The Weapon that Killed a Hero: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

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On April 9, 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia officially marking the end of the civil war. The end of the war did not sit well with many southern sympathizers. There was one guest that went to both Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his last speech on reconstruction, that guest was watching Lincoln’s actions very closely and had, in fact been following him for a long time. Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theater on John Wilkes Booth was the ninth of ten children to his father Junius Booth. The Booth family had a history in acting and many were famous celebrities. John Wilkes Booth made his debut at the age of seventeen. His…show more content…
The barrel of the weapon had an octagonal upper portion with a rounded bottom and it had a black walnut stock. The stock of the weapon was also cracked indicating that it was damaged either before or directly after the assassination of President Lincoln. Booth’s derringer had an S-shaped trigger guard used to prevent accidental discharges. The weapon was made of brass and barely weighs eight ounces (Smith). To put that into perspective a can of soda typically weighs more. The rifling in the pistol was unique in the fact that it had seven grooves and rotated counterclockwise, whereas most derringer pistols from the time period contained clockwise rifling (Schehl). It fires a single lead ball roughly half an inch in diameter. The derringer used to kill Lincoln uses a percussion firing cap to fire the ball of lead that is less than half an inch in diameter. When fired blue grey smoke flows from the barrel leaving a unique signature. The total length of the derringer is about 5.87 inches and can easily fit into someone’s pocket (Slomski). Because of the weapons size it was often called a gentleman’s or ladies pistol, as it was used for self-defense. The size and weight of the weapon make it easy to conceal and carry making it the perfect weapon for Booth to use in his assassination plot.
It is unclear why Booth chose to use a single shot derringer in his assassination, but we can infer through logical observation that it
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