The Assassination…in Color!

The advent of photography allowed the Civil War to be documented in an unprecedented way.  Instead of relying solely on written accounts and hastily drawn sketches of the battlefield, photography allowed the horrors of war to be transmitted in painful detail to the masses.  In the 150 years that have passed since that great conflict, the black and white and sepia tinted images of the war have become well known and almost commonplace.  However, thanks to new technology and painstaking work by devoted enthusiasts/artists, we are now able to see Civil War scenes and figures almost exactly as they appeared in real life.  Instead of being trapped forever in black and white, these historic images are being reborn in color.

The following images are colorized versions of assassination related people and events.  They are the detailed work of two different men.  One of them is named David Richardson.  David owns and operates his own website, Civil War in Color, where he sells his colorized and 3D photographs.  The other artist is named Mads Madsen.  He is a twenty something year-old Denmark man with a passion for colorization.  His online gallery, which I encourage you all to visit and get lost in for awhile, contains hundreds of images that he has brought to life with his shockingly realistic colorization.  Just today, Mads released a colorized version of John Wilkes Booth and it is so extraordinary that I knew I had to share it.

Both men have been slowly developing and improving their techniques in order to create the most realistic images possible.  The images below come from different periods of that development, with some not being as refined as others.  They nevertheless provide a vivid and unique view of assassination related figures and events.

Work by Mads Madsen:

John Wilkes Booth by Mads Madsen

John Wilkes Booth by Mads Madsen

George Atzerodt by Mads Madsen

George Atzerodt by Mads Madsen

Samuel Arnold by Mads Madsen

Samuel Arnold by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell 1 Colorized by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell Before and After by Mads Madsen

Lewis Powell Before and After by Mads Madsen

The "Lincoln Hanging" by Mads Madsen

The “Lincoln Hanging” by Mads Madsen

Work by David Richardson:

David Herold by David Richardson

David Herold by David Richardson

George Atzerodt by David Richardson

George Atzerodt by David Richardson

Michael O'Laughlen by David Richardson

Michael O’Laughlen by David Richardson

Edman Spangler Colorized by David Richardson

Edman Spangler by David Richardson

Lewis Powell by David Richardson

Lewis Powell by David Richardson

The Execution by David Richardson

The Execution by David Richardson

I hope both men continue their impressive work.

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John Wilkes Booth in the Woods: Part 10

John Wilkes Booth in the Woods

The tenth installment of my series “John Wilkes Booth in the Woods” is now complete and available for viewing.

In this part I get some unexpected news and start walking towards the Potomac River.

To watch the video, you can either click on the image above and scroll down, click HERE to watch the video on YouTube, or play the embedded video below.

There is one final installment of “John Wilkes Booth in the Woods” left to go. Stay tuned for the conclusion of this historical reenactment.

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Samuel Arnold’s Letter at the Lincoln Library and Museum

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum for the first time. Not to be confused with the Presidential library and museum in Springfield, Illinois, this museum is attached to Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.  As part of its charter, LMU has been collecting and displaying Lincoln and Civil War era artifacts since its founding.  In 1977, the collection moved to its current space in the form of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum building.

Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum Harrogate, TN

While the museum itself is very impressive and has a plethora of Lincoln artifacts and images on display, I made prior arrangements to conduct research while I was there in order to see some of the assassination related objects they have in storage.  The day went by fast and I got to see and touch (with white gloves mind you) many relics connected to the death of Lincoln.  I’m especially grateful to Michelle Ganz, the head archivist there who was extremely friendly and helpful during my research into the collection.

One object that I got to see at the ALLM is the following letter.  It was written by conspirator Samuel Arnold in 1905.  Arnold, as you might recall, was a childhood friend of John Wilkes Booth who joined the actor in his initial plot to abduct President Lincoln.  When that plan fell through and it was clear that nothing of consequence could be done to save the Confederacy, Arnold bowed out of Booth’s plot.

Drawing of Sam Arnold done by military commission member Lew Wallace.

Drawing of Sam Arnold done by military commission member Lew Wallace.

