Lincoln’s Death, New Nation: April 1865 to 1877

Lincoln’s Assassination

Why did the plan change from kidnapping to assassination?

Booth had not expected Richmond to fall so quickly, and he did not believe that the South was truly finished: as some Southerners said, “There’s life in the old land yet!” But the speed of Grant’s victories caused Booth to alter his plans. Right down to the last hour or two, he seemed to have entertained some doubts, but he overcame them and went to Ford’s Theatre, a place he knew very well (he and other Booth family members had performed there many times). The guard outside the theatre saw nothing strange in the entry of a Booth family member, and John Wilkes went up the back stairs. He thought he would have to kill the guard at the door to the president’s box, but the chair was unoccupied, and Booth, using the spyhole, peered through to see Lincoln, Mary Lincoln, Major Rathbone, and Miss Harris watching the play. From Booth’s vantage point, Lincoln was the closest person to him, and Miss Harris was the farthest away.


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