ON THIS DAY: President Lincoln shot and killed in a tough day for the Booth family

On April 15 in 1865, a disgruntled Confederate sympathizer named John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in the back of the head at close range with a small pistol. Lincoln died a few hours later. Booth was from a theatrical family and a well known actor, known in fact by Lincoln, and he had stopped by the Ford Theater in Washington DC that morning to pick up his mail. It was there that he learned the President Lincoln would be attending a play called “My American Cousin” that night. The armies of the rebellious South had just surrendered a few days before and in a crazy bid to restart the war and save the Confederacy, Booth and three friends decided that would decapitate the entire federal government that night; Booth would kill Lincoln and his friend would killed the Vice President and the Secretary of State. In the end, only Booth followed through and only Lincoln was killed.

Booth’s older brother, Edwin, was a Union supporter and he was shocked at the actions of his younger brother. Edwin Booth was somewhat comforted when he later learned of a chance incident that had happened in early 1865. Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln had been in on a rail platform in New Jersey when he slipped and his leg fell between a train and the platform. Before he could be dragged under, a man grabbed him by his coat and pulled him to safety. Lincoln recognized the man; it was the famous actor Edwin Booth. Lincoln thanked Booth and Booth departed, not knowing of course that the man he had just saved was the son of the President who in weeks would be assassinated by his younger brother.