John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth

Overview
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 at Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865...

, in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family
Booth family
The Booth family were an English-American theatrical family of the 19th century. It's most famous and well known members were Edwin Booth, one of the leading actors of his day, and John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln....

 from Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor. He was also a Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 sympathizer vehement in his denunciation of the Lincoln Administration and outraged by the South's defeat in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. He strongly opposed the abolition
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 of slavery in the United States and Lincoln's proposal to extend voting rights
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 to recently emancipated slaves.

Booth and a group of co-conspirators planned to kill Lincoln, Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

, and Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 William Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy's cause.
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Encyclopedia
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 at Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865...

, in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family
Booth family
The Booth family were an English-American theatrical family of the 19th century. It's most famous and well known members were Edwin Booth, one of the leading actors of his day, and John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln....

 from Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor. He was also a Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 sympathizer vehement in his denunciation of the Lincoln Administration and outraged by the South's defeat in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. He strongly opposed the abolition
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 of slavery in the United States and Lincoln's proposal to extend voting rights
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 to recently emancipated slaves.

Booth and a group of co-conspirators planned to kill Lincoln, Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

, and Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 William Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy's cause. Although Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

 had surrendered four days earlier, Booth believed the war was not yet over because Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

's army was still fighting the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

. Of the conspirators, only Booth was completely successful in carrying out his respective part of the plot. Seward was wounded but recovered; Lincoln died the next morning from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Following the shooting, Booth fled on horseback to southern Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, eventually making his way to a farm in rural northern Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 12 days later, where he was tracked down and shot by Boston Corbett
Boston Corbett
Thomas P. "Boston" Corbett was the Union Army soldier who shot and killed Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He disappeared after 1888, but circumstantial evidence suggests that he died in the Great Hinckley Fire in 1894, although this remains impossible to substantiate.-Early...

, a Union soldier who acted against orders. Eight others were tried and convicted, and four were hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 shortly thereafter. Over the years, various authors have suggested that Booth escaped his pursuers and subsequently died many years later under a pseudonym.

Background and early life


Booth's parents, the noted British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 Shakespearean
Shakespeare in performance
Numerous performances of William Shakespeare's plays have occurred since the end of the 16th century. While Shakespeare was alive, many of his greatest plays were performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men but King's Men acting companies at the Globe and Blackfriars Theatres...

 actor Junius Brutus Booth
Junius Brutus Booth
Junius Brutus Booth was an English actor. He was the father of John Wilkes Booth , Edwin Booth , and Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., an actor and theatre manager...

 and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes, came to the United States from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in June 1821. They purchased a 150 acres (61 ha) farm near Bel Air
Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland
The town of Bel Air is the county seat of Harford County, Maryland, United States. According to the 2000 census the population of the town was 10,080. In 2009 the town's estimated population was 10,368...

 in Harford County, Maryland
Harford County, Maryland
Harford County is a county in the U.S. state of Maryland. In 2010, its population was 244,826. Its county seat is Bel Air. Harford County forms part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area.-History:...

, where John Wilkes Booth was born in a four-room log house on May 10, 1838, the ninth of ten children. He was named after the English radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

 politician John Wilkes
John Wilkes
John Wilkes was an English radical, journalist and politician.He was first elected Member of Parliament in 1757. In the Middlesex election dispute, he fought for the right of voters—rather than the House of Commons—to determine their representatives...

, a distant relative. Junius Brutus Booth's wife, Adelaide Delannoy Booth, was granted a divorce in 1851 on grounds of adultery, and Holmes legally wed John Wilkes Booth's father on May 10, 1851, the youth's 13th birthday. Booth's father built Tudor Hall that year on the Harford County property as the family's summer home, while also maintaining a winter residence on Exeter Street in Baltimore in the 1840s–1850s.

As a boy, John Wilkes Booth was athletic and popular, becoming skilled at horsemanship and fencing. A sometimes indifferent student, he attended the Bel Air Academy, where the headmaster described him as "[n]ot deficient in intelligence, but disinclined to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered him". Each day he rode back and forth from farm to school, taking more interest in what happened along the way than in reaching his classes on time". In 1850–1851, he attended the Quaker
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

-run Milton Boarding School for Boys located in Sparks, Maryland
Sparks, Maryland
Sparks is an unincorporated community that is located in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States. It is situated approximately 20 miles north of Baltimore, Maryland and is considered to be a suburb of the City of Baltimore...

, and later St. Timothy's Hall, an Episcopal military academy in Catonsville, Maryland
Catonsville, Maryland
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of , all of it land.-Demographics:In 2010 Catonsville had a population of 41,567...

, beginning when he was 13 years old. At the Milton school, students recited such classical works as those by Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, and Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

. Students at St. Timothy's wore military uniforms and were subject to a regimen of daily formation drills and strict discipline. Booth left school at 14, after his father's death.

While attending the Milton Boarding School, Booth met a Gypsy fortune-teller who read his palm and pronounced a grim destiny, telling Booth that he would have a grand but short life, doomed to die young and "meeting a bad end". His sister recalled that Booth wrote down the palm-reader's prediction and showed it to his family and others, often discussing its portents in moments of melancholy in later years.

As recounted by Booth's sister, Asia Booth Clarke
Asia Booth
Asia Frigga Clarke , was the youngest daughter in the family of ten children born to Junius Brutus Booth and his wife Mary Ann Holmes. Her famous brothers were Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth...

, in her memoirs written in 1874, no one church was preeminent in the Booth household. Booth's mother was Episcopalian and his father was described as a free spirit, preferring a Sunday walk along the Baltimore waterfront with his children to attending church. On January 23, 1853, the 14-year-old Booth was finally baptized
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 at St. Timothy's Protestant Episcopal Church. Later in life, Booth became a Roman Catholic, possibly converted by his sister, Asia Booth Clarke.
By the age of 16, Booth was interested in the theatre and in politics, becoming a delegate from Bel Air to a rally by the Know Nothing Party
Know Nothing
The Know Nothing was a movement by the nativist American political faction of the 1840s and 1850s. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to Anglo-Saxon Protestant values and controlled by...

 for Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis was a United States Representative from the 4th and 3rd congressional districts of Maryland, well known as one of the Radical Republicans during the Civil War.-Early life and career:...

, the anti-immigrant party's candidate for Congress in the 1854 elections. Aspiring to follow in the footsteps of his father and his actor brothers, Edwin
Edwin Booth
Edwin Thomas Booth was a famous 19th century American actor who toured throughout America and the major capitals of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays. In 1869 he founded Booth's Theatre in New York, a spectacular theatre that was quite modern for its time...

 and Junius Brutus, Jr.
Junius Brutus Booth, Jr.
Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. was an American actor and theatre manager.As a member of the illustrious Booth family of actors, Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. was overshadowed not only by his father Junius, Sr...

, Booth began practicing elocution
Elocution
Elocution is the study of formal speaking in pronunciation, grammar, style, and tone.-History:In Western classical rhetoric, elocution was one of the five core disciplines of pronunciation, which was the art of delivering speeches. Orators were trained not only on proper diction, but on the proper...

 daily in the woods around Tudor Hall and studying Shakespeare.

1850s



At age 17, Booth made his stage debut on August 14, 1855, in the supporting role
Supporting actor
A supporting actor is an actor who performs roles in a play or film other than that of the leads.These roles range from bit parts to secondary leads. They are sometimes but not necessarily character roles. A supporting actor must also use restraint not to upstage the main actor/actress in the...

 of the Earl of Richmond in Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

at Baltimore's Charles Street Theatre. The audience hiss
Hiss
Hiss may refer to: a noise made by angry or frustrated animals, such as cats, birds, snakes, etc.-People:* Alger Hiss , U.S. State Department employee and a Soviet spy* Donald Hiss , younger brother of Alger Hiss...

ed at the inexperienced actor when he missed some of his lines. He also began acting at Baltimore's Holliday Street Theater, owned by John T. Ford
John T. Ford
John Thomson Ford was an American theater manager in the nineteenth century. He is most notable for operating Ford's Theatre at the time of the Abraham Lincoln assassination.-Early life:...

