The Day Lincoln Was Shot (1998)




Director:     John Gray.

Starring:     Rob Morrow (John Wilkes Booth), Lance Henriksen (President Lincoln), Donna Murphy (Mary Todd Lincoln), Jean Louisa Kelly (Lucy Hale), Wil Wheaton (Robert Todd Lincoln), Titus Welliver (Lewis Thornton Paine), Jaimz Woolvett (David E. Herold), Jeremy Sisto (Frederick Seward), Kirk B.R. Woller (George A. Atzerodt), John Pleshette (Secretary of State William Henry Seward), Gregory Itzin (Mr. Crook), Adam Lamberg (Thomas 'Tad' Lincoln), John Ashton (Gen. Ulysses Simpson Grant ), Eddie Jones (Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton), Nancy Robinette (Mary E. Surratt).

For TNT (Turner Television Network).



Spoiler Warning:

Ford's Theatre, Washington City, April 1865.  In the theatre actor John Wilkes Booth is having his photo taken.  The actor complains of how long it's taking to get the picture taken.  The photographer mentions that he took the photo of John's father Junius Booth:  "Greatest actor I ever set eyes on."  Lewis Thornton Paine comes into the theatre causing John to joke with him that he can't believe that Lewis would ever come into a theatre.  The large man says:  "Everybody's waiting for you, cap."

Around the same time President Lincoln is also having his photo taken. 

Surratt boarding house, 541 H Street.  Booth sits at the head of the dinner table and talks to his little group of seven men about slaves being property.  And the slaves were treated well.  One man criticizes Booth for talking a lot about doing something about Lincoln, but never actually doing anything.  The emotionally unstable Lewis Paine lunges at the man with a knife to his throat.  He tells the fellow what Booth has already done for the Confederacy.  Booth asks Paine to relent, but Paine is still so hot-headed that he has to settle down a bit more before he sits back down. 

The men go into the living room and Booth talks about his plan to assassinate Lincoln.  He says his actor friends from Richmond, Virginia have told him that Lincoln will be at the matinee at Campbell Hospital.  Their plan is to intercept the President on his way back to Washington.  A Mr. Lloyd will have supplies at the ready at the tavern in Surratsville.  Atzerodt will have a boat at the Potomac River and he will ferry the men across to the Richmond side of the river.  The plan is to take Lincoln hostage to exchange him for Confederate prisoners.   "This is our chance to save the South.  One bold move, we get out boys back and we break the Union spirit at the same time."

National Hotel, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.  Booth comes into the hotel where a fancy crowd dances to the music of a live band.  He goes over to one of the tables and asks Lucy Hale to dance with him.  She agrees willingly.  While dancing, Booth tells Lucy that he is madly in love with her. 

The White House.  Mary Todd Lincoln asks an aide where is the President?  The aide says he went with Mr. Crook over to the War Department to hear news about Richmond.  She demands to see the mail in the aide's hand, but then is upset that the mail contains letters with death threats for the President.  She then demands to know why weren't these letters shown to her before?  The arrival of the President finally removes the aide off the hot seat as the President tells his wife not to concern herself with the nasty letters.  He gets as many letters calling him a saint and asks the aide to show Mrs. Lincoln some of those letters.  Mary tells her husband:  "I don't like it when you keep things from me."  She leaves.  The aide tells Lincoln that they have no letters saying the President is a saint.  Lincoln tells him:  "Write some."

Mr. Crook tells the President that he does not have enough security around him.  Lincoln responds:  "It's been my belief that in a country like this one where assassination is always possible and will come if they are determined enough about it."

Secretary of War Stanton brings news to the President that Richmond has fallen.  The President says he's pleased and relieved, but is saddened by what it took to get to this point.  He now says he wants to go to Richmond right away.  Stanton says that's too dangerous, but Lincoln insists on going. 

The news of the fall of Richmond saddens Booth and his followers. 

Booth goes to see Lucy Hale.  Lucy says she was looking for him all day and asks him what can she do for him?  He says maybe shoot President Lincoln.  He greaves that the way of life of the South is lost.  Lucy holds him close. 

Richmond, Virginia.  Lincoln and his little boy Tad walk with a naval escort through Richmond.  The black people see him and gather around him.  Many just want to touch him while other say:  "God bless you."

