This Day In History, April 15th

What happened on this day in history: Abraham Lincoln dies in Washington D.C., Notre Dame cathedral catches on fire, and more.

1848: Seventy-Seven Slaves Attempt To Escape In The ‘Pearl Incident’

The Pearl Incident, the largest recorded attempted slave escape in American history, takes place in Washington D.C., during which 77 enslaved people snuck onto a schooner called Pearl and attempted to sail to New Jersey, a free state. Thwarted by high wind, they were recaptured and brought back to Washington D.C., and many of them were sold to slavers in the South.

1865: Abraham Lincoln Dies

Today In History April 15

Fotosearch/Getty ImagesA depiction of the death of Abraham Lincoln, who passed away the morning after being shot by John Wilkes Booth.

President Abraham Lincoln dies in Washington D.C. at the age of 56 after being shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. The 16th president of the United States, Lincoln was elected on the eve of the Civil War and steered the Union through the bloody four-year conflict.

He died just as the war came to an end — Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9 — and his death elevated his vice president, Andrew Johnson, to the presidency.

1865: Andrew Johnson Is Sworn In

Just a month after becoming vice president, Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the nation’s 17th president on the third floor of Kirkwood House in Washington, D.C., following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

1912: The RMS Titanic Sinks

Titanic Sinking

Wikimedia CommonsA famous depiction of the RMS Titanic sinking that was created by Willy Stöwer in 1912.

The RMS Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg. Four days earlier, the luxury ocean liner had set sail on its maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City. An estimated 1,500 people died in during the disaster, including 800 passengers and almost 700 crew.

1945: Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp Is Liberated

Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

Mondadori via Getty ImagesWomen formerly imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen after the British Army liberated the camp.

The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany is liberated by the British Army. The camp contained 60,000 emancipated prisoners in poor health as well as over 13,000 dead bodies. It’s estimated that 19,700 people died there between 1940 and 1945, including the teenage diarist Anne Frank.

1998: Pol Pot Dies

Pol Pot

Public DomainMillions of people died in 1970s Cambodia as Pol Pot tried to make it into an agrarian utopia.

Pol Pot dies of heart failure while under house arrest at the age of 72 in Anlong Veng, Cambodia. A brutal dictator who rose to power as the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pot forced Cambodians onto collective farms, and between 1.5 and 3 million people — roughly a quarter of the population — died under his reign. He was put on trial by the Khmer Rouge in 1997 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

2019: Notre Dame Cathedral Catches On Fire

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris catches on fire. As horrified Parisians watched below, flames engulfed the 850-year-old cathedral, causing its famous spire to snap off. The cathedral is currently undergoing an $865 million renovation and is expected to reopen in 2024.