish immigrants from County Sligo in the northwest corner of the republic.

Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward P. Doherty. Credit: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Doherty became First Lieutenant in the 16th New York Cavalry in 1863. Alan Parker writes:

“Doherty was a big, bluff man with an aggressive, ambitious personality. What he lacked in finesse and polish, he made up for with confidence and determination.”

(I urge you to read Parker’s colorful and detailed account of the capture.)

On the night of April 14, 1865 Doherty was called to action, to lead his men in pursuit of Booth and his accomplice who had fled Ford’s Theatre after firing Lincoln’s fatal shot and had crossed the Potomac River into Virginia. Doherty’s men located and surrounded Booth in a barn where he was hiding, but Booth refused to surrender. They set fire to the barn and when the firelight revealed Booth’s location inside, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him through a crack in the barn wall — intending to wound him in the arm, but Booth moved suddenly as the shot was fired and the bullet hit him in the head.

Booth lingered for hours, similarly to Lincoln, but died at the Virginia farmhouse and later was buried under the floor of a Washington, D.C. prison. Doherty died two years later at age 59 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My initial post about Lincoln focused not on his assassination, but on his persona, the cornerstone of the personal brand that helped him win the presidential election.

Lincoln1861

Looking up: Lincoln promised a unified future. Public domain.

Every school kid knows the story of the impoverished Abraham Lincoln, growing up in a log cabin and reading books by candlelight. As Alan Brew writes,

“Lincoln’s life exemplifies what has been variously labeled ‘the American dream,’ or ‘the right to rise’ from rags to riches. In Lincoln’s case it is quite literally a rise from a log cabin to the White House. His story is the embodiment of Lincoln brand: gritty determination, honesty, family values, unswerving belief in America and the basic rights of his fellow men. His life offers a powerful testimony to dream. It is what ordinary Americans want to believe about social
mobility and the opportunity to get ahead.”

In fact, he was a highly intelligent lawyer and was one of the first presidents who was actively branded and marketed to the voting public by his political campaign. Sociology professor and author Jackie Hogan said in an interview, “There were all kinds of theatrics: pulling up a fence rail and parading around saying this fence rail was split by Abraham Lincoln. They created an image of him as an average Joe, and in many ways, he was not an average Joe. But he was very happy to ride that reputation into the White House.”

What Lincoln had that other presidents, and royals, lacked, was access to new technology, and he used it to advantage to receive and distribute information. This new technology was the telegraph. It had been used primarily by the banking and financial industry, but Lincoln was the first president to use it for wartime communication.

“Like social media the telegraph is an electronic form of communication. The telegraph increased the speed at which information and communication could be received. It changed the world, it changed war, and it changed daily life.”

Scott Scanlon

Lincoln certainly had his detractors. It would be impossible not to, leading a nation in the time of a civil war. Booth and his band had called him a tyrant. But Lincoln rose to power through his intellectual leadership, and in many cases was able to diffuse contentious situations through his powerful oratory. He was able to define, in elegant and often poetic layman’s terms, the sides and meanings of an issue. Today we might call that “content marketing.”

And though some thought his physical appearance awkward, he did try to look the elegant part. “At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a coat specially crafted for him by Brooks Brothers. Hand-stitched into the coat’s lining was a design featuring an eagle and the inscription, ‘One Country, One Destiny.’ He BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropwas wearing the coat and a Brooks Brothers suit when he was assassinated.”

The story about Lincoln’s personal brand is featured in my book, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, available at amazon and B&N. To learn more about Doherty, see the story here.

Please visit nancyblanton.com for more information about my books and to sign up for newsletter updates.

Author branding: Honest Abe to Camelot

Part 7 in a series on personal branding

American presidents are not royalty, coming to power via election rather than bloodline, but they still enjoy many of the protocols of European royalty covered so far in this series, and have used personal branding as a primary weapon in their get-elected arsenal. Several of our 43 presidents have had outstanding personas, but two are particularly remarkable to me: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Their brands are so strong that you almost automatically think “Honest Abe” and “Camelot.”