Back in Washington Lincoln visits an ailing Secretary of State Seward, a victim of a carriage accident.  Seward wears a protective collar around his neck.  Lincoln tells him to get well.  "We have a lot of work to do.  The South expects us to punish them, but we're going to forgive them."

Booth and Lucy have sex.  He is interrupted by the sudden explosion of fireworks in the sky.  He  calls down to a man on the street to ask what's going on?  General Robert E. Lee has surrendered.  The war is over!

In front of the White House Lincoln speaks to a large group of people.  Booth is one of those in the crowd.  The Presidents asks the band to play "Dixie" and the music begins.  Booth says he feels like he is going to be sick.  He says that's the last speech Lincoln is ever going to make.

Booth returns to the boarding house and starts demolishing many items there.

At night the conspirators get together.  Booth now wants to do something really big.  He wants to kill not only Lincoln but many of the cabinet officers, such as Seward and Vice-President Johnson.  He wants to do something huge to harm the Republican government.  He wants so much confusion to reign that Johnston could mount another offensive against the north.   

Mrs. Lincoln sees a woman admiring her husband.  She seeks the woman out and basically calls her a husband-stealer.  The First Lady tells her:  "Do you think he would prefer you?  I suppose you think you'll get to the White  House yourself.  I have seen the likes of you over and over again.  Now I never let my husband see a woman alone.  You remember that."  When Lincoln appears, Mary confronts him.  "Do you think I'm blind?  That I would not notice that you favored her?"  That was very embarrassing.  He apologizes to the husband of the woman who tells the President to think nothing of it.  Lincoln smiles and says:  "Then again you folks should be able to stand for twenty minutes what I have stood for over twenty years."  The two men laugh.   

At night Lincoln has a nightmare that he came upon a casket and asked:  "Who is dead in the White House?"  The President.  He bolts upright in his bed..

Booth writes he is a Confederate doing his duty on his own responsibility.

 Lincoln's older boy Robert returns to the White House a captain in the Union Army.  Lincoln gets up immediately when he sees his son. 

At dinner Robert tells the family about being there in the room with Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant when Lee surrendered.  The President says they will have to learn to live with the men who opposed them.  Mary Todd Lincoln speaks up saying they should hang Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.  "Traitors!"  The President lets her words just pass by him. 

Mary tells son Robert that his parents are going to see Laura Keene in "Our American Cousin" tonight.  She wants Robert to go with them, but the President urges his wife to let poor Robert sleep tonight in a proper bed.  He needs the rest. 

Booth walks over to the Ford's Theatre, goes in and asks if there is any mail for him.  He learns from the fellow that Lincoln and Grant will be coming to the play tonight.  Booth really perks up now. 

Grant tells Stanton that Mrs. Lincoln wants to him and his wife to go to the theatre with her and President Lincoln.  The problem for Grant is that Mrs. Lincoln called Grant a "butcher" of his own men and Mrs. Grant refuses to even be in the same room with the First Lady.  And Grant has already promised his wife Julia that they would go visit their children in Burlington, New Jersey.  Stanton tells the General to just tell Lincoln that he has to go to New Jersey with his wife to see their children. 

Booth walks upstairs in the theatre and over to what will be the President's box tonight.  He goes inside the booth and looks at the stage and the actors who are rehearsing the play. 

Stanton tells the President and the other men in his office that the public wants Lee and Davis to hang.  He says:  "Mr. President, we cannot reward the South for what they have done by showing mercy to their leaders.  They will think us fools."  Lincoln says there will be no "bloody work", no persecution.  "There will be no more killings." 

George A. Atzerodt tells Booth that he can not kill any of these Lincoln men.  Booth reiterates to him that this is not murder, but an act of war.  George replies:  "The war is over!"  Booth says that what's the North wants them to believe.  There are Southerners still out there ready to fight.  He now threatens to kill George, if he does not kill the Lincoln man he tells George to kill.

Grant tells Lincoln that he can't go to the theatre.   The President says surely he can put it off one more day.  After all the people want to see the man who won the war for them.  Grant says he can't because Julia has her heart set on going today.  Lincoln replies:  "Don't give it another thought Grant.  Let's face it, it's women that run the world, and that's as it should be."

