On the night of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by assassin John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance of the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.
Simultaneous assassination attempts attempted by Booth’s co-conspirators against Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward on April 14 failed, and Lincoln was the only one to succumb to the plan.
The details of Lincoln’s assassination were immediately captured and transmitted by Associated Press correspondent Lawrence Gobright. In the chaos following the shooting, Gobright reported from the White House, the streets of Washington, DC, and Ford’s Theatre, producing an on-the-spot news report of one of the most significant events in American history.
Remarkably, the first direct reference to Lincoln’s assassination doesn’t come until three paragraphs into the story.
“The groans of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed the fact that the President had been shot, when all present rose to their feet rushing towards the stage, many exclaiming, ‘Hang him, hang him!'” Gobright wrote. “The excitement was of the wildest possible description …”
The crowd rushed towards the president’s box as it realised Lincoln had been shot. People began crying out for stimulants to keep the wounded president breathing, but it quickly became certain that very little could be done to help him.
“On a hasty examination it was found that the President had been shot through the head above and back of the temporal bone, and that some of his brain was oozing out,” Gobright noted. “He was removed to a private house opposite the theatre, and the Surgeon General of the Army and other surgeons were sent for to attend to his condition.”
Within the presidential box itself, “blood was discovered on the back of the cushioned rocking chair on which the President had been sitting; also on the partition and on the floor.” Booth’s single-barreled pistol was also found abandoned in the room after the shooting.
After the shooting, Gobright reported that Lincoln “was in a state of syncope, totally insensible and breathing slowly. The blood oozed from the wound at the back of his head” while at a house outside the theatre.
Ultimately, “the surgeons exhausted every effort of medical skill, but all hope was gone.”
Lincoln would ultimately die from the head wound the next day at 7:22 am on April 15. Booth himself was tracked down and killed by Union soldiers on April 26, 1865 in a barn in Virginia.
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