, where the Booths had performed frequently. In 1857, Booth joined the stock company of the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, where he played for a full season. At his request he was billed as "J.B. Wilkes", a pseudonym meant to avoid comparison with other members of his famous thespian family. Author Jim Bishop
Jim Bishop
James Alonzo "Jim" Bishop was an American journalist and author.Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, he dropped out of school after eighth grade. In 1923, he studied typing, shorthand and bookkeeping, and in 1929 began work as a copy boy at the New York Daily News...

 wrote that Booth "developed into an outrageous scene stealer
Scene stealer
A scene stealer is a character in a film or dramatic performance that dominates the audience's attention, often through charisma, humour or powerful acting, thus "stealing the scene" or "stealing the show". The term usually applies to a supporting character, such a sidekick, best friend,...

, but he played his parts with such heightened enthusiasm that the audiences idolized him." In February 1858, he played in Lucrezia Borgia
Lucrezia Borgia (opera)
Lucrezia Borgia is a melodramma, or opera, in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after the play by Victor Hugo, in its turn after the legend of Lucrezia Borgia. Lucrezia Borgia was first performed on 26 December 1833 at La Scala, Milan with...

at the Arch Street Theatre. On opening night, he experienced stage fright
Stage fright
Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety, fear, or persistent phobia which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience, whether actually or potentially . In the context of public speaking, this fear is termed glossophobia, one of the most common...

 and stumbled over his line. Instead of introducing himself by saying, "Madame, I am Petruchio Pandolfo", he stammered, "Madame, I am Pondolfio Pet—Pedolfio Pat—Pantuchio Ped—dammit! Who am I?", causing the audience to roar with laughter.

Later that year, Booth played the part of an Indian
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, Uncas
Uncas
Uncas was a sachem of the Mohegan who through his alliance with the English colonists in New England against other Indian tribes made the Mohegan the leading regional Indian tribe in lower Connecticut.-Early life and family:...

, in a play staged in Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg is an independent city in Virginia, United States located on the Appomattox River and south of the state capital city of Richmond. The city's population was 32,420 as of 2010, predominantly of African-American ethnicity...

, and then became a stock company actor at the Richmond Theatre in Virginia, where he became increasingly popular with audiences for his energetic performances. On October 5, 1858, Booth played the part of Horatio in Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, with his older brother Edwin having the title role. Afterward, Edwin led the younger Booth to the theatre's footlights and said to the audience, "I think he's done well, don't you?" In response, the audience applauded loudly and cried "Yes! Yes!" In all, John Wilkes performed in 83 plays in 1858. Among them were William Wallace
William Wallace
Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence....

 and Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

, having as their theme the killing or overthrow of an unjust ruler. Booth said that of all Shakespearean characters, his favorite role was Brutus – the slayer of a tyrant.

Some critics called Booth "the handsomest man in America" and a "natural genius" and noted his having an "astonishing memory"; others were mixed in their estimation of his acting. He stood 5 in 8 in (1.73 m) tall, had jet-black hair, and was lean and athletic. Noted Civil War reporter George Alfred Townsend
George Alfred Townsend
George Alfred Townsend , was a noted war correspondent during the American Civil War, and a later novelist. Townsend wrote under the pen name "Gath", which was derived by adding an "H" to his initials, and inspired by the biblical passage II Samuel 1:20, "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the...

 described him as a "muscular, perfect man", with "curling hair, like a Corinthian capital".

Booth's stage performances were often characterized by his contemporaries as acrobatic and intensely physical, leaping upon the stage and gesturing with passion. He was an excellent swordsman, although a fellow actor once recalled that he occasionally cut himself with his own sword.

Historian Benjamin Platt Thomas wrote that Booth "won celebrity with theater-goers by his romantic personal attraction", but that he was "too impatient for hard study" and his "brilliant talents had failed of full development. Author Gene Smith wrote that Booth's acting may not have been as precise as his brother Edwin's, but his strikingly handsome appearance enthralled women. As the 1850s drew to a close, Booth was becoming wealthy as an actor, earning $20,000 a year (equivalent to more than $532,000 in 2010).

1860s


After finishing the 1859–1860 theatre season in Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

, Booth embarked on his first national tour as a leading actor
Leading actor
A leading actor, leading actress, star, or simply lead, plays the role of the protagonist in a film or play. The word lead may also refer to the largest role in the piece and leading actor may refer to a person who typically plays such parts or an actor with a respected body of work...

. He engaged a Philadelphia attorney, Matthew Canning, to serve as his agent. By mid-1860, he was playing in such cities as New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, Cleveland, St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, Columbus, Georgia
Columbus, Georgia
Columbus is a city in and the county seat of Muscogee County, Georgia, United States, with which it is consolidated. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 189,885. It is the principal city of the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area, which, in 2009, had an estimated population of 292,795...

, Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

, and New Orleans. Poet and journalist Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 said of Booth's acting, "He would have flashes, passages, I thought of real genius". The Philadelphia Press drama critic said, "Without having [his brother] Edwin's culture and grace, Mr. Booth has far more action, more life, and, we are inclined to think, more natural genius."
When the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, Booth was starring in Albany, New York
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

. His outspoken admiration for the South's secession, publicly calling it "heroic", so enraged local citizens that they demanded his banning from the stage for making "treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

able statements". Albany's drama critics were kinder, however, giving him rave reviews. One called him a genius, praising his acting for "never fail[ing] to delight with his masterly impressions". As the Civil War raged across the divided land in 1862, Booth appeared mostly in Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 and border states
Border states (Civil War)
In the context of the American Civil War, the border states were slave states that did not declare their secession from the United States before April 1861...

. In January, he played the title role
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

 in Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

in St. Louis and then made his Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 debut. In March, he made his first acting appearance in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. In May 1862, he made his Boston debut, playing nightly at the Boston Museum
Boston Museum (theatre)
The Boston Museum , also called the Boston Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, was a theatre, wax museum, natural history museum, zoo, and art museum in 19th-century Boston, Massachusetts...

 in Richard III (May 12, 15, and 23), Romeo and Juliet (May 13), The Robbers (May 14 and 21), Hamlet (May 16), The Apostate (May 19), The Stranger (May 20), and The Lady of Lyons (May 22). Following his performance of Richard III on May 12, the Boston Transcript's review the next day called Booth "the most promising young actor on the American stage".

Starting in January 1863, he returned to the Boston Museum for a series of plays, including the role of the villain Duke Pescara in The Apostate that won acclaim from audiences and critics. Back in Washington in April, he played the title roles in Hamlet and Richard III, one of his favorites. Billed as "The Pride of the American People, A Star of the First Magnitude", the critics were equally enthusiastic. The National Republican drama critic said Booth "took the hearts of the audience by storm" and termed his performance "a complete triumph". At the beginning of July 1863, Booth finished the acting season at Cleveland's Academy of Music, as the Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

 raged in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. Between September–November 1863, Booth played a hectic schedule in the northeast, appearing in Boston, Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...

, and Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

. Each day he received fan mail from infatuated women.

