April 15th, 1865, “The President has been shot!”

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in what was then dubbed as the “crime of the century”. John Wilkes Booth, an actor, was known to be a Confederate sympathizer and was involved in an original plot to kidnap President Lincoln and take him to Richmond to be held captive as ransom to secure the release of Confederate prisoners of war being held in Union prison camps. The plans to capture President Lincoln ended in failure and three weeks later, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union forces commanded by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The surrender must have been the impetus behind Booth’s decision to carry out his fatal deed and on the evening of the 14th of April, as President Lincoln sat in the Ford Theater, John Wilkes Booth shot and killed the President of the United States.

He escaped the city through Southern Maryland, in a route that took him through Clinton, Maryland in Prince Georges County. On the way out of the DC, he stopped by the Surratt Tavern to pick up weapons before heading off to his final destination in Virginia. The Surratt House still exists today as a museum and the Surratt Society holds a John Wilkes Booth escape route tour every year during the spring and in the fall. As you might imagine, the spring tours have already been filled up for 2006, especially the planned April 15th tour. The tour is 12 hours long and costs $60.

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