Booth asks a favor of Mrs. Surratt.  He has heard she is going to Surrattsville.  He wants to take a package of his and a message that he be so kind to have this package and the rest of the stuff ready and Lewis, Davy and Booth will be by later to pick their things up.  Mrs. Surratt says she will gladly do that for Mr. Booth. 

Lincoln tells Crook that he believes there are men who want to take his life and he is sure they probably will do so.  And now he has to take a ride with his wife into the countryside.  The couple has a driver and an escort of two soldiers on horseback. 

On the ride, the couple speak about their plans for the future.  Lincoln thanks his wife for her support through these trying times.  Mrs. Lincoln looks concerned.  She asks her husband:  "Don't you remember feeling this way just before our little boy died?"

With his knife Booth makes a small hole in the wall of the Presidential box.  At home he practices in front of a full-length mirror saying "Sic semper tyrannus!" (Thus always to tyrants.) 

Booth runs into Lucy Hale.  She says her father has been appointed Ambassador to Spain and he wants to take her with him in order to get her away from Booth.  She wants to stay here and marry Booth.  Booth sits her down and tells her that her father is doing the right thing.  He would only bring her sorrow.  There are things that have been set in motion already and that can't be stopped.  He may end up hurting her.  Lucy is very upset, stands up and leaves. 

At the dinner table, Mary says they have a hard time just getting someone to go to the theatre with them.  In fact, they all hate her.  The President denies that, but Mary believes it.  She even says maybe they should cancel going to the theatre because she has a terrible headache.  Lincoln says they have to go as their presence at the theatre has already been advertised.  So Mary gives in, but says she will invite the Rathbones to go with them. 

Herndon House.  9th and F Street.  Booth tells Davy to go with Lewis and kill Seward.  George will get them across the Potomac River.  He tells his men that they will not be forgotten.  There will be statues of them erected in the public squares across the South. 

At the White House, Parker arrives late as usual.  Crook suspects the man was probably off drinking somewhere.  Crook tells him the Lincolns are going to the theatre tonight and he is to stick with them the entire time.  Parker says Lincoln usually excuses him anyway.  Crook tells him not to take advantage of the President's good nature. 

Crook asks the President to let him stay on duty tonight, but Lincoln tells him to go home. 

Kirkwood House, Pennsylvania Avenue.  Vice-president Johnson is eating dinner.  George A. Atzerodt is at the bar and asks the bar tender if that is the Vice-president?  Yes.

Seward Home, Lafayette Square.  Son Frederick Seward brings his father a liquor drink.  They toast to the Union.  Outside the house are Lewis and Davy, both on horseback.  Lewis counts five people in the Seward House.

The Lincolns start off for the theatre.  The music starts in the theatre.  Booth goes into the theatre. 

The Lincolns stop to pick up the Rathbones.  They are going to be a little late.  Booth figures the Lincolns are not coming and goes into a nearby bar to have a drink.  Now the Lincolns arrive and Booth hears the cheering for the president.   Then he hears the Presidential theme song.  He quickly goes back into the theatre. 

A police officer on horseback rides up to Lewis and Davy.  He asks the two men what are they doing here?  Lewis says they are just out for a ride.  The policemen says he suggests then that the men actually ride.  So the two start riding.

The Presidential guard goes into the local bar and starts drinking leaving the Lincolns alone. Booth is back in the bar himself loading his derringer.  Parker leaves the bar.  Booth takes his horse around to the back of the theatre.  He gets someone to get someone else to hold his horse for him.  The young man comes out and holds the horse.  Booth tells the man he won't be long.  He goes into the theatre. 

Booth walks underneath the theatre to get to the other side.  Parker sits down in the audience. 

Andrew Johnson gets up from his dinner.  Lewis Paine approaches the Steward residence and knocks on the door.  A black man tells Paine that he has strict orders not to let anybody go up to see Mr. Steward.  Paine reminds the black man that he is speaking to a white man and pushes past the man.  Booth speaks to Parker, about what no one knows.  He goes past the audience over to the presidential box.

George knocks on the door of the Vice-president's residence.  Lewis runs into Steward's son and has to pistol whip him down.  Booth gets into the presidential box and readies himself.  Lewis pushes open the door to Steward's room, jumps on him on the bed and starts stabbing at him with his knife.  Someone jumps on Lewis and they both fall off the other side of the bed.  Lewis stabs the man who grabbed him, then he has to stab at another man coming for him.  He starts to go down the steps and has to stab a third man to get him out of his way.  Davy hears all this terrible noise going on, gets scared and leaves on his horse leaving Lewis behind.  George waits for the Vice-president to come to the door, but for some reason it takes him awhile to come to the door.  When Johnson opens the door he finds no one there.  George has run off. 

