New Evidence Suggests John Wilkes Booth Could've 'Gotten Away With It' If He Hadn't Made A Silly Mistake

On April 14, 1865, the course of American history was altered forever. As the bloody Civil War neared its end and Union victory appeared all but certain, a group of Confederate conspirators led by John Wilkes Booth made a last-ditch effort to salvage their cause — and slayed President Abraham Lincoln without an ounce of remorse. Over the next 13 days, one of the largest manhunts in history ensued, yet all the lucky breaks in the world couldn't prevent the actor-turned-assassin from meeting his ultimate fate.

Original plan

Believe it or not, Booth's original plan wasn't to kill Lincoln; rather, he sought to kidnap the President and exchange him for Confederate prisoners-of-war. But following General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House and the fall of Richmond, the actor concluded that more desperate measures were in order.

Powerful targets

At first, Booth and his co-conspirators plotted not only to kill Lincoln, but Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward as well, thereby avenging the South and throwing the Union into a tailspin. But after learning the attempts on Johnson and Seward had failed, Booth realized he had just one last chance to see his "heroic" plan through.

Gone in a flash

At 10:14 PM, Booth slipped into the President's box at Ford's Theatre and shot Lincoln in the back of the head with a .41 caliber Deringer pistol. Amid the chaos that followed, Booth leapt from the box to the stage and cried, "Sic semper tyrannis," a quote attributed to Brutus at Caesar's assassination meaning, "Thus always to tyrants."

On the run

Booth rushed from the theater and mounted a horse one of his co-conspirators had left for him. Riding fast over the Navy Yard Bridge out of Washington and into Maryland, he rendezvoused with David Herold, another member of his group, and the two made their way to nearby Surrattsville to resupply at a cache hidden at Surratt's Tavern. The race to the safety of Virginia was on, though Booth wasn't exactly feeling 100 percent.