Lincoln1861

Looking up: Lincoln promised a unified future. Public domain.

Every school kid knows the story of the impoverished Abraham Lincoln, growing up in a log cabin and reading books by candlelight. As Alan Brew writes,

“Lincoln’s life exemplifies what has been variously labeled ‘the American dream,’ or ‘the right to rise’ from rags to riches. In Lincoln’s case it is quite literally a rise from a log cabin to the White House. His story is the embodiment of Lincoln brand: gritty determination, honesty, family values, unswerving belief in America and the basic rights of his fellow men. His life offers a powerful testimony to dream. It is what ordinary Americans want to believe about social mobility and the
opportunity to get ahead.”

In fact, he was a highly intelligent lawyer and was one of the first presidents who was actively branded and marketed to the voting public by his political campaign. Sociology professor and author Jackie Hogan said in an interview, “There were all kinds of theatrics: pulling up a fence rail and parading around saying this fence rail was split by Abraham Lincoln. They created an image of him as an average Joe, and in many ways, he was not an average Joe. But he was very happy to ride that reputation into the White House.”

What Lincoln had that other presidents, and royals, lacked, was access to new technology, and he used it to advantage to receive and distribute information. This new technology was the telegraph. It had been used primarily by the banking and financial industry, but Lincoln was the first president to use it for wartime communication.

“Like social media the telegraph is an electronic form of communication. The telegraph increased the speed at which information and communication could be received it changed the world, it changed war, and it changed daily life.”

Scott Scanlon

Lincoln certainly had his detractors. It would be impossible not to, leading a nation in the time of a civil war, but he rose to power through his intellectual leadership, and in many cases was able to diffuse contentious situations through his powerful oratory. He was able to define, in elegant and often poetic layman’s terms, the sides and meanings of an issue. Today we might call that “content marketing.”

And though some thought his physical appearance awkward, he did try to look the part. “At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a coat specially crafted for him by Brooks Brothers. Hand-stitched into the coat’s lining was a design featuring an eagle and the inscription, ‘One Country, One Destiny.’ He was wearing the coat and a Brooks Brothers suit when he was assassinated.”

Kennedy

Looking up: Embodying American ideals. White House, public domain.

While Lincoln came to power when the nation was divided, John F. Kennedy came into office on a wave of prosperity, the post-war boom. And where Lincoln had use of the telegraph, Kennedy had television:

“Once a commodity that few Americans with money possessed in the late 1940’s, it was now in the homes of all Americans by the era of the 1960’s. It was this medium that would blast across the screen the youthful, handsome, rich, John F. Kennedy with his young beautiful wife Jackie and their two vivacious children.”
xroads.virginia.edu

In the 1950s and 60s, when families were watching Ozzie and Harriet, and Father Knows Best on TV, the Kennedy family exemplified that perfect, happy image, and Kennedy played into it, allowing his family and particularly his children to be photographed “under his desk, in their playrooms, in the Rose Garden, in their schoolhouses, throwing parties, Caroline riding her pony, or John-John running toward the helicopters and planes which so often captivated him.”

Kennedy also used his charisma and knack for rallying people around an aspirational cause that they already wanted, such as being first on the moon, or creating the Peace Corps. There was an unwritten rule that his dark side (the extramarital affairs, connections to organized crime, plot to assassinate Fidel Castro) were not to be revealed, and they were not until investigative reporters of the 1970s got into it the files. Kennedy was the last president to enjoy that kind of relationship with the press.

Lessons learned

So what are the takeaways from these two presidents that can be applied to author branding?

First, it pays to know your audience and what they want. Both Lincoln and Kennedy understood their times and identified their personas with the ideals of the time. Even though they were faced with very difficult issues and circumstances, their personas helped them maintain public support through crises, and have survived the decades. One might argue that the assassinations propelled them into indelible memory, but polls still rank them among the most beloved presidents, and their personas live on. For authors of historical fiction, readers want to understand the relevance of what you write for today’s world.

