The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, entered the Lincolns’ box and shot the president in the back of the head before jumping out of the box and escaping the theater. President Lincoln, who never regained consciousness, was taken to a boardinghouse across the street, where he died nine hours after being shot, at 7:22 in the morning.
About the same time as Lincoln’s assassination, one of Booth’s co-conspirators seriously wounded Secretary of State William Seward. Vice President Andrew Johnson was also an intended target, but his would-be assassin lost his nerve and did not attack. The final target was allegedly Ulysses S. Grant, though no successful attempt was made on his life.
Booth was shot and killed less than two weeks later, on the 26th, after being tracked down in Virginia by Union troops. Eight others suspected of being involved in the plot were tried before a military tribunal that began in May, and the four sentenced to death were hanged in July.
If you’re interested in learning more about Lincoln’s murder and the conspiracy surrounding it, explore Fold3’s Lincoln Assassination Papers, which are part of the Civil War Collection. Here, you’ll find documents from the investigation into the plot, as well as records from the military tribunal that tried the conspirators. These documents include:
- Letters received by Colonel H. L. Burnett (who was specially assigned to investigate the assassination and later appointed as an assistant judge advocate to the military commission)
- Letters and telegrams sent by Colonel Burnett’s office, as well as a register of letters received by that office, a record book (of synopses of possible evidence for the trial), and an endorsement book (of letters forwarded from Burnett’s office to other people or offices)
- Letters received and statements of evidence collected by the military commission
- Issues of the Daily National Intelligencer (a Washington DC newspaper) related to the trial
- Proceedings of the trial
- Exhibits used in the trial
- Defenses of S. Arnold, E. Spangler, L. Payne, M. O’Laughlin, and D. Herold (five of the alleged conspirators)
- Argument of J. A. Bingham (who was also appointed an assistant judge advocate to the military commission), delivered at the trial
And, of course, additional information about Lincoln can also be found elsewhere in Fold3’s Civil War Collection. So if you want to learn more about Lincoln’s assassination and the trial that followed, search or browse the collections on Fold3.