Lincoln Assassination

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Lincoln Assassination
The Planning

  • Assassinator was John Wilkes Booth, a successful actor from the family of noted actors

  • Confederate sympathizer and embittered by the Confederacy’s misfortunes

  • Previous six months, he had concocted several plots of kidnap Lincoln

  • Surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army on April 9 intensified his hatred

  • April 11- heard Lincoln speak in favor of limited civil rights for freed slaves and hint that an announcement on postwar policy was forthcoming

  • Urged his accomplice Lewis Pane to shoot Lincoln there, declaring “that means nigger citizenship. Now by God I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make."

  • Learned that Lincoln and Grant would be at Ford’s Theater

  • Recruited veterans of his previous plots to help him

The Assassination

  • April 14, 1865 (Good Friday)

  • Ford’s Theater, Washington D.C

  • John Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln while he was watching a play b/c of the South’s loss of the Civil War

  • A showing of the comedy Our American Cousin

  • Guests were Major Henry R. Rathbone and Clara Harris, his fiancée

  • Lincoln was with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln

  • After 10 PM, after the second act, Booth gained entry in president’s booth and fired a pistol shot at Lincoln’s head

  • Assassin struggled w/ Major Rathbone briefly and then leaped to the stage and said “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” (Thus always to Tyrants!-Motto of the State of Virginia) and escaped on a horse waiting in alley behind the theater

The Escape

  • Booth fled to North Virginia, accompanied by Herold

  • Got medical attention from Dr. Samuel Mudd after breaking his leg by jumping onto the stage

The Death of Lincoln

  • Lincoln was rushed to the William Petersen House and died the next morning at 7:22 AM

  • At 11:00 Vice President Andrew Johnson took the oath as the 17th president of the US

Consequences of the Conspirators

  • April 26- Troops found hideout in a barn at Garrett's Farm near Port Royal

  • Captured Herold, set the barn afire to flush out Booth, and shot him dead when he emerged

  • May 9 to June 30 1865 – conspirators were tried

  • Paine, Atzerodt, Herold, and Mary Surratt executed (latter first female to be executed by federal government)

  • Mudd, Arnold, and O'Laughlin were sentenced to life at hard labor

  • Edman Spangler, a stagehand at Ford's, got six years' hard labor for holding Booth's horse outside the theater

  • O'Laughlin died in prison, and the rest were pardoned and released in 1869.

  • John Surratt escaped abroad, was extradited, but charges against him were dropped after a hung jury failed to convict in 1867


  • First successful assassination attempt in American history

  • North was plunged in a period of public grief, especially among blacks- viewed him as their liberator

  • Mary Lincoln suffered from severe depression and mental illness after his death

  • Lincoln’s funeral was on April 19, then went on a funeral train to Springfield, Illinois and rested there on May 4

  • No crisis in government

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