I care not what becomes of me

John Wilkes Booth’s diary, National Park Service, Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, Washington, D.C
Photo: Carol Highsmith

On the evening of 14th April 1865, as he sat in Ford’s Theatre with his wife Mary, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathiser John Wilkes Booth, who fired a .44 caliber Derringer pistol at the back of Lincoln’s head and then fled the scene. A desperate manhunt ensued that spanned multiple states and lasted for twelve days, at which point he was found and killed. Discovered on his person was a small diary; on its pages, dated 14th April but written some days later, was this entry.

The Diary Entry

April 14 Friday, the Ides 

Until today nothing was ever thought of sacrificing to our country’s wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture, but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. But its failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their country with a heart. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I walked with a firm step through a thousand of his friends, was stopped, but pushed on. A colonel was at his side. I shouted Sic semper before I fired. In jumping broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that night with the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment. The country is not what it was. This forced Union is not what I have loved. I care not what becomes of me. I have no desire to outlive my country. The night before the deed I wrote a long article and left it for one of the editors of the National Intelligencer, in which I fully set forth our reasons for our proceedings.

Further Reading

John Wilkes Booth’s diary now lives at Ford’s Theatre Museum, located beneath the theatre itself. Visit the Library of Congress website to see it in full, alongside various other items relating to that evening.

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