The Death of Lincoln

On the night of April 16, 1865, Lincoln attended a performance at Ford's Theatre, although he would have preferred staying home at the White House. Earlier that evening he had mentioned wearily to an aide, "It has been advertised that we will be there, and I cannot disappoint the people. Otherwise I would not go."

The audience at Ford's Theatre rose and applauded as the President and Mrs. Lincoln entered their flag-draped box. The President nodded his thanks to the crowd and seated himself in an upholstered rocking chair.

Soon after the performance got underway, a young actor named John Wilkes Booth crept along a back corridor in the theater. Seeing that Lincoln's guard had left his post, Booth peered through a tiny peephole that he had secretly drilled earlier that day. He could see the President sitting inside. So far his sinister plot to avenge the South was unfolding according to plan.

 Then, Booth silently opened the door to the box, leveled his brass pistol at the back of Lincoln's head, and fired.

 

 

 
After struggling with a young officer who sat near the President, Booth climbed over the balcony and jumped, breaking his leg as he fell to the stage. The audience was too stunned to stop him, and Booth fled through the stage door to the alley, where a horse was waiting to bear him away.


By 7:30 the next morning, Lincoln was dead. Federal troops eventually trapped Booth in a Virginia barn, where he was shot and killed. But like A.P. Hoadley, many Northerners wrongly believed that the murder was part of the Confederate government's plot to make a final stand against the Union. Tragically, Lincoln's assassination created yet another stumbling block in the road to peace and healing.



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Last updated:
October 14, 2003

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