National Archives and Records Administration

"Lincoln was not a type. He stands alone-- no ancestors, no fellows, no successors."
--Robert G. Ingersoll, lawyer, lecturer, and orator, 1894
President Abraham Lincoln led the United States through its most terrible crisis. In the midst of the Civil War, he spoke memorably of the ideals upon which the American government was founded. At the end of the war, he appealed to people's nobler instincts, speaking words of reconciliation and healing.

On April 14, 1865, as he sat in Ford's Theater watching a comedy, President Lincoln was assassinated. Already the dominant symbol of the Civil War, he became a martyred hero on his sudden and violent death.

Police blotter listing the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln,
11:00 p.m., April 14, 1865

National Archives, Records of the Government of the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police blotter lists the assassination among the more mundane police business of April 14, 1865. The entry begins:
"At this hour the melancholy intelligence of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, President of the U.S, at Fords Theater was brought to this office, and information obtained from the following persons goes to show that the assassin is a man named J. Wilks [sic] Booth..."
You can see a close-up view of this entry (85K JPEG).

The Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police was one of several civil and military police groups involved in the investigation. Booth escaped from the scene but was tracked down in Virginia by a platoon of New York Cavalry. Refusing to give himself up, he was trapped in a burning barn and shot.

Abraham Lincoln
(National Archives, Still Picture Branch, 111-B-3658)

The investigation and trial papers relating to the assassination of President Lincoln are held by the National Archives.

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Last updated: March 1996