Sunday, April 27, 2008

Booth in Buffalo

People that have read this blog know that I am a native of Niagara Falls, New York and that I grew up in Youngstown, New York. Anytime that I find key facts about the area I tend to post it as soon as possible. While reading Lust for Fame: The Stage Career of John Wilkes Booth I have found several interesting facts about his theatre performances. There is a direct link between Booth and myself. I have mentioned in other blogs that I grew up near Buffalo, New York and besides being remembered for four straight Super Bowl defeats, the place where O.J. Simpson played pro football and being pary of the rust belt, the area is my home. From October 28-November 9, 1861 John Wilkes Booth played at the Metropolitan Theatre in Buffalo during what was the heyday of his acting career. The theatre (which no longer exists) opened on October 15, 1852 and stood for 103 years on Main & Seneca Streets. Booths appearences at the Metropolitan was his only stint in the city of Buffalo and the actor took full advantage of the opportunity. Since 1855, Booth had played throughout the South and was quickly becoming a manintee idol.

Here is a listing of his performances:

October 28, 1861: Booth played Pescara in The Apostate
October 29, 1861: Booth played Hamlet in Hamlet
October 30, 1861: Booth played Othello in Othello
October 31, 1861: Booth played Julian St. Pierre in The Wife
November 1, 1861: Booth played Richard in Richard III
November 2, 1861: Booth played Charles De Moor in The Robbers
Novermber 3, 1861: Booth had the day off and most likely studied his lines and other roles
November 4, 1861: Booth played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet
November 5, 1861: Booth played Claude Melnotte in The Lady of Lyons
November 6, 1861: Booth played Macbeth in Macbeth
November 7, 1861: Booth played Richard in Richard III
November 8, 1861: Booth played Phidias and Rapheal in The Marble Heart
November 9, 1861: Booth played Fabien and Lewis in The Corsican Brothers.

Obviously, Booth's stint lasted thirteen days and included twelve performances. He had just established himself as a theatre performer was was no longer confined to one city as a stock performer. Back in the day you had to establish youself as a great actor before you could get an agent who could tour you from city to city. By this time Booth was recieving a substantial portion of the proceeds and Booth recieved praise for his performance despite being distracted by the oncoming Civil War. The Courier wrote that "for seeing Shakespearean parts rendered by one who has the manner of great actors, and who has shown himself a worth scion house of Booth."

The Metropolitan Theatre had its name changed to the Academy of Music in 1868 and it used thats named until its demolishment in 1954. Here is a picture of the Academy of Music as it appeared in 1868. Note is similarity to other theatres of the 1800's.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


143 years ago John Wilkes Booth was gunned down in a Virginia tabocco barn. Meanwhile, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered what was left of his army to William T. Sherman. Everyone remembers Robert E. Lee's final orders to his army but few recall Johnston's final orders. His final commands were just as heart felt as Lee.

"COMRADES: . . . I earnestly exhort you to observe faithfully the terms of pacification agreed upon; and to discharge the obligations of good and peaceful citizens, as well as you have performed the duties of thorough soldiers in the field. By such a course, you will best secure the comfort of your families and kindred, and restore tranquillity to our country."

General Joseph E. Johnston
General Order No. 22

More offical information on the surrender of the Confederate Army of Tennessee can be found at:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Booth's Timeline of escape

After putting a bullet into Lincoln's brain, John Wilkes Booth had mericulaious flight that lasted twelve days and became one of the most remembered manhunts in American history. Here is a timeline of the events that transpired. What inspired this blog was my personal reading of Blood on the Moon and American Brutus. The authors do not include a timeline and since I am a very visual person I went through and constructed a rough sketch of the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth.

April 14, 1865--Booth shoots President Lincoln around 10:15 pm and escapes via the Navy Yard Bridge to Maryland. After hooking up with David E. Herold he journeys to the Surrett Tavern picks up his weapons from John Lloyd. Booth broke is leg when he jumped from the box although historian Michael Kauffman has suggested that he may have broken his leg soon after the assassination when the horse either bolted him or landed on him. Booth wrote in his "diary" that he broke his leg after he jumped and history took his word for it. If you read the accounts of those present at Fords Theatre a different viewpoint comes to light. None of them state that Booth limped across the stage although his balance was a little off. This was no doubt due to the twelve foot jump and a adrenaline rush. Regards of how you look at it Booth broke his leg sometime between shooting Lincoln and arriving at the Surrett Tavern.

April 15, 1865--Seeking medical attention Booth arrives at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd who fixes his leg. Both Harold and Booth spend the night at the Mudd house.