Booth waits for the line of the play that always gets a big laugh. As the laughter starts, he opens the door, and shoots Lincoln in the head saying:  "Sic semper tyrannus."  Rathbone tries to stop Booth put gets knifed in the left shoulder and arm.  As Booth jumps down on the stage from the Presidential box, he twists his ankle in the US flag bunting hung on the side of the Presidential box.  The audience is screaming as Booth shouts to them:  "The South is avenged!"  He runs off the stage and goes to the back of the theatre.  He pushes the horse tender down on the ground, gets on the horse and rides away. 

Lewis Paine gets on his horse and takes off.  Rathbone opens the door to the presidential box and a man rushes in.  A little later a doctor comes along.  They look for stab wounds on the President, but when they touch the back of his head, their hands get all bloodied.  The President has been shot. 

Booth rides toward the Potomac River. A huge number of soldiers now pour into the theatre.  The first man to reach the president tells the soldiers to go find the nearest house and bed to where they can bring the President.  They pick the president up and take him out of the theatre.  It is tough pushing through the crowded street.  They finally go into a house across the street and place him on a bed.   They have to put him down laying diagonally on the bed because of the President's tall frame.

Booth reaches the river but there is no one there.  Then Davy comes riding up saying he left Lewis Paine behind.  Booth tells Davy that he thinks he busted his leg in his escape from the theatre.  Robert Lincoln shows up at the house to see his father and mother.  Stanton arrives and orders a military officer to get guards on the Vice-president and all the cabinet members.  He wants all the bridges out of the city shut down.  He talks to the army surgeon. Lt. Neil, who tells Stanton that the bullet went through the President's brain and is lodged behind his right eye.  He adds:  "He will die, sir.  A lesser man would be dead already, but there is nothing we can do for him."

When Mary Lincoln starts shouting orders to her son, Stanton tells Robert to get his mother out of here.  Later Robert cries as he looks at his father's bloodied clothes.  Still later the surgeon tells Robert that no, his father cannot live. 

Davy and Booth stop at the home of a Dr. Mudd.  The doctor says it may be a fracture just above his ankle.  He lets Booth stay here until the swelling of his leg goes down.  Booth tells Davy then when they get deeper into the South they will be heroes and the people will take care of them.  Booth also talks about Lucy Hale and his mother.  He starts crying. 

Mrs. Lincoln is back and talks to her husband begging him to speak to her.  She starts crying again and Stanton indicates to Robert that once again he should take his mother away.  As they start to walk away they hear Lincoln take one last gasp of air.  The surgeon declares him dead at 7:22 and 10 seconds am.  Stanton says:  "Now he belongs to the ages."  Mrs. Lincoln sobs, while everyone tries to deal silently with their own pain and grief.  People outside cry for the president. 

At the Surratt home, Mrs. Surratt and Lewis Paine are arrested.  George Atzerodt is arrested.  Another man is arrested.

Garrett Farm, 12 days later.  The army has the barn surrounded.  Davy gives himself up and is taken away.  A fire is started and the barn starts burning.  A soldier with a pistol sees Booth in the lighted barn and shoots him.  Now the soldiers drag his body out of the barn.  Booth says:  "Tell my mother I died for my country.  I did what I thought was best.  I can't move.  Someone, please, could someone just lift my arms.  I want to see my hands."  A soldier lifts his arms.  Booth comments:  "Useless.  Useless."

"Lewis Paine, David Herold, George Atzerodt and Mary Surratt were tried and hanged in July of 1865.  There has never been any conclusive evidence that Mary Surratt had knowledge of the plots against Lincoln.  Dr. Samuel Mudd served four years in prison as an accessory after the fact.   Mary Todd Lincoln spent a year in a mental hospital in 1875.  She died in seclusion in 1882.  Tad Lincoln died of tuberculosis at the age of 18.  Robert Lincoln served as Secretary of War to Presidents Garfield and Arthur, and as U.S. Minister to Great Britain.  He died in 1926.  Secretary Seward suffered severe face and chest wounds; his neck brace saved his life.  Frederick Seward  recovered from his injuries.  Millions of grief stricken Americans mourned Lincoln as his body traveled by train in a cross country funeral that lasted two weeks.  He was buried in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.  Andrew Johnson became the 17th President.  Reconstruction under his administration was authoritarian and vindictive toward the South."



