Civil War Union Army Officer, he is best known to history as companion of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, and a witness to his assassination on April 14, 1865.
Considered a brilliant and brave young officer, he joined the Union Army in 1861, and rose to Major of the 12th United States Regular Infantry regiment. He and his fiancée, Clara Harris (daughter of powerful New York Senator Ira Harris), were guests of President and Mrs. Lincoln in the private State Box of the Ford Theatre on the fateful night of the Lincoln assassination. Immediately after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, Major Rathbone attempted to overpower the assassin. It was because of his efforts that Booth was unable to make a clean jump from the private box and broke his leg. In the process, Major Rathbone was seriously wounded in the head and arm by Booth with a hunting knife. Although he survived his wounds, his head injury made him prone to bouts of depression, moodiness and other physical ailments. Still, when offered the appointment as Consul to Germany by President Chester A. Arthur, he accepted.
Moving with his wife and three children to Hanover, the new life he hoped to find was not to be realized. He became even more despondent until, on December 23, 1883, he shot his wife and attempted to commit suicide. He survived, but after being found guilty of his wife's murder, was committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. He was buried in the city cemetery at Hannover/Engeohde. However, as time passed, cemetery officials checked lots with no recent burials and no correspondence from family. It was decided that his remains could be dug up and the bones disposed of by cemetery management. The Rathbone children were raised by their uncle, William Harris, of New York. Major Rathbone's son and namesake Henry later became a Republican congressman for Illinois and introduced the bill to purchase the Oldroyd Lincoln Collection in 1926, which provided the foundation for the Ford's Theatre Museum.
Bio by: Ashley
Clara Hamilton Harris Rathbone
1834–1883 (m. 1867)