April 16, 1865--Booth and Harold are ordered off the property by Mudd, other historians have stated that Mudd helped guide Harold and Booth around Union troops so they could continue their escape. Whatever the case the pair continue to head towards the Potomac and they soon arrive at the home of Samuel Cox who is a man with loyalities. Cox has them hide in a pine thicket until he can get them across the Potomac. Cox asks his friend and fellow Confederate supporter Thomas Jones to go to the thicket and help out Booth & Harold. The men will spend the next five days in the open and exposed to chilly winds and frequent spring showers.

April 17, 1865--Booth and Harold hide in the pine thicket and Jones brings them food and drink. Booth is still in considerable pain. Both men have to wait because Union troops are in the area and gunboats are on the Potomac which make crossing difficult. They plan to cross at night so they can avoid Union detection. Each morning Thomas Jones brings Booth newspapers which obviously openly discuss the assassination. Booth is shocked to learn that that Lincoln's murder was denounced by the public papers and he is looked upon as the most evil man in America.

April 18, 1865--Same as April 17.

April 19, 1865--Same as April 17.

April 20, 1865--For three days and four nights the pair have hidden in this pine thicket. By this time they are cold, wet and eager to make a move.

April 21, 1865--The sixth day of hiding and they decide to make their crossing. Booth is angry over the newspaper reports which portray him in a negative light (of course he deserved it) and he writes about it in his "diary" which was formally a daily planner; I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for ... And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat". Jones guides Harold and Booth to a skiff tat he has concealed on the Potomac shore. Herold and Jones help Booth from his gorse and into the small vessel. With Herold rowing and Booth acting as guide the two men make their first attempt to cross the Potomac River.

April 22, 1865--Either the incoming tide or the need to avoid two patrolling gunboats force the boat off course and they return to the Maryland, several miles upstream from where thay had started. David Herold knew the area well and they wait along the shoreline at the house of Colonel Hughes who is another Confederate supporter. That night the pair attempt to cross the river again and this time they are successful. Booth writes in his "diary" again and his entry provides more insight into his act and his anger over his "treatment" by the American people. Personally I have always liked the following quote because it best represents Booths feelings toward Abraham Lincoln. "I for striking down a greater tyrant that they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat. I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone."

April 23, 1865--The men land near Machodoc Creek and quickly they meet up with Thomas Harbin, whom John had recruited for his Lincoln kidnapping plot the previous November. Harbin guides the pair to the home of William Bryant, who supplied them with food and horses. Bryant directs them to another Confederate agent named Dr. Richard Stewart because Booth was still in terrible pain. Fearing Union retribution for harboring Lincoln's murderer, Stewart refuses to provide Booth with medical assistance and shelter. Instead he allows Harold and Booth to eat a meal in his kitchen and then they are forced out of the home. The good doctor told the men to go to a nearby cabin which was home to a tenant farmer. When they got to the cabin, which was owned by a former slave Booth forced the man and his family out of the cabin and both he and Herold spent the night in a bed for the first time since April 15. Booth was shocked at the response that he received from the newspapers but to face a lack of generosity from a hardened southern sympathizer was too much for Booth to take. Using a piece of paper from his datebook, Booth pens a insulting thank-you letter to Dr. Stewart. "Forgive me" he wrote "I was sick and tired, with a broken leg, in need of medical advice. I would not have turned a dog from my door in such a condition." Booth included a few dollars as payment for the meal.

April 24, 1965--For a sum of twenty dollars, the son of the tenant farmer agreed to transport the pair to Port Conway on the banks of the Rappahannock River. After a two hour drive Herold looked up the one man he knew, William Rollins. Hoping to get help from Rollins, Herold asks him to row the pair across the river. Rollins and his wife have afternoon errands to run and he suggests them to take the ferry instead. As they waited for the ferry to arrive several discharged Confederate soldiers ride up to the dock. Herold struck up a conversation with the soldiers and they promise to help him and Booth find refuge. Mrs. Rollins recognized one of the men as Willie Jett and that fact would play a major role in Booth's eventual demise. The men get to Port Royal and the Confederate soldiers suggest they they ride to the town of Bowling Green where Jett wants to see his girlfriend and the other soldiers tell Davey Herold about a widow named Martha Carter who runs a brothel with her four daughters. The group hides Booth at the home of Richard Garrett and then journey to the Carter house where Herold pays money for his final female conquest. This dalliance would cost Herold and Booth their lives. Using the alias John Boyd, Booth chats with Lucinda Holloway, a teacher who boards with the Garretts. Before falling asleep Booth must have thought that his luck had turned but he could not have known that dark clouds were looming on his horizon.

