Abraham Lincoln was the first American president who was assassinated. He also was the first Republican president. While in office, he ensured that the country upheld the ideals behind the American Civil War, while battling and putting an end to slavery. He was an outspoken opponent of slavery in the US and ever since his election as President in the year 1860, he focused on measures to abolish the social evil. He achieved this feat through the ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, via the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Much to the dislike of his rivals, Lincoln personally supervised the war effort. He successfully defused the 1861 war scare with Britain and took control of the border states that practiced the buying and selling of slaves. The Copperheads or opponents of the American Civil War criticized him for his uncompromising stance on the slavery issue. At the same time, he was also at the receiving end of much criticism for not abolishing slavery 'quick enough'. Despite such opposition, he rallied public opinion and aired his views on a moderate reconstruction and policy of reconciliation.
His assassin John Wilkes Booth, was a well-known actor who disguised his primary function as a confederate spy from Maryland. The initial plan was to kidnap and use him as bait to 'trade' the release of confederate prisoners. The assassination was a last minute change. When Booth attended the speech made by Lincoln to promote voting rights for the black community, he was infuriated. He decided to assassinate the President when he attended a play at the Ford's Theater.
Abraham Lincoln had disclosed to his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon, a dream about his own assassination. On April 14, 1865, in the absence of his bodyguard, Lincoln attended the play 'Our American Cousin'. As he sat in the balcony, Booth awaited the funniest one liner of the play - "You sock-dologizing old man-trap", to put an end to the President. He hoped that the audiences' laughter would help conceal the gunshot. As soon as the audience broke into laughter, Booth leaped into the box and shot a slug 0.44 caliber Derringer, aiming straight at the President's head. Cutting past Major Henry Rathbone, Booth leaped onto the stage and shouted 'Thus always to tyrants' in Latin. Despite a broken leg, he escaped. After a twelve-day hunt for the assassin, Booth was eventually cornered in Virginia and shot.
The President's wounds were initially declared as 'mortal' by Dr. Charles Leale. An unconscious Lincoln was taken to Petersen House. He succumbed after a nine hour coma. He was attended to by several physicians. U.S. Army Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes pronounced him dead at 7:22:10 am on April 15.
Within days, Booth's co-conspirators were caught. They were tried by a military tribunal that declared them guilty. The conspirators Mrs. Surratt, Herold, Powell and Atzerodt were hanged on July 7, 1865. Arnold and Mudd, O'Laughlen were given life terms, while Edman Spangler, who helped Booth escape from the theater, was given a six year term. John Surratt managed to escape to Europe, via Canada. However, he was captured and tried in 1867. What ended in a deadlocked jury, saw Surratt get away absolutely free.