5 Facts About The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

On the night of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Here are five lesser-known facts you didn't know about the Lincoln assassination…


Booth Originally Intended to Kidnap Lincoln John Wilkes Booth met with spies for the Confederacy, and a plot was developed to kidnap the president, take him to Richmond, Virginia, which was the capital of the state, and use him to bargain for the release of their prisoners being held by the Union. Booth and other conspirators went so far as to hide on a Washington, D.C. road on March 17, 1865, to try and take over the president’s carriage and whisk him away. However, once Richmond fell to Union troops and General Robert E. Lee surrendered, Booth changed his plan and decided to kill President Lincoln instead.

General Grant Was Supposed to Attend the Theater Performance With Lincoln President Lincoln invited Union General Ulysses S. Grant to attend the play at Ford’s theater with him. However, Grant’s wife had been insulted by Mary Todd Lincoln and refused to go, so Grant told Lincoln that he and his wife were traveling to visit their children in New Jersey. Finding a replacement for Grant proved to be difficult, but the couple that ultimately accompanied the president and his wife was Major Henry Rathbone, a military officer and diplomat along with his fiancée Clara Harris.


Lincoln’s Assassination Was a Small Part of the Plot Booth and the other conspirators intended to murder Lincoln, General Grant, Vice President Andrew Johnson and William Seward, the Secretary of State. However, Grant had gone to New Jersey, and the man who was supposed to kill the vice president lost his nerve. Another conspirator did enter William Seward’s home and stab him repeatedly, but the Secretary of State survived the attack.

The Secret Service Had Just Been Established On the very day of Lincoln’s assassination, he had signed legislation into law that created the U.S. Secret Service. It wouldn’t have helped him anyway. The Secret Service was originally founded to combat counterfeiting and wasn’t assigned as protection for the president until 1901. Though the Secret Service was originally under the Department of the Treasury, in 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Lincoln’s Guests That Night Suffered Tragedies of Their Own Major Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris were the couple that accepted an invitation to join the Lincolns at Ford's Theater. After the assassination they were married and had three children. However, Henry was never able to get over what happened at Ford’s Theater. He felt guilty for surviving the assassination and believed he should have done more to prevent the tragedy from happening.  On Christmas Eve in 1883, he murdered his wife Clara in an attempted murder-suicide. He survived his own stab wounds and lived for another 30 years at an asylum for the criminally insane. Mary Todd Lincoln, who suffered from depression after the loss of three of her sons and her husband was institutionalized herself in 1875.