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Picture This: A New Image of Michael O’Laughlen

At around 9:00 p.m. on April 17, 1865, a young, mustachioed man in handcuffs was brought to Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard and placed aboard a ship named the U.S.S. Saugus. The Saugus was lying at anchor in the middle of the water in preparation for its role of becoming an island fortress to hold those arrested as conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination. This 24 year old man, whose presence on board christened the Saugus as a prison ship, was named Michael O’Laughlen.

O'Laughlen from Harper's Weekly

O’Laughlen was a long time friend of John Wilkes Booth. The two grew up as boys together on Exeter St. in Baltimore, where the Booth’s lived across the street from the O’Laughlen family. Though Booth had a more personal relationship with Samuel Williams O’Laughlen, Michael’s older brother, Booth still had fond memories of Michael. As both Booth and O’Laughlen grew up, their lives went in different directions. Booth became a noted Shakespearean star, following in the footsteps of his father and brothers, while O’Laughlen ended up joining a Maryland regiment which fought on the side of the Confederacy. Much of O’Laughlen’s time in the Confederacy was plagued with illness and by 1862 he was back home in Maryland assisting his brother in the hay and feed business.

In the fall of 1864, Booth reconnected with his old friend and the charismatic actor easily convinced O’Laughlen to join his plot to abduct President Lincoln for the benefit of the Confederacy. Delays and inaction continued for several months and O’Laughlen eventually lost interest in the plot and returned to work with his brother. On April 13, 1865, O’Laughlen traveled from Baltimore down to D.C. in order to take in the Grand Illumination celebration with friends. He allegedly made a couple of attempts to meet with Booth on this date, but failed to connect with the actor. When the assassination occurred on April 14th, O’Laughlen was terrified due to his intimate connection with the assassin. O’Laughlen returned to Baltimore but, after a few days, realized that his arrest would be unavoidable and imminent. O’Laughlen was the only conspirator to have turned himself in, arranging his surrender at the home of his sister.

And so it was that Michael O’Laughlen was the first of John Wilkes Booth’s conspirators to be placed aboard the Saugus, confined for his own protection away from mob violence that might do him harm but also in a condition that would prevent him from communicating with anyone. As other conspirators were arrested, they would be place aboard the Saugus as well, until the ship no longer had enough space to adequately isolate them all and the U.S.S. Montauk was brought alongside for additional space. O’Laughlen was kept aboard the Saugus during this time, confined to the ship’s head.

O’Laughlen was on the Saugus from April 17th until April 29th when all the accused aboard the ironclads were transferred to the Arsenal Penitentiary. The research of authors Barry Cauchon and John Elliott has shown pretty conclusively that during this period of confinement, photographer Alexander Gardner made four visits to the ships to photograph the conspirators. O’Laughlen’s mugshots were taken with the bulk of the other conspirators’ images on April 25th. The following are the two images previously known of Michael O’Laughlen:

Michael O'Laughlen Mug Shot Front

Michael O'Laughlen Mug Shot Profile

Until now, these two images were the only images we have ever found of Michael O’Laughlen. Mugshots such as these were used by artists to create engravings for the illustrated newspapers of the day. However as a low interest conspirator and one who was not involved in the actual assassination plot, few took the time to make an engraving of the mild mannered O’Laughlen. The public was far more interested in getting a look at Lewis Powell, the scoundrel who viciously attacked the Secretary of State, so far more impressive engravings were made of him.  One of the lesser known illustrated newspapers, the Washington Weekly Chronicle, contained engravings of most of the conspirators when they published their July 15, 1865 issue:

Washington Weekly Chronicle 7-15-1865

Though Lewis Powell took center stage, the Chronicle also provided this engraving of Michael O’Laughlen:

O'Laughlen Washington Weekly Chronicle

A detailed look will demonstrate that this particular engraving does not actually match either one of the two known mugshot photos of Michael O’Laughlen. It is somewhat similar to the hat-less photo of O’Laughlen, but this engraving shows more of his face than the original source image.

The easiest conclusion to draw is that the engraver added a little bit of their own artistic license when creating the drawing of Michael O’Laughlen. This is not unheard of. As a matter of fact, the large image of Lewis Powell in this edition does not match a known image of Lewis Powell. Despite the tagline that this engraving was based on a photograph taken especially for the Washington Weekly Chronicle, according to author Betty Ownsbey, this engraving of Lewis Powell appears to be a sort of composite between two images of Powell, instead.

Composite Powell Engraving Washington Weekly Chronicle

So it seemed reasonable that the engraving of Michael O’Laughlen in this issue was also not based on an actual photograph, but instead on an artist’s extrapolation of O’Laughlen’s mugshot photographs.

It turns out, however, that this engraving actually isn’t an extrapolation or artistic license. Today, while searching through the online digital collections of the Huntington Library in California, I decided to click on a thumbnail that I assumed was one of the two common mugshot photographs of Michael O’Laughlen.

