On the evening of April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary Todd Lincoln went to Ford's Theater to enjoy the play "Our American Cousin." While seated in the President's Box and laughing at the funniest line in the play, a well-known actor named John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head.
Booth is thought to have shouted the Virginia state motto "Sic semper tyrannis!," (thus always to tyrants) as he carried out the act. He followed this up with, "The South is avenged." The assassination took place only five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union army, and was intended as part of a larger plot to bring back the Confederacy.Lincoln is said to have had a premonition of his death several days before it occurred. He had a nightmare that he walked into the White House and saw a corpse. There were guards surrounding the body and crowds of weeping mourners. When he asked who was dead, a soldier replied, "The President."
Though Lincoln had seemed tired and gaunt in the months preceding the assassination, the day of it he was reportedly very happy and looking well. He reported he'd had another dream the night before that he was on a vessel heading toward a dark and distant shore. He'd had this same dream before many important battle victories such as Gettysburg, so he took it as a good sign.
After Lincoln's untimely death, Ford's Theater was used as a warehouse and an office building for a time. In 1968, it was renovated and repurposed as a theater once again. Another renovation was completed in the 2000s, and the theater was reintroduced in 2009 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. The National Parks now runs Ford's Theater. There you'll find an extensive collection of Lincoln artifacts and memorabilia. It is open to the public every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, as it is an active theater, be sure to check online for any special events that might interfere with touring the facility. Free tickets are required for entry.
Cover photo by Mr.TinDC via Flickr