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On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head in Ford’s Theatre’s presidential box by an actor, John Wilkes Booth. After shooting the President, Booth jumped on the stage and managed to escape through the theater’s back entrance. The first president to be assassinated, Lincoln died at the end of the Civil War, only five days after Confederate Robert E. Lee surrendered. President Lincoln was actually quite a fan of his assassin’s acting skills and had invited him previously to meet at the White House. Booth, who was a Confederate spy and rebel sympathizer evaded the invitation.

Lincoln’s Assassination Plot

Booth and his co-conspirators had originally planned to  kidnap Lincoln, but in the end decided on an assassination instead. After Booth heard a speech by Lincoln in support of giving slaves citizenship, he was said to have promised that this speech would be his last. David Herold, George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell were part of the assassination plot, in which they wanted to kill the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State at the same time. They hoped to wreak havoc in the Union by eliminating its  three top people. Although the president was assassinated, the plot failed with Atzerodt fleeing and Powell only managing to wound the Secretary of State.

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Booth’s Escape and Capture

When leaping onto the stage from the presidential box, Booth broke his leg, but managed to get out of the theater and flee town on horseback. His accomplice, David Herold, fled with him with the Union soldiers hot on their trail. With the help of confederate agents they made it to Virginia, where they stayed in a farmhouse. The Union troops surrounded the House on April 26 and with Booth refusing to surrender, set fire to the place. Herold surrendered, but Booth refused to be taken alive and tried to escape with a gun (which he never used). One of the soldiers shot him in the neck, damaging his spinal cord. He died three hours later. His co-conspirators, as well as the woman whose boarding house they met at, Mary Surrat, were executed on July 7, 1865.

Who Was John Wilkes Booth?

Lincoln’s assassin was a well-known actor, who grew up in an acting family. His brother, Edwin Booth was a very famous Shakespearean actor, as was his father, the British Junius Brutus Booth, who moved from England in 1821 with his mistress, Mary Ann Holmes.  John was their ninth child out of ten and was named after politician John Wilkis. He grew up in Maryland, and became interested in politics at a young age. There are some conspiracy theories that he managed to escape while a look-alike got killed. According to these theories, Booth lived another 38 years before confessing to his deed and committing suicide.

Cite This Article
"Who Assassinated Abraham Lincoln?" History on the Net
© 2000-2019, Salem Media.
August 26, 2019 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/who-assassinated-abraham-lincoln>
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