Abraham Lincoln was the United State’s 16th President and he has a legacy that has endured through generations with numerous Americans still continuing to view his life and work in a positive light. The late President rose from humble beginnings to become in turn a manual laborer, a shopkeeper, a student of law, a lawyer, and a politician. This was his path to wielding the power of the highest office in the land and performing two major great acts: saving the union and emancipating slaves.
He was eloquent having sharpened his skills of interaction and socializing from his days as a shopkeeper and he plowed all that eloquence into his leadership, giving such great speeches as the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln’s incredible impact was however cut short before the world could see his full potential as he was killed in a successful assassination attempt.
Who Killed Abraham Lincoln?
Abraham Lincoln was killed by a man known as John Wilkes Booth who was a well-known actor as well as he was a well-known Confederate sympathizer. Booth had been a member of the rather prominent 19th-century Booth theatrical family. He also held his identity as a Confederate sympathizer close to his heart, vehemently rejecting Abraham Lincoln and his policies and being very opposed to the abolition of slavery.
Booth was the ninth out of ten children and was named after a distant relative who was a radical politician. He was a very popular kid when he was young and his athleticism saw him excelling at horsemanship and fencing. He went to the Bel Air Academy and then the Milton Boarding School for Boys located in Sparks, Maryland after which he went to an Episcopal military academy in Catonsville, Maryland called St. Timothy’s Hall. While still at Milton, Booth had met a fortune teller who upon reading his palm proclaimed that he had a grim destiny that would see him meeting a bad end after living a grand but short life. He quit school at 14 years old after his father died. He became interested in theatre and politics at the age of 16 and would pursue both passions determinedly.
On the 12th of April 1865, Booth told a man named Louis J. Weichmann that he was done with the stage and was interested in presenting only one more play – Venice Preserv’d, which was about an assassination plot. This had been after he heard the news that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House. He had been in the crowd the previous day when Abraham Lincoln had given an impromptu speech where he had stated his inclination to grant suffrage to the former slaves. Booth had declared that it would be the President’s last speech.
On April 14, 1865, Booth got information that the Lincolns would be attending a play at Ford’s Theatre that night. He began to make his plans to assassinate the President, drawing three other Confederate sympathizers into it to assassinate the Secretary of State and Vice President and the last to assist their escape into Virginia.
How Did Abraham Lincoln Die?
Being a well-known actor, Booth had free access to all the parts of the Ford Theater. Taking advantage of this access, he first bore a hole into the Presidential box which he used to spy on his intended victim and the other occupants of the box. By 10 pm on April 14, 1865, Booth slipped into the box as the play progressed and shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head with a .41 calibre Deringer.
A startled Major Henry Rathbone who was also in the presidential box had made a move for Booth and was stabbed for his effort. Mary Todd Lincoln and Rathbone’s fiancée Clara Harris were also in the box but were unhurt after the dramatic events. Following the assassination, Booth jumped onto the stage where he raised the knife in his hand and shouted the Latin words “Sic Semper tyrannis” which translate to “Thus always to tyrants,” words which were said to have been uttered by Brutus at Caesar’s assassination and which were also the Virginia state motto.
Abraham Lincoln, meanwhile, was taken to the Petersen House across the street. He would lie there in a coma for nine hours before finally giving up the ghost the next morning. Abraham Lincoln’s body was laid in state at the Capitol, then his funeral train took him to Springfield, Illinois, which became his final resting place. His assassin, Booth, fled on horseback to southern Maryland and after 12 days settled at a farm in rural northern Virginia. He was tracked down and after refusing to give himself up, the barn where he had taken cover was put on fire and he was shot by Union soldier Boston Corbett. In the following weeks and months, eight other conspirators got tried and convicted and four of them were soon hung for their crimes.