Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, D.C., on this date in 1865.
The Lincolns almost didn’t attend the play, a British comedy titled Our American Cousin, that night. Mary Todd Lincoln had a headache, and the president himself was not inclined to go, saying he felt tired. But Lincoln reckoned he could use a laugh, and since Ulysses S. Grant and his wife — who were also invited — couldn’t make it, the Lincolns decided they had better attend. Lincoln took care of some last bits of business — including signing legislation that established the Secret Service — and made his way to the theater, where they joined Major Henry Rathbone, and Rathbone’s fiancée, Clara Harris. By all accounts, Lincoln was in a pleasant mood and laughed heartily at the play.
John Wilkes Booth entered the president’s private box at Ford’s Theatre at about 10 o’clock in the evening. He took out a single-shot Derringer, aimed it at the back of Lincoln’s head, and pulled the trigger.