On this day, March 20, in 1865, a plan by John Wilkes Booth to abduct President Abraham Lincoln was ruined when Lincoln failed to show up at the location of the appointed ambush in Northwest Washington.
Booth, an actor as famous as a young Brad Pitt in his day, learned that the president was visiting a hospital near the Soldier’s Home, a cottage for retired and disabled Army members that the president also used to get away from the White House.
Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, hatched a plan to kidnap the president and smuggle him across the Potomac to Richmond, the capitol of the Southern states. The president would be exchanged for peace or the release of Southern soldiers held captive in Northern prisoners.
Booth and his team lay in waiting on the roadside, but Lincoln never showed. The president had changed plans at the last moment to attend a reception at the National Hotel in Washington, where, coincidentally, Booth was staying.
Booth’s frustration over his mission’s failure is believed to have contributed to his decision to assassinate Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre a month later.
– Scott McCabe