Sic Semper Tyrannis!

"The Assassination of President Lincoln," Currier & Ives, 1865

On the evening of Good Friday, April 14, 1865 Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln attended Ford’s Theatre to see the popular comedy Our American Cousin. With them were their young friends, Clara Harris and her fiancé, Major Henry R. Rathbone. Five days before, the Civil War had finally ended, putting everyone in a festive mood.

Around 10:00 p.m., the well-known actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer and white supremacist, furtively made his way to the presidential box. He quietly entered from the rear, aimed a small pistol at back of Lincoln’s head, and fired, mortally wounding the president. After slashing Rathbone with a knife, Booth leapt to the stage, turned to the audience, and cried: “Sic semper tyrannis!” — “Thus, always to tyrants!” He then fled out a rear door into the alley, jumped onto his waiting horse, and escaped into the night.

Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen Boarding House.

He never regained consciousness and died early the next morning. Among those in attendance were Lincoln’s wife, Mary, their son Robert, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and several cabinet members. Upon Lincoln’s passing, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton uttered the memorable phrase, “Now, he belongs to the ages.” Lincoln’s assassination, the first in U.S. history, shocked the nation still reeling from four years of war and caused a massive outpouring of grief during his elaborate funeral.