After Booth assassinated Lincoln, Arnold was tried as a co-conspirator under the law of vicarious liability.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment and served about three and a half years at Fort Jefferson before he was pardoned by outgoing President Andrew Johnson in 1869.  Arnold held various jobs after being released from prison, the longest of which was as a butcher in Baltimore.  In his later years, however, he retreated from the world and the humanity contained therein.  He retired to farm in Ann Arundel County, Maryland where he spent his days in the presence of his animal companions.  In 1902, another man named Samuel Arnold died in Anne Arundel County and the press mistook him for the Lincoln conspirator.  After reading the poor obituaries he received, Arnold allowed his memoirs of his interactions with Booth to be published in the Baltimore American newspaper.

After his memoirs were published, at least a couple people decided to reach out to the hermit-like Samuel Arnold.  One interested man’s name was Al Emmett Fostell.  Fostell was a minstrel performer and theatrical manager with a deep interest in Abraham Lincoln.  He also owned and operated a traveling exhibit of Abraham Lincoln artifacts.  Fostell wrote to Arnold in 1904 with a simple request to have an autographed picture that he could add to his collection.  Arnold replied to Fostell saying that he had but one recent photograph of himself, it having been used to illustrate his memoirs in the Baltimore American.  “The negative of which,” Arnold wrote, “I suppose was destroyed during the conflagration which devastated the city of Baltimore, February 8th.”  Arnold wrote of the isolated nature of his surroundings and his own inability to get a photograph taken any time soon.  Fostell was not one to give up, however, and so a bit of a correspondence began between the two.  Over the next year the pair wrote intermittently to each other.  It was during this time that Arnold suffered several health problems including a broken hip and bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia.  Eventually, however, Arnold found the time to travel to Washington and pose for a photograph.  He instructed Fostell to write to the photographer, J. Orville Johnson, so that a copy may be made from the negative in his possession.  “Should you write,” Arnold instructed him, “do not use my name as I had them taken under under the name of Mr. Charles M. Prout (to avoid notoriety) this is my adjoining neighbor.” Fostell did just that and, upon receiving the image of “Charles Prout” from the photographer, he sent the image to Arnold for his autograph.  Arnold attached his name, age and date to the photograph and also sent along the following letter, now in the collection of the ALLM.  The letter speaks volumes about Arnold’s opinion of his treatment by the government in 1865:

A Arundel Co Md
March 14th 1905

Mr. A. E. Fostell
Dear Sir,
Yours of the 10th at hand also Photo. I thank you for your kind wishes and trust the after part of my life, may have some little pleasures. At the age of 70 years and 6 months, I have attached my autograph to my photo, this 14th day of March 1905. Forty years have nearly passed since my young life was clouded and crushed, my reputation tarnished and character before unsullied destroyed through the venality of my country. When so robbed, after suffering agony, torture both of mind and body, incarceration in narrow cells, guarded by the Military arm of the U. States Govt. I prophesied that if convicted and deprived of my liberty by that unconstitutional Military commission (Lynch Law), before which perjury of the most glaring character as well as subordination of perjury the most dominant feature were resorted to that I would outlive each and every individual who took part in that unholy crime. How true my prophecy has been filled let the following decide. I have stood upon the river bank eagerly gazing upon Charon as he conveyed their bodies across the river Styx. The Secretary of War at that time, has long since been ferryed over. The Judge Advocate Genl and his associates have one by one passed over. Each members of the Court has followed in their wakes, accompanied by many if not all the witnesses of importance, the crowning wedge Genl. Lew Wallace lately has gone to meet his associates. Even those who zealously guarded us with their cordon of arms at the time, are with their former associates in that unknown world. Their victims are there also to meet them face to face, whilst I the only and last survivor still live, (Charon having completed his work) a sentinel upon its bank. Retributive justice has had its reward – pomp and power have been destroyed and innocence still lives, thru disease, sickness, tortures, irons, shackles, incarceration and machinations & all other evils attending therewith. Death of their victims either by the rope or imprisonment had been determined upon in the beginning, twas the intended goal contemplated for each, but I thank my God he preserved my life – a miracle, to conclusively establish that man the pigmy in his exalted power over his fellow man, to give life or death, as he may propose is powerless to enforce his edict against the power of his Creator. Every drop of ink consumed in chronicling upon the page of history of the country implying connection, knowledge or assistance rendered by me in that abominable & damnable crime, the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, is a base lie, and fully known at the time. Preston King and Genl Lane answered their question and demands, the former by finding a watery grave the latter by the bullet. All nations are guilty of similar crimes and will again happen in serving the ambitions of man. I await my end calmly and placidly when God will justly decide the guilt or innocence of all from the blood stained Secty of War to the most abject prisoner who sat before that Court in all its pomp, splendor & power. The body dies but the Spirit lives forever. This is my consolation.

