I may earn a commission from the companies mentioned in this post via affiliate links to products or services associated with content in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read the Advertising Disclosure for more information.


Henry Rathbone joined the Union army in 1861 and during the Civil War he became a major very quickly. His legacy was sealed when he and his fiancee Clara Harris, were invited by the first lady, Mary Lincoln to Ford’s Theater on April 14th 1865.

Henry Rathbone was the man that tried to save President Lincoln or at least apprehend John Wilkes Booth, after Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.

The all too real scene played out like so many before that were acted out at the famous theater, but this time it was for real and this time it involved killing the President of the United States of America.

On guard was a constable at the entrance of the balcony where the Lincoln’s enjoyed the play, his name was John Parker and he was a policeman with the Washington Police force.

He was detailed to stand guard over the President and the First Lady as they watched and enjoyed the play that night. Parker became thirsty and decided to retrieve a drink.

Henry Rathbone during the Civil War

Henry Rathbone during the Civil War

It was then that John Wilkes Booth and the other leapt into action. Booth stepped into the balcony box, now unguarded by the absent Parker, and shot one time into the head of Abraham Lincoln, mortally wounding him.

He was there with the Lincoln’s on invite, grappled with Booth after the fatal shot but was slashed by a hunting knife in the arm and head. Booth then leaped from the balcony onto the stage and made his escape.

President Lincoln lay bleeding to death on the balcony floor, Rathbone was semi-unconscious on the ground and everyone else stood in perpetual shock. The next day the President passed away and Rathbone went into a spin of depression that would rule his life all the way to the end of his days.

In 1867, two years after President Lincoln was assassinated, Rathbone married Clara Harris and over the next few years fathered three children with the woman. In 1882 Rathbone was appointed US consul to Hanover, Germany. Rathbone became more and more apprehensive and paranoid of public places and had an over zealous jealousy of his wife’s attention to their own children.

This came to a dramatic and climatic ending when in December 1883 Rathbone murdered his wife and attempted to commit suicide.

Surviving the self inflicted stab wounds Rathbone was found guilty of murder but committed to a mental asylum for the criminally insane as punishment. The asylum would be the last place Rathbone would ever reside he died in 1911. He would forever be linked to the death of one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America. For his valor in attempting to subdue the man who shot Lincoln, Rathbone was commended by the First Lady herself.