The Assassination of the President

On April 11, 1865, two days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln delivered a speech outlining his plans for peace and reconstruction. John Wilkes Booth was in the audience and upon hearing the speech, vowed that would be the last speech ever made by the President.

Booth tried twice to kidnap the President, but failed. He decided that the President must be killed. Booth and his collaborators decided to assassinate the President, Vice-President and the Secretary of State, all in the same evening.

Lincoln attended the British comedy, Our American Cousin. In the middle of the play, Booth slipped into the entryway to the President’s box and fired. He then vaulted over the front of the president’s box and broke his leg, ran limping out of the theatre, jumped on his horse and rode off towards Virginia.

The bullet entered Lincoln’s head just behind his left ear, tore through his brain and lodged just behind the right eye. Lincoln died the next morning. The Secretary of State survived after Lewis Powell, one of Booth’s accomplices stabbed and seriously wounded him. The other accomplice, George Atzerodt could not bring himself to attempt to assassinate Vice President Johnson.

Two weeks later, on April 26, union cavalry trapped Booth in a Virginia tobacco barn. A fire was started, and before Booth could react, Sergeant Boston Corbett took aim and fatally shot Booth.

Source: The Assassination of the President
Copyright ©2008-2016 ushistory.org, owned by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, founded 1942.

Back to top