April 14th – Lincoln Assassinated

1865

Today at the Fords Theatre in Washington DC, while attending a production of Our American Cousin by Tom Taylor with his wife Mary the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was shot.

The assassination occurred just five days after the Confederate Army surrendered to General Grant, ending the American Civil War. The shooter, well known stage actor John Wilkes Booth, son of famous actor Junius Brutus Booth, was part of a larger conspiracy aiming to revive the Confederate cause.

The Presidential party arrived late, causing the play to pause briefly. Their box was meant to be guarded by John Frederick Parker but he had gone to the pub in the intermission and had not returned. Booth’s status as a leading famous actor meant it wouldn’t have been unusual for him to call on the President.

The Presidential Box at Fords Theatre, Washington. From War Photograph and Exhibition Company

The Presidential Box at Fords Theatre, Washington. From War Photograph and Exhibition Company

Booth knew the play well and waited for the enthusiastic laughter which would follow the character Asa Trenchard’s line to the departing Mrs Mountchessington: “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!”. In the ensuing noise he entered the box and shot the President at point blank range in the head. Lincoln slumped forward and was caught by his wife Mary who started screaming.

Booth escaped to the stage after a tussle, landing badly with his foot caught in the flag decorating the box. It was some time before the audience realised it was not part of the show and Booth eventually made it out after stabbing several men who tried to stop him.

Mortally wounded the President was carried to the Petersen House opposite the theatre where he died the following morning.

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