Assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln Part 2

About the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, history of the murder at Ford's theater by John Wilkes Booth.


The Victim: ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 16th president of the U. S., who led the Union to victory in the Civil War after freeing the slaves.

Assassin John Wilkes Booth planned to kill the President that night as he attended Ford's Theater. His accomplice Lewis Paine was to murder Secretary of State William Seward as he lay in his sickbed. George Atzerodt would do in Vice-President Andrew Johnson. Lincoln and Seward were to be killed about the same time, shortly after 10:00 P.M. Booth was to delay his assault until late in the third act, when a particularly outrageous bit of comedy usually brought a big laugh-a laugh loud enough to cover the sound of a pistol shot.

As the moment approached; Booth managed to get by Lincoln's coachman by claiming he was an official messenger. Once inside the vestibule, Booth blocked the creaky entrance door with a long bar he had provided for the occasion. He opened the second door, located directly behind Lincoln, took careful aim with a small muzzle-loading derringer, and fired a lead ball into the back of the President's head just behind the left ear.

Major Rathbone threw himself upon the assassin, and Booth pulled a large knife, which he plunged into the soldier's arm. Booth then climbed up on the railing in front of Lincoln's box and jumped the 12 ft. straight down onto the stage. A spur in his boot caught in one of the decorative flags, and he landed at such an odd angle that his weight snapped his left shinbone. Nevertheless, he managed to hobble rapidly across the stage and out a back door, where he mounted a fast horse and rode off into the night. At some point in this, his last and most memorable performance, he shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis!" ("Thus be it ever to tyrants!").

Meanwhile, Paine had attacked Seward in the sick man's home across town. Although the secretary received several deep knife wounds in the face and neck, these did not prove fatal. Paine was able to escape temporarily. Atzerodt decided not to kill Vice-President Johnson; he got drunk instead.

Doctors rushed to Lincoln's side and found the President mortally wounded. They carried him from the theater to an unpretentious boardinghouse across the street, where he hovered on the edge of death for nine hours. Mary Lincoln became hysterical, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who was now in effect in charge of the government, ordered her out of the room. The President died at 7:22 A.M. on Apr. 15, 1865. "Now he belongs to the ages," said Stanton.

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