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Allen LimProfessor LimU.S. History to 186522 May 2013“The Lincoln Assassination”John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and confederate sympathizer, fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attack came only five days after confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the American Civil War. Although it is commonly known that John Wilkes Booth assassinated the president on April 14, 1865, He was abetted by eight conspirators.Abraham Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth was a Maryland native born in 1863 who remained in the North during the Civil War despite his Confederate sympathies. As the conflict entered its final stages, he and several associates hatched a plot to kidnap the president and take him to Richmond, the confederate capital. However, on March 20, 1865, Lincoln failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces. In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth came up with a desperate plan to save the Confederacy. Learning that Lincoln was to attend Laura Keene’s acclaimed performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre, Booth decided to take action. Ironically, the mastermind was a well known actor at the time. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators hoped to throw the U.S. government into disarray.Lincoln occupied a private box above the stage with his wife Mary. The Lincolns arrived late for the comedy, but the president was reportedly in a fine mood and laughed heartily during the production. At 10:15, Booth slipped into the box and fired his .44-caliber
single-shot derringer into the back of Lincoln's head. Booth leapt onto the stage and shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis!” At first, the crowd interpreted the unfolding drama as part of the production, but a scream from the first lady told them otherwise. Although Booth broke his leg in the fall, he managed to leave the theater and escape from Washington on horseback. A 23-year-old doctor named Charles Leale was in the audience and hastened to the presidential box immediately upon hearing the shot and Mary Lincoln’s scream.