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John Wilkes Booth (American National Biography)

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Stephen M. Archer, "Booth, John Wilkes," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-01210.html.

The kidnapping plot evaporated when the city of Richmond fell and the war ended. Five days later, on 14 April 1865, Booth learned that President Lincoln planned to attend Our American Cousin (starring Laura Keene) at Ford's Theatre. Working quickly, Booth assigned [George] Atzerodt to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson and [Lewis] Payne to kill Secretary of State William Seward while Booth himself murdered Lincoln. Atzerodt lost his nerve and made no attempt on Johnson, but Payne, a young giant, wounded Seward severely, as well as several others who tried to defend him.

Booth meanwhile had entered Ford's Theatre at about ten o'clock, moving across the rear of the balcony to the president's box. Waiting for the audience's laughter to cover the report of his derringer, Booth entered the box and fired a single .44-calibre bullet at point-blank range into the back of Lincoln's head. He shouted "Sic semper tyrannis! The South is avenged!" according to some, slashing with a dagger at Major Henry Rathbone, who tried to restrain him. Booth then leaped the twelve feet from the presidential box onto the stage, breaking his left leg. He escaped from the theater to a waiting horse, and, accompanied by [David] Herold, fled Washington. They stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd in Bryantown, Maryland, to have Booth's leg set, then hid in neighboring woods for six days while federal troops vainly searched for them.

How to Cite This Page: "John Wilkes Booth (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19571.