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:

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