An Unfortunate Foursome

I’ve just finished writing up my thoughts after watching Lincoln. This led me to a post I did several years ago.  Here goes…

April 14th, 1865, believe it or not, the Lincolns were having trouble setting up a double date.

They were planning on seeing a play at Ford Theater as a nice little getaway from that little thing called the Civil War.  Richmond had fallen and Lee had surrendered his army of Northern Virginia.  There were some other significant Confederate armies still out in the field but the war was effectively over and Mary was wanting to enjoy a night out.

Originally, the Lincolns invited the Grants.  The Grants accepted but then decided to leave town.  Other people were asked but all had excuses.  Finally, Henry Rathbone and his fiance, Clara Harris, were invited.  They were thrilled with the invitation and eagerly accepted.

Of course, everyone knows what happened.  The foursome went to the play.  John Wilkes Booth sneaked into their box and shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head, slashed Henry Rathbone on the arm, and made his escape (well, at least for twelve days until he gets shot in the head (nearly in the same location that he shot Abe) by Boston Corbett (an interesting character himself who earlier self castrated himself over a woman) while trapped in a burning barn).

A lot of people know about Mary Lincoln.  After the deaths of her beloved child, Willie, during the Civil War, the assassination of her husband Abe before her very eyes (in fact, while they were holding hands), and another child, Tad, after the Civil War, left her unhinged with grief.  She acted erratically enough that her remaining son, Robert, had her committed.  After only a couple of months, she got her release and ended up living the rest of her life quietly with her sister.

What about Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris?  They ended up getting married.  They had three children.  He was named a consular to Germany.  They moved to Hanover.  One night, in 1883, near Christmas, amid signs of deteriorating mental illness, Henry stabbed and shot Clara dead, tried to kill their children, and tried to kill himself.  He recovered, but spent the rest of him life in an asylum in Germany.  He died in 1911.

So, let’s keep score.  Four people were in the box that fateful night.  Two ended up being murdered and two ended up spending time in an insane asylum, one of whom spent nearly thirty years in one. Not a fortunate foursome.


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