Friday, January 2, 2009

John Wilkes and Lee Harvey

After reading A.P. Hill I decided to move away from the Civil War for a short spell and consume the book Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by Gerald Posner. Learning more about Lee Harvey Oswald could destroy or at least impair some of the conspiracy theories that were out there. But one interesting comparison between John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald is their relationship with their mother. Both Booth and Oswald were "Mommas Boys".

By the time that he was in high school Lee Harvey Oswald had moved 21 times and he had attended ten different school systems. Oswald was spoiled by his mother and even ordered her around. Once he arrived home from school and was witnessed by another family member ordering his mother to "fix his dinner." Such demands were common for Oswald who was not a people person. A classmate once heard him say "I dislike everybody." Another incident occur ed when people observed Oswald punching his mother in the face after some people that they were living with asked him to turn down the television volume. His mother excused his attack and doted on her son all the time and never thought that her youngest child could do anything wrong. She even had him sleep in the same bed with her until Oswald was eleven years old. Even after Oswald killed JFK she was heard to say "My son did more for his country than any other." Oswald's mother was always in denial.

John Wilkes Booth was in a similar motherly situation as Oswald. Booth was his mothers darling and even prior to murdering Lincoln, Booth wrote a separate letter to his mother which explained his actions. "Heaven knows how dearly I love you." Booth wrote his mother. He even avoided service in the Confederate army and explained his inability to join the rebel army was due to his mother and his desire to spare her any grief. Even his final words on this Earth were directed towards his mother and this reinforces the "Mommas boy" theme. "Tell my mother that I died for my country" Booth stated as he lay dying. Even his final thoughts were directed towards his "mommy". Family members later stated that John Wilkes Booth was his mothers favorite child.

Other similarities between the two men include:

1. Both assassins spent their last days living alone in one room. Booth in a hotel and Oswald in a rooming house.

2. Booth and Oswald were both killed by a single pistol shot.

3. Both shot their Presidents on a Friday. The kill shot was a single bullet to the right side of the head, from behind.

4. Both received poor educations. Booth rarely attended school and Oswald possessed a very low IQ.

5. Booth had brother named Junius. He was known to the family as June. Oswald had a daughter named June.

6. Both men were accidentally shot during their lifetimes and prior to the assassinations.

7. This one is a classic: Booth ran from a theater and was caught in a tobacco warehouse. Oswald ran from a schoolbook warehouse and was caught in a theater.

8. Both men were southerners.

9. Both men had fifteen letters in their names.

10. Both men are referred to by historians by all three of their names (first, middle and last).

11. Both had middle names that were derived from an ancestor.

12. Neither man stood trial or answered for murdering their presidents.

13. Both men lost their fathers when they were young. They were survived by their mothers.

14. Oswald and Booth were both arrested prior to their crimes. Booth was arrested in St. Louis for speaking out against the Federal government which was a crime during the Civil War. Oswald was involved in a communist street fight in New Orleans. Both men were briefly detained and then released.

15. Both men believed in and fought for the major issue of their times. In Booths time it was slavery and for Oswald it was communism. They both wrote speeches about these issue s but never delivered them publicly. The speeches also had tons of spelling errors and were considered rough drafts.

16. Perhaps the most erriely similarity was that both were born in the year '39! Booth was born in 1839 and Oswald was born in 1939.

17. Both me were under 6 feet tall. Oswald was 5'9 1/2 and John Wilkes Booth was listed at 5'8.

18. Both men murdered men who were taller them them and over six feet tall. Kennedy was 6'1 and Lincoln was our tallest President at 6'4.

19. Both men shot their presidents during a decade whose last two digits were 60.


Kauffman, Michael W. American Brutus : John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2005.

Posner, Gerald. Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. New York: Random House, 1993.

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