John Wilkes was the ninth of ten children. His father was a famous actor. He grew up in Baltimore on a farm that was operated with slave labor. Booth followed his father into the theatrical profession, making his stage debut in Baltimore at the age of 17.
The election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860, and the success of the anti-slavery Republican Party were very upsetting to Booth.
In November 1864, he wrote to a brother-in-law, “And looking upon African slavery from the same stand-point, as held by those noble framers of our Constitution, I for one, have ever considered it, one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us) that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation."
Booth had become connected with the Confederate secret service, often meeting with other agents in Canada, Boston, and Maryland. In 1864, he had returned to the notion of kidnapping Lincoln, planning to hold him hostage in Richmond to exchange for thousands of Confederate prisoners of war. He organized a group of co-conspirators to aid in his plans.
On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the largest Confederate army, ending any remaining hopes for Southern victory and quieting Booth’s kidnapping plot. Later, they decided they would kill the president, vice president, cabinet members and perhaps Grant as well.
When newspapers announced Lincoln and Grant would both attend Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14, Booth decided to strike. On the night of assassination, Booth shot from behind. Lincoln would later die in the morning.
Booth was able to flee to Virginia by horse. David E. Herold, Booth’s conspirator surrendered but Booth refused to after they were cornered in a tobacco shed on the farm of Richard H. Garret near Port Royal. The troops set the shed on fire, a shot rang out and Booth fell, mortally wounded. It’s never been confirmed if he committed suicide or was shot by Sergeant Boston Corbett.
Source: John Wilkes Booth
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