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.
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.
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.