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

Lincoln’s Assassination

Why didn’t the entire audience rise in a fury?

Because they believed that the pistol shot they heard was part of the performance. For the next two minutes, no one in the general audience understood what had happened. What they saw, however, was a dark-haired, very athletic man make a twelve-foot leap from the president’s box to the stage. This man held aloft a dagger that seemed to have blood on it, and he shouted, Sic semper tyrannis! (“Thus always to tyrants”). Some in the audience knew that this was the state motto of Virginia, others knew it only as a Latin expression, but in either case it seemed to fit almost perfectly with the play. The audience, therefore, did not rise for another sixty seconds, and in that time Booth made his escape by stage left.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Civil War Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App