Ford’s Theatre: Of President Lincoln and the Man Who Killed Him

Ford’s Theatre: Of President Lincoln and the Man Who Killed Him

Abraham Lincoln killed April 15, 1865 (died of gunshot wound the night before on April 14) Ford’s Theater in Washington DC with stage actor John Wilkes Booth. Sujoy Dhar visits the Ford’s Theater museum ahead of another memorial service for the American president whose determination to end slavery cost him his life.

April 14, 1865 was Good Friday. Stage actor John Wilkes Booth, one of the Shakespearean actors of his time in America who came from the famous Booth family from Maryland, learned that President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary would attend the comedy show. Our American cousin that night at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC.

It was here that Booth, who was a Confederate and hated Lincoln for ending slavery, often performed and it was here that one of America’s greatest presidents would come to see performances.

“Somewhere around 10:00, during the second act of the third act of Our American cousin I saw Booth walk past the President’s box, and then I stopped and leaned against the wall,” said James P. Ferguson, an audience member and restaurant owner, about the fateful night and the moment.
Said Booth then opened the first door leading to the box where Lincoln was sitting with his wife.

As the audience laughed out loud at the comic’s funny lines, Booth took advantage of their engagement to move forward into the box.

Later the actress of Ford’s Theater Jeannie Gourlay recalled: “My lines were very interesting and the dramatic action of the play, so the attention of the whole audience was fixed on the stage.”

As the audience roared with laughter at the comic lines, Booth stepped into the box and fired his first shot into the back of Lincoln’s head with a .44 Derringer.

After firing at Lincoln, Booth jumped from the balcony but the spark of his left shoe got caught in the flag above the railing. One of Lincoln’s guests, Major Henry Rathborne, had tried to stop Booth from escaping, but as they fought, he cut off his hand with a sword.

Booth shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (Virginia’s state motto, meaning “So always to the oppressor!”) or “The South is avenged!” or both.

Booth was injured and broke a bone in his leg from the jump but ran out the back door and escaped on horseback in the dark.

According to the Library of Congress account, Dr. Charles Leale, a doctor who was among the spectators that day, ran to the box where Lincoln was. He found the bullet lodged behind Lincoln’s right eye after entering through the president’s left ear. He was paralyzed and having trouble breathing, the account said. Lincoln died the next day.
During my recent visit to Washington DC. I wanted to discover more about Lincoln and his assassination. So this time Ford’s theater was high on my list of attractions to visit in America’s capital.

Ford’s Theater
511 10th St, NW in Washington DC explores the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and celebrates the American experience through theater and education.

America was shocked by Lincoln’s assassination and Ford’s theater remained closed for more than 100 years.
According to the theater’s website, during the American Civil War, Ford’s Theater was one of Washington’s main entertainment venues to escape the reality of war. President Lincoln, who loved theater, opera and Shakespeare, would visit Ford’s Theater on at least 10 official occasions.

But the visit of April 14, 1865 changed the history of the United States. John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate and emotionally unstable man despite his acting talents, knew the President was among the audience and planned well to enter the President’s Box and kill him with a single Derringer pistol.

Lincoln died the next morning (at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865) at the Petersen House, a boarding house across the street from the theater.

Open daily, the museum at Ford’s Theater is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about Lincoln, his presidency, his assassination and the Civil War.

The museum’s exhibits cover the life of Abraham Lincoln from the beginning of his inauguration to the gruesome assassination in the theater. It contains a lot of information about his life in the White House and the challenges he faced during the American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 26, 1865) between the Union (“North”) and the Confederacy (“South”). ). , which was created by states that seceded from the Union.

At the heart of the conflict was the expansion of slavery into the west, a move that Lincoln had opposed, drawing the ire of Confederates who, on the other hand, supported the institution of slavery.

The museum is mostly about the civil war and Lincoln as well as his assassin John Wilkes Booth and the conspirators. Booth was tracked down 12 days later after the manhunt
in a Northern Virginia farm. After the barn he was hiding in was set on fire, he was shot in the neck by Union soldier Boston Corbett following a scuffle. He died a few hours later.

Among the eight conspirators who were later convicted, four were recently hanged. Mary Surratt, Booth’s mother, was also tried as one of the conspirators and hanged.

The museum displays artifacts related to the assassination, including the weapons used by Booth and high-resolution photos of the dress President Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theater that night.

The tour ends with a walk to the theater where Lincoln was shot in the President’s Box. The theater, which has been closed for nearly a hundred years since the assassination, looks much like it did the night Booth fired Lincoln.

The Presidential Casket is decorated with the American flag and a portrait of President George Washington, as it was in 1865. The interior of the Presidential Casket is closed to the public to protect it from vandalism.

A visit to Ford’s Theater is a must if you want to explore the life and times of President Lincoln, his shocking assassination in the theater during a performance and the leading events in the history of the American Civil War. Maps, photos and illustrations make it an interesting experience.

Photo by Sujoy Dhar / Ford Theatre


(Credits to agency and author are mandatory)