John Wilkes Booth was born at Bel Air in Hartford County, Maryland on May 10, 1838, to Junius Brutus Booth and Mary Ann Holmes. Who had come to the United States from England in June 1821(Clarke, 79). He was shot dead on April 26 1865, at the age of 26. He secretly married the daughter of Senator John Hale of New Hampshire. As a young boy, Booth was athletic and popular. He went on to become a skilled equestrian and fencer.
He attended Bel Air Academy in 1850-1851. He was intelligence, though he was not interested in education, he loved horses, fencing and entertaining people. He later attended Milton boarding school for boys at Sparks Maryland, were he nurtured his love for acting classical work (Wilson, 113).
He later joined St. Timothy’s Hall an Episcopal Military at Catonsville Maryland. Were he was under strict supervision and as a result, he later on sympathized with the South’s Confederation Army and gave them support. Due to the sudden dead of his father, Booth dropped out of school a year later after joining the school. At the age of sixteen Booth was interested in theatre were he went on and became a leading actor.
Career as an Actor
Although inexperienced Booth made is first debut on August 1855 as a supporting actor, at Earl of Richmond at Baltimore’s Charles Street Theatre. Afterwards he joined a Stock Company at Arch Street Theatre at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1857. However, he was not as good as his half brother in elocution.
He nevertheless captured the imagination of his audience, by growing into an outstanding and accomplished actor (Townsend, 55). He played his part with such great enthusiasm that the audiences admired him. He made his first acting appearance in New York City in May 1862, he made his Boston debut, playing nightly at the Boston museum in Richard III Romeo and Juliet May 13, the Boston Transcript‘s review the next day called Booth;
In January 1863, Booth’s acting career was looking bright, when he returned to Boston.
He invested in varies ventures like land speculation at Boston’s back bay section also invested in 31.5 acre farm were oil had previously been discovered and by early 1864 they had drilled a 1,900ft well yielding 25 barrels per day at Allegheny river. The Civil War in the South was getting complicated. With Lincoln’s re-election, it was clear that there was no end in site. Booth abandoned the oil business on November 27, 1865
There was no much know about is business venture, this was because he died young and he devoted most of is time to acting and enjoying the fine things of life, and the involvement in politics, did not allow him to concentrate on his business.
His Interest in Politics
In April 12 1861, a civil war broke out, his admiration for the South’s secession had become an obsession, and he publicly advocated for South’s secession in November 6 1860. Later on during the civil war, 11 states seceded from the Union, but home state of Booth favored joining the Union, at the same time, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and imposed a martial law (Rhodehamel, 58).
That saw Maryland remain with the Union, which lead to the arrest and imprisonment of pro- secession Maryland political leader and the stationing of Federal troops at Baltimore. Booth was against the abolition of slavery and the right of the former slaves to vote that he wrote a letter criticizing the Union Government for wanting to abolish slavery. He cooperated with the South’s Confederation Army by smuggling quinine for them.
Assassination of Lincoln
The prospect of re-election of President Lincoln angered Booth so much that he regretted having promised his mother for not joining the military. He was disappointed, to the point of regret as to why he never acted before to put to an end the life of the Union main supporters.
This gave him more reason as to why he should kidnap Lincoln with an aim of exchanging him for the South’s prisoners. He recruited Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen to help him carry out is plan. After a landslide win, President Lincoln advocated for the rights of former slaves to vote.
That man’s looks, his coarse low jokes and anecdotes, his vulgar similes, and his policy are a disgrace to the seat he holds. He made the tool of the North, to crush out slavery.
When the President stated his desire for giving the former slaves an opportunity to choose their leader and participate in the nations building process, at a gathering at, white house. This speech disappointed Booth so much that he decided that that would be last public appearance of Lincoln. In April 14 1865, Booth went to Ford’s theatre to get is mail, while there he was informed that the President and his wife will be attending the play at the theatre that evening.
This presented a perfect opportunity to carry out is assassination attempt (Smith, 120). He therefore immediately went on to make plans to assassinate the President. As he had access to the Lincoln box, later that evening after confirming the presence of the President, he slipped into the box at 10pm and shot the President. Booth as a fugitive on April 26, he was tracked and shot dead at Garrett’s farm, just south of Port Royal, Caroline County, Virginia.
There is some controversies surrounding the death of Booth, with some historians indicating that Booth had escaped to Japan, and there was an attempt to cover up, till to date it can’t be authoritatively be proven whether he was the one indeed shot died at Garrett’s farm. Therefore, there is a need to conclusively, lie to rest these theories by performing a DNA test on his remains to prove his identity for the last time.
Clarke, James. A Sister’s Memoir. USA: University Press of Mississippi, 1996. Print.
Rhodehamel, John. The Writings of John Wilkes Booth. USA: University of Illinois, 1997. Print.
Smith, Gene. The story of America’s legendary theatrical family. New York: 1992. Print.
Townsend, George. The life, crime and capture of John Wilkes Booth. New York: 1977. Print.
Wilson, Francis. John Wilkes Booth. New York: 1972. Print.