Henry Rathbone, The Man Who Tried To Stop Lincoln’s Assassin

Union Army Major Henry Rathbone spent his life wracked with guilt after he wasn’t in a position to cease John Wilkes Booth, inflicting his psychological well being to finally deteriorate a lot that he murdered his spouse in 1883.

On April 14, 1865, Henry Rathbone, his fiancee Clara Harris, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, and President Abraham Lincoln took a seat within the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Near the top of the play they have been watching, John Wilkes Booth quietly entered the field and fired a single shot, fatally injuring the president and sending the remainder of the group into panic.

Library of CongressHenry Rathbone was a adorned navy officer and politician.

Rathbone, a navy officer and a buddy of the Lincoln household, jumped into motion. He was severely wounded whereas making an attempt to apprehend Booth, however the murderer slipped out of his grasp and jumped from the balcony.

In the years following the assault, Rathbone’s psychological well being quickly deteriorated. He blamed himself for not having the ability to cease Booth or save Lincoln. On Dec. 23, 1883, in a delusional rage, he killed his spouse and tried to take his personal life.

Henry Rathbone spent the remainder of his life at an asylum in Hildesheim, Germany. He by no means really recovered from Lincoln’s assassination, the fateful night time that destroyed the lives of multiple household.

The Early Life Of Henry Rathbone

Henry Reed Rathbone was born to a rich household in Albany, New York in 1837. He misplaced his father in 1845, and his mom remarried three years later. As an grownup, Rathbone entered politics as a U.S. Senator, appointed by President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State.

His mom’s second husband, New York senator and state Supreme Court justice Ira Harris, had a number of kids of his personal. Over time Rathbone and Harris’ daughter Clara started a romantic relationship. They introduced their engagement simply earlier than the Civil War broke out, in accordance with the New York Historical Society.

Ford's Theatre

U.S. National Park ServiceFord’s Theatre within the late 1860s.

Rathbone joined the Union Army firstly of the Civil War, and he served as a captain for the twelfth Infantry Regiment in a few of the battle’s bloodiest battles. By the top of the struggle, he’d been promoted to main, and he quickly returned to life in Washington, D.C.

Throughout the course of the struggle, Clara Harris had turn out to be mates with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln via D.C.’s social scene — and thru her father’s political connections. When the Lincolns determined to attend a exhibiting of the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865, they requested Rathbone and Harris to affix them after Ulysses S. Grant and his spouse have been unable to make it.

Rathbone had no concept that his life would quickly change ceaselessly.

The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln And Rathbone’s Response

Just after 8 p.m. on April 14, 1865, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris met up with President Lincoln and the First Lady on the nook of fifteenth and H Streets in Washington, D.C. to experience with them to Ford’s Theatre, in accordance with Emerging Civil War.

They arrived on the theater and settled into the Presidential Box to look at the play. Just after 10 p.m., nonetheless, John Wilkes Booth sneaked into the field and fired a carefully-timed shot simply because the viewers burst into laughter over a humorous line.

Rathbone later testified about his actions within the quick aftermath. “I instantly sprang toward [Booth] and seized him,” Rathbone stated. “He wrested himself from my grasp, and made a violent thrust at my breast with a large knife.”

He continued, “I parried the blow by striking it up, and received a wound several inches deep in my left arm, between the elbow and the shoulder.”

Fords Theatre Lincoln Assassination

National ArchivesLincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.

Booth then broke free from Rathbone’s grasp, and the key shouted, “Stop that man!” Booth managed to flee, and Rathbone wrenched open the door that Booth had barred with a plank in order that docs may rush in to help the dying president.

Once Lincoln was carried throughout the road to a boarding home the place docs tried to avoid wasting his life, Rathbone and Harris helped the First Lady to her husband’s bedside. Rathbone then handed out from blood loss, and he was taken to the Harris house to get better.

Lincoln died from the gunshot wound to the top early the next morning, and Henry Rathbone by no means forgave himself for not having the ability to cease Booth.

The Decline Of Henry Rathbone’s Mental Health

Rathbone, as soon as a wholesome, vibrant member of upper-class society, started battling each his bodily and psychological well being within the years following Lincoln’s assassination. Determined to hold on with life as usually as attainable, although, he and Harris bought married in 1867 and had three kids.

After resigning from the navy in 1870, Rathbone struggled to take care of employment attributable to his deteriorating well being. According to We’re History, he developed “attacks of neuralgia of the head and face,” coronary heart palpitations, and respiratory difficulties. Rathbone additionally grew paranoid that his spouse was going to take the kids and depart him for an additional man.

Clara Harris Rathbone Portrait

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs DivisionClara Harris was murdered on Dec. 23, 1883.

Clara Harris was as supportive of her husband as she might be. In a letter to a buddy, as printed within the History of American Women weblog, she wrote, “I understand his distress… In every hotel we’re in, as soon as people get wind of our presence, we feel ourselves become objects of morbid scrutiny… Whenever we were in the dining room, we began to feel like zoo animals. Henry… imagines that the whispering is more pointed and malicious than it can possibly be.”

In an effort to begin recent and escape the fixed bombardment of reporters, the Rathbone household moved to Germany in 1883. Unfortunately, Rathbone’s descent into insanity solely hastened as soon as there.

The Tragic Murder Of Clara Harris And Rathbone’s Later Life

Clara Harris hoped that the worldwide transfer would profit her household. Unfortunately, nonetheless, Rathbone didn’t deal with it nicely. He solely grew to become extra paranoid and indignant as time went on.

Dr. G. W. Pope, the person who attended to Rathbone the night time of Lincoln’s assassination, later stated that Rathbone “was never thoroughly himself after that night… I have no hesitation in affirming that the dreaded tragedy, which preyed upon his nervous and impressionable temperament for many years, laid the seeds of that homicidal mania.”

On Dec. 23, 1883, Rathbone’s psychological well being had deteriorated to a degree the place he took up arms towards his circle of relatives.

That night, he grabbed his revolver and went into his kids’s bed room. Harris was in a position to distract him, and he or she beckoned him into their very own room as a substitute, closing the door behind them.

Rathbone then violently attacked Harris, capturing her a number of instances earlier than stabbing her to make sure she was lifeless. He then turned the knife on himself, thrusting it into his chest 5 instances in an effort to take his personal life.

Henry Rathbone survived, and he was declared insane and never prosecuted for his spouse’s homicide. He was despatched to Provincial Insane Asylum, the place he remained for almost 30 years till his loss of life on Aug. 14, 1911.

Abraham Lincoln’s assassination modified American historical past ceaselessly and destroyed the lives of the president and his household. However, it additionally result in the smash of the younger and promising Rathbone household, a tragedy of its very personal.

After studying the little-known story of Henry Rathbone, study in regards to the quick, tragic lifetime of Abraham Lincoln’s son William Wallace Lincoln. Then, uncover 33 fascinating info in regards to the sixteenth president.


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