Assassination Conspiracies

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Actor John Wilkes Booth and a group of conspirators had come up with a plan to kill not only Lincoln but also Andrew Johnson and William Seward. One of the conspirators, Lewis Powell, managed to injure Seward but George Atzerodt did not go through with the assassination of Johnson.

Booth jumped from the theater box after shooting Lincoln in the head, broke his leg, and ran as well as he could out of the theater shouting “Sic semper tyrannus,” or “As always to tyrants.” Booth and another conspirator named David Herold traveled to Mary Surratt's tavern in Maryland. There they picked up supplies before visiting Dr. Samuel Mudd who set Booth's leg.

Herold and Booth both fled and were found hiding in a barn on April 26. While Herold surrendered, Booth would not. The barn was set on fire, and Booth was shot and killed. Eight conspirators were eventually captured and punished for their roles in the assassination. Four of them — Lewis Powell (Paine), David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt — were hanged. Mary Surratt was the first woman to be executed in the United States.


Numerous assassination conspiracy theories have been advanced over the years. Two of the more fantastic theories involve Andrew Johnson and the Catholic Church. A congressional committee looked into the allegation that Johnson was behind it all but found no evidence to support it. The other unproven theory was that the Catholic Church was unhappy with Lincoln's defense of a former priest.

After being shot, President Lincoln was taken across the street to the Petersen House. He died the next day, April 15, at 7:22 A.M. Vice President Andrew Johnson then succeeded to the presidency.

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