John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth was the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. (By Executive Order Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, which changed the federal legal status of more than 3 million enslaved people). Booth was a Confederate sympathizer during the Civil War and resented Lincoln freeing slaves ~ he vehemently denounced Lincoln, Republicans, and the anti-slavery movement. At the time, most Republicans were anti-slavery and most Democrats were pro-slavery or believed enslaved people were a type of Constitutionally protected private property. Booth had tried to stop the success of the anti-slavery human rights movement by assassinating Lincoln.

Booth's motives

Booth supported the Confederacy in the American Civil War and hoped killing Abraham Lincoln would prevent freed slaves getting the right to vote and civil liberties. Booth had failed in an attempt to kidnap Lincoln. Booth hoped to be considered a hero and during a 12-day manhunt, he was actually surprised that he was not. He planned to kill Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre and also assigned his fellow henchmen, Lewis Powell/Paine and George Atzerodt, to kill Secretary of State William Seward at his mansion and Vice President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood Hotel. The three attacks were planned to take place at roughly the same time during the play’s funniest lines; just 15 minutes after 10 o’clock.

The story

After spending time at the saloon during intermission (the Star Saloon was next-door and connected to the theater, which also belonged to the Fords), Booth re-entered the theater and made his way to the presidential box at Ford’s Theater at exactly 10 minutes after 10 pm. At the same time Booth made his way to the president's box, two of the three murders failed from the start; George Atzerodt decided to get drunk instead of killing Vice-President Johnson at the Kirkowood Hotel while Lewis Powell invaded Secretary of State Seward’s mansion and attacked the injured Seward, his two sons, a male nurse, and a State Department clerk. All five victims survived Powell’s savage attack, though Seward was seriously disfigured for life. Had Booth and Atzerodt (who targetted Vice-President Johnson at the Kirkwood Hotel) succeeded in killing both Lincoln and Johnson, the conservative-leaning Republican Senator and President Pro-tem, Lafayette Foster would have become acting President.

Back at Ford’s Theater, Booth had already entered the box and waited for Actor Harry Hawk's funniest lines during Our American Cousin. As predicted, the time came, and at 10:15 pm, Booth crept behind Lincoln and shot him in the back of his head. After stabbing one of Lincoln’s substitute guests, Major Henry Rathbone, Booth leaped to the stage where he proclaimed the state motto of Virginia and escaped through the backstage, where he got onto his horse he placed there a half hour early and escaped Washington, using the Navy Yard Bridge at 10:45 pm. After examination by Doctor Charles Leale, Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House where he died the next morning at 7:22 am on April 15, 1865 without regaining consciousness. Meanwhile, Booth's broken leg was treated by Dr. Samuel Mudd, just 3 hours and 22 minutes before Lincoln’s death. Two weeks later, Booth hid in a tobacco barn with another one of his henchmen called David Herold, who left Powell behind at the Seward House after hearing many screaming in the house. When Union troops cornered them, Harold surrendered, but Booth remained in the barn. Then, one of the detectives went around the back corner set fire to the barn in order to flush Booth out. [1] Despite orders to take him alive, Booth was assassinated by Boston Corbett, a religious fanatic who said God told him to kill the assassin. Booth died on April 26, 1865, twelve days after he had killed the president at Ford's Theater.

Within two months, eight conspirators were put on a military tribunal, and found guilty as they faced retribution. Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Mary Surratt were hanged on July 7, 1865. As for the others, Michael O’Laughlin, Ned Spangler (an employee of Ford’s Theater), Samual Arnold, and Dr. Mudd were sentenced to be transferred to Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas, Florida.

Many people who had known Booth identified the body as Booth's, but later a rumor arose that the man shot wasn't Booth, see below.

In the book, The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth, Finis L Bates wrote that a man named John St Helen confessed " The name is not John St Helen it's really John Wilkes Booth, Assassin of President Lincoln, [2] son of Junius Brutus Booth, who was named after Marcus Junius Brutus, the Assassin of Julius Caesar, dictator of Rome. Whether this story should be taken seriously is controversial. If Booth escaped a great many people who identified the body of the man shot in the barn Lied. [3]


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