John Wilkes Booth Dies – 12/26/1865

US History |

John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, is tracked down 12 days later to a farm in Virginia and is killed by Union soldiers. Booth was one of the most well-known actors in the country at age twenty-six when on the night of April 14th, 1865, shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. during a performance. Booth was a huge supporter of the Confederacy and was a native of Maryland.

Booth formed a plot to kidnap Lincoln as the final stages of the war had begun. The opportunity never materialized even though he had support from several associates. Once Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army had surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, the plan hatched by Booth was altered into not only assassinating President Lincoln but at the same time having Secretary of State William Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson killed as well. However, Lincoln’s assassination was the only attempt that was successful as the man who was ordered to kill Johnson failed to go through with his task while Lewis Pane did stab Seward but survived the attack.

Booth jumped from Lincoln’s boxed seat to the stage below after Lincoln was shot; however, he broke his leg after landing hard and was able to escape behind the theater on a horse that was waiting for him. The army was quickly to get on Booth’s trail since he was recognized by many in the audience. Booth and David Herold, his accomplice, traveled toward southern Maryland as they made their way through the Anacostia River. Booth had his leg taken care after they made their way to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s house. This act would eventually earn Mudd being sent to prison for life as he was charged as being part of the conspiracy; his sentence would be commuted at a later time. Booth ended up attaining a boat to get him across the Potomac to Virginia after finding a place to lay low for several days at Thomas A. Jones’ home; Jones was actually an agent for the Confederacy.

Although Booth had received assistance from other sympathizers of the Confederacy, his good fortunes finally expired. Even though the countryside was inundated with units of the military searching for Booth, very few of them shared information with each other; there was a $20,000 reward for catching him. Federal troops arrived on a farm belonging to Richard Garrett and conducted a search without any success; ironically, they rode off unaware that their target was hiding on the property.

Although the unsuspecting Garrett gave permission to his suspicious guests to rest in the barn, his son was told to go to the outside of the barn and secure it; this would hinder his “guests” from sneaking off with his horses. Meanwhile, the Union soldiers received a tip that steered them back to Garrett’s farm where this time, Booth and Herold were discovered in the barn. Although Herold came out to turn himself in, Booth refused to come out. The soldiers attempted to flush out Booth by setting the building on fire; however, he was shot while still inside. He survived for a few hours until he gazed into his hands and as he died muttered the words, “Useless, useless.”

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Amy Haren

Writer

Amy comes from a family of literary geniuses. Her mother and father were published many times in many different publications throughout the world for not only their stories but their photos. Growing up reading the stories her parents wrote, Amy fell in love with animals and travel. She travels when she can and usually heads for the jungles or oceans.