When family friend John T. Ford opened 1,500-seat Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865...

 on November 9 in Washington, D.C., Booth was one of the first leading men to appear there, playing in Charles Selby's The Marble Heart. In this play, Booth portrayed a Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 sculptor in costume, making marble statues come to life. Lincoln watched the play from his box. At one point during the performance, Booth was said to have shaken his finger in Lincoln's direction as he delivered a line of dialogue. Lincoln's sister-in-law, sitting with him in the same presidential box where he would later be slain, turned to him and said, "Mr. Lincoln, he looks as if he meant that for you." The President replied, "He does look pretty sharp at me, doesn't he?" On another occasion when Lincoln's son Tad
Tad Lincoln
Thomas "Tad" Lincoln was the fourth and youngest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. The nickname "Tad" was given to him by his father who found Thomas "as wriggly as a tadpole" when he was a baby. Tad was known to be impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school...

 saw Booth perform, he said the actor thrilled him, prompting Booth to give the President's youngest son a rose. Booth ignored an invitation to visit Lincoln between acts, however.

On November 25, 1864, Booth performed for the only time with his two brothers, Edwin
Edwin Booth
Edwin Thomas Booth was a famous 19th century American actor who toured throughout America and the major capitals of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays. In 1869 he founded Booth's Theatre in New York, a spectacular theatre that was quite modern for its time...

 and Junius
Junius Brutus Booth, Jr.
Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. was an American actor and theatre manager.As a member of the illustrious Booth family of actors, Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. was overshadowed not only by his father Junius, Sr...

, in a single engagement production of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. He played Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 and his brother Edwin had the larger role of Brutus in a performance acclaimed as "the greatest theatrical event in New York history". The proceeds went towards a statue of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 for Central Park
Central Park
Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City, United States. The park initially opened in 1857, on of city-owned land. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they entitled the Greensward Plan...

, which still stands today. In January 1865, he acted in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

in Washington, again garnering rave reviews. The National Intelligencer
National Intelligencer
The National Intelligencer newspaper was published in Washington, D.C. from about 1800 until 1870.Until 1810 it was named the National intelligencer, and Washington advertiser. Its name changed to the National Intelligencer starting with the issue of November 27, 1810...

enthused of Booth's Romeo
Romeo Montague
Romeo is one of the fictional protagonists in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Romeo is the son of old Montague and his wife, who secretly loves and marries Juliet, a member of the rival House of Capulet...

, "the most satisfactory of all renderings of that fine character", especially praising the death scene. Booth made the final appearance of his acting career at Ford's on March 18, 1865, when he again played Duke Pescara in The Apostate.

Business ventures


Booth invested some of his growing wealth in various enterprises during the early 1860s, including land speculation in Boston's Back Bay section
Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts
Back Bay is an officially recognized neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts famous for its rows of Victorian brownstone homes, which are considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the United States, as well as numerous architecturally significant individual...

. He also started a business partnership with John Ellsler, manager of the Cleveland Academy of Music, and another friend, Thomas Mears, to develop oil wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, where an oil boom had started in August 1859, following Edwin Drake
Edwin Drake
Edwin Laurentine Drake , also known as Colonel Drake, was an American oil driller, popularly credited with being the first to drill for oil in the United States.-Early life:...

's discovery of oil there. Initially calling their venture Dramatic Oil (later renaming it Fuller Farm Oil), the partners invested in a 31.5 acres (12.7 ha) site along the Allegheny River
Allegheny River
The Allegheny River is a principal tributary of the Ohio River; it is located in the Eastern United States. The Allegheny River joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River at the "Point" of Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...

 at Franklin, Pennsylvania, in late 1863 for drilling. By early 1864, they had a producing 1900 feet (579 m) deep oil well, named Wilhelmina for Mears' wife, yielding 25 barrels (4 kL) of crude oil daily, then considered a good yield. The Fuller Farm Oil company was selling shares with a prospectus
Prospectus (finance)
In finance, a prospectus is a document that describes a financial security for potential buyers. A prospectus commonly provides investors with material information about mutual funds, stocks, bonds and other investments, such as a description of the company's business, financial statements,...

 featuring the well-known actor's celebrity status as "Mr. J. Wilkes Booth, a successful and intelligent operator in oil lands", it said. The partners, impatient to increase the well's output, attempted the use of explosives, which wrecked the well and ended production. Booth, already growing more obsessed with the South's worsening situation in the Civil War and angered at Lincoln's re-election, withdrew from the oil business on November 27, 1864, with a substantial loss of his $6,000 ($81,400 in 2010 dollars) investment.

Civil War years


Strongly opposed to the abolitionists
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 who sought to end slavery in the U.S., Booth attended the hanging
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 on December 2, 1859, of abolitionist leader John Brown
John Brown (abolitionist)
John Brown was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed, in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas, and made his name in the...

, who was executed for leading a raid
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an attempt by white abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt by seizing a United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in 1859...

 on the Federal armory
Armory (military)
An armory or armoury is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, issued to authorized users, or any combination of those...

 at Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. In many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry" with an apostrophe....

 (in present-day West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

). Booth had been rehearsing at the Richmond Theatre when he abruptly decided to join the Richmond Grays, a volunteer militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 of 1,500 men travelling to Charles Town
Charles Town, West Virginia
Charles Town is a city in and the county seat of Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 2,907 at the 2000 census. Due to its similar name, travelers have sometimes confused this city with the state's capital, Charleston.-History:...

 for Brown's hanging, to guard against an attempt by abolitionists to rescue Brown from the gallows by force. When Brown was hanged without incident, Booth stood in uniform near the scaffold and afterwards expressed great satisfaction with Brown's fate, although he admired the condemned man's bravery in facing death stoically.

Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860, and the following month Booth drafted a long speech, apparently undelivered, that decried Northern abolitionism and made clear his strong support of the South and the institution of slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. On April 12, 1861, the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 began, and eventually 11 Southern states seceded
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 from the Union. In Booth's native Maryland, the slaveholding portion of the population favored joining the Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

. Because the threatened secession of Maryland would leave the Federal capital of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, an indefensible enclave within the Confederacy, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

and imposed martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 in Baltimore and portions of the state, ordering the imprisonment of pro-secession
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 Maryland political leaders at Ft. McHenry and the stationing of Federal troops in Baltimore. Although Maryland remained in the Union, newspaper editorials and many Marylanders, including Booth, agreed with Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
Roger B. Taney
Roger Brooke Taney was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States, holding that office from 1836 until his death in 1864. He was the first Roman Catholic to hold that office or sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. He was also the eleventh United States Attorney General. He is most...

's decision in Ex parte Merryman
Ex parte Merryman
Ex parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 , is a well-known U.S. federal court case which arose out of the American Civil War. It was a test of the authority of the President to suspend "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus"...

that Lincoln's actions were unconstitutional.

As a popular actor in the 1860s, he continued to travel extensively to perform in the North and South, and as far west as New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

. According to his sister Asia, Booth confided to her that he also used his position to smuggle quinine
Quinine
Quinine is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic , antimalarial, analgesic , anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine which, unlike quinine, is an anti-arrhythmic...

 to the South during his travels there, helping the Confederacy obtain the needed drug despite the Northern blockade.

Although Booth was pro-Confederate, his family, like many Marylanders, was divided. He was outspoken in his love of the South, and equally outspoken in his hatred of Lincoln. As the Civil War went on, Booth increasingly quarreled with his brother Edwin, who declined to make stage appearances in the South and refused to listen to John Wilkes' fiercely partisan denunciations of the North and Lincoln. In early 1863, Booth was arrested in St. Louis while on a theatre tour, when he was heard saying he "wished the President and the whole damned government would go to hell". Charged with making "treasonous" remarks against the government, he was released when he took an oath of allegiance to the Union and paid a substantial fine.

