Wednesday, April 15 marked the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Hamilton students, participating in the Program in Washington semester, decided to spend their morning at the historic Ford’s Theatre. The visit included time in the theatre’s museum as well as attending a one-act play.
The play, “One Destiny,” followed two men, Harry Hawk and Harry Ford, as they examine the events leading up to the assassination of Lincoln. The question each tried to answer was whether or not Wilkes could have been stopped. The play made the audience consider the series of events leading up to the assassination and provided a comedic, yet serious look into history.
President Lincoln was no stranger to death threats. In fact, he even kept a folder on his desk containing the threatening letters. Optimistically, Lincoln believed that assassination was not the American way and strongly doubted that someone would make an attempt on his life. However, he also assessed each threat and understood that there was little he could do to defend himself against an attempted assassination.
Unfortunately, Lincoln’s optimism proved false. On April 14, 1865, as Lincoln sat watching “Our American Cousin” in Ford’s Theatre with his wife Mary, Officer Henry Rathbone and Rathbone’s fiancée, Clara Harris, John Wilkes Booth was planning the assassination. Around 10:15 p.m., Booth snuck into the president’s private box and shot Lincoln in the head. Booth then jumped from the box and onto the stage, breaking his leg, and escaped Washington on horseback.
When doctors arrived on the scene, the President was paralyzed and struggling to breathe. Instead of risking a ride to the White House, they moved him to a home across the street. Lincoln was surrounded by the vice president, Cabinet members, family and friends as he took his last breath at 7:22 a.m. the following day.