As the Civil War ended, Lincoln pleaded with Americans to be gentle with each other and to work toward peace. This was not to be so. Five days after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox, President Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. At 10:15, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and a loyal Confederate supporter, entered the theater and shot Lincoln. Lincoln’s death not only saddened Americans, but angered and frightened them. Southern sympathizers were distrusted and Congress demanded harsh terms as the South reentered the Union. The years after the Civil War were almost as difficult as the war itself.
- President Lincoln was the first U.S. President to be assassinated.
- As Lincoln and his wife watched a play, Booth snuck into the theater and entered the presidential theater box. Lincoln was sitting unguarded in a rocking chair.
- Booth stood less than 1 foot from Lincoln. He shot Lincoln in the head with a revolver.
- Booth jumped onto the stage, shouting, “Sic semper tyrannis,” which means “Thus ever to tyrants.” He broke his leg in the process, but escaped from the theater.
- At first, the audience thought Booth’s outburst was part of the play until they heard Mary Lincoln’s cries.
- A doctor in the theater rushed to help Lincoln who was paralyzed. Lincoln was carried to a nearby house where he died the next morning. His wife and two sons were with him.
- Americans were grief stricken at the death of their beloved President. Many people were deeply afraid too.
- Lincoln’s funeral in Washington D.C. drew large crowds. His body was taken by train 1,500 miles to his home state, Illinois. People gathered near the train tracks to pay their respects as the train passed.
- A huge manhunt was formed to find Booth and his accomplices. “Wanted” posters appeared everywhere and a reward was set at $100,000 for Booth’s capture.
- On April 26, Union soldiers tracked Booth to a farm house in Virginia. They set the house on fire, but Booth refused to come out. One of the soldiers shot him and he died there. Four of his partners, including the first woman to be executed in the U.S. were hung for their involvement.
- John Wilkes Booth was very patriotic, but believed deeply in the Southern practice of slavery. He thought Lincoln and the abolitionists were ruining the country. He believed that God supported his cause.
- Booth and several accomplices had plotted earlier to kidnap Lincoln. When that plot failed, Booth came up with a plan to assassinate not only Lincoln, but his vice president and the Secretary of State. He hoped that the country would fall into chaos and the South could reclaim victory. His plan not only failed, but backfired.
- Sympathizer: one who is sympathetic to a certain cause
- Paralyze: to render unable to move
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