In February 1865, Booth became infatuated with Lucy Lambert Hale
Lucy Lambert Hale
Lucy Lambert Hale was the daughter of US Senator John Parker Hale of New Hampshire, and was a noted Washington, DC society belle. She attracted many admirers including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Robert Todd Lincoln; and stage actor and presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth, to whom she was...

, the daughter of U.S. Senator John P. Hale
John P. Hale
John Parker Hale was an American politician and lawyer from New Hampshire. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1845 and in the United States Senate from 1847 to 1853 and again from 1855 to 1865. He was the first senator to make a stand against slavery...

 of New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, and they became secretly engaged when Booth received his mother's blessing for their marriage plans. "You have so often been dead in love," his mother counseled Booth in a letter, "be well assured she is really and truly devoted to you." Booth composed a handwritten Valentine card
Valentine's Day
Saint Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day, is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496...

 for his fiancée on February 13, expressing his "adoration". She was unaware of Booth's deep antipathy towards President Lincoln.

Plot to kidnap Lincoln


As the 1864 Presidential election
United States presidential election, 1864
In the United States Presidential election of 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected as president. The election was held during the Civil War. Lincoln ran under the National Union ticket against Democratic candidate George B. McClellan, his former top general. McClellan ran as the "peace candidate",...

 drew near, the Confederacy's prospects for victory were ebbing and the tide of war increasingly favored the North. The likelihood of Lincoln's re-election filled Booth with rage towards the President, whom Booth blamed for the war and all the South's troubles. Booth, who had promised his mother at the outbreak of war that he would not enlist as a soldier, increasingly chafed at not fighting for the South, writing in a letter to her, "I have begun to deem myself a coward and to despise my own existence". He began to formulate plans to kidnap Lincoln from his summer residence at the Old Soldiers Home, three miles (5 km) from the White House, and to smuggle him across the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

 into Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

. Once in Confederate hands, Lincoln would be exchanged for the release of Confederate Army prisoners of war held captive in Northern prisons and, Booth reasoned, bring the war to an end by emboldening opposition to the war in the North or forcing Union recognition of the Confederate government.

Throughout the Civil War, the Confederacy maintained a network of underground operators in southern Maryland, particularly Charles
Charles County, Maryland
Charles County is a county in the south central portion of the U.S. state of Maryland.As of 2010, the population was 146,551. Its county seat is La Plata. This county was named for Charles Calvert , third Baron Baltimore....

 and St. Mary's counties, smuggling recruits across the Potomac River into Virginia and relaying messages for Confederate agents as far north as Canada. Booth recruited his friends Samuel Arnold
Samuel Arnold (Lincoln conspirator)
Samuel Bland Arnold was involved in the plot to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.He and the other conspirators, John Wilkes Booth, David Herold, Lewis Powell, Michael O'Laughlen and John Surratt, were to kidnap Lincoln and hold him to exchange for the Confederate prisoners in Washington D.C....

 and Michael O'Laughlen
Michael O'Laughlen
Michael O'Laughlen, Jr. was a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln...

 as accomplices. They met often at the house of Maggie Branson, a known Confederate sympathizer, at 16 North Eutaw Street in Baltimore. He also met with several well-known Confederate sympathizers at The Parker House in Boston.
In October, Booth made an unexplained trip to Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, which was then a well-known center of clandestine Confederate activity. He spent ten days in the city, staying for a time at St. Lawrence Hall, a rendezvous for the Confederate Secret Service
Confederate Secret Service
Confederate Secret Service is an umbrella term for a number of official and semi-official secret service operations conducted by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.-Overview:...

, and meeting several Confederate agents there. No conclusive proof has linked Booth's kidnapping or assassination plots to a conspiracy
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

 involving the leadership of the Confederate government, although historians such as David Herbert Donald
David Herbert Donald
- Career :Majoring in history and sociology, Donald earned his bachelor degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned his PhD in 1946 under the eminent, leading Lincoln scholar, James G. Randall at the University of Illinois...

 have said, "It is clear that, at least at the lower levels of the Southern secret service, the abduction of the Union President was under consideration". Historian Thomas Goodrich concluded that Booth entered the Confederate Secret Service as a spy and courier. Other writers exploring possible connections between Booth's planning and Confederate agents include Nathan Miller's Spying For America and William Tidwell's Come Retribution: the Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln.

After Lincoln's landslide re-election in early November 1864 on a platform advocating passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. On...

 to abolish slavery altogether, Booth devoted increasing energy and money to his kidnap plot. He assembled a loose-knit band of Southern sympathizers, including David Herold
David Herold
David Edgar Herold was an accomplice of John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. After guiding fellow conspirator Lewis Powell to the home of Secretary of State William H. Seward, whom Powell intended to kill, Herold fled and rendezvoused outside of Washington, D.C., with Booth...

, George Atzerodt
George Atzerodt
George Andreas Atzerodt was a conspirator, with John Wilkes Booth, in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Assigned to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson, he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. He was executed along with three other conspirators by hanging.-Early life:Atzerodt...

, Lewis Powell
Lewis Powell (assassin)
Lewis Thornton Powell , also known as Lewis Paine or Payne, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H...

 (also known as Lewis Payne or Paine), and John Surratt
John Surratt
John Harrison Surratt, Jr. was accused of plotting with John Wilkes Booth to kidnap U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and suspected of involvement in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. His mother Mary Surratt was convicted of conspiracy and hanged by the United States Federal Government...

, a rebel agent. They began to meet routinely at the boarding house
Mary E. Surratt Boarding House
The Mary E. Surratt Boarding House in Washington, D.C. was the site of meetings of conspirators to kidnap and subsequently to assassinate U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. It was operated as a boarding house by Mary Surratt from September 1864 to April 1865....

 of Surratt's mother, Mrs. Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H...

.

By this time, Booth was arguing so vehemently with his older, pro-Union brother Edwin about Lincoln and the war that Edwin finally told him he was no longer welcome at his New York home. Booth also railed against Lincoln in conversations with his sister Asia, saying, "That man's appearance, his pedigree, his coarse low jokes and anecdotes, his vulgar similes, and his policy are a disgrace to the seat he holds. He is made the tool of the North, to crush out slavery." As the Confederacy's defeat became more certain in 1865, Booth decried the end of slavery and Lincoln's election to a second term, "making himself a king", the actor fumed, in "wild tirades", his sister recalled.

Booth attended Lincoln's second inauguration on March 4 as the invited guest of his secret fiancée, Lucy Hale. In the crowd below were Powell, Atzerodt, and Herold. There was no attempt to assassinate Lincoln during the inauguration. Later, however, Booth remarked about his "excellent chance ... to kill the President, if I had wished".

On March 17, Booth learned that Lincoln would be attending a performance of the play Still Waters Run Deep at a hospital near the Soldier's Home. Booth assembled his team on a stretch of road near the Soldier's Home in the attempt to kidnap Lincoln en route to the hospital, but the president did not appear. Booth later learned that Lincoln had changed his plans at the last moment to attend a reception at the National Hotel in Washington where, coincidentally, Booth was then staying.

Assassination of Lincoln




On April 12, 1865, after hearing the news that Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

 had surrendered at Appomattox Court House
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
The Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is a National Historical Park of original and reconstructed nineteenth century buildings. It was signed into law August 3, 1935. The village was made a national monument in 1940 and a national historical park in 1954...

, Booth told Louis J. Weichmann
Louis J. Weichmann
Louis J. Weichmann was one of the chief witnesses for the prosecution in the conspiracy trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. Previously, he had been also a suspect because of his association with Mary Surratt's family.-Background and early life:Weichmann was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the...