A well-known story but still well-done and there are details that add flavor to the story.  Lance Henriksen (as President Lincoln) and Donna Murphy (as Mary Todd Lincoln) were very good.  Some people know of the assassination of Lincoln, but not the attempted assassinations of Secretary of State Seward and Vice-president Johnson.  Here the whole conspiracy is covered. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:



John Wilkes Booth (born 1838), well-known Shakespearian actor, solid racist and Southern sympathizer, absolutely hated Abraham Lincoln and wanted for the South's loss of the war.


late summer -- Booth develops plans to kidnap Lincoln, take him to Richmond, and hold him ransom in return for Confederate prisoners of war.


January  --  Booth organizes a group of co-conspirators that include Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlen, John Surratt, Lewis Payne, George Atzerodt, and David Herold. Booth meets with Dr. Samuel Mudd both in Maryland (where Mudd lived) and Washington.  In addition, he begins using Mary Surratt's boardinghouse to meet with the co-conspirators.

March 17 -- the plan to capture Lincoln at a play at a hospital on the outskirts of Washington fails because the President decides to remained in the capital.

April 9  --  General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.

April 11  -- Lincoln speaks to a crowd, including Booth, gathered outside the White House. Booth becomes so infuriated when Lincoln suggests that voting rights be granted to certain blacks that he now plans an assassination.

April 14  --  

Booth drops by Ford's Theatre and learns that the President and General Grant will attend the evening performance of "Our American Cousin." He later learns Grant will not be present. Holds one final meeting with his co-conspirators. Atzerodt is to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson at his residence, Kirkwood House. Payne, accompanied by Herold, is to kill Secretary of State William Seward. All attacks are coordinated for 10:15 P.M. that night.

8:30 p.m.  -- the Presidential party arrives at Ford's.

9:30 p.m.  -- Booth arrives at Ford's.  Booth goes next door to a saloon for a drink.

10:07 p.m.  -- Booth enters the front of Ford's Theatre and slowly makes his way toward Lincolns' State Box where he is sitting with Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone. Lincoln's bodyguard, John Parker of the Metropolitan Police Force, has left his post.

10:15 p.m.  --  Booth opens the door to the State Box and shoots Lincoln in the back of the head at near point-blank range with a single-shot derringer; struggles with Rathbone, who receives a stab wound in the arm; jumps 11 feet to the stage below. When he hits the floor he snaps the fibula bone in his left leg just above the ankle. He cries out "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Latin for "As Always to Tyrants"). Booth runs across the stage, goes out the back door, climbs on his horse, and escapes using the Navy Yard Bridge.

Atzerodt makes no attempt to kill Johnson; Payne stabs but fails to kill Seward; Herold escapes from the capital also using the Navy Yard Bridge. Booth and Herold meet.

April 15

12 midnight  --  stop briefly at Mary Surratt's leased tavern in Surrattsville where Mrs. Surratt had earlier left the message to have supplies ready.

4:00 a.m.  -  Booth and Herold arrive at Dr. Mudd's home where Mudd sets and splints Booth's broken leg.

7:22 a.m.  -- Lincoln, never regaining consciousness, passes away at the Petersen House (across the street from the theatre).

afternoon -- Booth and Herold depart from Dr. Mudd's place and travel south.

April 26

Federal authorities catch up with Booth and Herold at Garrett's farm near Port Royal, Virginia, early in the morning. Hiding in a barn, Harold gives up, but Booth refuses.  The troops set the barn on fire. Booth is shot to death by Sergeant Boston Corbett.

July 7

Within days Booth's co-conspirators are arrested. Mrs. Surratt, Payne, Atzerodt, and Herold all hang.

Dr. Mudd, O'Laughlen, and Arnold given life terms in prison. Edman "Ned" Spangler, a Ford's stagehand, is convicted of helping Booth escape from the theatre and receives a prison sentence of 6 years.


President Andrew Johnson pardons Dr. Mudd, Arnold, and Spangler.


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