John Wilkes Boothe

Born: 1838

Place of Birth: Maryland

Died: 1865

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth is most notable for his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at the Ford Theater on April 14, 1865. During his time, Booth had gained fame as an actor while also being a confederate supporter. He joined the Know-Nothing Party whose goal was to limit the number of immigrants entering America. Booths hate for equality extended to the point that he became a Confederate secret agent during the Civil War. His involvement with removing President Lincoln also included a failed attempt at kidnapping the President.

  • John Wilkes Booth was born to a family of 10 children in Maryland. He was the second youngest and his father, Junius Brutus Booth had gained some notoriety as an actor. They lived on a farm that had slaves and his father was known for his extreme behavior and heavy alcohol drinking.
  • Booth was attractive even as a young man and he seemed to have a natural talent on the stage. He attended two schools, Milton Boarding School for Boys and St. Timothy’s Hall. His family assumed that with his abilities and charisma that he would be an actor like his father.
  • Booth seemed to have a lot of success in almost everything that he did. His performance in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” when he was 17 years old prompted him to tour with a Shakespearian company throughout the country.
  • Booth continued his performances in “Richard III” in New York and he was listed in the New York Herald as a “veritable sensation.” Booth had performed on stage for President Lincoln at Ford’s theater in the play “The Marble Heart.” He was forced to take a break in 1863 when he came down with a respiratory illness.
  • Booth began developing his anti-immigrant and racist attitudes and by the 1850s he joined the Know-Nothing Party that wanted to keep immigration down. The name of the party was chosen so that if anyone asked them about their membership they could deny knowing anything. Booth held a great support for slavery and he joined the Virginia militia that captured and executed John Brown after his Harpers Ferry raid. Booth continued his belief in the Confederacy by being a secret agent for them during the Civil War. His extremist behavior began to get worse at this point.
  • John Wilkes Booth was used to being the center of attention and when he was forced to leave the stage he spent time with his fellow pro-slavery group in developing conspiracy theories. They hatched a plan to kidnap President Lincoln, which failed. Their idea was to kidnap Lincoln, bring him to Richmond and make a demand for the release of Confederate soldiers that were being held there or peace from the Civil War. Booth and six other Confederate sympathizers failed due to Lincoln choosing a different route for travel.
  • Booth became obsessed with Lincoln and after their kidnapping attempt failed he decided to take actions of his own. Booth entered Ford Theater and on April 14, 1865 he shot President Lincoln as he and his wife watched the performance of “Our American Cousin.” After shooting Lincoln he leaped from the upper stage and screamed “Sic semper tyrannis!” (Thusever to tyrants!) The South is avenged!” His jump was a careless one as he broke his leg and hobbled to his horse to get away.
  • Booth had help from some co-conspirators and they all headed and crossed the Potomac River where they stayed in Royal, Virginia at a farm owned by Richard H. Garrett. Those investigating the assassination found Booth in the barn on the Garrett farm and when he refused to leave, they set the barn on fire. Booth tried to escape and was shot by a Union Army soldier and one of the investigators, Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett. The shot was supposed to be in the arm but missed and hit Boot in the neck, paralyzing Booth. He was carried away from the barn that was still burning and died on the Garrett porch three hours later.

Q&A:

What career had John Wilkes Booth chosen?
Acting

What was the name of the conspiracy group that John Wilkes Booth joined?
Know-Nothing Party

What play was President Lincoln watching when he was assassinated?
Our American Cousin

What failed plan did Booth and his co-conspirators hatch against President Lincoln?
To kidnap Lincoln

Where was Booth captured?
In a barn in Royal Virgina

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids
Why did Booth kill President Lincoln?
He supported the Confederate beliefs