Abraham Lincoln Assassinated

Friday, April 14, 1865 to Saturday, April 15, 1865

Portrait of John Wilkes Booth fleeing the scene of President Lincoln's assassination. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Just five days after General Robert E. Lee's surrender to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor, while watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Booth and his co-conspirators hope that the assassinations of Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Vice President Andrew Johnson would leave the Union government in chaos and leave time for the Confederacy to recover. The separate attempts against Seward and Johnson fail, but Booth enters the presidential box, shoots Lincoln in the back of the head, scuffles with Lincoln's guest in the presidential box, and jumps awkwardly to the stage below, breaking his left leg in the process. Booth raises his knife in the air, cries out "sic semper tyrannies," meaning "thus always to tyrants," and flees. At 7:22 a.m. the next morning, Lincoln dies in a bed at the Peterson House across the street from the theater. On April 26, 1865, John Wilkes Booth is killed by a Union soldier, and on July 7, 1865, four persons convicted of conspiring with Booth are hanged, including, controversially, Mary Surratt, the owner of the boarding house where Booth stayed and plotted the assassination.

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