Samuel Arnold Signature Fostell letter LMU

While the ALLM holds this letter from Samuel Arnold in their collection, they do not have the autographed photograph that once accompanied it.  That image was somehow acquired by the late Lincoln collector, Dr. John K. Lattimer. After Dr. Lattimer’s death, most of his vast collection was sold at auction, including Sam Arnold’s autographed picture:

Old Sam Arnold L

At least one other letter occurred between Arnold and Fostell following the latter’s receipt of the autographed photo. However, any further communication between the men would have been limited due to Samuel Arnold’s increasingly ill health and his subsequent death in September of 1906.

It is highly likely that Al Emmett Fostell added the letter and the photograph to his personal Lincoln exhibit.  The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum contains a vast collection of Lincoln related books and pamphlets, including a rare catalog of Fostell’s exhibit.  This catalog was made in 1904, before he had received Arnold’s photograph.  Nevertheless, Fostell had quite an extensive collection of Lincoln artifacts, especially assassination related ones.  A sampling of his collection follows below, or you can click HERE to view the whole catalog courtesy of the ALLM.

  • A playbill for “Our American Cousin” supposedly stained with Lincoln’s blood. Provenance: Mrs. Harry Clay Ford
  • Key to the box at Ford’s Theatre in which Lincoln was assassinated. Provenance: Joseph Sessford
  • Letters and portraits of Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln, Henry Rathbone, Pauline [sic] Harris, Laura Keene, Harry Hawk, the Ford brothers, John B. Wright (Ford’s stage manager), J. E. Buckingham (doorkeeper), Joseph Sessford (ticket seller), William Withers (orchestra director), H. B. Phillips (lyricist for “Honor to Our Soldiers), Boston Corbett.
  • Piece of lace curtain that draped the box. Provenance: R. A. Whitehand
  • Signed check by John Wilkes Booth
  • Set of tickets used on April 14th. Provenance: Joseph Sessford
  • Some of the printer’s type that was used to print the Ford’s Theatre playbills for April 14th. Provenance: R. O. Polkinhorn
  • A Ford’s Theatre ticket, dated March 27th, 1865, said to have been confiscated from Lewis Powell after his arrest.  The ALLM has this ticket in their collection today.
  • An original $100,000 reward poster for the conspirators.
  • Undertaker J. H. Weaver’s bill for the burial of John Wilkes Booth in Green Mount Cemetery. Provenance: Alex Russell foreman of Green Mount Cemetery
  • A piece of President Lincoln’s coat (the one from Alphonso Donn) from the night he was assassinated. The ALLM has a pieced of Lincoln’s coat in their collection today, possibly it is this one.
  • Ticket to the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson.

Al Emmett Fostell died in 1920 and his collection was sold off to various collectors. To this day you can still find his name as provenance for various auction pieces that were once housed in his traveling Lincoln exhibit.

Samuel Arnold was, at times, a contradictory individual. In his twilight years he chose to retire to a farm away from mankind. He had his photograph taken incognito to “avoid notoriety”. And yet, in contrast, he released a tell all memoir about his involvement with John Wilkes Booth and his mistreatment by the government. He was also a seemingly open correspondent to anyone who wrote to him inquiring about his life. It appears that Samuel Arnold’s desire to be left alone was always eclipsed by his need to clear his name and tell his story.

This letter, housed at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Harrogate, Tennessee, demonstrates that Arnold never truly recovered from the effects of 1865 and the stigma of those events followed him until his dying day.

Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum
Heritage Auctions
Cowan’s Auctions
Harry Ransom Center
Art Loux Archive

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John Wilkes Booth in the Woods: Part 9

John Wilkes Booth in the Woods

Part 9 of my series “John Wilkes Booth in the Woods” is now complete and available for viewing.

In this part I try one of Booth’s favorite drinks and finally receive the newspapers I’ve been craving.

