On the evening of April 14th, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, by then a famous actor and a known Confederate supporter, tiptoed up behind President Abraham Lincoln as he was sitting in the Presidential box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., accompanied by his wife, Mary, and another couple.
This intruder crept into the box unnoticed and deliberately pointed his gun at the back of the President’s head and took aim.
A pictorial representation of the scene that followed shows the gentleman and the two ladies; Mary’s eyes still glued to the activity on stage, and with the other couple alerted to the attack. The drama must have had an engrossing dramatic plot since the President appeared to be totally unaware that, only a few inches away, his life was critically under threat.
The picture also depicts a whirl of gunsmoke which proved the deadly shot had been fired. The crime occurred on Good Friday of that year and he died the next day, a 50-caliber bullet imbedded in his brain.
Booth was a member of the prominent 19th-century Booth Theatrical family based in Maryland. By the 1860s, the young man was a well-known actor. Also a resolute Confederate sympathiser, he was vehement in his criticism of Lincoln, and strongly opposed to the abolition aims of the President and his supporters.
The play the Presidential party was watching was Our American Cousin, written by English playwright and Editor of Punch magazine, Tom Taylor, and detailing how a coarse but guileless American got on in England when he went there to meet with his aristocratic cousins and to claim his inheritance.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Booth dropped down from the Presidential box in an attempt to escape but caught his foot on some decorations and broke his leg. He did escape on horseback, however, and was hunted down over many days and weeks until his eventual capture.
Now, TO the second part of our story. Members of the Doherty family lie now in the Old Cemetery in Sligo. These were business people, running an ironmongery trade in Castle Street in that town, and among those resting there are the mother, brother and two sisters of the man who led the hunt for Lincoln’s assassin, one Edward P. Doherty.