John Wilkes Booth was the man responsible for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865. As President Lincoln sat with his wife in a booth at the play “Our American Cousin,” Booth snuck in and shot the president in the head with a .44 caliber derringer when a drunken guard left his post.
Why Abraham Lincoln Was Assassinated
John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln on that night for several different reasons:
- Booth was a known Confederate sympathizer.
- He was born and raised in the state of Maryland. However, despite his loyalties to the Confederates, he remained in the North.
- When news of the Confederate plight reached him towards the end of the war, Booth and several other Confederate sympathizers made plans to kidnap the president on March 20, 1865. They had plans to take him to the capital of the Confederacy: Richmond, Virginia.
- Lincoln, who had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, was viewed by many as responsible for what had occurred during the Civil War and thus Wilkes Booth and his confederate sympathizers had a strong animosity towards the president.
- Booth and his fellow Confederate's plan were stymied when the president never showed up at the spot where they laid in wait for him.
- Shortly after this incident, news came that the Confederate army was falling apart and that Richmond had fallen to the Union army.
- Booth and his co-conspirators then made plans to assassinate not only the president, but the vice president and the secretary of state, believing that this act would throw the government into a state of mass confusion and give power back to the Confederacy.
How the Assassination Occurred
The circumstances surrounding the assassination added to the drama of the moment:
- After shooting the president, there was a brief scuffle with the soldier that President Lincoln had invited to attend the play with him.
- During the altercation, the soldier whose name was Rathbone was stabbed in the shoulder before Booth jumped down from the booth above the stage and broke his leg.
- Booth shouted the words “Sic simper tyrannis” meaning “Thus ever to tyrants” before he ran from the stage.
- The audience at the play thought it was part of the show for a brief period of time until they heard Lincoln’s wife scream hysterically as she sat by her husband who was slumped over in his chair.
- A 23-year old doctor in the theater named Charles Leale rushed to President Lincoln’s side once he realized what was going on and found the president struggling to breathe.
- Several soldiers rushed to Lincoln’s aid and removed him from the theater, taking him to a house across the street where he was examined by a surgeon.
- The surgeon determined there was nothing anyone could do for the president and that he would succumb to the fatal gunshot during the night.
- At 7:22 AM the next morning, President Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead.
John Wilkes Booth had assassinated Abraham Lincoln, ending the life of one of America's great presidents.