Grateful American® Foundation

Why was John Wilkes Booth so determined to kill President Lincoln?

April 14th

jwbApril 14, 1865 — On this fateful day in history, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, shot President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC.

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.

What made Booth want to kill the president? A Maryland native born in 1838, he remained in the North during the war despite his Confederate sympathies, initially plotted to capture President Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital.

However, on March 20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, the president failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces.

In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth hatched a desperate plan to save the Confederacy. Learning that Lincoln was to attend a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater on April 14, Booth masterminded the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward.

By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators hoped to throw the US government into disarray. Click here to learn more.

Words of Wisdom

I have too great a soul to die like a criminal.
— John Wilkes Booth, American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865.

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