Second, it pays to use technology to advantage. Today’s social media and a fairly unforgiving consumer audience make the kind of duality these presidents experienced difficult if not impossible. But consistent messaging and a strong brand story, strategically distributed to target audiences, can create a memorable personal brand that will stand for you when you need it most.

Third, just as you create your own persona, think about the personas of your target audience: who they are, what they want, and what they need from you — not to create a false image to project to them, but to clarify how to reach them best, and how to create and distribute content that is meaningful to them while still aligning with your own values and brand.

Previous posts in the series:

Part 1, Intro          Part 2, Hatshepsut          Part 3, Henry VIII

Part 4, Elizabeth I          Part 5, Louis XIV       Part 6, Napoleon

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival, February 20-21, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.

Assassins, Miles Sindercombe, and fiddling things

Miles Sindercombe was a fascinating surprise to me as I researched my book, Sharavogue. I was looking for any assassination attempts on the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell in the mid-17th Century, because my protatonist would be attempting to do exactly that. Being American, I had never heard of Sindercombe, so I wonder if he is better known in the UK. He tried twice and failed to kill this uncrowned king.

Wikipedia gives a pretty good history of assassination that’s worth the read, tracing it back to 1080 and the Order of Assassins founded around the time of the Crusades. In Cromwell’s case the attempt must have come as no surprise, at least to his security crew, considering Cromwell had won a bloody civil war and then beheaded the king, Charles I. He also had led a brutal march across Ireland to put down a rebellion. The man did not lack for enemies and controversy over him continues to this day.

What’s interesting is that Sindercombe seems to be an unlikely and tragic figure. I was unable to turn up an illustration of him, but it seems he was a thin, mild-mannered sort who went by the name of “Fish.” A former soldier, apprentice to a surgeon, he aligned with others he met in taverns (i.e. Edward Sexby) who had fought against the Royalists but had fallen out with Cromwell’s policies.

The first plan against Cromwell was to shoot up his carriage as it slowed to go through a narrow pass on the way to Hampton Court. But, Cromwell decided to go by boat so the plot failed. The second attempt was to shoot Cromwell from the window above the side exit from Westminster Abbey where Cromwell would pass after hearing a sermon. But Crowell was surrounded by crowds, they could not get a good shot, and the plot was discovered. Sindercombe and his accomplices were arrested. Sexby was questioned by Cromwell himself, was sent to prison and soon died of a fever. He was the lucky one. Sindercombe was sentenced to a traitor’s death (the whole hideous bit, with the hanging, disembowelling while still alive, and body parts on pikes for display). To help him avoid this, friends sent him letters coated with arsenic which he rubbed on his face and neck, poisoning himself to death the night before his planned execution. His body was buried beneath the highway where no one could mourn him.

Cromwell made light of the whole thing, calling such attemps on his life “little fiddling things,” so as not to encourage the Royalist-spread rumor that he so feared assassination he was drinking himself to death. My recent visit to the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon confirms the rumor of his fear, if not the drinking. A display shows an inlaid cabinet of perfumes, ointments and soaps–a gift from the Grand Duke of Tuscany–that he never used, most likely fearing a poison. Cromwell’s doctor is quoted as saying “He is possibly afraid that they will be bitter, being fearful of his own shadow, so to speak, and living in constant apprehension of everything for he trusts no one.”

History has Cromwell dying of natural causes in 1658, but after his death his own doctor, secretly (or suddenly?) a Royalist, was rumored to have poisoned him in favor of the return to monarchy.

Following the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was not so fortunate. His life is revisited in the new movie, Lincoln, just out this week. His assassin John Wilkes Booth was trapped in a burning barn and shot by a US cavalry officer, and died from the wound hours later. It is an unforgettable episode in our history, unfortunately repeated several times.