, a friend of John Surratt, and a boarder at Mary Surratt's house, that he was done with the stage and that the only play he wanted to present henceforth was Venice Preserv'd
Venice Preserv'd
Venice Preserv'd is an English Restoration play written by Thomas Otway, and the most significant tragedy of the English stage in the 1680s. It was staged first in 1682, with Thomas Betterton as Jaffeir and Elizabeth Barry as Belvidera...

. Weichmann did not understand the reference: Venice Preserv'd is about an assassination plot. With the Union Army's capture of Richmond and Lee's surrender, Booth's scheme to kidnap Lincoln was no longer feasible, and he changed his goal to assassination.

The previous day, Booth was in the crowd outside the White House when Lincoln gave an impromptu speech from his window. When Lincoln stated that he was in favor of granting suffrage to the former slaves
Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude"...

, Booth declared that it would be the last speech Lincoln would ever make.

On the morning of Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

, April 14, 1865, Booth went to Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865...

 to get his mail; while there he was told by John Ford's brother that President and Mrs. Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.-Life before the White House:...

 accompanied by Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 would be attending the play Our American Cousin
Our American Cousin
Our American Cousin is an 1858 play in three acts by English playwright Tom Taylor. The play is a farce whose plot is based on the introduction of an awkward, boorish but honest American, Asa Trenchard, to his aristocratic English relatives when he goes to England to claim the family estate...

at Ford's Theatre that evening. He immediately set about making plans for the assassination, which included making arrangements with livery stable owner James W. Pumphrey
James W. Pumphrey
James W. Pumphrey was the owner of a livery stable in Washington, D.C., and played a minor role in the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and its aftermath...

 for a getaway horse, and an escape route. Booth informed Powell, Herold, and Atzerodt of his intention to kill Lincoln. He assigned Powell to assassinate Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

 and Atzerodt to assassinate Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

. Herold would assist in their escape into Virginia.

By targeting Lincoln and his two immediate successors to the presidency, Booth seems to have intended to decapitate the Union government and throw it into a state of panic and confusion. The possibility of assassinating the Union Army's commanding general as well was foiled when Grant declined the theatre invitation at his wife's insistence. Instead, the Grants departed Washington by train that evening for a visit to relatives in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

. Booth had hoped that the assassinations would create sufficient chaos within the Union that the Confederate government could reorganize and continue the war if one Confederate army remained in the field or, that failing, to avenge the South's defeat. In his 2005 analysis of Lincoln's assassination, Thomas Goodrich wrote,
"All the elements in Booth's nature came together at once – his hatred of tyranny, his love of liberty, his passion for the stage, his sense of drama, and his lifelong quest to become immortal."

As a famous and popular actor who had frequently performed at Ford's Theatre, and who was well known to its owner, John T. Ford, Booth had free access to all parts of the theater, even having his mail sent there. By boring a spyhole into the door of the presidential box earlier that day, the assassin could check that his intended victim had made it to the play and observe the box's occupants. That evening, at around 10 p.m., as the play progressed, John Wilkes Booth slipped into Lincoln's box and shot him in the back of the head with a .44 caliber Derringer
Derringer
The term derringer is a genericized misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer, a famous 19th-century maker of small pocket pistols. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gun makers worldwide, and the name was often misspelled; this misspelling soon became...

. Booth's escape was almost thwarted by Major Henry Rathbone
Henry Rathbone
Henry Reed Rathbone was a United States military officer and diplomat who was present at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Rathbone was sitting with his fiancée, Clara Harris, next to the President and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, when John Wilkes Booth entered the president's box at...

, who was present in the Presidential box with Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.-Life before the White House:...

. Booth stabbed Rathbone when the startled officer lunged at him. Rathbone's fiancée, Clara Harris
Clara Harris
Clara Harris was an American socialite.-Biography:Clara Harris was the daughter of U.S. Senator Ira Harris of New York....

, who was also present in the box, was unhurt.

Booth then jumped from the President's box to the stage, where he raised his knife and shouted "Sic semper tyrannis
Sic semper tyrannis
Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants." It is sometimes mistranslated as "down with the tyrant." The phrase is said to have originated with Marcus Junius Brutus during the assassination of Julius Caesar....

" (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for "Thus always to tyrants", attributed to Brutus at Caesar's assassination and the Virginia state motto), while others said he added, "I have done it, the South is avenged!" Various accounts state that Booth injured his leg when his spur snagged a decorative U.S. Treasury Guard flag while leaping to the stage. Historian Michael W. Kauffman questioned this legend in his book, American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, writing in 2004 that eyewitness accounts of Booth's hurried stage exit made it unlikely that his leg was broken then. Kauffman contends that Booth was injured later that night during his flight to escape when his horse tripped and fell on him, calling Booth's claim to the contrary an exaggeration to portray his own actions as heroic.

Booth was the only one of the assassins to succeed. Powell was able to stab Seward, who was bedridden as a result of an earlier carriage accident; although badly wounded, Seward survived. Atzerodt lost his nerve and spent the evening drinking; he never made an attempt on Johnson's life.

Reaction and pursuit


In the ensuing pandemonium inside Ford's Theatre, Booth fled by a stage door to the alley, where his getaway horse was held for him by Joseph "Peanuts" Burroughs. The owner of the horse had warned Booth that the horse was high spirited and would break halter if left unattended. Booth left the horse with Edmund Spangler
Edmund Spangler
Edmund Spangler , also known as Edman, Edward, and Ned Spangler, was originally from York, Pennsylvania, but he spent the majority of his life in the Baltimore, Maryland area...

 and Spangler arranged for Burroughs to hold the horse.

The fleeing assassin galloped into southern Maryland, accompanied by David Herold, having planned his escape route to take advantage of the sparsely settled area's lack of telegraphs and railroads, along with its predominantly Confederate sympathies. He thought that the area's dense forests and swampy terrain of Zekiah Swamp
Zekiah Swamp
Zekiah Swamp is part of the Wicomico River basin in Charles County, Maryland in the United States. It is largely protected with the Zekiah Swamp Natural Environment Area a and sits at an elevation of .. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has the authority to purchase an additional for...

 made it ideal for an escape route into rural Virginia. At midnight, Booth and Herold arrived at Surratt's Tavern on the Brandywine Pike, 9 miles (14 km) from Washington, where they had stored guns and equipment earlier in the year as part of the kidnap plot.

The fugitives then continued southward, stopping before dawn on April 15 at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd
Samuel Mudd
Samuel Alexander Mudd I, M.D. was an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869...

, St. Catharine
St. Catharine (Waldorf, Maryland)
St. Catharine, also known as Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House, is a historic house near Waldorf, Maryland. It is a two part frame farmhouse with a two-story, three-bay side-passage main house with a a smaller two-story, two-bay wing. It features a one-story hip-roofed porch across the facade added in 1928....

, 25 miles (40 km) from Washington, for treatment of Booth's injured leg. Mudd later said that Booth told him the injury occurred when his horse fell. The next day, Booth and Herold arrived at the home of Samuel Cox around 4 a.m. As the two fugitives hid in the woods nearby, Cox contacted Thomas A. Jones, his foster brother and a Confederate agent in charge of spy operations in the southern Maryland area since 1862. By order of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin McMasters Stanton was an American lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of War under the Lincoln Administration during the American Civil War from 1862–1865...

, the War Department advertised a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Booth and his accomplices, and Federal troops were dispatched to search southern Maryland extensively, following tips reported by Federal intelligence agents to Col. Lafayette Baker
Lafayette C. Baker
Lafayette Curry Baker was a United States investigator and spy, serving for the Union Army, during the American Civil War and under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson....

.

While Federal troops combed the rural area's woods and swamps for Booth in the days following the assassination, the nation experienced an outpouring of grief
Grief
Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions...

