Abraham Lincoln's AssassinationAbigail P. Baskin


Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Lincoln was attending the play "Our American Cousin" at the Ford Theater in Washington D.C. Booth shot Lincoln while he was watching the show and then ran away, breaking his leg in the process. Lincoln was rushed to a boarding-house across the street by a doctor who had been attending the play and died in the house nine hours later. During this time Lincoln's Secretary of State (William Henry Seward) was being attacked by Booth's main accomplice, Lewis Paine, who failed to kill him. These two assassins were against Lincoln and his political ideas, which is what motivatedthem to murder of the 16th president of the United States of America. Lincoln represented everything that Booth was against, and Booth blamed him for all the problems in the south. He wanted revenge.
Booth Shooting Lincoln

The Main Characters

Abraham Lincoln: The 16th president of the U.S.A., victim of the aforementioned assassination, and was known for approving the Emancipation Proclamation.

John Wilkes Booth: Lincoln's Assassin, supporter of the institution of slavery, part of organization which tried to reduce immigration into the U.S.A., and during the Civil War worked as a Confederate secret agent.

Lewis Powell: Booth's main co-conpirator, alias of "Lewis Paine", tried to assassinate Lincoln's Secretary of State at the same time as Booth tried to assassinate Lincoln, and he was a soldier for the Confederacy.

Henry R. Rathbone: A major in the Union Army, was with Lincoln on the night of his assassination and stopped Booth from immediately finishing killing Lincoln, was haunted by the events and went crazy and killed his fiancee Clara Harris and attempted unsuccessful suicide, subsequently deemed insane and sent to an insane asylum in Germany.

William Henry Seward: Lincoln's Secretary of State, victim of attempted assassination by Lewis Powell as part of Booth's plan, not killed because was wearing a surgical collar around his neck which blocked Powell's attempts.
Abraham Lincoln

The Original Plan

Originally John Wilkes Booth started to plan to kidnap Lincoln in 1864. By January 1865 he had organized a group of co-conspirators including Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlen, John Suratt (they used Mary Suratt's house as a meeting place), Lewis Powell (a.k.a. Leiw Paine), George Atzerodt, David Henry. He also additionally met with Dr. Samuel Mudd. On March 17, 1865 Booth planned to take Lincoln to Richmond and hold him, using him to get the return of Confederate prisoners of war. He saw this as necessary action, in part, to gain back Confederate soldiers that the North had captured. He would use Lincoln as a bartering tool for them, because prisoners were no longer being traded. He planned to kidnap Lincoln from a play he would attend at a hospital on the outskirts of Washington of D.C. Lincoln changed his plans, though, and decided to stay in the capitol and attend a different play. John Wilkes Booth's plans failed, accordingly.

The White House in 1865 (Lincoln can be seen standing in front of it in the distance)

A Change in Plans

General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the battle at Appomattox. Two Days later Lincoln spoke to a small crowd of gathering people outside The Whitehouse. In his speech Lincoln mentioned the possibility of voting rights being given to certain blacks. Booth was furious and his plans quickly changed from the kidnapping of Lincoln to his assassination.

Booth's Preparation

John Wilkes Booth went to the Ford Theater that morning, April 14, 1865 and confirmed that Abraham Lincoln and Genera
The Ford Theater in 1865
l Grant would be attending a performance there that night. He later found out that General Grant would not be attending the play and would be out of town. Afte
Me (Abby Baskin) in Front of the Ford Theater in 2008
r Booth secured this information, he held a last meeting with his co-conspirators. They decided that Booth would kill Lincoln at the theater, George Atzerodt would kill Andrew Johnson (the Vice President at the time), and that Lewis Powell would kill William Seward (Lincoln's Secretary of State). John Wilkes Booth felt this needed to be done, because it would create chaos and confusion within the Union government, and give the South a chance at power.
All these murders were planned to go down at approximately 10:15 that night.

