On March 20, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, a Maryland native and a Confederate sympathizer, attempted to kidnap the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln luckily did not appear at the location where Booth had planned to abduct him. Two weeks after the failed attempt, Union forces took control of the city of Richmond, Virginia. The collapse of the Confederate forces seemed imminent due to the fact that the Union had taken control of most of the Confederate territories. After his failed attempt to kidnap Lincoln, Booth believed that the only way the Confederate forces could regain power was by assassinating President Lincoln. Booth began preparations for his new plan.1
Lincoln had a passion for drama and the theatre, as did Booth who was a well known and successful actor in the United States. Laura Keene, one of the most famous actresses at the time, was going to perform the three act play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and after learning that Lincoln would be present at the event, Booth knew it was the perfect opportunity for to carry out his plan. On the evening of April 14, 1865, Lincoln occupied his private box at the Ford Theatre along with his wife, Officer Henry Rathbone and Rathbone’s fiancée. Booth was in the crowd, and when the clock reached 10:00PM, Booth entered Lincoln’s box. He positioned himself behind Lincoln, removed his .44 caliber Derringer and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. In the process he managed to stab Officer Rathbone. After the vicious attack, Booth jumped from the box and onto the stage. Upon his landing, Booth shouted, “Sic temper tyrannis!” which means “I always bring death to tyrants.” The crowd was amazed and thought that it was all part of the play. It was not until Mary, Lincoln’s wife, shouted for help that the crowd took notice of the atrocity. Among the crowd there was a doctor that attempted to care for Lincoln, but unfortunately Lincoln did not make it through and was pronounced dead the next morning.2
Booth managed to escape the premises, and this led to one of the biggest manhunts in the history of the United States. Twelve days later, on April 26th, Booth was found along with two accomplices, David Herold, and Mary Surrat, by the Union army inside a house in Virginia. The house was burned down by the Union troops and Booth was shot in the head. David Herold was sentenced to death as was Mary Surrat. Booth’s plan of “saving” the Confederate forces failed as General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army to the Union forces on April 9, 1865, five days before Lincoln’s murder.
President Lincoln was one of the most influential people in the development of the United States of America and what it represents today. “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”- Abraham Lincoln.3
- James Orbesen, John Wilkes Booth : Beyond the Grave (Maryland, Landham: Trade Publishing, 2013), 6-14. ↵
- Kim A. O’Connell, “Lincoln’s Last Witness,” Civil War Times, no. 3 (2015): 60. ↵
- George Clack and Michael Jay Friedman, Abraham Lincoln: A Legacy of Freedom (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of International Information Programs, 2008), 22. ↵