Monday, November 07, 2011

Ford's Theater

Time for another history lesson! Actually, likely several in the next few days. This month Robert and I saw a lot of historical sites. After Kevin and Ellen left last month Julia stayed with Robert's mom for five days and Robert and I got to go off by ourselves and explore Virginia! But that's not what this post about since Robert has a lot of pictures on his phone that I need to transfer to the computer first. Our next visitors were Robert's cousin Daniel and his wife Amanda. Sadly, they managed to go their whole trip while avoiding getting into any of our pictures, so there are no pictures of them. But while they were here we went with them to Ford's Theater, one of the places still on our to-do list for the area.

So picture this: The day is April 14, 1865. The Civil War has just ended. After years of worrying about the war Lincoln finally has a relaxing day with his family and goes to the theater that evening to see a British comedy "Our American Cousin." He and his guests arrive late, but not wanting to interrupt the show he tries to sneak it. Of course it doesn't work since he is 6 ft 4 in. tall and immediately recognizable. They stop the show and sing "Hail To The Chief" and make a big deal out of it all.

Meanwhile, a very well known actor, John Wilkes Booth, had stopped by the theater earlier that day and found out that Lincoln would be attending that night's show. He arrives at the theater about an hour after Lincoln's party and goes next door to have a drink. He is familiar with the play (having even starred in it once before) and he knows exactly when he wants to pull off the assassination. Towards the end of the play there is a line that is very funny delivered by the sole actor on stage at the time. Booth thinks this is a perfect time since the noise of the gun will be muffled by the laughing and there will only be one person on stage for him to get through after he jumps from the Presidential Box onto the stage and out the back door.

He was right. At about 10:15 pm he walks right into the Presidential Box (the sole body guard had left his post) and waits for the line. He puts a small pistol right up to the back of Lincoln's head and fires. Booth briefly struggles with Major Henry Rathbone, who was also in the box, then stabs him in the arm with a hunting knife and jumps from the box onto the stage. He get's tangled up in the drapery from the box and breaks his leg as he lands. Then he reportedly yells, "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Latin for "As Always to Tyrants"), flashes his bloody knife at the audience, and escapes out the backdoor in front of a confused audience of about 1,000 people. Booth is eventually found a few days later and is shot to death after refusing to surrender.

Lincoln never regains consciousnesses. He is taken to a boarding house across the street, The Peterson House, where he dies the next morning.

My attempt at a photo of Julia and Robert in the room where Lincoln died.

Also, I have one random picture of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial that I took when we went with Daniel and Amanda so I'll throw it in here. The Memorial is a series of benches, one for each of the 184 people who died in the attack. The benches are organized by the year of birth of each passagenger and oriented so that when you read the name on the bench you are facing towards the Pentagon if the victim was a worker at the Pentagon, or away from the Pentagon if the victim was from the plane.

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