Good Friday, April 14th 1865 at 10pm President Abraham Lincoln was attending “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s theatre, with his wife and two guests, but no bodyguard. Lincoln was shot in the back of the head at point blank range by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died the next day, after never waking from the coma.
However, this wasn’t the initial plot. Originally Lincoln was to be kidnapped when he was attending a play named “still waters run deep” at Campbell Military Hospital. Booth had planned to kidnap Lincoln, hold him hostage to force the government to use their earlier policy of exchanging prisoners. He had got together a group of conspirators to assist him, who gathered in a restaurant near town in order to ambush the presidents ride home from the hospital. However, Lincoln had instead organised to attend a ceremony at the National Hotel that night. Booth’s plan was postponed, but after he attended a speech by President Lincoln outside the white house, Booth became furious at the prospect of Lincoln giving support for voting rights for black people. At this point, Booth changed his plan from a kidnap and hostage, to assassination; but not just of President Lincoln, but his Vice President and Secretary of State at the same time.
When Booth heard of Lincoln attending Ford’s theatre, he assembled his group of conspirators. Booth knew the Ford’s theatre well, and upon arriving at the backdoor at 9pm, he handed his horse to Joseph Burrows, also known as peanuts. Booth made his way into the theatre and into the hallway between Lincoln’s box and the Balcony, barricading the door behind him. As Booth knew the play he waited for the right moment, which he hoped the laughter would muffle the gun shot.
Mrs Lincoln whispered to Abraham “What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?” as Abraham Lincoln replied “She won’t think anything about it.” – Lincolns last words.
Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head, causing him to slump over his chair unconscious, as Booth attempted to escape; Major Rathbone tried to stop him, but was violently stabbed with Booth’s knife. As Booth vaulted over the rail, his riding spur caught on a decorative flag, causing Booth to fall face first into the audience, breaking his left foot. He then shouted “Sic semper tyrannis” which stands for “Thus always to tyrants” before charging out the door, onto his horse before he galloped off to the Navy Yard Bridge to meet his conspirators.
Lincoln had no pulse, but once Charles Leale, an army surgeon got to him, and removed a blood clot, his breathing improved. Lincoln was in a deep coma, and was moved across the street, however not much could be done to save him. The next day, at 7:22 am Lincoln was pronounced dead.