Five Facts About John Wilkes Booth, American Assassin


He was not southern

You might think that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Union, but in reality, John Wilkes Booth wasn't even from the South. He was born in Bel Air, Maryland to one of the most famous actors in the world at the time, Julius Brutus Booth. However, he expressed sympathy for their cause. He also wrote to his mother about his desire to join the Confederate army and called himself a coward for not doing so. Political differences actually soured Booth's relationship with his brother, Edwin, who was an ardent Lincoln supporter, both of whom became respected actors themselves.

His original plan was to kidnap Lincoln

With the election of 1864 near and Lincoln a likely winner, an angry Booth decides to kidnap Lincoln during a visit to his summer home and take him to the Potomac, where he plans to capture the president in exchange for Confederate prisoners. Hopefully turning the tide of war. He convinced two of his friends to help him, and everything was set up for March 17, when Lincoln was to take part in a play. However, in a turn of events so bizarre this could only be true, Lincoln skipped the play and instead went to a reception to be held at the National Hotel in Washington, where the hotel booth was.

His assassination plot was very last minute

Booth happened to grab his mail at the Ford Theater on the morning of April 14, when he heard the news that President Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant was taking his wives to see our American cousin at the theater that night. Not wanting to miss this golden opportunity, Booth regrouped with co-conspirators David Harold, Lewis Powell and George Etzerode.

Things Didn't Go According to Plan

Booth planned to shoot and kill both Lincoln and Grant, while Powell arranged for Secretary of State William H. Seward was taken and Atzerod killed Vice President Andrew Johnson, but Atzerod lost his nerve at the last minute and instead got drunk in a bar. Powell attacks Seward, but due to a fight with Seward's son, his gun is missed. Powell had to settle for beating and stabbing Seward lying in bed, but the secretary survived the attack. Meanwhile, Grant's wife decided she didn't want to go to the theater after all, so the future president's life was spared as well. Booth, of course, killed Lincoln with a shot in the back of the head with a .41 caliber Derringer pistol, but was soon attacked by Union Major Henry Rathbone and forced to jump from the balcony to the stage, where He landed so clumsily that he broke his leg. He stabbed another man while approaching his fleeing horse.

He thought he'd cheer for a hero

Booth fled to the Maryland-Virginia border and hid in the swamp, believing that once things were over, he would enter Virginia as a hero. He found a Confederate sympathizer safe home, but was dismayed to see the newspapers calling him a lunatic and a monster. Even prominent federal figures such as Joseph E. Johnston and Robert E. Lee scolded Booth for his shameful and cowardly act. He was eventually replaced on 26 April by Richard H. Garrett, who later claimed he didn't even know Lincoln had been murdered. Booth refused to surrender to police and locked himself inside Garrett's tobacco barn, which was set ablaze by police in an attempt to smoke. Still refusing to leave, he is eventually pulled out of the barn after being shot by a Union Army soldier. It took him three hours to die a painful death, as he was shot in the spine, and the rest of his co-conspirators were eventually captured and hanged.

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