JOHN WILKES BOOTH
John Wilkes Booth is remembered for one night in his life, and is certainly not honored for his role in the evening, but his life started well before that. Booth was born on May 10, 1838 near Bel Air, Maryland. He was one of 10 children born to a famous and eccentric actor named Junius, but John was largely raised by his family’s slaves. After spending his youth in various boarding schools, it became obvious to those who know John that his career path was in acting like his father. After his first performance at the age of 17, Booth was asked to travel the country as part of a Shakespearean acting company. During this time, not only did his acting career progress, but his political involvement became a larger portion of his life as well. In the 1850’s Booth became a member of the Know-Nothing Party, which aimed to limit immigration into the United States. Booth was also an avid supporter of slavery, participating in the capture and execution of John Brown in the famous event at Harper’s Ferry, and even acted as a spy for the Confederate army during the Civil War.
Although known for his successful assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Booth originally failed in his first attempt to thwart the President. During an idle time during his acting career due to a respiratory illness, Booth became part of a conspiracy to kidnap the President. With the goal of capturing the President, bringing him to the Confederate capital of Richmond and demanding for peace or a release of captured Confederates, Booth enlisted six southern sympathizers to make this goal a reality. Unfortunately for Booth, Lincoln did not appear where the group had anticipated him to be, and the plan never came to fruition. The failed attempt frustrated and angered John Wilkes Booth, to the point where he wanted more than a standard kidnapping, he wanted the President to be killed.
On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln went to Washington D.C.’s Ford Theater to see a depiction of Our American Cousin. Shortly after 10 P.M. Booth secretively snuck up behind Lincoln in his private box and shot him in the head. Booth quickly leapt onto the stage where he yelled “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus ever to tyrants!”, which is the Virginia state moto), all while breaking his leg in the fall. John Wilkes Booth was able to escape the theater amidst all the chaos to his getaway horse. Eventually the assassin was captured with an accomplice by Union soldiers in a Virginia farmhouse, where Booth was shot and killed. President Lincoln would die the next morning at the age of 56, prompting a time of mourning for the loss of their President, all because some actor desired a moment of fame and went to terrible lengths to achieve it.