. On April 18, mourners waited seven abreast in a mile-long line outside the White House for the public viewing of the slain president, reposing in his open walnut casket in the black-draped East Room
East Room
The East Room is the largest room in the White House, the home of the president of the United States. It is used for entertaining, press conferences, ceremonies, and occasionally for a large dinner...

. A cross of lilies was at the head and roses covered the coffin's lower half. Thousands of mourners arriving on special trains jammed Washington for the next day's funeral, sleeping on hotel floors and even resorting to blankets spread outdoors on the capital's lawn. Prominent abolitionist leader and orator Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

 called the assassination an "unspeakable calamity" for African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s. Great indignation was directed towards Booth as the assassin's identity was telegraphed across the nation. Newspapers called him an "accursed devil", "monster", "madman", and a "wretched fiend". Historian Dorothy Kunhardt
Dorothy Kunhardt
Dorothy Kunhardt was an American children's-book author, best known for the baby book Pat the Bunny. She was also a historian and writer about the life of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln....

 wrote: "Almost every family who kept a photograph album on the parlor table owned a likeness of John Wilkes Booth of the famous Booth family of actors. After the assassination Northerners slid the Booth card out of their albums: some threw it away, some burned it, some crumpled it angrily." Even in the South, sorrow was expressed in some quarters. In Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

, where the mayor and city council addressed a vast throng at an outdoor gathering to express their indignation, many in the crowd wept. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston called Booth's act "a disgrace to the age". Robert E. Lee also expressed regret at Lincoln's death by Booth's hand.

Not all were grief-stricken, however. In New York City, a man was attacked by an enraged crowd when he shouted, "It served Old Abe right!" after hearing the news of Lincoln's death. Elsewhere in the South, Lincoln was hated in death as in life, and Booth was viewed as a hero as many rejoiced at news of his deed. Other Southerners feared that a vengeful North would exact a terrible retribution upon the defeated former Confederate states. "Instead of being a great Southern hero, his deed was considered the worst possible tragedy that could have befallen the South as well as the North", wrote Kunhardt.

While hiding in the Maryland woods as he waited for an opportunity to cross the Potomac River into Virginia, Booth read the accounts of national mourning reported in the newspapers brought to him by Jones each day. By April 20, he was aware that some of his co-conspirators were already arrested: Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H...

, Powell (or Paine), Arnold, and O'Laughlen. Booth was surprised to find little public sympathy for his action, especially from those anti-Lincoln newspapers that had previously excoriated the President in life. As news of the assassination reached the far corners of the nation, indignation was aroused against Lincoln's critics, whom many blamed for encouraging Booth to act. The San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

editorialized: "Booth has simply carried out what ... secession politicians and journalists have been for years expressing in words ... who have denounced the President as a 'tyrant', a 'despot', a 'usurper', hinted at, and virtually recommended." Booth wrote of his dismay in a journal entry on April 21, as he awaited nightfall before crossing the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

 into Virginia (see map):

That same day, the nine-car funeral train bearing Lincoln's body departed Washington on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which...

, arriving at Baltimore's Camden Station
Camden Station
Camden Station, now also referred to as Camden Yards, is a train station at the intersection of Howard and Camden Streets in Baltimore, Maryland, served by MARC commuter rail service and local Light Rail trains. It is adjacent to Oriole Park at Camden Yards...

 at 10 a.m., the first stop on a 13-day journey to Springfield, Illinois
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield is the third and current capital of the US state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 117,400 , making it the sixth most populated city in the state and the second most populated Illinois city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area...

, its final destination. As the funeral train slowly made its way westward through seven states, stopping en route at Harrisburg
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 49,528, making it the ninth largest city in Pennsylvania...

; Philadelphia; Trenton
Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton is the capital of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913...

; New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

; Albany
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

; Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

; Cincinnati; and Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

 during the following days, 30  million people lined the railroad tracks along the 1662 miles (2,675 km) route, holding aloft signs with legends such as "We mourn our loss", "He lives in the hearts of his people", and "The darkest hour in history".
In the cities where the train stopped, 1.5 million people viewed Lincoln in his coffin. Aboard the train was Clarence Depew, president of the New York Central Railroad
New York Central Railroad
The New York Central Railroad , known simply as the New York Central in its publicity, was a railroad operating in the Northeastern United States...

, who said, "As we sped over the rails at night, the scene was the most pathetic ever witnessed. At every crossroads the glare of innumerable torches illuminated the whole population, kneeling on the ground." Dorothy Kunhardt called the funeral train's journey "the mightiest outpouring of national grief the world had yet seen".

Meanwhile, as mourners were viewing Lincoln's remains when the funeral train steamed into Harrisburg at 8:20 p.m., Booth and Herold were provided with a boat and compass by Jones, to cross the Potomac at night on April 21. Instead of reaching Virginia, however, they mistakenly navigated upriver to a bend in the broad Potomac River, coming ashore again in Maryland on April 22. The 23-year old Herold knew the area well, having frequently hunted there, and recognized a nearby farm as belonging to a Confederate sympathizer. The farmer led them to his son-in-law, Col. John J. Hughes, who provided the fugitives with food and a hideout until nightfall, for a second attempt to row across the river to Virginia. Booth wrote in his diary, "With every man's hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for ... And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat." The pair finally reached the Virginia shore near Machodoc Creek before dawn on April 23. There, they made contact with Thomas Harbin, whom Booth had previously brought into his erstwhile kidnapping plot. Harbin took Booth and Herold to another Confederate agent in the area, William Bryant, who supplied them with horses.

While Lincoln's funeral train was in New York City on April 24, Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty
Edward P. Doherty
Edward Paul Doherty was an American Civil War officer who formed and led the detachment of soldiers that captured and killed John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of United States President Abraham Lincoln, in a Virginia barn on April 26, 1865, twelve days after Lincoln was fatally shot.-Early life and...

 was dispatched from Washington at 2 p.m. with a detachment of 26 Union soldiers from the 16th New York Cavalry Regiment to capture Booth in Virginia. Accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger
Everton Conger
Everton Judson Conger was an American Civil War officer who was instrumental in the capture of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, in a Virginia barn twelve days after Lincoln was shot....

, an intelligence officer
Intelligence officer
An intelligence officer is a person employed by an organization to collect, compile and/or analyze information which is of use to that organization...

 assigned by Lafayette Baker, the detachment steamed 70 miles (113 km) down the Potomac River on a boat, the John S. Ide, landing at Belle Plain, Virginia, at 10 p.m. The pursuers crossed the Rappahannock River
Rappahannock River
The Rappahannock River is a river in eastern Virginia, in the United States, approximately in length. It traverses the entire northern part of the state, from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west, across the Piedmont, to the Chesapeake Bay, south of the Potomac River.An important river in American...

 and tracked Booth and Herold to Richard H. Garrett's farm, just south of Port Royal
Port Royal, Virginia
Port Royal is an incorporated town in Caroline County, Virginia, United States. The population was 170 at the 2000 census.Port Royal was established in the mid-17th century in the Colony of Virginia primary as a port on a navigable portion of the Rappahannock River for export of tobacco, Virginia's...

, Caroline County, Virginia
Caroline County, Virginia
Caroline County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of 2010, the population was 28,545. Its county seat is Bowling Green. Caroline County is also home to The Meadow stables, the birthplace of the renowned racehorse Secretariat, winner of the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and...

. Booth and Herold had been led to the farm on April 24 by William S. Jett, a former private in the 9th Virginia Cavalry
9th Virginia Cavalry
The 9th Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment was a cavalry regiment raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia....

 whom they had met before crossing the Rappahannock. The Garretts were unaware of Lincoln's assassination; Booth was introduced to them as "James W. Boyd", a Confederate soldier who, they were told, had been wounded in the battle of Petersburg
Siege of Petersburg
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War...

 and was returning home.

