On the evening of April 14, 1865, President and Mrs. Lincoln went to the theater to see the play “Our American Cousin.” They were seated in Box 7 at Ford’s Theatre, overlooking the stage.

At a little past 10:00 PM, John Wilkes Booth slipped into the hall outside the President’s box. During the third act, Booth entered the President’s box, pulled out a .44 caliber, single shot derringer, and from a range of about ten inches away from Lincoln’s head, pulled the trigger.

Booth then jumped to the stage 12 feet below, catching his boot spur in the flag draped over the box. He landed heavily on his left foot, breaking a small bone above his ankle. Limping across the stage, Booth shouted “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”), before running out the stage door to his horse to escape.

Realizing that Lincoln’s wound was mortal and that getting him back to the Executive Mansion was out of the question, surgeon Dr. Charles Leale had Lincoln carried across the street to William Petersen’s boarding house. He was stretched diagonally across a bed in one of the back rooms. Leale stayed with Lincoln throughout the evening, monitoring his pulse and breathing, but at 7:22 AM the following morning, Lincoln breathed his last breath.

On April 26th, Booth was found hiding in a barn in Virginia, where he was shot and killed. It later was revealed that Booth had co-conspirators who were supposed to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson on the same evening.


Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre – National Park Service