‘Now He Belongs to the Ages’

Abraham Lincoln's Assassination


“The death bed of the martyr President Abraham Lincoln. Washington, Saturday morning April 15th 1865, at 22 minutes past 7 o’clock.” By Currier & Ives. Library of Congress.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre. He died early the next morning. It was the first time a sitting president had been murdered. On this episode of BackStory, we’ll mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination by exploring how his death came to pass — and how a changed nation moved forward.

Step by step, this show will walk you through a single horrific act and its aftermath. We’ll follow the conspirators as they hatch their plot, take you on the manhunt to track them down, and revisit the trial that saw several of them hung. We’ll sit at the president’s deathbed with his closest friends, and board the train that ushered his body, town by town, from Washington to Springfield, and delivered his spirit onward, as his secretary of war famously uttered, “to the ages” — or was it “to the angels”?

Help us shape this show! What do you want to know about Lincoln’s assassination? What do you think was his greatest legacy? Do you have ancestral ties to any of the people involved? We want to hear from you. Drop us a line at backstory@virginia.edu, or leave a comment below.


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  1. Ellen Georgi

    Last night, March 19, I saw the Ford’s Theater production of the Civil War musical, Freedom’s song,http://www.fords.org/event/freedoms-song and came away convinced that musical theater and the civil war could connect. The production had a few historical inconsistencies, such as the Southern General surrendering his sword to a black soldier, but that was a nice wishful touch. Within the production, however, they recreated Lincoln’s assassination with a shot from inside the Presidential Box, which in my mind, always looms painfully over the stage. Being in Ford’s Theater and seeing the actors looking up into the box with horror moving into resigned sadness, was a play within a play. Ford’s Theater has an incredible education program that brings students from Title One schools to see their productions for free.. They also invite teachers for a pizza dinner and a preview of the show to prepare to bring their students. Last night the pre show discussion was dominated by the experiences of senior African American teachers who were getting ready to bring their students in from Washington DC, Prince George’s county and other low income predominantly black schools on May 1 and May 8. Hearing the reactions of those students and teachers would be powerful.