The Attack On Lincoln

On the evening of April 14, 1865 Lincoln attended the play "Oue American Cousin" at the Ford Theater in Washington D.C. He sat in the "presidential box" or "state box" with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; Major Henry R. Rathbone; and Rathbone's fiancee, Clara Harris. As the play went on, Booth entered the box and shot Lincoln with a derringer pistol (his security guard had stepped away). The bullet went through Lincoln's left ear and lodged behind his right eye. After Booth shot Lincoln, he pulled a dagger, but Rathbone forced him to the railing. Then Booth was forced to leap from the balcony, and broke his leg in the process. He did get away, however, and rode a horse from the scene of the crime. Lincoln lay on the floor, shot, paralyzed, and barely breathing.
Lincoln's Box at The Ford Theater

The Attack on William Seward

At the same time, Lewis Powell tried to attack William Seward. He went into Seward's house, pretending to be delivering medicine, because Seward was in bed and recovering from a carriage accident. Powell forced his way past Seward's son, Frederick, and gained entry to the room (Frederick was badly beaten in the process). Powell slashed Seward's throat twice, and beat his way past Seward's other son, Augustus, a hospital corps veteran, and a state department messenger to escape. He fled the house, believing the deed was done.

Seward Lives

William Seward was extremely lucky at Lewis Powell's attempted assassination. He was wearing a metal surgical collar which saved his life. This is because the collar blocked Powell's slashes to his throat. Seward continued on to do many more things and lived another seven years after the incident.

The Death of a President
A Plaque In the Bedroom Where Lincoln Died (now a tourist attraction)

After Booth escaped from the Ford Theater and the scene of Abraham Lincoln's murder, a doctor in the crowd went up to the President's Box and tried to help Lincoln. Lincoln was then transported from the theater to a boarding-house across the street (Tenth Street). The doctor tried, but Lincoln could not be saved and died nine hours later, at 7:22 a.m. on April 15th, 1865.

What Happened to the Assassins and Co-conspirators

After fleeing Washington D.C., Booth went to Virginia. He was finally found by police in Bowling Green, Va. He was then captured and fatally shot, dying on April 26, 1865. John Wilkes Booth's main co-conspirators (Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Mary Surratt) were hung at the gallows of the "Old Penitentiary" on July 7, 1865.

How Lincoln's Death Affected the Nation

Several hours after Lincoln's assassination the vice president at the time, Andrew Johnson, was sworn into the presidency by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. The president's responsibility was to repair the broken U.S.A. and Johnson turned out to be ill fitted for this job. He was impeached from being the president for his poor job at fixing the United States. This led to a shift in power in the government as he was replaced. Ultimately, Lincoln's death led to a difficult political time for the United States of America.

Fun Facts

1. Booth was an actor before the Civil War, and had acted in the Ford Theater where he shot Lincoln.
2. Lincoln was too tall for the bed they put him in while sick in the bording-house, and so the people who helped him had to lay him diagonally across the bed.
3. Booth new the play "Our American Cousin" and waited for a specific crowd-laugh to shot Lincoln, hoping the noise would cover the gunshot and create confusion.
4. Ward Hill Lamon was Lincoln's usual bodygaurd, but per Lincoln's request he was in Richmond that night, so Mary Todd Lincoln called a replacement named John Parker, who had stepped away and gave Booth an easy path to the president, unknowingly.
5. When Booth lept from the balcony to the stage, it was a 12 foot jump!


1860 Election


1. Bates, Christopher. "Abraham Lincoln, assassination of." In Waugh, Joan, and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1856 to 1869, vol. 5. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2003.American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHV015&SingleRecord=True>. Accessed May 16, 2009.

2. "Henry R. Rathbone (1837 - 1911) Union Major; Was Present in President's Box at Ford's Theater when Lincoln was Assassinated". The Inkwell Autograph Gallery. Accessed May 15, 2009. <http://www.inkwellgallery.com/historical/civilwar/rathboneh-1.htm>.

3. Norton, R.J. "Lewis Powell". Abraham Lincoln's Assassination. 1996. Accessed May 14, 2009. <http://home.att.net/~rjnorton/Lincoln25.html>.

4. "Biographic Sketch of John Wilkes Booth". John Wilkes Booth. Accessed MAy 13, 2009. <http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lincolnconspiracy/booth.html>.

5. The Library of Congress. "Introduction". Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. 2002. Accessed May 13, 2009. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/alrintr.html>.