Henry Rathbone

Henry Rathbone

Henry Rathbone was born in Albany, New York, in 1837. Rathbone joined the Union Army in 1861 and during the American Civil War reached the rank of major. After his father's death, his mother married the New York senator, Ira Harris. In 1865 he became engaged to his step-sister, Clara Harris.

On 14th April, 1865, Mary Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln, invited Clara Harris and her fiancee to the Ford Theatre to see the play Our American Cousin.

John Parker, a constable in the Washington Metropolitan Police Force, was detailed to sit on the chair outside the presidential box. During the third act Parker left to get a drink. Soon afterwards, John Wilkes Booth, entered Lincoln's box and shot the president in the back of the head. Rathbone grabbed Booth but he was slashed with a hunting knife. Despite a bad wound in his left arm, Rathbone continued to struggle with Booth and as a result he was unable to jump cleanly from the State Box. Booth landed on the stage eleven feet below at an awkward angle and as a result fractured his ankle. However, he was able to hobble out and get on his horse and escape.

In 1867 Rathbone married Clara Harris and over the next few years the couple had three children. When Grover Cleveland became president he appointed Rathbone as his consul to Germany.

Rathbone's behaviour became more erratic and he appeared to become jealous of his wife's attentions to the children. On 23rd December, 1883, Rathbone murdered his wife and attempted to commit suicide. He survived and after being found guilty of murder was committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. Henry Rathbone died in the asylum in 1911.