John Wilkes Booth was the ninth child of acclaimed English actor Junius Brutus Booth and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes. He was born on May 10th, 1838 and raised in rural Maryland
. Like several of his brothers (most notably Edwin), he followed in his father's footsteps and became an actor at the age of 17, finding much acclaim on the American stage.
Prior to the Civil War he was strongly opposed to abolitionist actions, even becoming a member of the volunteer militia. He was vocally pro-Confederate
, and equally vocal in his hatred for President Abraham Lincoln
throughout the war. Booth blamed the president for the problems suffered in the South, and for dividing the country in civil war. Though he had initially been formulating a plan to kidnap Lincoln, Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House drove Booth to instead consider assassination.
Major Story Arcs
On April 14th, 1865, Booth learned that President and Mrs. Lincoln intended to attend a showing of the play Our American Cousin
at the Ford Theatre later that night. As a well-respected actor and friend of the theatre's owner, John Ford, Booth was able to enter the theatre without arousing suspicion. At around 10 o'clock, Booth entered the presidential box and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Leaping down to the stage, he yelled "sic semper tyrannis"
("thus always to tyrants"), and possibly also "I have done it, the South is avenged!" before fleeing the theatre.
He and his confederate were hunted down by Union troops and cornered in the Garret barn twelve days after the assassination. Already injured, possibly after jumping to the stage and possibly during the escape, Booth refused to surrender to the surrounding troops, who set fire to the barn in order to force him out. He was then shot by Sergeant Boston Corbett, who managed to hit him the neck, paralyzing Booth. The soldiers dragged him to the porch of the farmhouse, where he whispered, "tell my mother I died for my country", and, gazing at his hands, "useless, useless". He died at dawn at 26 years of age.
In Other Media
John Wilkes Booth has become a figure of fascination in the American consciousness, and has as such made numerous appearances in various media, including comic books. He has appeared in DC
comics, as well as in independent books.
He has also been the subject of numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction, many of which have dealt with his motivation in the assassination of Lincoln, as well as focusing on his personal life.
He appeared as one of the major characters in the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins,
where the role was originated by Canadian actor Victor Garber, and revived on Broadway by American actor Michael Cerveris.