On This Day

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln is shot in the Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. by John Wilkes Booth
Lincoln is shot in the Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. by John Wilkes Booth

Historical Context

US President Abraham Lincoln was the first of four presidents to be assassinated. The other three were James Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901) and John F. Kennedy (1963). His death came in the closing days of the American Civil War.

His assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was an outspoken Confederate supporter, and planned originally to kidnap Lincoln. Booth, an actor, had been seen in a play by Lincoln at Ford's Theatre (where the shooting took place) in 1863, and Booth had attended Lincoln's second inauguration a month before the killing.

Lincoln, his wife (Mary Todd Lincoln) and other guests were at the theatre to see the play Our American Cousin. Booth had visited in the afternoon to pick up his mail, only learning then that Lincoln was due to attend that evening. Since he knew the layout and staff from his time as an actor, it was the perfect opportunity to strike.

Booth shot Lincoln in the head as he sat in the president's box. He then jumped to the ground, breaking his leg. When he ran on stage, many in the audience thought he was an actor in the play, before he yelled something to the audience - traditionally believed to be 'Sic semper tyrannis!' meaning 'thus always to tyrants!', but there is some dispute over his exact words.

Lincoln died at 7:22am the next day in the nearby house of a tailor, as a carriage ride to the White House was considered too dangerous. All his physicians agreed the wound was mortal and that he could not survive.

Booth and his co-conspirators (who had failed to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson) fled. All were eventually captured - except Booth, who was killed by a soldier at a standoff at his hiding place in Virginia.

The assassination did not change the outcome of the Civil War. The Confederacy had already mostly surrendered militarily; Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson declared the war virtually over just under a month later on May 9, 1865.

Drawing Info

Artist: Gibson & Co.
Location drawn: Washington D.C., USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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