- Henry Rathbone
Henry Reed Rathbone (
July 1, 1837– August 14, 1911) was a United Statesmilitary officer and diplomat who was present at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Rathbone was sitting with his fiancée, Clara Harris, next to the President and wife Mary Todd when John Wilkes Boothentered the president's box at Ford's Theatreand fatally shot Lincoln.
Henry R. Rathbone was born in Albany,
New Yorkand was the son of Jared L. Rathbone, a merchant and businessman, who later became Albany's mayor. At the time of his father's death, Rathbone inherited the very considerable sum of two hundred thousand dollars from his family's estate. His widowed mother, Pauline Rathbone, remarried Judge Ira Harris, who was appointed U.S. Senator from New York after William H. Sewardbecame Lincoln's Secretary of State. As a result of this marriage, Ira Harris became Rathbone's step-fatherand his daughter Clara became Rathbone's step-sister. Although this unusual series of events made them step-brother and step-sister, they were not related by blood.
Rathbone studied law at
Union College, was a member of the Sigma Phi Society, and briefly had a law partnership in Albany before entering the Union Armyat the start of American Civil War, during which Rathbone served as Captainin the 12th Infantry Regiment; by the war's end, he had attained the rank of Major.
Good Friday, April 14, 1865, President Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd decided to attend a performance of the play " Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. The Lincolns had invited several people to accompany them, including General Ulysses S. Grantand his wife, but all of them declined for various reasons. Mrs. Lincoln finally invited Major Rathbone and Clara Harris, and they accepted. The young couple had recently become engaged, and Mrs. Lincoln was fond of Clara, having invited her to attend numerous social functions at the White House.
During the play,
John Wilkes Boothsurreptitiously entered the Presidential box and shot Lincoln with a deringerpistol. Rathbone grappled with the assassin and was severely wounded by Booth, who also wielded a large dagger. After stabbing Rathbone in the arm and slashing at his head, the assassinleapt from the box onto the stage and reputedly cried out " Sic semper tyrannis," while some claimed to have heard him say, "The South is avenged." Although he allegedly had broken his leg jumping on to the stage, Booth amazingly made a successful escape, and remained at large for almost two weeks. Meanwhile the dying Lincoln was taken across the street to the house of William Petersen, where Clara Harris remained with Mrs. Lincoln during her vigil of some nine hours. This death watch lasted through the night, until morning, when Lincoln died at 7:22 A.M. on April 15, 1865.
Rathbone recovered from his wounds and married Clara Harris on
July 11, 1867. They had three children. In 1882, Rathbone was appointed U.S. consulto Hanover, Germany, and his family accompanied him there. For some time there had been signs of mental instability in Rathbone, which culminated in the murder of his wife on December 23 1883. After he stabbed Clara, Rathbone attempted suicideby stabbing himself. Their children, who were also almost killed by their father, were afterwards taken to live with their uncle, William Harris, in the United States. When the police arrived, the bleeding Rathbone claimed there were people hiding behind the pictures on the wall. He spent the rest of his life in the asylum for the criminally insane in Hildesheim, Germany. He died in 1911 and was buried next to Clara in the city cemetery at Hanover/Engesohde. As time passed, the cemetery management, looking over records concerning plots without recent activity or family interest, decided in 1952 that Rathbone's and Clara's remains could be disposed of.
Rathbone's eldest son,
Henry Riggs Rathbone(1870-1928), was a U.S. Congressman from Illinois. One of his distant cousins is actor Basil Rathbone.
*Richard Bak (1998). "The Day Lincoln was Shot". Taylor Publishing Company. Dallas, Texas
*findagrave|11126233 Retrieved on
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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