John Wilkes Booth, the infamous assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was a busy man on the day of April 14, 1865. Just hours before the tragedy at Ford’s Theatre, Booth made a visit to the Washington, D.C., hotel where Vice President Andrew Johnson was staying. It is there that he left today’s spotlight document: a calling card. Historians are still debating over Booth’s rationale for leaving this card for the vice president.
The handwritten card is signed J. Wilkes Booth, and contains the short message, “Don’t wish to disturb you. Are you at home?” In the original plans for April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was to be kidnapped and taken to Richmond as a means to demand resuming the prisoner exchanges between the Union and the Confederacy. But shortly after Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, in which he hinted at granting voting rights to African-American men, Booth changed his hostage strategy to include darker and more permanent measures.
As according to this final plan, Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth. However, Booth’s accomplice George Atzerodt lost his nerve and was unable to go through with the assassination of the vice president, leaving Andrew Johnson to become the 17th President of the United States.
You can find more documents on the Civil War and Reconstruction online at DocsTeach.org.
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