John Wilkes Booth in the Woods

To watch the video, you can either click on the images above and scroll down, click HERE to watch the video on YouTube, or play the embedded video below.

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Photos from the Archives: John Wilkes Booth Comes Back to Ford’s Theatre


Ford’s Theatre’s newest blog post discusses the first museum that was housed inside their historic edifice: the Army Medical Museum. They were also kind enough to link to one of my posts on the subject. Take a look and, if you so desire, you can also check out my pictures of John Wilkes Booth’s vertebrae by visiting here:

Originally posted on FORD'S THEATRE | BLOG:

A view of the Army Medical Museum when it was housed on the third floor of the former Ford’s Theatre. Courtesy of The National Museum of Health and Medicine.

A view of the Army Medical Museum that was housed on the third floor of the Ford’s Theatre site. Courtesy of The National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, powerful public reactions caused the War Department to seize Ford’s Theatre from John T. Ford (eventually offering him compensation) and gut the building. The department transformed the former theatre into a three-story office building. The first two floors stored veterans’ pension records, while the third became an Army medical museum.

The Army Medical Museum at Ford’s Theatre opened on April 13, 1867, almost exactly two years after the assassination. Highlighting the morbidity of the war’s medical practices, the museum’s collections of human body parts, and particularly human skulls, was a far cry from the once jovial theatre, but it entranced tourists all the same. The collection also included a…

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When is Edwin Booth’s Birthday?

The Junius Brutus Booth Society is a wonderful organization that works to educate the public and scholars about the illustrious Booth family. Their main venue for doing so is the Booth family home in Harford County, Maryland: Tudor Hall.

Tudor Hall

In addition to the superb Spirits of Tudor Hall Facebook page and blog, the JBB Society also publishes a quarterly newsletter for members.  For the low membership price of $12 a year you are not only supporting a hardworking organization that is effectively transforming Tudor Hall into a preeminent Booth family museum but you also receive impressive scholarship in the form of the newsletter, Booth History Spotlight.  For example, the Fall 2014 newsletter contains part one of an in depth look at the life of Dr. Joseph Booth, Edwin’s dedication address for an Edgar Allen Poe Memorial, an account of Edwin’s final days, a recipe written by Edwina Booth, and information about future tours and talks at Tudor Hall and beyond. Each issue also contains a small part called “The Spotlight Quiz”. This quiz takes the form of a piece of trivia which tests and informs you about a member of the Booth family. Today’s post was inspired by this issue’s Spotlight quiz:


Now this question seems easy enough, already giving you the month of Edwin’s birth. Off the top of my head, I knew Edwin was born during a spectacular meteor shower but I’ve never been good at memorizing exact dates. My response was sometime in mid-November.

The newsletter gives the answer, “Edwin Thomas Booth was born at the Booth family farm on November 13, 1833.” But is this true?

Oddly enough when it comes to the exact birthdate of the world’s greatest Hamlet, the biggest theatrical star of his generation, Edwin’s exact date of birth is a little unclear.  Back in 2011, Tom Fink, president of the Junius Brutus Booth Society, wrote a piece about how even Edwin Booth was unsure of his birthdate.  I quote from Tom’s article which you can read in its entirety here:

“Edwin Booth wasn’t sure of the exact date of his birth at the property of Tudor Hall. His mother and older brother Junius, Jr. disagree on the day he was born. In a letter to his daughter, Edwina, dated November 14, 1869 describes his dilemma:

My Own Daughter,
Your dear letter with the pretty book-mark (“I love you”) came safely last night, just in time. It seems there is some doubt as to the exact date of my arrival here. Grandma says I was born on the night of the great “star shower” in 1883, and insists that it was November 15; but Uncle June says he remembers well—both my birth and the “Star Shower” occurred on November 13, 1833. So you see, I do not know which is the day—for, although I was there, I was too young to pay attention to such weighty matters, and can’t remember much about it. However, your little present, which I shall always cherish, my darling, came in good season for either day…”

It is interesting to note that Mary Ann Booth was always convinced that her son was born on November 15th. Not only does Edwin mention this in the above quoted 1869 letter to Edwina, but Mrs. Booth makes the same claim in her own letter to Edwina in November of 1875:

MAB to Edwina 11-9-1875 Taper Re Edwin's birthdate

“You will soon have your Papa in Philadelphia. I think, next Monday is your Papas birthday. I always keep it on the 15th of Nov – that was the day of his birth – but someone has changed it to the 13th.”