Garrett's 11-year-old son, Richard, was an eyewitness. In later years, he became a Baptist
Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 minister and widely lectured on the events of Booth's demise at his family's farm. In 1921, Garrett's lecture was published in the Confederate Veteran as the "True Story of the Capture of John Wilkes Booth". According to his account, Booth and Herold arrived at the Garretts' farm, located on the road to Bowling Green, around 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Because Confederate mail delivery had ceased with the collapse of the Confederate government, he explained, the Garretts were unaware of Lincoln's assassination. After having dinner with the Garretts that evening, Booth learned of the surrender of Johnston's army. The last Confederate armed force of any size, its capitulation meant that the Civil War was unquestionably over and Booth's attempt to save the Confederacy by Lincoln's assassination had failed. The Garretts also finally learned of Lincoln's death and the substantial reward for Booth's capture. Booth, said Garrett, displayed no reaction, other than to ask if the family would turn in the fugitive should they have the opportunity. Still not aware of their guest's true identity, one of the older Garrett sons averred that they might, if only because they needed the money. The next day, Booth told the Garretts he intended to reach Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, drawing a route on a map of theirs. However, biographer Theodore Roscoe
Theodore Roscoe
Theodore Roscoe was an American biographer and writer of adventure, fantasy novels and stories. Roscoe's stories appeared in pulp magazines including Argosy, Wings, Flying Stories, Far East Adventure Stories, Fight Stories, Action Stories and Adventure. A collection of his stories, The Wonderful...

 said of Garrett's account, "Almost nothing written or testified in respect to the doings of the fugitives at Garrett's farm can be taken at face value. Nobody knows exactly what Booth said to the Garretts, or they to him".

Death


Conger tracked down Jett and interrogated him, learning of Booth's location at the Garrett farm. Before dawn on April 26, the soldiers caught up with the fugitives, who were hiding in Garrett's tobacco barn
Tobacco barn
The tobacco barn, a type of functionally classified barn found in the United States, was once an essential ingredient in the process of air-curing tobacco. In the 21st century they are fast disappearing from the American landscape in places where they were once ubiquitous. The barns have declined...

. David Herold surrendered, but Booth refused Conger's demand to surrender, saying "I prefer to come out and fight"; the soldiers then set the barn on fire. As Booth moved about inside the blazing barn, Sergeant Boston Corbett
Boston Corbett
Thomas P. "Boston" Corbett was the Union Army soldier who shot and killed Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He disappeared after 1888, but circumstantial evidence suggests that he died in the Great Hinckley Fire in 1894, although this remains impossible to substantiate.-Early...

 shot him. According to Corbett's later account, he fired at Booth because the fugitive "raised his pistol to shoot" at them. Conger's report to Stanton, however, stated that Corbett shot Booth "without order, pretext or excuse", and recommended that Corbett be punished for disobeying orders to take Booth alive. Booth, fatally wounded in the neck, was dragged from the barn to the porch of Garrett's farmhouse, where he died three hours later, aged 26. The bullet had pierced three vertebrae and partially severed his spinal cord
Spinal cord
The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that extends from the brain . The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system...

, paralyzing
Paralysis
Paralysis is loss of muscle function for one or more muscles. Paralysis can be accompanied by a loss of feeling in the affected area if there is sensory damage as well as motor. A study conducted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, suggests that about 1 in 50 people have been diagnosed...

 him. In his dying moments, he reportedly whispered, "Tell my mother I died for my country". Asking that his hands be raised to his face so he could see them, Booth uttered his last words, "Useless, useless," and died as dawn was breaking. In Booth's pockets were found a compass, a candle, pictures of five women (actresses Alice Grey, Helen Western, Effie Germon
Effie Germon
Effie Germon was an American stage actress of the late 19th century from Augusta, Georgia. She excelled as a soubrette. She was the daughter of actors Greene C. Germon and Jane Andrews. Her father was the original impersonator of Uncle Tom at the Chatham Theatre...

, Fannie Brown, and Booth's fiancée Lucy Hale), and his diary, where he had written of Lincoln's death, "Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment."

Shortly after Booth's death, his brother Edwin wrote to his sister Asia, "Think no more of him as your brother; he is dead to us now, as he soon must be to all the world, but imagine the boy you loved to be in that better part of his spirit, in another world." Asia also had in her possession a sealed letter Booth had given her in January 1865 for safekeeping, only to be opened upon his death. In the letter, Booth had written: Booth's letter, seized along with other family papers at Asia's house by Federal troops and published by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

while the manhunt was underway, explained his reasons for plotting against Lincoln. In it he said, "I have ever held the South was right. The very nomination of Abraham Lincoln, four years ago, spoke plainly war upon Southern rights and institutions." The institution of "Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n slavery", he had written, "is one of the greatest blessings that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation" and Lincoln's policy was one of "total annihilation".

Controversy


A theory has persisted that the man killed at the Garrett farm was not Booth and that Booth escaped and lived under an assumed name for many years after. In December 2010, descendants of Edwin Booth
Edwin Booth
Edwin Thomas Booth was a famous 19th century American actor who toured throughout America and the major capitals of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays. In 1869 he founded Booth's Theatre in New York, a spectacular theatre that was quite modern for its time...

 reported that they obtained permission to exhume the Shakespearean actor's body to obtain DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 samples. However, Bree Harvey, a spokesperson from the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Edwin Booth is buried, refuted reports that the family had contacted them and requested to exhume Edwin's body. The family hopes to obtain DNA samples from artifacts belonging to John Wilkes such as vertebrae stored at the National Museum of Health and Medicine
National Museum of Health and Medicine
The National Museum of Health and Medicine is a museum in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., USA. An element of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the NMHM is a member of the National Health Sciences Consortium....

 in Maryland.

Aftermath



Booth's body was shrouded in a blanket and tied to the side of an old farm wagon for the trip back to Belle Plain. There, his corpse was taken aboard the ironclad USS Montauk
USS Montauk (1862)
The first USS Montauk was a single-turreted monitor in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.It saw action throughout the war and was used as the floating prison for the conspirators in the Abraham Lincoln assassination and was the site of the autopsy and identification of assassin...

 and brought to the Washington Navy Yard
Washington Navy Yard
The Washington Navy Yard is the former shipyard and ordnance plant of the United States Navy in Southeast Washington, D.C. It is the oldest shore establishment of the U.S. Navy...

 for identification and an autopsy
Autopsy
An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy , autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present...

. The body was identified there as Booth's by more than ten people who knew him. Among the identifying features used to make sure that the man that was killed was Booth was a tattoo on his left hand with his initials J.W.B., and a distinct scar on the back of his neck.
The third, fourth, and fifth vertebrae were removed during the autopsy to allow access to the bullet. These bones are still on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine
National Museum of Health and Medicine
The National Museum of Health and Medicine is a museum in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., USA. An element of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the NMHM is a member of the National Health Sciences Consortium....

 in Washington, D.C. The body was then buried in a storage room at the Old Penitentiary, later moved to a warehouse at the Washington Arsenal on October 1, 1867. In 1869, the remains were once again identified before being released to the Booth family, where they were buried in the family plot at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, after a burial ceremony conducted by Fleming James, minister of Christ Episcopal Church, in the presence of more than 40 people. By then, wrote scholar Russell Conwell
Russell Conwell
Russell Herman Conwell was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer. He is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Pastor of The Baptist Temple, and for his inspirational lecture Acres of Diamonds...

 after visiting homes in the vanquished former Confederate states, hatred of Lincoln still smoldered and "Photographs of Wilkes Booth, with the last words of great martyrs printed upon its borders ... adorn their drawing rooms".

