Hi, and welcome to the Lincoln assassination tour. I’m Rick Snider, a Washington tour guide and journalist. Yes, I said “War-shington.” That’s how multi-generational locals say it.
I’m a distant cousin of assassin John Wilkes Booth on my mom’s side and co-conspirator Mary Surratt on my dad’s side. Wait, I’m also related to five U.S. presidents. I’m not all bad, you know.
Why are we standing here in front of a man on a horse? Well, all good stories start somewhere and you’re in the middle of three locations where Lincoln’s assassination played out. The man on the horse is president Andrew Jackson, and the statue predates Lincoln’s presidency, but this is a great meeting place for tours.
Before we set off, let me explain how this works. VoiceMap uses your location to play commentary automatically. You can put your phone in your pocket, and focus on your surroundings. You’ll hear my voice again when you reach the next destination, and I'll give you directions to keep you on track.
Let’s walk to Col. Henry Rathbone’s house now, while I give the assassination’s basics. Facing the White House, turn right and follow the sidewalk to the next street.
Why did Booth kill Lincoln? The simple answer is that Booth resented Lincoln – not only for freeing the slaves, but also because he announced that slaves would receive equal voting rights just three days before he was assassinated.
“That’s the last speech he’ll ever give,” Booth told his co-conspirators, while listening to Lincoln outside the White House. And, it was.
Booth was a famous actor, some say the Brad Pitt of his day. Born into a family of Shakespearian actors near Baltimore, Booth promised his mother he wouldn’t join the Southern army. Instead, he became a spy, and after a failed attempt to kidnap the president two weeks earlier, Booth decided to kill him.
Booth felt states, not the federal government, should have deciding power over slavery and that Lincoln was acting like an emperor rather than someone elected by the public. For that reason, Booth decided Lincoln should die.