Today in History: John Wilkes Booth Performs for Abraham Lincoln

Shapell Manuscript FoundationJohn Wilkes Booth, the famous assassin who shot President Abraham Lincoln, considered himself a spy for most of his life.

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation explains that “his brains, he said, were worth twenty men, his money worth a hundred and best of all, with his profession, and his fame, he had a free pass everywhere. He told his sister how he moved as a spy among Union armies and, in the most distinguished Northern society, gathered intelligence.”

Eventually, Booth came up with a desperate plan to kidnap the president of the United States. But when a better opportunity presented itself, the actor set up the perfect scene for an assassination. He wrote a letter to John Ford, the owner of Ford’s Theater in Washington, arranging to appear in a play in November.

The letter, dated September 17th 1863, reads:

Dear John

Your telegraph just rec’d:. Now that I understand it. All right. Book me for Nov 2d: for two weeks. I will be there and I will keep the two following weeks open a time longer. there may be a chance for Baltimore then, or you may want me to keep on in Washington. But consider the two weeks from Nov 2d settled. With best wishes

I am Yours Truly



James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]

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