April 14, 1865: Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.
Five days after the surrender and deactivation of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House (the effective end of the war), Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth, a stage actor and Confederate sympathizer. The demise of the Confederacy pushed Booth, a strongly pro-South, anti-Lincoln Maryland native, over the edge, and he abandoned a kidnapping plot that he and co-conspirators Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen and John Surratt had been formulating since 1864 in favor of simple assassination.
On April 14, they learned that President Lincoln would be attending a performance of the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C., later that evening. He and the conspirators gathered once more, and it was decided that Lewis Powell and David Herold would attack Secretary of State William Seward, that George Atzerodt would carry out an assassination attempt on Vice President Andrew Johnson, and that Booth himself would kill Lincoln. The only attack of these that resulted in a death was Booth’s. He entered the Lincolns’ private theatre box during a particularly humorous moment in the play and shot the President once in the head, before leaping onto the stage, where he yelled either the Virginia state motto - “Sic semper tyrannis” - or “the South is avenged!” Booth broke his leg sometime between the fall and his escape, and he went on the run before being shot outside a barn in Virginia on April 26.
Lincoln, meanwhile, was moved to a house across the street from the theatre; he was pronounced dead early the next morning, the day before Easter Sunday. Utterly divisive as a leader in life, Lincoln was nevertheless mourned by millions in both the North and South in death.