April 25, 1965--Booth spends the day recuperating at the farm. He even spends quality time with the Garrett children and April 25 becomes the last quiet day in Booth's short life. Boyd (Booth) continues to spend time at the Garrett farm. A detachment of Union Cavalry was in the area and was asking residents if they see John Wilkes Booth. When they arrive at the Rollins residence, Mrs. Rollins tells the soldiers of seeing a man matching Booth's description with Willie Jett. The soldiers inquire the whereabouts of Jett and she mentions that Willie had a girlfriend named Izora Gouldman in Bowling Green, Virginia. With that information in hand the troopers go to Bowling Green to question Jett. Herolds new friends, the former Confederate soldiers arrive at the Garrett farm and warn Booth and Herold that Union troops were heading in this direction. Watching from his front window, Richard Garrett watches Booth and Herold run into the woods in a frantic state. Within moments the Union cavalry raced down the road and this aroused Garretts suspicions about his guests. The troopers had recently tracked down Jett and found out where Booth was. Meanwhile, Garrett questioned his guests and refused to let them back in the house. If they wanted to stay they would have to bed down in the tobacco barn which was near by. Worried that they would steal his horses, Garrett ordered his son to padlock the men in the barn.

April 26, 1865--Around two a.m. the Union cavalry arrives that the Garrett farm and quickly questions the family about Booth. They brought Jett along and threatened to hang Mr. Garrett unless he told them the whereabouts of John Wilkes Booth. Richard's son Jack saved his fathers life by telling the Union troopers to location of Booth. "He is locked in the barn" He said. The Garrett family, Lucinda Halloway and several African-American farmhands watched as the Union soldiers surrounded the barn and ordered Jack to remove the padlock. Herold surrendered but Booth refused to be captured and threatens to make a fight out of it. The barn is set on fire and as Booth ponders his fate a Union soldier named Boston Corbett shots him in the neck. The bullet pierces his spinal cord and he is instantly paralyzed from the neck down. As his organs slowly shut down, Booth is dragged from the burning barn and dies slowly on the Garret porch where he had rested earlier that day. "Tell my Mother" Booth said as he lay dying "I died for my country." In his final moments Booth asked to have his hands raised and he looked at them and said "Useless...Useless". Within moments the first presidential assassin was dead.

I hoped you enjoyed his blog. This year is the 143rd anniversary of Lincolns murder. Check back and reread this blog between now and April 26. See where Booth and Herold were as they attempted to flee from the most horrendous crime in American history.

Sources and Links: for the Lincoln Assassination Papers

A first hand account of Booths capture is located here:

Monday, April 14, 2008

143 years ago today

April 14 has some significance in the eyes of the world because of two tragic events that occurred just forty-seven years apart. On April 14, 1865 the most beloved actor of his day, John Wilkes Booth stepped forward and fired a fatal shot into the head of President Abraham Lincoln. As Lincoln slumped forward in his seat, Mr. Booth leaped out of the box and yelled “Sic Semper tyrannis” which is a Latin phrase meaning "thus ever (or always) to tyrants." Booth then left the theatre and after a twelve day manhunt he was gunned down and captured by Union troops. Lincoln passed away on the morning of April 15, 1865.

Eleven years later, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass dedicated a freedmans monument to Lincoln in Washington D.C. eulogized his former friend by stating “But dying as he did die, by the red hand of violence, killed, assassinated, taken off without warning, not because of personal hate--for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him--but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is doubly dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever.”

John Wilkes Booth thought that he was doing the United States a favor by assassinating Lincoln but everyone knows that Booth’s belief was utterly wrong. The first presidential assassination in United States history began a long and bitter reunion for both north and south and it paved the way for blacks to suffer the consequences of racism and segregation from 1865-1964. In reality, Booth failed in his quest to stop black citizenship because the pressure of segregation opened up the world to the Civil Rights Movement and that forever ended racial separation in America. Booth won a small battle by killing Lincoln but African-Americans won the war. Blacks won out in the war of attrition. As for Lincoln, poet Walt Whitman wrote a poem about the fallen president and a excerpt of that is:

“CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”

Fast forward now to April 14, 1912 and the R.M.S. Titantic. The vessel struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, taking the lives of over 1,500 people. Today, the ship rests nearly three miles below the oceans surface and just off the coast of Newfoundland. It was on its maidian voyage from England to New York when lookouts spotted the iceberg and a later investigation showed that the crew had failed to follow safety procedures. The ship sank in less than three hours and many of its crew and passengers were trapped because it lacked sufficient lifeboats for everyone onboard. Thereafter no sailing vessel is allowed to leave port without sufficient knowledge of safety procedures and enough lifeboats for everyone onboard.

