John Wilkes Booth Abraham Lincoln's Assassin Part 2

About the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, history and biography of the assassin 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.

With several accomplices recruited from among his smuggling cohorts, Booth bungled three attempts to kidnap Lincoln early in 1865, according to Balsiger and Sellier. His failure prompted the Northern speculators and the radical Republicans to fire him and replace him with another Southern sympathizer, Capt. James William Boyd, a captured Confederate spy who was released from prison to do the job.

During the days following Appomattox, Booth grew desperate. The war was lost, and the knew that if he did not act quickly, Captain Boyd would reach the President before him. It was apparently at this point that the assassination plot began to take root in his mind.

After the assassination, Union troops and secret service agents hunted Booth. In the predawn hours of Apr. 26, a man presumed to be the assassin was found hiding in a tobacco-curing barn near Port Royal, Va. Moments after the barn was set afire, a shot was heard. At the Lincoln conspiracy trial, Sgt. Boston Corbett testified that he had fired the fatal shot.

The man-shot in the neck and paralyzed-was pulled out of the barn before the fire reached him. He died five hours later. The body was brought to Washington, identified as Booth, and secretly buried in an old prison. Four years later it was returned to Booth's relatives, who also identified it and then arranged for burial in the family plot in Baltimore.

Despite the positive identification, there has always been speculation that the man who was captured and shot was not Booth. Some historians have traced Booth-after he "died"-to England or India. In 1900 a California man claimed on his deathbed to be John Wilkes Booth. Instead of burying him, the mortician carefully preserved the body, which today is part of a private collection. According to balsiger and Sellier, newly found evidence shows that the man killed at Port Royal was actually Captain Boyd, who bore a striking resemblance to the actor. The mistake was subsequently covered up, while the real Booth hid for several months on his small farm in Harpers Ferry. Later he traveled to Pennsylvania, Canada, and England.

The assassinated President was interred in Springfield, Ill., after a funeral train took him from city to city in the most memorable outpouring of universal grief in America up to that time.

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