Booth assassinates President Lincoln

Booth and his helpers decided to put their plan into effect on April 14. That night, the president and his wife attended a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington called Our American Cousin. The Lincolns were joined in their fine balcony seats by Major Henry R. Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris. Midway through the play, Booth slipped into the rear of the president's box in the theater. He then withdrew a one-shot pistol called a derringer from his jacket and shot Lincoln in the back of the head.

Major Rathbone leaped to his feet to stop the assassin, but Booth slashed the officer with a knife. He then jumped out of the balcony and landed on the stage below. Although he broke his leg in the fall, he still managed to get to his feet. Booth shouted "Sic semper tyrannis" (a Latin phrase meaning "Thus

A poster offers a reward for the capture of John Wilkes Booth. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

A wood engraving shows the capture and death of John Wilkes Booth in a burning Virginia barn. (Courtesy of Corbis Corporation.)

always to tyrants") to the stunned audience, limped off the stage to the rear of the theater, and escaped on a waiting horse.

In the meantime, doctors in the audience rushed to Lincoln's aid. They carried him to a boarding house across the street from the theater, but found that they could do nothing to help him. The president died early the next morning. Most of the rest of Booth's plan collapsed, and the attacks on Johnson and Grant never took place. But one of his accomplices attacked Secretary Seward in his bedroom at the same time that Booth was attacking Lincoln. Seward suffered numerous knife wounds, but managed to hold off his attacker until the man fled into the night. He eventually recovered from his injuries.

A wood engraving shows the capture and death of John Wilkes Booth in a burning Virginia barn. (Courtesy of Corbis Corporation.)

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