April 14, 1865: John Wilkes Booth and the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln

Maryland State Archives
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Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: (410) 260-6400
Internet: mdsa.net
e-mail: archives@mdsa.net

Introduction

John Wilkes Booth was born in Bel Air, Maryland (located in Harford County), on  May 10, 1838 in a log house on the present-day property of Tudor Hall. The house was constantly having additions and the original log house is still intact within the later additions. The Booth family, headed by Junius Brutus Booth, was renowned for its acting abilities on the American stage.  Two of Junius' sons, John and his older brother Edwin became actors themselves, following in their father's footsteps.

Booth began his stage career at the Charles Street Theater in Baltimore in 1855. After an unsuccessful acting stint in Philadelphia, Booth moved to Richmond in 1858.  Booth adopted a southern lifestyle and thus his preference for southern politics as well on the eve of the Civil War.  Booth allegedly smuggled medical supplies to Confederate forces during the war and acted as a Confederate spy as well. After leaving his acting career in 1864, Booth began to conspire with others, most notably Dr. Samuel Mudd and John and Mary Surratt, in an effort to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln. On March 17, 1865, the plot failed when Lincoln changed his plans and did not attend a hospital on the outskirts of Washington where the abduction was to take place. The scheme then changed to assassination, with plans of Booth killing Lincoln and co-conspirators Lewis Thorton Powell and George Atzerodt killing Secretary of State Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson

The Civil War ended on April 9 with General Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appomattox Court House.  On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln went to Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. to see the show Our American Cousin.   As the President watched the show, Booth entered the State Box and fired at Lincoln's head.  Booth managed to flee despite breaking bones in his left leg after jumping from the balcony in his escape.  Booth fled away from Washington into southern Maryland where he received medical assistance for his leg from Dr. Mudd.

Lincoln was rushed across the street to Petersen's Boarding House.  On April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m., President Lincoln was pronounced dead.  Booth evaded capture for a number of days, but he would be captured and shot on April 26, 1865 at Garrett's Farm near Port Royal Virginia as a fire consumed the shed he was hiding in.  Booth was confirmed dead a few hours later.  John Wilkes Booth is buried in an unmarked grave in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Abstracted from Ford's Theater National Historic Site and Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln)

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

STANDARD 2: The course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people. 

Standard 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war. 

5-12: Identify the turning points of the war and evaluate how political, military, and diplomatic leadership affected the outcome of the conflict. [Assess the importance of the individual in history] 

Standard 2B: The student understands the social experience of the war on the battlefield and home front. 

5-12: Compare the human and material costs of the war in the North and South and assess the degree to which the war reunited the nation. [Examine historical perspectives] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Booth House, Tudor Lane
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:
    Documentation compiled after 1933
    PHOTOGRAPHER:
    E. H. Pickering
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT
    : Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record
    REPOSITORY
    : Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division 

  2. DESCRIPTION: The Assassination of President Lincoln: At Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C., April 14th, 1865.
    ARTISTS:  Currier and Ives
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1865
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division 

  3. DESCRIPTION:   James S. Knox to Knox, April 15, 1865 (Eyewitness account of Lincoln's assassination)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  15 April, 1865
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress 

  4. DESCRIPTION: Letter from Benjamin Brown French to his son, Francis O. French, April 24, 1865
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1865
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: "I Do Solemnly Swear ...": Presidential Inaugurations
    REPOSITORY:
    Library of Congress: Manuscript Division. The Papers of Benjamin Brown French. 

  5. DESCRIPTION: The Ford Theatre Lincoln assassination play-bill, Friday evening April 14, 1865, Our American Cousin
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:
    1865
    AUTHORS:
    D. C. L. Polkinhorn & Son, Printers
    REPRODUCTIONS:
    How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:
    An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera
    REPOSITORY:
    Library of Congress 

  6. DESCRIPTION: Broadside, Woonsocket Patriot. Extra---- Second edition Woonsocket, Saturday morning, April 14, 1865.-- 12 o'clock. Appalling event! The latest, saddest drama of the war. President Lincoln assassinated in Washington! He died at 7.20 this A. M.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:
    1865
    REPRODUCTIONS:
    How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera
    REPOSITORY:
    Library of Congress 

  7. DESCRIPTION: Cabinet card photographs of John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1909
    SOURCE:
    Chicago Daily News, Inc.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: Photographs from the Chicago Daily News, 1902-1933
    REPOSITORY:
    Chicago Historical Society, Clark Street at North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614-6071

  8. DESCRIPTION: Broadside, $100,000 reward! The murderer of our late beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, is still at large.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1865
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera\
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress 

  9. DESCRIPTION:  $30,000 reward. Description of John Wilkes Booth! who assassinated the President on the evening of April 14th, 1865 ... Description of the person who attempted to assassinate Hon. W. H. Seward, Secretary of state ... The Common council of Washington, D. C., have offered a reward of $20,000 for the arrest and conviction of these assassins, in addition to which I will pay $10,000. L. C. Baker Colonel and agent War Department.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1865
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:   An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress 

