Touring Ford's Theatre

I toured Ford’s Theatre (511 10th Street NW, Washington D.C.) while I was in town for the AEJMC conference.

Besides the theater, there is a museum in the basement about the Lincoln Administration and the Civil War. I scribbled down some highlights:

  • Before his presidency, Abraham Lincoln’s military service consisted of three months in the Illinois Militia (1832) during the Black Hawk War.

  • By 1860, most Southern states threatened secession if Republicans, who opposed slavery’s expansion into western territories, won the U.S. presidency.

  • Lincoln won the Nov. 6, 1860, presidential election with 39.8% of a four-way vote. Six weeks later, South Carolina seceded from the Union.

  • The Baltimore Plot was an alleged attempt to assassinate Lincoln on his way to his inauguration. The train was rerouted, bringing Lincoln to Washington, D.C., secretly. Lincoln’s critics hounded him for this.

  • Abraham Lincoln said in his inaugural address his presidential power allowed him “to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government.” When he received word that Fort Sumter in South Carolina was running short of provisions, Lincoln had to determine whether he should restock it, as promises in his inaugural promise, or potentially ease tension with the Confederacy by holding back. He decided to restock it. Confederate General Beauregard bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, beginning the Civil War. The Union surrendered the fort the following day. Confederate troops occupied the fort for nearly four years.

  • Proposed by Union general-in-chief Winfield Scott, the Anaconda Plan proposed “suffocating” the South by blockading Southern ports and advancing down the Mississippi River to split the Confederacy.

  • In July 1861, Lincoln appointed Professor Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe (1832-1913) chief aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corp.

  • Lincoln signed The Habeas Corpus Suspension Act in March 1863 and suspended the writ of habeas corpus six months later. This resulted in the indefinite detention of “disloyal persons” without trial.

  • John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865, Good Friday. This symbolic timing was not lost on the public.

  • The .44-caliber Deringer pistol Booth used is on display today at Ford’s Theatre.

  • Witnesses disagreed on what Booth shouted after shooting Lincoln and jumping from the Presidential Box to the stage. Some say he yelled, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Ever thus to tyrants!”) but others say he shouted, “The South is avenged.”

  • After Lincoln was shot, he was carried across the street to the home of William and Anna Petersen (516 10th Street NW). Lincoln was so tall, he was laid diagonally across the bed.

  • A pillow used to cushion Lincoln’s head is also on display at Ford’s Theatre. Lincoln’s blood stains are still visible.

  • Lincoln’s body was taken by train to Springfield, Illinois, for burial. The remains of his youngest son, William Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862) were exhumed and taken to be buried next to the late president.

  • Unlike his brother, Edwin Booth, also an actor, was a staunch supporter of Lincoln.