Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Top 10 Stops Along the John Wilkes Booth Trail

1. April 17- 19 Charles County Maryland On the Trail of the Assassin click on the above link to get a list of events that are happening in Charles County.

The Philadelphia Derringer pistol Booth used to murder Lincoln, is at the museum in Ford's Theatre.

2. John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln as he sat watching the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre.  As he jumped from the balcony onto the stage his boot spur was caught on a flag which cause him to dramatically land and he broke his leg.

3. Booth traveled across the Navy Yard bridge to rendezvous with David Herold a co-conspirator. History has it Sergeant  Silas Cobb of the Union Army was on duty that evening guarding the bridge and although he had orders not to allow anyone to cross after 9 p.m. he allowed Booth and Herold both to cross. You can read more about this at

4. The next stop the two met up at would have been the tavern of Mary Surratt a well known Confederate safe house.  Mary Surratt a widow and mother of two Confederate soldiers is the only female hung for her role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Booth retrieved weapons and supplies at the home which implicated Mrs. Surratt. She is the first female to be executed by the U.S. government. Not too many years ago a movie came out about Mary Surratt, The Conspirator, it may be showing up on television this weekend.  The Surratt House Museum is located in Clinton, Maryland.  They offer various tours. Check out their website for complete details.

5. The pair then traveled to Dr. Samuel Mudd's home in St. Catherine's Maryland. Mudd treated Booth for his broken leg and later that afternoon the two conspirators left Mudd's home. Dr. Mudd claimed not to have known about the assassination or the identity of Booth when he treated him.  He was merely doing his duty as a doctor for a patient that arrived at his doorstep. Dr. Mudd was still however convicted of conspiracy and sentence to prison for life in Florida. During his imprisonment, the doctor was hailed for his treatment of prisoners and guards during a deadly outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1867. President Andrew Johnson pardoned him in 1869. The Dr. Mudd House Museum is open to visitors. See the website link for specific times. This coming Saturday and Sunday (April 18 and 19)  they are open until 7 p.m. It looks like an interesting weekend at the Mudd House.

6. Booth and Herold then hid out in the Maryland woods for several days before crossing the Rappahannock River into Virginia. Make a left on King and Water Street in Port Royal, Virginia and you can head down to the water edge believed to be where Booth and Herold came ashore. A few years back a osprey nest sat atop a telephone pole at the very site.

7. The two conspirators traveled up the path to the home of Randolph Peyton in Port Royal. Port Royal, Virginia is a town along Route 301 just across the Rappahannock and you could easily drive right past it without much recognition with the exception of two tall chimney stacks along the route. These are historic markers of the town's history they are the Dorothy Roy Chimney's but also a good place to make a right hand turn if you are headed north or a left headed south. The town has such a feel of when time stood still. The fugitives along with three former Confederate soldiers arrived at the house at approximately 2:0 p.m. on April 24, 1865.  The owner was not home. Sarah Jane Peyton, sister of the owner admitted the men.  Booth was described as a wounded Confederate soldier looking for a place to stay. and he made himself at home in the parlor. Miss Peyton later asked them to leave since the man of the house was not at home and directed them to the Garrett Farm.

The ornate woodwork inside the entry hallway where Booth briefly stayed was sold and is now on display at the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery in Kansas, Missouri.

8. On April 26 the 16th New York Calvary cornered Booth and Herold in the tobacco barn of the Garrett Farm. Herold surrendered.

Driving along Route 301 in Maryland heading north you pass a posting.  It is the only sign that marks the area where John Wilkes Booth met his demise at the Garrett Farm where there are no traces to the trail of tragedy he left behind.

9. Washington, D.C. Coffins and open graves ready for the conspirators' bodies at right of scaffold.

  • Digital ID: (digital file from original neg.) cwpb 04201
  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-cwpb-04201 (digital file from original neg.) LC-B8171-7760 (b and w film neg.)
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

 10. John Wilkes Booth refused to surrender. He was shot by Sergeant Boston Corbett the bullet severed his spinal cord.  He died on the front porch of the Garrett Farm.

  After sentencing Mary Surratt to hang, five of the jurors signed a letter recommending clemency, but Johnson refused to stop the execution. (Johnson later claimed he never saw the letter).

  Mudd, Arnold, and Spangler were pardoned in February 1869 by President Johnson.
Booth recruited his friends Samuel Arnold and Michael O'Laughlen as accomplices.

O'Laughlen died of yellow fever in prison September, 1867.

Edmund Spangler (a Ford's stagehand who had given Booth's horse to "Peanuts" Burroughs to hold) received 6 years in prison. He died in 1875 claiming to his death, he had nothing to do with it.

Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt were executed on July 7, 1865, at Fort McNair in Washington .

Edwin Booth brother of John Wilkes Booth saved Lincoln's son from falling onto train tracks. I found confirmation on this from all places  Scroll down to Bonnie, she cites the sources.
This link to booth article gives a more detailed account. A link to the website Washington Star, June 30, 1918 shows a collage of photographs at the National Botanical Gardens.  One of the pictures shows a tree planted by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth.

There are so many accounts of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln online.  You can click on any of the underlined links and read more about it or search yourself.  It was a very tragic time in our country and much of the evidence is still there to see.

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