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Events from History: 14 April 1865

President Abraham Lincoln is Shot by John Wilkes Booth

On the evening of April 14, 1865, just days after the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., marking a moment of national significance that would etch itself into the annals of American history. The President, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry R. Rathbone, and Rathbone’s fiancée Clara Harris settled into their box to watch “Our American Cousin.” At approximately 10:15 PM, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer, stealthily entered the presidential box and fired a single .44 calibre Derringer pistol shot into the back of Lincoln’s head. Booth then leapt onto the stage, famously yelling, “Sic semper tyrannis!”—the Virginia state motto meaning “Thus always to tyrants,” and fled the scene, leaving chaos and confusion in his wake.

The gravely wounded President was immediately attended to and subsequently moved to the Petersen House across the street, where a vigil of hope and despair unfolded through the night. Despite the efforts of attending physicians, President Lincoln succumbed to his injuries, passing away at 7:22 AM on April 15, 1865. His death marked the first assassination of a U.S. president and plunged the nation into deep mourning. This tragic event not only robbed the United States of a revered leader during its most fragile period of reconstruction but also altered the course of American history forever. The legacy of that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre continues to be remembered as a pivotal moment of loss and legacy, embodying the stark reality of a nation’s struggle for unity and justice.

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