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John Wilkes Booth

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John Wilkes Booth essay

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Without any question, most people have a very clear and distinct picture of John Wilkes Booth a in their minds. It is April 1865, the night president Lincoln decides to take a much-needed night off, to attend a stage play. Before anyone knows it a lunatic third-rate actor creeps into Lincoln’s box at Ford’s theater and kills the president.

Leaping to the stage, he runs past a confused audience and flees into the night, only to suffer a cowards death Selma asset some two weeks later. From the very moment that Booth pulled the trigger, the victors of the Civil War had a new enemy on their hands, and a good concept of whom they were dealing with. A close examination of the facts, however, paint a different view of Booth, a picture that is far less black and white, but a picture with many shades of gray. Perhaps, one of the most interesting things to note about Lincoln’s killer was the president would have recognized him instantly, if he had just turned around. John Wilkes Booth was born in a log cabin just outside of Bel Air, Maryland May 10, 1838.

His family consisted of his father Tunis Booth, mother Mary Ann Holmes; they would bear 10 children. The Booth name was known for acting from John’s family. He is considered to be America’s first great actor. John’s most known brother Edwin was quick to follow in his father’s footsteps. He often practiced in the yard and was ridiculed by John and this was the beginning of a bitter rivalry.

Also the house was full of alcoholism and bouts of depression. The family was often without the father as his drinking and acting kept him away. He was often under the influence when he was on stage and displayed many attributes of his son but, John never seen his father on stage. His mother also had a dream of her son’s future.

It showed John meeting a gypsy and he was told, ” you’ll die young… You’ve got in your hand a thundering crowd of enemies-not one friend-you’ll make a bad end… You’ll have a fast life-short, but a grand one.” John knew this and it sometimes troubled him. Then in 1852, his dad died and John went to attend St.

Timothy’s Hall military school in Catonsville, Maryland. It was here that John showed his sympathy for the South when he led a revolt against the mostly northern faculty. This showed America that the South was getting restless. And it is ironic that they wore gray uniforms because it wouldn’t be long until the Confederates wore the same color. Then he returned home to find himself bored with rural life. He then set his eyes on the stage, well aware of his family’s history in theater.

At first, John failed at the Stock Theater in Philadelphia, but won recognition and the Richmond Dramatic Company in Richmond, Virginia. By this time Edwin was a famous star in the North. In 1861 he was now touring in the North where they were very impressed with his fiery performances on stage and impeccable manners off stage. But with his outspokenness of the president it was obvious he was out of place in the North.

Booth still continued his career on stage in the North and that didn’t stop his loyalty for the South. The only reason he stayed in the North was the success of the theaters. He would of never made it in the South. The war had split the country as well as his family. John was right on the heels of the popularity struggle with his brother to Edwin even after he rescued Lincoln’s son from a train accident.

Edwin then asked John why he just didn’t join the Army. John told him that he promised his mother he wouldn’t, but John later admitted he was a blockade-runner for the South to his sister, Asia. He smuggled Quinine into the South lines because he could afford it with his 900 dollar a week salary. This made John a lot more valuable to the Army than just if he had served as a soldier. At the same time John had surpassed his brother and was becoming quite the ladies man. He received a hundred love letters a week and was followed everywhere by them.

They even stripped him of his clothes once. His popularity even kept him from being a war prisoner when he sang the Confederate song “The Bonnie Blue Flag” in the northern held city of New Orleans. Eventually, John started an oil endeavor that never profited him, but him an excuse to stay off stage. It ended up being meant for something else too. As a war went on, Booth found himself becoming more and more involved. With the free time from John’s so-called oil expedition, he found himself traveling to Canada to meet with confederate officials.

He familiarized himself with the roads between Richmond and Washington City. These were like highways for confederate spies. The original plan was to kidnap Lincoln to hold him for ransom for Southern war prisoners. The plan failed once when Lincoln’s travel plans were changed and before the South knew it, Lee’s troops had surrendered to the North.

Now the kidnapping would be useless now, so Booth took matters into his own hands. His next plan consists of killing the president, vice president in Secretary of State all in one night. Booth was the only one to carry through though. Lewis Paine was only successful in wounding Secretary of Seward with a knife.

George Atzerodn just plain back out at the last minute on vice president Johnson. Booth on the other hand was determined to get his man. Booth, very carefully, provised a plan that had almost no flaws. Since John was a frequent guest of Ford’s Theater he knew he could get to the president’s box without any suspicion. Booth made his way to the box on the second floor.

Inside sat the president and his wife along with Major Henry Rathbone and Miss Clara Harris. At approximately 10:15 p.m. April 14, 1865, Booth preceded to open the door and just as the crowd burst into laughter, he pulled the trigger, shooting Lincoln in the head at almost point blank range. Next, he stabs Rathbone and jumps to the stage breaking his leg, and disappears into the night.

Most of the crowd never heard the shot and thought Booth was part of the play. Doctors were quick to get to Lincoln, but were quick to tell his weeping wife that survival was impossible. Lincoln died with his wife by his side at 7:22 a.m. the next morning.

She would never be the same as the manhunt began. John’s plan had gone almost flawless and now it was time to disappear. After he fled from the theater, John mounted a horse that was waiting for him. He then met his fellow conspirator David Herald at 12:00 a.m. the next day in Maryland. After loading up on supplies they set out for Dr.

Samuel Mudd for medical assistance. They arrived there on April 15 at 4:00 a.m. They then proceeded south to the Potomac River and it took two tries to cross it. Then on April 24th they boarded a ferry at Port Conway, Virginia and met three confederate soldiers. One of the soldiers named William S. Jett helped them to the Garrett farm.

David then left Booth and went to a nearby town with the soldiers. Then on April 26,1865, the 16th New York Calvary caught up to Booth through the word of Jett. Booth refused to surrender and at 4 a.m. the shed he was hiding in was light on fire.

He was then shot in the neck and drug to the porch of the Garrett’s home. He was paralyzed from the neck down. It was then that he whispered his final words. He said ” tell my mother I did it for my country.” Those were the last words of America’s most famous villain.

In the end, after stating the facts, the different picture of Booth really shines. When John Wilkes Booth raced off into the night on April 14, 1865, he left behind an angry and confused nation are. The actor who had charm so many with his bold acting and extraordinary politeness was suddenly the nation’s greatest villain. Playbills chapter of American theater history became nearly forgotten as the years passed. John Wilkes Booth, renowned for his tragic actions, had written his own greatest tragedy.

Works Cited “Booth, John Wilkes.” World Book Encyclopedia Vol. 2. 1998 ed. Clark, Champ. The Assassination: Death of Edward P., Pursuit and Death of John Wilkes Booth. January 1890.

Mary Todd Lincoln Research Site. Mary Todd Lincoln’s Ultimate Agony. 29 May 1996. 8 Dec. 199 Nacc.Foth. emailprotected 18 Nov.

98 Nasser, Haya El. “Did Booth Escape?” USA Today 16 May 1995 New, Christopher. The Search for the Real John Wilkes Booth. 8 Dec. 1999.

Stanley, Mara. “Who’s Buried in Booth’s Tomb?” The Washington Times. 17 Apr. 1995. Words / Pages : 1,607 / 24

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