Booth, John Wilkes


Booth, John Wilkes
born May 10, 1838, near Bel Air, Md., U.S.
died April 26, 1865, near Port Royal, Va.

U.S. actor and assassin of Pres.

Abraham Lincoln. Born into a family of famous actors, he achieved success in Shakespearean roles but resented the greater acclaim enjoyed by his brother, Edwin Booth. A fanatical believer in slavery and the Southern cause, he made plans with co-conspirators to abduct Lincoln; after several failed attempts, he vowed to destroy the president and his cabinet. On April 14, 1865, he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford's Theatre. Though he broke his leg jumping from the president's box, he was able to escape on horseback to a Virginia farm. Tracked down, he refused to surrender and was shot, either by a soldier or by himself.

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▪ American actor and assassin
born May 10, 1838, near Bel Air, Maryland, U.S.
died April 26, 1865, near Port Royal, Virginia
 member of one of the United States' most distinguished acting families of the 19th century, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln, Abraham).

      The ninth of ten children born to the actor Junius Brutus Booth, he early showed excellent theatrical potential but also exhibited an emotional instability and a driving egocentricity that made it difficult for him to accept his brother Edwin's rise to acclaim as the foremost actor of the day.

      After an unsuccessful Baltimore theatrical debut in 1856, John played minor roles in Philadelphia until 1859, when he joined a Shakespearean stock company in Richmond, Virginia. He was widely acclaimed on a tour of the Deep South in 1860 and remained in demand as an actor throughout the Civil War.

      A vigorous supporter of the Southern cause, Booth was outspoken in his advocacy of slavery and his hatred of Lincoln. He was a volunteer in the Richmond militia that hanged the abolitionist John Brown (Brown, John) in 1859. By the autumn of 1864 Booth had begun to plan a sensational abduction of President Lincoln. He recruited several coconspirators, and throughout the winter of 1864–65 the group gathered frequently in Washington, D.C., where they mapped out a number of alternative abduction plans. After several attempts had miscarried, Booth resolved to destroy the president and his officers no matter what the cost.

      On the morning of April 14, 1865, Booth learned that the president was to attend an evening performance of the comedy Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in the capital. Booth hurriedly assembled his band and assigned each member his task, including the murder of Secretary of State William Seward (Seward, William H). He himself would kill Lincoln. About 6:00 PM Booth entered the deserted theatre, where he tampered with the outer door of the presidential box so that it could be jammed shut from the inside. He returned during the play's third act to find Lincoln and his guests unguarded.

 Entering the box, Booth drew a pistol and shot Lincoln through the back of the head. He grappled briefly with a patron, swung himself over the balustrade, and leaped off it, shouting “Sic semper tyrannis!” (the motto of the state of Virginia, meaning “Thus always to tyrants!”) and “The South is avenged!” He landed heavily on the stage, breaking a bone in his left leg, but was able to make his escape to the alleyway and his horse. The attempt on Seward's life failed, but Lincoln died shortly after seven o'clock the following morning.

      Eleven days later, on April 26, Federal troops arrived at a farm in Virginia, just south of the Rappahannock River, where a man said to be Booth was hiding in a tobacco barn. David Herold, another conspirator, was in the barn with Booth. He gave himself up before the barn was set afire, but Booth refused to surrender. After being shot, either by a soldier or by himself, Booth was carried to the porch of the farmhouse, where he subsequently died. The body was identified by a doctor who had operated on Booth the year before, and it was then secretly buried, though four years later it was reinterred. There is no acceptable evidence to support the rumours, current at the time, doubting that the man who had been killed was actually Booth.

Additional Reading
Gordon Samples, Lust for Fame: The Stage Career of John Wilkes Booth (1982); Gene Smith, American Gothic: The Story of America's Legendary Theatrical Family, Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes Booth (1992).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Booth, John Wilkes — (1838 1865)    The darkly attractive tragedian, son of Junius Brutus Booth, was born on his father s farm near Baltimore, Maryland. He made his debut in Baltimore, then joined the stock company at Philadelphia s Arch Street Theatre. Billed as a… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • Booth, John Wilkes — (10 may. 1838, cerca de Bel Air, Md., EE.UU. –26 abr. 1865, cerca de Port Royal, Va.). Actor estadounidense que asesinó al pdte. Abraham Lincoln. Nacido en una familia de actores famosos, tuvo éxito en papeles shakesperianos, pero se sintió… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BOOTH, JOHN WILKES —    son of an actor, assassinated Lincoln, and was shot by his captors (1839 1865) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • John Wilkes Booth — (1838–1865) John Wilkes Booth (* 10. Mai 1838 bei Bel Air, Maryland; † 26. April 1865 bei Bowling Green, Virginia) war ein US amerikanischer Schauspieler, der heute allein als Mörder Abraham Lincolns bekannt ist. Zu seiner Zeit war er ein pop …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John Wilkes Booth — Infobox Person name = John Wilkes Booth caption = John Wilkes Booth birth date = birth date|mf=yes|1838|5|10 birth place = Bel Air, Maryland, U.S.A. death date = death date and age|mf=yes|1865|4|26|1838|5|10 death place = Port Royal, Virginia,… …   Wikipedia

  • John Wilkes Booth — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Booth. John Wilkes Booth Naissance …   Wikipédia en Français

  • John Wilkes Booth — Retrato de John Wilkes Booth. John Wilkes Booth (10 de mayo de 1838 –26 de abril , 1865) fue un actor estadounidense, famoso por asesinar a Abraham Lincoln. Booth fue un simpatizante de los confederados que estuvo insatisfecho por cómo terminó la …   Wikipedia Español

  • John Wilkes Booth — noun United States actor and assassin of President Lincoln (1838 1865) • Syn: ↑Booth • Instance Hypernyms: ↑actor, ↑histrion, ↑player, ↑thespian, ↑role player, ↑assassin, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • John Wilkes Booth — (10 de mayo de 1838 – 26 de abril de 1865) fue un actor estadounidense más conocido por asesinar a Abraham Lincoln. Profesional y extremadamente popular en su día, Booth fue un simpatizante de los confederados que estuvo insatisfecho por como… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • John Wilkes — Not to be confused with John Wilkes Booth. For other people named John Wilkes, see John Wilkes (disambiguation). Portrait of John Wilkes after Richard Houston, 1769 John Wilkes (17 October 1725 – 26 December 1797) was an English radical,… …   Wikipedia


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