As much as I would like to support Mrs. Booth and her claim of November 15th as her son’s birthdate, it doesn’t seem to be correct. As Tom goes on to say in his article, the great Leonid meteor shower of 1833 that both Mary Ann Booth and her eldest son June agreed Edwin was born under occurred during the night of November 12 – 13th. If Edwin was born on the 15th, then he would have missed the prophetic celestial event by two days. It is for this reason that November 13th (June’s pick) is widely accepted as Edwin’s true birthdate and is more than likely correct.

JBB and Edwin Folger

So yes, the answer to this Booth History Spotlight quiz, is true. However, like so many things about the Booth family and the Lincoln assassination, this fun exercise serves to remind us that we must take time to question and find the evidence for every assumption we make.  Even something we take for granted, like a birthdate, can have a far more complicated story than we know.

The Question of Edwin Booth’s Birthday by Tom Fink
Junius Brutus Booth Society
Spirits of Tudor Hall
The Taper Collection

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Winner of John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day

It’s been one week since the contest ended for a free copy of Art Loux‘s masterful book, John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day.  The contest was a terrific success with over 80 comments being posted by people expressing what facet of the assassination story interested them the most.  I want to thank each and every person who commented and joined in on the conversations.  It was all great fun.

Art Loux's JWB DBD

To select a winner, all of the eligible comments were assigned a sequential number based on when they were posted.  Then an online random number generator was used to select the winning comment.  I’m pleased to announce the winner of the free copy of John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day is…

Herb Swingle!

Herb posted the following comment(s) about what he finds interesting in the Lincoln assassination story:

Booth, “jumped the gun” and took it upon himself to extinguish the flame of what America needed at that time of History!

What makes me, “Sit up and take interest”, is how easy Booth was able to do what he thought he could get away with!

I feel that John Surratt enjoyed Sarah Slater’s companionship while in Canada also.

Thank you so much for commenting, Herb, and congratulations on winning.  Your free book should be arriving in a couple of days.

To everyone else out there, please make sure you purchase your own copy of this wonderful book.  As I stated in the original contest page, this book is the perfect book for everyone with an interest in the Lincoln assassination.  It will easily prove to be one of the most consulted and respected texts on the subject of John Wilkes Booth and his deed.  Please take the time to purchase your own copy from an online retailer of books like Amazon or support the gateway to the Lincoln assassination story, the Surratt House Museum, by ordering your copy from them.  See the ordering information below for details.

Your purchase of John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day will not only provide you with unmatched scholarship into John Wilkes’ life and movements, but it will also support the legacy of the late Art Loux.  It is one of the cruelest fates that Art is not here with us today to appreciate the acclaim he so justly deserves.  JWB: DBD was Art’s life’s work and through it, his generosity and passion live on.  If you have not already, please take a moment to read my short remembrances of this great man.

Again, I want to thank everyone who commented and took part in the contest.  It was wildly successful and so I may do another one in the future.  In the meantime, go out and purchase your own copy of John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Art Loux.  I promise you won’t regret it.

John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day is available from the Surratt House gift shop for $50 (+6% Maryland tax if ordering from within the state).  The cost for shipping is $3.  Life members and/or volunteers of the Surratt Society receive a 15% discount.  Place your credit card order by calling the museum at (301) 868-1121, or send a check payable to Surratt House Gift Shop to 9118 Brandywine Road, Clinton, MD 20735.  While you’re at it, take the time to peruse some of the other wonderful books they have for sale by clicking here.
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Don’t Shoot!: The Journey of Booth’s Deringer Pistol


From the Ford’s Theatre Blog. David McKenzie has written a nice piece regarding a familiar face to BoothieBarn, Edwin B. Pitts, Chief Clerk of the Judge Advocate General’s Office. You can see another picture of Mr. Pitts and learn more about his custodianship over Booth’s artifacts here:

Originally posted on FORD'S THEATRE | BLOG:

Edwin B. Pitts, Chief Clerk of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, points the deringer pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs, LC-DIG-hec-23179.

Edwin B. Pitts, Chief Clerk of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, points the deringer pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs, LC-DIG-hec-23179.

