Lincoln - 5 Assassination Facts
long ago made up my mind that if anybody wants to kill me,
he will do it. If I wore a shirt of mail and kept myself
surrounded by a bodyguard, it would be all the same. There
are a thousand ways of getting at a man if it is desirable
that he should be killed. Besides, in this case, it seems
to me, the man who would come after me would be just as
objectionable to my enemies -- if I have any."
Abraham Lincoln to journalist Noah Brooks in 1863.
Abe Lincoln once saw John Wilkes Booth in a play
Lithograph depicting Abraham
Lincoln's assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, being goaded
by a Mephistophelian figure to shoot the unsuspecting president,
who is visible in a theater box beyond. John
L. Magee/Library of Congress
not only saw John Wilkes Booth perform in a play but he
saw him at Ford's Theatre, which would become "the scene
of Booth's final act," says Harold Holzer, author of the
new book, "President
a few days before delivering the Gettysburg Address in
1863, Lincoln went to the theater to see a play called
"The Marble Heart" - a translated French production in
which Booth played the villain.
the play, according to Holzer, Booth would direct many
of his villainous speeches directly toward the presidential
box, prompting a theater companion to tell Lincoln: "He
almost seems to be reciting these lines to you."
is said to have replied: "He does talk very sharp at me,
Booth may have come close to killing Lincoln six weeks
A scene in front of the Capitol
during Lincoln's second inauguration, 1865, just six weeks
before his assassination. AP
weeks before he successfully killed Lincoln, John Wilkes
Booth displayed how easy it was to get to the president.
Inauguration Day, March 5, 1865, Booth positioned himself
behind stanchions in the Capitol Rotunda. He lay in wait
as Lincoln came out of the Senate chamber to head out
to the portico to deliver his second inaugural address.
lunged beyond the stanchions with a crazed look in his
eyes, according to the person who stopped him. Holzer
says that was a moment when Booth may have shot Lincoln
at close range. While he didn't pull the trigger, he didn't
leave the venue. Photographs of the inauguration show
Booth lurking in an upper balcony watching Lincoln give
one of his most renowned speeches.
was on his mind for quite a few weeks," Holzer said.
Booth vowed Lincoln's speech on April 11, 1865 would be
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
is seen in a stereo photo card from the archives of the
Library of Congress taken by U.S. government photographer
Lewis Emory Walker in Washington February, 1865. REUTERS/Library
of Congress/Anthony Berger
April 11, 1865, the president delivered a speech on Reconstruction
from a White House window. In the speech, Lincoln declared
that the time had come to give voting rights to African-Americans,
becoming the first president in American history to make
such a proposition.
the White House lawn listening to the speech was Booth
and one of his co-conspirators. According to one witness,
Holzer says, Booth bristled at Lincoln's words, declaring
that the president's message "means negro equality."
then turned to his comrade and said: "That's the last
speech he'll ever make."
made good on his word just three nights later.
Booth also wanted to kill Ulysses S. Grant on April, 14
This is an undated photo of
a sketch of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. AP
advertisements for "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater
on Good Friday in 1865 promised that President Lincoln
and the First Lady would be accompanied by General Ulysses
S. Grant and his wife. The announcement was welcome news
believed he could kill both of them," Holzer says. "His
plan was to dismember the Union government."
Booth's grandiose plans were foiled by tension between
the spouses of the Civil War hero and commander in chief.
Gen. Grant's wife, Julia, despised Mary Todd Lincoln and
dreaded the prospect of spending the evening with the
first lady. Accordingly, the Grants declined the invitation,
saying they had planned to visit their children in New
Julia Grant and Mary Lincoln been on better terms, the
tragedy at Ford's Theater likely would have unfolded very
differently. Grant would have either become one of Booth's
victims or he would have stopped the assassination, Holzer
said. Grant was confident that the latter would have happened.
was something he regretted for the rest of his life,"
Most of the blood relics from Ford's Theatre are not Lincoln's
A copy of a hand coloured 1870
lithographic print by Gibson & Co. provided by the U.S.
Library of Congress shows John Wilkes Booth shooting U.S.
President Abraham Lincoln as he sits in the presidential
box at Ford's Theatre in Washington April 14, 1865. Major
Henry Rathbone rushes to try to stop Booth as Rathbone's
fiancee Clara Harris (L) and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln
(2nd L) look on. REUTERS/Gibson
& Co./U.S. Library of Congress
blood was shed at Ford's Theatre on the night of April
14, 1865, but according to Holzer, very little of it belonged
to Abraham Lincoln.
had a compressed wound in his head and doctors had to
stick their fingers in the wound so that he could breathe
again. The wound was certainly fatal, doctors said, but
there was very little blood. According to Holzer, much
of what little blood Lincoln did shed ended up on the
dress of Laura Keene, the actress who rushed up from the
stage and was said to have cradled the president's head
on her lap before doctors arrived.
man closest to Lincoln when he was mortally wounded, Major
Henry Rathbone, would also be attacked by Booth. Rathbone,
a military officer who was accompanying the daughter of
a senator at the theater, tried to stop the assassin from
escaping the presidential box. Instead, Booth slashed
Rathbone in the arm with a Bowie knife, opening an artery.
bled all over the place," Holzer said. "It was spurting
and nobody was paying attention to him because the president
was lying on the floor of the box."