  10. DESCRIPTION: Booth Family Grave Stone
    MEDIUM: Photograph
    REPRODUCTIONSImage reproduction and permission
    REPOSITORY: Maryland Historical Society 

  11. DESCRIPTION:  Leonard Grover to Abraham Lincoln, February 20, 1864 (Invitation to attend performances by Edwin Booth)
    CREATED/PUBLISHED:  20 February,1864
    NOTES: This  letter from Grover to Lincoln reveals a connection between Lincoln and Booth before the assassination ever took place. The Booths were a well-known acting family and Grover invited the President to attend a performance by Edwin Booth, who was the older brother of John Wilkes Booth. 
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress

  12. DESCRIPTION:  Leonard Grover to Abraham Lincoln, February 25, 1864 (Invitation to attend performances by Edwin Booth)
    CREATED/PUBLISHED:  25 February, 1864
    NOTES: This is another letter from Grover to Lincoln that reveals a connection between Lincoln and the Booth family.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress
     
  13. DESCRIPTION: General Grant on Lincoln's Assassination
    CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1902
    SOURCE:  The Great Republic By the Master Historians Vol. III
     
  14. DESCRIPTION:  Capture of J. Wilkes Booth and David E. Herold, at Garrett's Farm, near Port Royal, Va.,  April 26, 1865
    CREATED/PUBLISHED: 26 April, 1865
    SOURCE:  Report of Lieut. Edward P. Doherty, Sixteenth New York Cavalry.
     
  15. DESCRIPTION:  News of Abraham Lincoln's Death
    CREATED/PUBLISHED:  16 April, 1865
    SOURCE:  The Historical New York Times Project
     
  16. DESCRIPTION:  Lincoln's Assassination Report
    CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1865
    SOURCE:  Police Blotter
    REPOSITORY:  National Archives and Records Administration
     
  17. DESCRIPTION:  Brigadier General Henry L. Burnett
    CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1865
    SOURCE:  Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Assassins
    REPOSITORY:  Goshen, New York Library and Historical Society

See also: John Wilkes Booth, Right or Wrong, God Judge Me: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth. Edited by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, ca. 1997.

Additional Media Resources

Abraham Lincoln Research Site. Website compiled by a former American history teacher. This site has particular pages dedicated to Abraham Lincoln's Assassination.

Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln: Library of Congress pages dedicated to the assassination of President Lincoln including a gallery and a timeline 

Historical Society of Harford County, Inc. The Booth Room Committee is a group which wished to preserve the history of the Booth Family in Maryland since Tudor Hall  is no longer open to the public.

The Death of President Lincoln, 1865. Eyewitness to History, 1999.

Secondary Resources

Bauer, Charles J. So I Killed Lincoln: John Wilkes Booth. Silver Spring, MD: Silver Spring Press, 1983.

Bishop, Jim. The Day Lincoln Was Shot. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Bos, Carole D., J.D. Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. 1999-2003.

Geringer, Joseph. John Wilkes Booth: A Brutus of His Age,  2003.

Gutman, Richard J.S. & Kellie O. John Wilkes Booth Himself. Dover, MA: Hired Hand Press, 1979.

Ingraham, Prentiss, Ruggles,M. D. and Doherty Edward P. Pursuit and Death of John Wilkes Booth in The Century, Volume 39, Issue 3, January 1890.

Ingraham, Prentiss, Ruggles,M. D. and Doherty Edward P. Pursuit and Death of John Wilkes Booth in The Century, Volume 39, Issue 6, April 1890.

Kimmell, Stanley. The Mad Booths of Maryland. New York: Dover Publications, 1969.

Mahoney, Ella V.  Sketches of Tudor Hall and the Booth Family. Bel Air: Bel Air, Tudor Hall, 1925.      
NOTES:
This book is held in the Maryland Historical Society

Samples, Gordon. Lust For Fame : The Stage Career of John Wilkes Booth. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1998.

Steers, Edward. Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003.

Stern, Philip Van Doren. The Man Who Killed Lincoln: the story of John Wilkes Booth and his part in the assassination. Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1965

Townsend, George Alfred. The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth, with a full sketch of the conspiracy of which he was the leader, and the pursuit, trial and execution of his accomplices,  New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Ford's Theater National Historic Site
511 10th Street
NW Washington 20004       
202-426-6924 
Surratt House Museum
9118 Brandywine Road
Clinton, MD 20735
301-868-1121 
Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum
14940 Hoffman Road
Waldorf, MD 20601
301-645-6870

NOTES: Tudor Hall, formerly a museum to the Booth family, is no longer open to the public.  It is now privately owned.

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Michael T. Walsh.

An Archives of Maryland Online Publication
© Copyright, Maryland State Archives, July 18, 2005