Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version
some of whom at least, like himself, were unbalanced. They meditated a general
assassination of the Cabinet. The unexpected theatre party on the fourteenth gave Booth a
sudden opportunity. He knew every passage of Ford's Theatre. He knew, also, that
Lincoln seldom surrounded himself with guards. During the afternoon, he made his way
unobserved into the theatre and bored a hole in the door of the presidential box, so that he
might fire through it should there be any difficulty in getting the door open.
About ten o'clock that night, the audience was laughing at the absurd play; the President's
party were as much amused as any. Suddenly, there was a pistol shot. A moment more
and a woman's voice rang out in a sharp cry. An instant sense of disaster brought the
audience startled to their feet. Two men were glimpsed struggling toward the front of the
President's box. One broke away, leaped down on to the stage, flourished a knife and
shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis!" Then he vanished through the flies. It was Booth, whose
plans had been completely successful. He had made his way without interruption to
within a few feet of Lincoln. At point-blank distance, he had shot him from behind,
through the head. In the confusion which ensued, he escaped from the theatre; fled from
the city; was pursued; and was himself shot and killed a few days later.
The bullet of the assassin had entered the brain, causing instant unconsciousness. The
dying President was removed to a house on Tenth Street, No. 453, where he was laid on a
bed in a small room at the rear of the hall on the ground floor.
Swift panic took possession of the city. "A crowd of people rushed instinctively to the
White House, and bursting through the doors, shouted the dreadful news to Robert
Lincoln and Major Hay who sat gossiping in an upper room. . . . They ran down-stairs.
Finding a carriage at the door, they entered it and drove to Tenth Street."
To right and left eddied whirls of excited figures, men and women questioning,
threatening, crying out for vengeance. Overhead amid driving clouds, the moon, through
successive mantlings of darkness, broke periodically into sudden blazes of light; among
the startled people below, raced a witches' dance of the rapidly changing shadows.
Lincoln did not regain consciousness. About dawn his pulse began to fail. A little later, "a
look of unspeakable peace came over his worn features", and at twenty-two minutes
after seven on the morning of the fifteenth of April, he died.
It is said that a complete bibliography of Lincoln would include at least five thousand
titles. Therefore, any limited bibliography must appear more or less arbitrary. The
following is but a minimum list in which, with a few exceptions such as the inescapable