Information on the “Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is located here:

The best webpage on Lincoln’s murder is at

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Book Review #9 Which is Lincoln Assassination book is better?

As we approach the anniversary of Lincoln's murder I thought it would be nice to look at the top books depicting the murder of our 16th President.

In 2001 Edward Steers Jr. published Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and I have recently read the book and found it to be one of the best Civil War books that I have ever read. A few years back I read American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies by Michael W. Kauffman. When I brought Steers' book home from the local library my fiancee was shocked that I was reading another Lincoln Assassination book. Now that I've read both books I would like to compare the two and hopefully provide my readers with a good glimpse into both texts.

American Brutus provides readers with every single possible detail which is explained fully by Michael Kauffman. Blood on the Moon[provides the key facts and enough basic details for anybody wanting to learn more about the Lincoln assassination. Here are some basic facts for each book

# of pages: Kauffman's book is 398 pages long. Steers' book is 293 pages long.

Both men have studied the Lincoln assassination for most of their lives and are seen as the leading experts in this aspect of Civil War history.

Kauffman's book was published in 2004 and its end notes have more details than Steers' notes.

Steers' book has twelve pages of photos. Kauffman's book has eight pages of photos.

Besides the amount of details provided the major difference between the two books is background information about John Wilkes Booth. Kauffman's book focuses on the life of Booth leading up to and during his murder of Lincoln. Meanwhile, Steers focuses on Lincoln but this is not as detailed as Kauffman's review of Booth's life.

Both books do a great job by ensuring readers that John Wilkes Booth was not a failed actor trying to make a name for himself but he was one of the best known celebrities in America and was one of the most handsomest men in America.

Kauffman's book discuss the role of Dr. Mudd in the Lincoln assasination in detail but Steers' has done more research on Mudd and his book does a better job painting Mudd as a man who historian James Hall called "not an innocent country physician as depicted in current Mudd family propaganda."

Personally if you are a person just interested in the Lincoln assassination I would read Blood on the Moon and save American Brutus for later. Everything you need to know is in Steers book. I own a copy of Kauffman's book and will add Steers' book as soon as I have more money to purchase books. Both are excellent sources and if you want to know which book is better my only answer is "Both" Yes, both books are highly recommended.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Honest" Abraham's Photographic Journey

Abraham Lincoln took many unique journeys during his lifetime but none was more intriguing than his final photograph. While Lincoln's body was being viewed in New York City a local photographer named Jeremiah Gurney Jr. took several haunting photographs of the dead president. When word reached Secretary of War Stanton he ordered all the plates confiscated and destroyed. Stanton even received a copy of one of the photographs from one of the honor guard that was escorting the body back to Springfield but Stanton was adamant. Even though the plates were destroyed a lone print made its way into the filing cabinet of Stanton and it remained there for twenty-two years. Upon the secretary's death his son Lewis discovered the print and sent it to John Nicolay and John Hay who were writing a massive ten volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. Both men had served as personal secretaries to Lincoln but both decided against including the picture within their book. Nicolay placed the photograph in his own papers which eventually were sent to the Illinois State Historical Society following his death. In 1952 a fifteen-year-old high school student named Ronald Rietveld who was researching Nicolay's life rediscovered the photograph. Now widely circulated in Lincoln books and online the photograph is easily accessible to every American. However, few who view this haunting image of "Father Abraham" appreciate the journey that it took from New York City, to Stantons files, to Nicolays files, to the Illinois State Historical Society and finally to the American people. And the rest is left to history.

One of the greatest hoaxes is the following photograph WHICH IS NOT LINCOLN!!

The pictures supposedly shows Lincoln in his casket. The picture is an obvious fake because the guards did not allow Lincoln to be photographed in his coffin. Secondly, Gurney had to photograph the body from an area overlooking the coffin and too far for any close-ups. Another reason that this photo is fake is the clothing worn by the corpse. Lincoln wore his suit from his second inauguration ceremony and this photograph clearly shows an individual wearing a white outfit. Lincoln’s suit was black and his clothing was not changed during his trip from Washington D.C. to Springfield.

Source: Blood on the Moon by Edward Steers Jr. &

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Lincoln Museum

This weekend I had the privilage of visiting the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne. I will be posting pics and providing commentary. It was a lot of fun and it is closing its doors forever on June 30th.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"How Firm a Foundation"

Another Teddy Roosevelt/Civil War connection

In the beginning and ending credits, the song that was played instrumentally was "How Firm a Foundation", a religious hymn about strength to go on in life. That hymn was played at the funerals of Civil War general Robert E. Lee, and American Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.