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Song: “Booth Shot Lincoln”

I first heard this sung by Tom Gibney, traditional singer and all-round excellent person, a couple of years before his death in 2005. Here’s a recording of his version of the ballad “Hind Horn”:

(Tom performed alongside traditional song sensations David Jones and Heather Wood, as a group called Poor Old Horse. They made one recording, The Curate’s Egg, which is available courtesy of Heather Wood, and is a joy from beginning to end. All bangers, no clangers. Order form and more info here.)

The lyrics of this song make it sound as though the Lincolns went to see John Wilkes Booth perform in a play on the night of the murder. In fact, they were watching an unrelated cast of performers in Tom Taylor’s play “Our American Cousin” (which is a crackerjack comedy and deserves a better reputation than merely “the play during which Lincoln was murdered”).

Booth merely visited Ford’s Theater on the day he planned to carry out the murder, choreographing the murder plan, then returned during the play just after 10:00 p.m. No one thought to question his presence in the theater, as he was a well-known actor and had appeared in productions there in the past.

Lincoln also never spoke after Booth shot him; he lingered for hours with a grievous head wound and died without regaining consciousness. Otherwise, the song narrative sticks closely to events as we know them.

This video was produced with the kind assistance of Dan Thurston.