Numerous lithographs, engravings and other depictions of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln came out soon after the event (not to mention in the 149 years since). But the limits of technology of the time meant that no photographs exist of John Wilkes Booth committing the act.  (If it happened today, we most likely would  have lots of images, from different angles and instances, taken on various portable devices and shared on social media.) The photograph here may be the only one showing someone pointing the actual deringer pistol that Booth used—not something to be recommended from the standpoint of either proper museum collections management or, arguably, good taste.

After Booth fired the fatal shot…

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John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Art Loux

John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by the late Art Loux is a truly remarkable gift to the historical community.  As a history of the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, it is unmatched in its scope and detail.  It represents Mr. Loux’s life’s work with his decades of in-depth research cataloging the movements of John Wilkes Booth.  The book was released on August 20th, almost eight months since Mr. Loux’s passing.

Art Loux's JWB DBD

There are always new books being written about the various aspects of Lincoln’s assassination. There are the big name authors like Kauffman, Steers, and Swanson who give wonderfully detailed accounts of the whole assassination story.  There are biographers like Ownsbey, Larson, and Titone who explore the lives of specific conspirators and their families. And, as always, the true drama of the Lincoln assassination is the perfect muse for pieces of historical fiction like “Wild” Bill Richter’s new, well researched and footnoted, novel.

At the same time, however, there are many poorly researched and poorly written books out there that saturate the topic with misinformation and supposition costumed up as fact. Authors of these volumes usually delude themselves into truly believing their own views regardless of the mountains of evidence against them.  Some even go as far as to spam every nook and cranny of the internet attempting to portray their views as fact.

This is why books like John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day are so important.  In an age of historical sensationalism misconstrued as fact, Mr. Loux’s book provides a model for how to conduct and present one’s research. John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day is devoted solely to the education, not manipulation, of its readers.  Each chapter provides an excellent narrative of the important events in that period of John Wilkes Booth’s life followed by a detailed record of his daily movements and activities.  It is the perfect book for everyone with an interest in the Lincoln assassination.  The casual reader will love to follow the 26 year journey of John Wilkes Booth to see what led him into Ford’s Theatre on April 14th, 1865.  The researcher will love pouring over the daily record and the thousands of fascinating footnotes.

Every chapter, even every page, provides new insight into the man who would later kill the 16th President.  For example, did you know that John Wilkes Booth once had to extinguish a fellow actress on stage when her dress caught on fire?

John Wilkes Booth extinguishes a fellow actress

John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day is filled with fascinating stories like this that have never been published anywhere else.   You can purchase your copy from online retailers like Amazon, or you might consider supporting the Surratt House Museum (the gateway to the assassination story) by purchasing your copy from them.

I sincerely believe that this book should be read by everyone interested in the Lincoln assassination. Due to this belief, I have purchased an extra copy of the book to give away here on the blog.  If you would like to win one free copy of Art Loux’s masterpiece John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post describing what aspect of the Lincoln assassination interests you the most.  In one week’s time, on September 21st, I will pick one of the commenters at random to receive a free copy of this indispensable book. The contest is now over. You may continue to comment, but any new comments will not be entered into any drawing.  Thank you all for participating.

Though Art is no longer with us, he has left behind an inspiring legacy of scholarship and generosity. So get commenting below for your chance to win a free copy of John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day courtesy of

Contest Rules: To win a copy of John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day you must write one (1) comment on this post explaining what aspect of the Lincoln assassination interests you the most. A valid email address must be attached to the comment in order to win. Multiple comments from the same person will be counted as one entry.  Contest will end on September 21st, 2014 at 20:00 PST.  The winner will be notified via email.  If no response is received within three (3) days, a new winner will be chosen.  In the event that the winner chooses to forfeit the prize, another winner will be selected.  Winners agree to have their name and comment used in a future post. Click here for the announcement of the winner of this contest.
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Armed and Dangerous: A Historical Misreading by Kate Ramirez

Preface by Dave:

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking fellow Lincoln assassination researcher, Kate Ramirez, along the John Wilkes Booth escape route.  During the day-long trek, she mentioned an article she had written about a glaring transcription error from one of the conspirator’s writings.  I immediately asked her if I could publish her article on my site for us all to enjoy.  What follows is Kate’s article, and another example of always looking at the original source material first, instead of relying on the work of others.

