The attack on President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth came five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Booth’s initial plot was to kidnap Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. When this plot, which was to have occurred in mid-March became moot, because Richmond soon fell, he devised a second plan to simultaneously assassinate Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. He hoped to throw the government into chaos by killing the President and his likely successors.
This second plot was put into action. One of Booth’s co-conspirators was able to break into William Seward’s home and seriously wound him. The person assigned to attack Andrew Johnson, however, lost his nerve and fled. Booth was able to gain entry to Lincoln’s box at the Ford Theater and shoot him in the back of the head. As Booth leapt from the box to the stage he shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!” breaking his leg in the fall. In spite of the broken leg, Booth managed to escape Washington on horseback.
The president, mortally wounded, was carried to a lodging house opposite Ford’s Theater. He died early the next morning. Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. president to be assassinated. He was 56 years old. Booth was captured in Bowling Green, Virginia, and died from a (possibly self-inflicted) bullet wound as the barn he was hiding in burned to the ground.
To Learn More See:
• The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies : Being an Account of the Hatred Felt by Many Americans for President Abraham Lincoln During the Civil War and the First Complete Examination and Refutation of the Many Theories, Hypotheses, and Speculations Put Forward Since 1865 Concerning Those Presumed to Have Aided, Abetted, Controlled, or Directed The Murderous Act of John Wilkes Booth In Ford’s Theater the Night of April 14, William Hanchett (University of Illinois Press c. 1983) available at LAW-3rd Floor E457.5.H26 1983
• The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of Its Principal Officers, David E. Herold (Arno Press 1972) available at LAW-4th Floor KF223.H4 P63 1972 v.1 v. 2 & v. 3
• Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln , William A. Tidwell (Barnes & Noble 1997) available at LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) E608.T53 1997