The Assassins

The Lincoln conspirators
Courtesy of Library of Congress
I struck for my country and that alone.
–John Wilkes Booth, April 21, 1865

John Wilkes Booth believed he could improve chances for a separate Southern nation if he assassinated the president, vice president, secretary of state, and General Grant. He thought the resulting chaos would force the North to accept a negotiated peace that would preserve the Confederacy.

Booth and at least nine other Southern sympathizers were the subjects of an intensive manhunt. Booth was located on a southeastern Virginia farm, where he died from self-inflicted wounds on April 26. The others were tried in a military court. Four were hanged, four received prison sentences (commuted by President Andrew Johnson in 1869), and one was acquitted in 1867.

Reward poster
For twelve days, John Wilkes Booth avoided capture. The government offered significant rewards for any information that would lead to the capture of the assassins.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
Prison hoods hid the defendants' identities as they were transported from their cells to the site of the trial in the Washington Arsenal.
Booth portrait
Born on May 10, 1838, into a family of actors, John Wilkes Booth was only twenty-six and well-respected at his craft when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. He hoped that his deed would ensure Southern independence.