Lincoln Assassination Notes
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Lincoln’s Second Inaugural March 4, 1865
• Reopened after fire in August of 1863, Ford’s Theater had a capacity of 1700 people. • Lincoln had been in the audience for 8 plays there including one starring John Wilkes Booth called “The Marble Heart.”
The manager of the theater invited Lincoln to occupy the “State box” that night, and suggested he bring Grant, thus ensuring a sellout on what traditionally is a poor night for show business-Good Friday.
Playbill for “Our American Cousin” for April 14, 1865.
• John Wilkes Booth at 26 was a highly successful actor and was considered the handsomest man on the American stage. • Booth was a ladies man and he made little effort to conceal his ardent sympathies for the South.
Booth meets with Lewis Powell and plots the killing of Secretary of State William Seward. Booth’s gang met several times at the boardinghouse operated by widow, Mary Surratt, in Washington. Her son, John, was a Confederate courier who plotted with Booth to kidnap Lincoln. John Surratt had fled to Canada before the assassination. Booth drops off field glasses for Mary Surratt to deliver with shooting irons. "kept the nest that hatched the egg".
Booth visits the Kirkwood House to discuss plans to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson with his accomplice George Atzerodt.
Atzerodt is out and Booth leaves a mysterious letter for Johnson.
The note said, “I don’t wish to disturb you. Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth.”
• Booth kept a one-eyed horse at this stable on 7th Street in Washington.
• That afternoon, he instructed the owner of the stable, John C. Howard, to place the horse and one other in a shed behind Ford’s Theater.
Booth gives fellow actor John
Mathews a letter for the National Intelligencer newspaper which implicates Booth, Atzerodt, Powell, and Herold. To be delivered the next day.
• Booth goes to Ford’s Theater. Practices his escape route, drills a small hole in the door in the back of the Presidential Box.
"Crook, do you know I believe there are men who want to take my life? And I have no doubt they will do it.....I know no one could do it and escape alive. But if it is to be done, it is impossible to prevent it.“ Abraham Lincoln to bodyguard, William H. Crook, on April 14, 1865
This photograph of Abraham Lincoln was made by Alexander Gardner on April 10, 1865 just four days before the assassination.
7:00 PM • Booth put on black calf-length boots, new spurs, a black frock coat, black pants, and a black slouch hat. • He picked up his diary, a compass, a small derringer, and a long hunting knife. • Booth loaded the .44 caliber derringer with a lead ball. It was a single shot pistol.
8:00 PM • Booth holds one final meeting and emphasizes the 10:15 PM time. Lincoln leaves for the theater.
9:00 P.M. •
Booth arrived at Ford's Theatre in the vicinity of 9:30.
He called Ned Spangler to hold his horse in the alley in back of Ford's. Spangler was busy changing sets for the play and asked another employee, a lad named John C. Burroughs, (John Peanut) to take care of the mare.
Booth went to Star Saloon next to the theater and requested a bottle of whiskey and some water.
Another customer said to Booth, "You'll never be the actor your father was." Booth replied, "When I leave the stage, I will be the most famous man in America.”
• The three persons shown in the Library of Congress photographs were all in the box with Lincoln when he was shot. • Far left is Mrs. Mary Lincoln. In the middle is Miss Clara Harris, 20 fiancée of the man to the far right, Major Henry Rathbone, 28, of the Army. • Rathbone tried to seize Booth after he had shot the President and received a deep knife wound across the arm.
The proprietors of Ford’s Theater took special pains to decorate the Presidential box on the afternoon of April 14.
The box was flanked by two American flags and another large one was draped over the front with an engraving of George Washington.
Normally the Presidential box was two boxes but the partition between them was removed for special occasions.
This library of Congress photograph was taken shortly after the assassination.
John Parker, the president’s bodyguard, left the theater for a drink at the Star Saloon.
When he was shot, Lincoln was sitting in this upholstered walnut rocker brought down from the apartment of Harry Ford, theater treasurer.
.44 caliber, single-shot, muzzle loading derringer Booth used to shoot Lincoln. This is the hunting knife used by Booth to stab Major Henry Rathbone. The knife has a 7 1/8inch blade. The blade is one inch wide.
An artist for Harper’s Weekly depicted the shooting for the April 29 edition. Booth was wearing a slouch hat. He dropped the derringer pistol when Major Rathbone arose to grapple with him. The pistol was found on the floor of the box later.
•Frederick Seward tried to stop Lewis Powell from entering the sickroom of his father, Secretary of State William G. Seward. •Powell tried to shoot young Seward but the revolver failed. He then struck him over the head fracturing his skull! •Seward’s young daughter, Fanny, was in his sickroom when Lewis Powell burst in and attacked him. For the rest of her life, Fanny was to be emotionally unbalanced as a result of this episode.
Fanny & Seward
• George Atzerodt (bottom right) was assigned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson (above right) who lived in the Kirkwood Hotel, but the German’s nerve failed him.
Artist and cartoonist Frank Leslie drew this version of Booth’s escape behind the theater as Joseph Stewart tried to stop him.
Dr. Samuel Mudd dressed the limb of the injured assassin.
Boot with JWilkes; “was a stranger to him.”
The tobacco barn was set on fire.
David Herold surrenders.
Sergeant Boston Corbett fires a shot at Booth through a hole in the wall.
The bullet strikes Booth in the throat.
His last words were: “Useless, useless.”
Booth Shot Lincoln by the Johnsburg 3 John Wilkes Booth came to Washington, An actor great was he, He played at Ford's Theater, And Lincoln went to see. It was in early April, Not many years ago, The people in this fair city All gathered at the show. The war it is all over, The people happy now, Abraham Lincoln rose, Arose to make his bow; The people cheer him wildly, rising to their feet, And Lincoln waving of his hand, He calmly takes his seat.
While he sees the play go on, His thoughts are running deep, His darling wife, close by his side, Has fallen fast asleep. From the box there hangs a flag, It's not the Stars and Bars, It’s the good flag of the Union with its gleaming stripes and stars. John Wilkes Booth moves down the aisle, He had measured once before, He passes Lincoln's bodyguard A-nodding at the door. A dagger in his right hand, A pistol in his left, He shoots poor Lincoln in the head, And he sends his soul to rest.
His wife awakes from slumber, screaming in her rage, Booth jumps over the railing And lands upon the stage. He'll rue the day, rue the hour, God him life shall give, When Booth stood in that center stage, Crying, "Tyrants shall not live!"
The people all excited cried everyone, "A hand!" All the people near, "For God's sake, save that man!" Then Booth jumped off in boots and spurs Across the backstage floor, He mounts that trusty clay bank mare, All saddled at the door. John Wilkes Booth, in his last play, All dressed in broadcloth deep, He gallops down the alleyway, hear those horses feet. Poor Lincoln then was heard to say, breathing his last breath: "Of all the actors in this town, I loved that Booth the best."