Please do not reproduce the material printed here (excluding the images of the poem and of David Herold’s signature which are found at the National Archives) without the consent of the author, Kate Ramirez.

Armed and Dangerous: A Historical Misreading by Kate Ramirez

In the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, southern actor turned assassin John Wilkes Booth and his fellow co conspirator David E. Herold were moving south in an effort to escape the chaos seizing the northern states and the Union soldiers thirsty for their blood.

It was on the 24th, ten days after the nightmare at Ford’s Theatre, that Booth and Herold finally arrived in Port Conway, Virginia and proceeded across the Rappahannock River on what would be the final stages of their escape. Before crossing, the pair met a trio of Confederate soldiers. One, Private William “Willie” Jett, became the most well known of the three, often remembered as the man who betrayed Booth by leading the 16th New York Cavalry to the farm of Richard H. Garrett. There is a lesser known tale (which can be found in Michael Kauffman’s American Brutus) which tells of Jett asking the famous actor to sign something as a memento. In turn, Booth gave Jett something less incriminating than a signature: a poem.

Picture 1

Booth and Herold wrote the poems shown above. The top section belongs to Booth and the bottom to Herold. Historians have copied the poems for numerous books and articles but none have ever realized that one word in Herold’s poem has been misread and therefore miswritten the same number of times. The word is arm. Or, as it has been recorded, brow. The mistake is something of a contradiction, small in size but rather large when one realizes it has been sitting in plain view since 1865 and no one has noticed it.

The picture below shows where the word is found in the poem.

picture 2

All the sources I have seen record the line as, “She shyly clung upon his brow.” However, it is my belief that the line actually reads, “She shyly clung upon his arm,” which would make much more sense. Brow is another word for forehead. You cannot cling to it. However, you can cling to an arm.

Some might argue that Herold’s poem rhymes and changing the words would throw off the rhyme scheme. After all, the words brow and arm sound nothing alike nor do they rhyme. While that is true, the word in question does not fall in the lines that rhyme. Herold’s poem rhymes the last word in every other line. In the photo below, the red arrows show the end words that rhyme. The black star is the word arm/brow. It does not have a matching rhyme.

picture 3

Here is a close up picture of the word being discussed.

If it were the word brow, the letter O would be missing. Some might again argue that Herold was writing with a quick hand because he and Booth had to get moving. However, other words that include the letter O are written just fine. Look below at the words South and honor. All the letters are formed. There is clearly no O in the word thought to be brow.

picture 5

Another probable cause for the misreading is the fact that Herold looped the letter A in an interesting way. If looked at too fast, the letter can look like a lowercase b. However, if you examine the pictures below, which shows the words dark and daughter, you will notice that Herold often wrote the letter A with a similar loop.

picture 6

The final example involves the M in the word I believe to be arm. It appears to be the W of brow because of the extra line Herold left at the end. However, that line could also be decorative and Herold seemed to like writing with a decorative flair. Look at the photo of his signature below.

picture 7

Just as the M was mistaken for a W, those fancy penmanship loops that decorate the H in Herold and the final D in David could both be mistaken for the letter E if glanced at too quick. Such letter loops look to have been part of Herold’s writing style and he incorporated them in, probably subconsciously, when he could.

Let’s review. The word arm would make more sense in the context of the poem than the word brow, changing the word would not affect the rhyme scheme, the letter O appears to be missing and not just squished in with the other letters due to quick writing, the letter A is looped and not the letter B, and the letter M has an extra embellishment and is not the letter W. Now look at the word again.

picture 8

See what I’m talking about? The word once thought to be brow actually appears to be the word arm.

So to end by restoring the original voice of David E. Herold,

Dark daughter of the Sultry South
Thy dangerous eyes and lips
Essayed to win the prize and leave
Dear honor we Eclipse
She shyly clung upon his arm
He stayed now at the door
I could not love thee, dear so much
Loved I not Honor more.
Adieu, forever mine, my dear
Adieu forever more!

Herold B&W Grave

Kate Ramirez at Ford's TheatreAbout the author: Kate Ramirez (also known under her penname Kate H.) is an avid writer and researcher of the Lincoln assassination. Her main focus within that topic is the lives of the conspirators and the defense of their names and voices.


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