Famous Last Words · Political · Virginia

The death of John Wilkes Booth

April 26, 1865
Port Royal, Virginia
Lincoln’s assassin, 26-year-old John Wilkes Booth, is killed by Union sergeant Boston Corbett

Booth was tracked for 12 days following the assassination of President Lincoln, finally found hiding in a barn. Co-conspirator David Harold surrendered but Booth refused to, saying “I prefer to come out and fight.” The Union soldiers set fire to the barn to draw Booth out and Corbett shot him as he moved within the barn, though he claimed Booth “raised his pistol to shoot.” However, Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger stated Corbett killed Booth “without order, pretext or excuse,” and recommended he be held accountable for going against orders to bring Booth in alive.

The fatal bullet entered Booth’s neck, pierced 3 vertebrae, and partially severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. He was dragged from the barn and died on the farm owner’s porch 3 hours later. His last words were reportedly “tell my mother I died for my country” followed by a request to have his hands raised to his face to see them, to which he muttered “useless, useless” and breathed his last.

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