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The Assassination of President Lincoln

Lincoln received many assassination threats during his presidency. He brushed them off, saying he could take care of himself. On the evening of Friday, April 14, 1865, he and his wife Mary attended Ford's Theatre to see a production of the musical comedy, Our American Cousin. While they sat in the balcony, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at point blank range with a .44-caliber single-shot muzzle-loading derringer. Booth was a well-known actor and Southern sympathizer who had once acted for Lincoln. Booth was heard to shout: "Sic semper tyrannis," which is Latin for "Thus always to tyrants." This was Virginia's state motto. Leaping 12 feet to the stage floor in his attempt to escape, he broke his leg. In all the confusion, and despite his injury, he escaped through the rear door of the theatre. The President was cared for by army surgeon Dr. Charles Leale, but he died the next morning at 7:22 a.m. Viewing of the President's remains took place on April 18 and 19. On the 20th, Lincoln's body made the 1,700 mile journey back to Illinois where he was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

President Lincoln's murder was part of a plot devised by Booth and other Confederate sympathizers. The original plan called for Booth to shoot Lincoln, for a man named Paine to kill Secretary of State Seward and for another conspirator named Atzerodt to murder Vice President Johnson. They were hoping to take down the whole government at once.

The hunt for the conspirators led to the arrest of hundreds of people, most of whom were released. Booth was shot as he hid in a barn. Others were hanged or imprisoned.

With the death of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became the 17th President of the United States and the man to lead the United States into Reconstruction. Johnson was committed to restoration of the Union but did not feel as strongly as Lincoln about guaranteeing former slaves their rights. He repeatedly conflicted with Congress, which led to his impeachment and near removal from office.

For more about the assassination of President Lincoln, see Document 82.

Suggested Web site: John Wilkes Booth Escape Route (

Citation - Document 81
Currier & Ives, lith.
"The assassination of President Lincoln:
at Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C., April 14th, 1865."
Library of Congress, America's Story, reproduction no.LC USZ62-2073 DLC

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