Ford’s Theatre, located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC, is the venue where President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. He died the next morning at the Petersen House, a boarding house across the street owned by William Petersen.
Just days after the Civil War had officially ended, the President and First Lady Mary Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theatre called “Our American Cousin.” With limited security in those days, popular actor John Wilkes Booth sneaked into the President’s box and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Booth jumped down approximately 10 1/2 feet to the stage and escaped out of the stage door.
Still barely alive, soldiers carried Lincoln across the street to the Petersen House where he was placed on a bed for medical attention. As news spread, family, friends and government officials gathered at the house to mourn their mortally wounded President. He died early the next morning on April 15 at 7:22 am.
Booth, however, did not act alone. Lincoln’s assassination was part of a larger plot to destabilize the federal government and avenge the South just as the nation was trying to heal from the Civil War. He and his co-conspirators also planned to murder Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward the same evening. One of the murderous crew, Lewis Powell (aka Payne), nearly succeeded in stabbing Seward to death at his home on Lafayette Square across from the White House. Payne was later hanged along with three other conspirators, and Booth, on the run in Virginia, was hunted down and killed twelve days after the assassination.
Today, Ford’s Theatre is both a museum and a working theater. Purchase a timed ticket at the box office or online to tour Ford’s Theatre, the Petersen House, the Museum and Aftermath Exhibits. Note that availability of each section of the tour varies. Be sure to check the website and daily schedule before your visit. If you’d like to attend a play at Ford’s Theatre, check the website for the schedule.