Downtown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
John Wilkes Booth's Escape
Civil War to Civil Rights
—Downtown Heritage Trail —
“My brother saw Booth as he came down the alley and turned into F Street.” Henry Davis, 1901.
Twelve-year-old Henry Davis and his brother often looked out the back window of their Ninth Street home before they went to bed. They were fascinated by the comings and goings of actors and stagehands at the rear of Ford’s Theatre, at the other end of the alley on 10th Street.
On the evening of April 14, 1865, Henry went to bed early, but his brother stayed up and was a witness to history. He saw a man limp from the back door of the theater, struggle onto a horse being held for him, and dash down the alley toward F Street. It was the famous actor and Confederate supporter John Wilkes Booth, the matinee idol of his day. He had just shot President Lincoln as he sat in his box, watching Our American Cousin.
Booth had been trying to capture the president for months. Now the plan was to murder Mr. Lincoln, but this plan had come together only hours before. At six p.m., Booth and his co-conspirators met at the Herndon House, which once stood just steps from this alley on the corner of Ninth and F, where the Courtyard by Marriott hotel is today. There it was agreed that Booth’s fellow conspirator Lewis Powell would kill Secretary of State Seward, and George Azerodt would kill Vice President Johnson.
Azerodt’s will apparently failed him. Powell severely wounded Seward. But Booth’s bullet hit home. The full story is told at Ford’s Theatre around the Corner on Tenth Street and in the Petersen House across the street where Lincoln died at 7:22 the next morning. Booth would be apprehended and killed in a Virginia tobacco shed 12 days later.
John Wilkes Booth escaped down the alley next to this sign after shooting President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. (Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)
[John Wilkes Booth] (National Portrait Gallery)
[Wanted Poster] "$10,000 Reward! ... (Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)
[Engraving of Booth escaping on horseback] (Washingtoniana Collection, D.C. Public Library)
right: An artist’s 1880s rendering of the alley stage entrance to Ford’s Theatre. (Washingtoniana Collection, D.C. Public Library)
below: Ford’s Theatre looms over a muddy Tenth Street as it looked the day after Lincoln’s assassination. The restored theater is just around the corner on Tenth near E Street. (Library of Congress)
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number .6.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights marker series.
Location. 38° 53.836′ N, 77° 1.492′ W. Marker is in Downtown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on F Street, NW west of 9th Street, NW, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is on the F Street sidewalk (south side), just east of the alley between 9th and 10th Streets. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20004, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Restoration of 800 F Street (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Woodies Comes to F Street (about 400 feet away); The Old Carroll Hall (about 400 feet away); The Christian Index (about 400 feet away); St. Patrick's Parish (about 400 feet away); Abraham Lincoln (about 400 feet away); Abraham Lincoln Walked Here (about 500 feet away); Patent Office Building (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown.
Additional keywords. William Seward; Andrew Johnson; Villain
Categories. • Notable Events • Politics • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 10, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,184 times since then and 61 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 10, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4. submitted on March 14, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.