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Sunday, 17 February 2013

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth was an American actor who shot U.S. president Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, in Washington, D.C. Lincoln died the next morning.


John Wilkes Booth was born in Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland on May 10, 1838. His parents, the noted British Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes, moved to the United States from England in June 1821.

Booth made his stage debut on August 14, 1855, in the supporting role of the Earl of Richmond in Richard III at Baltimore's Charles Street Theater. The audience hissed at the inexperienced actor when he missed some of his lines.

Booth’s brother, Edwin Booth, was the greatest American actor of the nineteenth century. Booth himself became a successful actor, earning over £20,000 a year.

He stood 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) tall, had jet-black hair, and was lean and athletic. His strikingly handsome appearance enthralled women.


Booth became politically active in the 1850s, joining the Know-Nothing Party, a group that wanted fewer immigrants to come to the United States.

In 1859, Booth joined a Virginia company that helped with the capture of John Brown after his raid at Harpers Ferry. Booth watched Brown's execution.

During the Civil War, Booth worked as a Confederate secret agent. He met frequently with the heads of the Secret Service, Jacob Thompson and Clement Clay, in Montreal.

A few days before delivering the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln saw John Wilkes Booth perform as a villain in a play at Ford's Theatre. Someone told Lincoln, "He almost seems to be reciting these lines to you." To which Lincoln replied, "He does talk very sharp at me, doesn't he?"

On March 4, 1865, Booth attended Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration as President, as can be seen in photographs taken that day.

On April 14, 1865, while picking up his mail at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., Booth discovered that Lincoln would be attending the play Our American Cousin that evening. Booth knew the play well.

Booth met with his co-conspirators and established a plan to kill President Lincoln, Vice-President Johnson, Secretary of State Seward, and possibly General Grant—all around 10:15 that evening.

During the play, Booth quietly entered the unguarded balcony room and fired a pistol at point-blank range into the back of Lincoln's head.  Booth timed his shot to coincide with laughter after "you sockdologising old man-trap" was said to the recently departed Mrs Mountchessington.

Booth  had spent the afternoon drinking before assassinating Lincoln, so was quite drunk when he pulled the trigger during the third act.

Booth escaped by jumping from the balcony onto the stage, where he shouted a triumphant line to the audience. He broke his leg during the jump, but escaped out the back door and onto his horse.

The mortally wounded Lincoln was carried across the street to Petersen House, where he died the next morning. One co-conspirator attacked Secretary of State Seward with a knife but Seward survived the attack. The conspirator who planned to attack Vice-President Johnson did not follow through with the plot.

After escaping from the theater, Booth got a Dr Mudd to set his leg, thus allowing the assassin to escape to Virginia with an accomplice on horseback, the doctor being unaware of his identity.

An army troop caught up with him on April 26, 1865 in a Virginia barn. His accomplice surrendered but Booth refused. He died from shots fired during his capture.

The unfortunate Dr Mudd was treated as an accessory. He was sentenced to life in a federal prison, but was pardoned later after helping to prevent an outbreak of fever in the jail

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