John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was born into the limelight of the nineteenth century; his father, Junius Brutus Booth, Sr., was a famous actor in England. After fleeing to the United States with a new lover to escape his wife and child, he and Mary Ann Holmes landed in Norfolk, Virginia. They settled near Bel Air, Maryland, where they would have ten children. John Wilkes was the ninth, born on May 10, 1838.
Following Abraham Lincoln's election on November 6, 1860, fears that the American Union would disband were growing by the day. Booth, who dearly loved his native South, became inspired by its cause. He wrote:
"...when treason weighs heavy in the scale, it is a time for us to throw off all gentler feelings of our natures and summon resolution, pride, justice, Ay, and revenge to take the place of those nobler passions in the human heart, respect, forgiveness and Brotherly love."
The treason he spoke of was the abolitionist movement. He vehemently believed in slavery as a right naturally ordained by God.
In around 1864, with the Confederate army in despair in the Civil War, Booth and several others began to devise schemes of either kidnapping or assassinating President Lincoln. These conspirators hoped their work would give the Confederacy time to regroup and take back control in the war, while sending the Union into a state of panic and chaos. However, none of the plots came to fruition until April 1865.
Booth maintained his plan of kidnapping the president until late March or early April, 1865, at which time he was set on killing Lincoln. Possibly the South's surrender on April 9 in Appomattox, Virginia sparked this change.
When Booth changed his mind to assassination, he not only had dreams of sending the Union into a state of panic, but now he wanted to utterly dismantle it; he and two others would kill the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state on the same evening, April 14.
Booth assembled his crew--Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt & David Herold--to go over the final plan. Powell was to kill Secretary of State William Seward at his home and Herold would accompany him to lead him to a Maryland rendezvous point. Atzerodt would kill Vice President Andrew Johnson in his room at the Kirkwood Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Booth would kill Lincoln at Ford's Theatre.
Only Booth would succeed in his charge: Powell's attack on Seward was substantial but non-fatal and Atzerodt lost his nerve and simply wandered the streets.
After leaving the president lifeless in the Presidential box of Ford's Theatre, Booth jumped to the stage, breaking a bone in his right leg on impact. He jumped up and shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis!" Virginia's state motto which is Latin for "Thus always to tyrants."
Booth then fled to Maryland to escape and to seek the help of Dr. Samuel Mudd to fix his wounded leg. On April 26, he and Herold are still on the run when they are found in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia by a group of soldiers. Herold gave himself up, but Booth did not. He was shot and killed by Corporal Boston Corbett.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky. After moving to Springfield, Illinois, in the 1830s, he rose to prominence there an attorney. He was married to Mary Todd Lincoln in 1842, and the couple had four sons. He ran for Senator in Illinois in 1858 against Stephen Douglas. Though he lost the election, the campaign propelled him into the national spotlight and the Republican nomination for president in 1860.
Lincoln was chosen as the sixteenth president of the United States in November, 1860. Following his election, Southern states began seceding from the Union, beginning with South Carolina on December 20.
As the Civil War pressed on through the early 1860s, an actor named John Wilkes Booth (and many others) were devising ways to either kidnap or kill him. The hostilities toward him and the North only deepened when the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, stating that the slaves in the South were to be freed. The Emancipation would become Lincoln's legacy.
After the Civil War officially ended with General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, Lincoln felt a great relief. On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, he planned to spend a quiet day with his wife and attend the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre with General Grant and his wife; however, the Grants declined the invitation.
That fateful night, a fear Lincoln had lived with for some time became gruesome reality: the president was assassinated for his actions and for his cause. Lincoln was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. across the street from the theatre at the home of William Petersen, where many members of his cabinet watched over him.
Today, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. faces the National Mall and pays tribute to the martyred president who championed for change. The statue of Lincoln, neatly sitting with his long arms stretched out over armrests, is a gigantic rendition of a truly gigantic man, in life and certainly in death.
Dr. Samuel Mudd
John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were fleeing Washington, D.C. on April 14, after Booth had shot the president. Their destination was planned and it was the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd in Maryland. Booth had suffered a broken leg in his fall to the stage at Ford's Theatre and at Mudd's he and Herold would receive treatment, food, and a place to sleep.
Mudd would have had you believe otherwise. He claimed he had never met the two men before; this was not true as he had met Booth on several occassions before. But his word did not hold up in court. Though he was not sent to the gallows, he was given sentence of life in prison in June, 1865. President Andrew Johnson pardoned Mudd early in 1869, and he returned to Maryland.
Mary Surratt was tried and executed for her involvement in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The aid she provided Booth with in delivering materials to specific locations for him prior to the murder appeared to prove her guilt, and she became the first woman ever executed in the United States.
Her son, John Surratt, Jr., was involved in John Wilkes Booth's conspiracy schemes in their beginning stages.