What Really Happened After Abraham Lincoln Died?

Abraham Lincoln began his second term as President of the United States on March 4, 1865, per the Abraham Lincoln Historical Society. On April 15, just weeks later, he died. The Library of Congress relates the tragic story: the night before he had been in attendance at a play, "Our American Cousin," performed at Ford's Theater. While the president was enjoying the proceedings, actor John Wilkes Booth (above) crept into the president's box and fired a shot at Lincoln from behind. After a tussle with Major Henry R. Rathbone, Booth leapt to the stage and escaped.

The Library of Congress explains that Lincoln was transported to Peterson House, directly across from the theater. He passed away at 7:22 a.m. the next day. Many dramatic events unfolded after Lincoln's assassination.

The Abraham Lincoln Historical Society states that 10,000 officers and detectives joined the hunt for Booth, a star actor whose support for the Confederacy led him to hatch a plot to murder not only the president, but also Secretary of State William Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson. His co-conspirators, Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt, were supposed to attack simultaneously with him.

Powell, attacked Seward in the Old Clubhouse, six blocks away, according to Civil War Times (via HistoryNet). Seward survived a knife attack only because he happened to be wearing a thick dental brace after a carriage crash. Powell would hang on July 7, 1865, after being brought to trial along with other members of the conspiracy. Atzerodt backed out.

John Wilkes booth and his conspirators meet their ends

Meanwhile, the War Department offered a $50,000 reward for the capture of Booth (via History), and $25,000 each for accomplices David C. Harold and John H. Surratt. Booth and Herold's luck ran out after 12 days as fugitives. Members of the 16th New York Cavalry trapped the pair in a Virginia tobacco barn, threatening to burn it down.

Herold surrendered, but Lincoln's killer seemed intent on fighting. Detective Everton Conger reported (per History) that a colleague had set fire to a corner of the barn, and a doomed Booth started to approach the door before being shot by Sergeant Boston Corbett. The assembled men dragged Booth out and laid him on the ground. Unrepentant, he supposedly declared, "Tell mother I die for my country." He suffered for hours before dying just after 7 a.m. After Booth's death, per History, conspiracy theories persisted that another had died in the assassin's place, but there has never been serious evidence.

As The White House Historical Association reports, Lincoln's funeral took place on April 19, 1865. It was a public affair with 600 attendees, centered around the East Room of the White House. Lincoln's devastated widow didn't attend.