Eight others implicated in Lincoln's assassination were tried by a military tribunal
Military tribunal
A military tribunal is a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during wartime, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil proceedings. The judges are military officers and fulfill the role of jurors...

 in Washington, D.C., and found guilty on June 30, 1865. Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H...

, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt were hanged in the Old Arsenal Penitentiary
Fort Lesley J. McNair
Fort Lesley J. McNair is a United States Army post located on the tip of a peninsula that lies at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. To its west is the Washington Channel, while the Anacostia River is on its south side...

 on July 7, 1865. Samuel Mudd
Samuel Mudd
Samuel Alexander Mudd I, M.D. was an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869...

, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O'Laughlen were sentenced to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson
Fort Jefferson, Florida
Fort Jefferson is an unincorporated community and ghost town in Monroe County, Florida, United States. It is located on Garden Key in the lower Florida Keys within the Dry Tortugas National Park, about west of the island of Key West....

 in Florida's Dry Tortugas
Dry Tortugas
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located at the end of the Florida Keys, USA, about west of Key West, and west of the Marquesas Keys, the closest islands. Still further west is the Tortugas Bank, which is completely submerged. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the...

; Edmund Spangler was given a six-year term in prison. O' Laughlen died in a yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 epidemic there in 1867. The others were eventually pardoned in February 1869 by President Andrew Johnson.

Forty years later, when the centenary of Lincoln's birth was celebrated in 1909, a border state official reflected on Booth's assassination of Lincoln, "Confederate veterans held public services and gave public expression to the sentiment, that 'had Lincoln lived' the days of reconstruction might have been softened and the era of good feeling ushered in earlier". A century later, Goodrich concluded in 2005, "For millions of people, particularly in the South, it would be decades before the impact of the Lincoln assassination began to release its terrible hold on their lives".
The majority of Northerners viewed Booth as a madman or monster who murdered the savior of the Union, while in the South, many cursed Booth for bringing upon them the harsh revenge of an incensed North instead of the reconciliation promised by Lincoln.

Theories of Booth's escape



In 1907, Finis L. Bates
Finis L. Bates
Finis Langdon Bates was a Memphis, Tennessee, lawyer and author of The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth . In this 309-page book, Bates claimed that John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, not only was not mortally wounded by Union Army Sergeant Thomas P...

 wrote Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth, contending that a Booth look-alike was mistakenly killed at the Garrett farm while Booth eluded his pursuers. Booth, said Bates, assumed the pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 "John St. Helen" and settled on the Paluxy River
Paluxy River
The Paluxy River is a river in the U.S. state of Texas. It is a tributary of the Brazos River. It is formed by the convergence of the North Paluxy River and the South Paluxy River near Bluff Dale, Texas in Erath County and flows a distance of before joining the Brazos just to the east of Glen...

 near Glen Rose, Texas
Glen Rose, Texas
Glen Rose is a city in Somervell County, Texas, United States. It is the county seat of Somervell County. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 2,444. Glen Rose is part of the Granbury micropolitan area.-19th century:...

, and later moved to Granbury, Texas
Granbury, Texas
Granbury is a city in Hood County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 5,718. It is the county seat of Hood County and the principal city of the Micropolitan Statistical Area....

. After falling gravely ill and making a deathbed confession that he was the fugitive assassin, he recovered and fled, eventually committing suicide in 1903 in Enid, Oklahoma
Enid, Oklahoma
Enid is a city in Garfield County, Oklahoma, United States. In 2010, the population was 49,379, making it the ninth largest city in Oklahoma. It is the county seat of Garfield County. Enid was founded during the opening of the Cherokee Outlet in the Land Run of 1893, and is named after Enid, a...

, under the alias "David E. George". By 1913, more than 70,000 copies of the book had been sold, and Bates exhibited St. Helen's mummified body in carnival sideshows.
In response, the Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society
The Maryland Historical Society , founded in 1844, is the oldest cultural institution in the U.S. state of Maryland. The society "collects, preserves, and interprets objects and materials reflecting Maryland's diverse heritage." MdHS has a museum, library, holds educational programs, and publishes...

 published an account in 1913 by then-Baltimore mayor William M. Pegram, who had viewed Booth's remains upon the casket's arrival at the Weaver funeral home in Baltimore on February 18, 1869, for burial at Green Mount Cemetery. Pegram, who had known Booth well as a young man, submitted a sworn statement that the body he had seen in 1869 was Booth's. Others positively identifying this body as Booth at the funeral home included Booth's mother, brother, and sister, along with his dentist and other Baltimore acquaintances. Earlier, The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

had published an account by their reporter in 1911 detailing the burial of Booth's body at the cemetery and those who were witnesses. The rumor periodically revived, as in the 1920s, when a corpse advertised as the "Man Who Shot Lincoln" was exhibited on a national tour by a carnival promoter. According to a 1938 article in the Saturday Evening Post, the exhibitor said he obtained St. Helen's corpse from Bates' widow.

The Lincoln Conspiracy
The Lincoln Conspiracy (book)
The Lincoln Conspiracy is a book by David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. promoting certain conspiracy theories concerning the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.-Cover-up of the plan to kidnap Lincoln:...

, a book published in 1977, contended there was a government plot to conceal Booth's escape, reviving interest in the story and prompting the display of St. Helen's mummified body in Chicago that year. The book sold more than one million copies and was made into a feature film called The Lincoln Conspiracy
The Lincoln Conspiracy (film)
The Lincoln Conspiracy is a 1977 film directed by James L. Conway that dramatizes certain conspiracy theories concerning the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The film, which is based on the 1977 book of the same name by David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier Jr., stars Robert...

, which was theatrically released in 1977. A 1998 book, The Curse of Cain: The Untold Story of John Wilkes Booth, contended that Booth had escaped, sought refuge in Japan and eventually returned to the United States. In 1994 two historians, together with several descendants, sought a court order for the exhumation of Booth's body at Green Mount Cemetery, which was, according to their lawyer, "intended to prove or disprove longstanding theories on Booth's escape" by conducting a photo-superimposition analysis. The application was blocked, however, by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, who cited, among other things, "the unreliability of petitioners' less-than-convincing escape/cover-up theory" as a major factor in his decision. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the ruling. No gravestone marks the precise location where Booth is buried in the family's gravesite. Author Francis Wilson, 11 years old at the time of Lincoln's assassination, wrote an epitaph of Booth in his 1929 book John Wilkes Booth: "In the terrible deed he committed, he was actuated by no thought of monetary gain, but by a self-sacrificing, albeit wholly fanatical devotion to a cause he thought supreme."

See also


  • Ogarita Booth Henderson
    Ogarita Booth Henderson
    Ogarita Booth Henderson was an American actress who was born Ogarita Elizabeth Bellows.Ogarita first appeared on stage in January 1875 at the Globe Theatre in Boston in support of the British comedian J. L. Toole. She was 15 at the time and appeared under the stage name Ogarita Wilkes...

  • Seeley Booth
    Seeley Booth
    FBI Special Agent "In charge" Seeley Joseph Booth is a fictional character in the US television series, Bones , portrayed by David Boreanaz. Agent Booth is a co-protagonist of the series alongside Dr...

     (character of Bones
    Bones (TV series)
    Bones is an American crime drama television series that premiered on the Fox Network on September 13, 2005. The show is based on forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology, with each episode focusing on an FBI case file concerning the mystery behind human remains brought by FBI Special Agent...

    , relative to John Wilkes in fiction)

External links