O'Laughlen Thumbnail Huntington

Immediately I was struck with the suspicion that something was wrong. It was a strange feeling to have. Before me was obviously the hat-less mugshot photo of Michael O’Laughlen, and yet, at the same time, it wasn’t right. As a longtime researcher and reader on the Lincoln assassination I have become so accustomed to seeing the same images over and over again. My accustomed brain was saying, “Yep, this is the same picture of O’Laughlen you always see,” but, at the same time, I couldn’t shake the idea that something was different. Suddenly, I had to see Michael O’Laughlen’s mugshot photographs, I needed to silence the voice saying something was wrong. I opened up my O’Laughlen Picture Gallery and stared at the mugshots. Then it hit me, this image was not the same as the traditional hat-less mugshot. I was surprised and ecstatic to see that this was the photograph that the Washington Weekly Chronicle engraving was based on. Here, at long last, was O’Laughlen’s missing mugshot photograph:

New Michael O'Laughlen Mugshot Huntington Library

New Michael O'Laughlen Mugshot 2 Huntington Library

Unlike the original hat-less photo, O’Laughlen’s face is angled more towards the viewer in this image. The fact that O’Laughlen’s chin is slightly blurry here also hints that he was moving, possibly turning, when the photo was taken.

While Michael O’Laughlen escaped formal execution at the conclusion the trial of the conspirators, his ultimate fate would be equal to it. While serving his life sentence at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, O’Laughlen was one of the many souls who contracted Yellow Fever in the fall of 1867. Despite the attentive care provided to him by his fellow prisoners, Dr. Mudd, Edman Spangler, and Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen perished from Yellow Fever on September 23, 1867. Dr. Mudd lamented that O’Laughlen had become a dear friend to him and that he would miss his, “warm friendly disposition” and, “fine comprehensive intellect.”

This newly discovered mugshot of conspirator Michael O’Laughlen gives us another, much needed angle on a man whose life was tragically cut short due to his involvement in John Wilkes Booth’s plot against Lincoln. It gives us an additional chance to look into the eyes of a young man who has realized that he allowed a charismatic friend to lead him down the path of his own destruction.

New Michael O'Laughlen Mugshot 3 Huntington Library

This image should also remind us that there are still new discoveries to be made. The book of the Lincoln assassination will never be completely written, and, as demonstrated here, it will never be completely illustrated either.

The Huntington Library Digital Collections
A Peek Inside the Walls: 13 Days Aboard the Monitors by John Elliott and Barry Cauchon
Betty Ownsbey
The Assassin’s Doctor by Robert K. Summers

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , | 28 Comments

A History of Rich Hill

A few days ago, a wonderful piece was published in the Southern Maryland newspapers about the renovations going on at Rich Hill, the former home of Samuel Cox and a stop on John Wilkes Booth’s escape. Up until last year, Rich Hill was a private and neglected residence which was at great risk of falling down. To illustrate this point, here are a couple pictures and a video I shot in of the interior of Rich Hill back in June of 2013:

Rich Hill June 2013 1

Rich Hill June 2013 2

This important piece of history was on the verge of being lost. However, in October of 2013, the Historical Society of Charles County entered into talks with the owner of Rich Hill hoping to gain custodianship over the building in the hopes of preserving it. This was good news to all those interested in the home’s history.  Despite the best of efforts, however, the talks involving the manner in which the home would be donated to the Historical Society of Charles County broke down. By Christmas of 2013, the outlook for Rich Hill looked dismal once more.

To help raise awareness of the tragic condition of this historic home I wrote the article below.  It was published in the January 2014 edition of the Surratt Courier. Soon thereafter (though likely not connected to my article), a deal was struck between the owner of Rich Hill and the Charles County Government. Rich Hill was donated to Charles County, and since then the county has been doing a wonderful job of working to restore the home and make it accessible to the public.  In April of this year, I spent two days as part of Charles County’s Lincoln 150 event standing on the porch of Rich Hill telling visitors the history of the home.  It was a wonderful two day event that attracted a large audience.

The article published this week in the newspapers highlights the work that has been done of late, including the recent removal of the 1970’s drywall to expose the period “guts” of the house.

Interior of Rich Hill Aug 2015

Work is continuing, funded in part by a $750,000 state bond.  Given the state of the house, however, it is known that additional funds will need to be secured to help renovate Rich Hill completely.

While Rich Hill is most associated with the escape of John Wilkes Booth, the property and house touts a far older and far reaching history than that. Here is my article that was published in January 2014 that gives a looked into this historic home. I have edited it down a bit as my original article described the collapse of talks between the Historical Society of Charles County and the previous owner and ended with a call for action.

A History of Rich Hill

by Dave Taylor

During the wee morning hours of April 16th, 1865, two men and their guide approached the door of a darkened, Charles County, Maryland home named Rich Hill.  “Not having a bell,” one of its sleeping occupants later recalled, the door was, “surmounted with a brass ‘knocker’.”  One of the three horseback men, under the cover of darkness, reached out a hand and grasped the brass tool.  He raised it upwards and, as the hinge reached the apex of its journey, the knocker was silently suspended for the briefest moment in time.  In a fraction of a second, the handle would fall, striking the metal plate beneath it and “in the stillness of night the sound from this” would resound, “with great distinctiveness”[1].  The silence of the night would be shattered and the lives of the family sleeping within the house’s walls would be changed forever.  History was knocking at the door of Rich Hill and its harbingers were John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, and David Herold, his accomplice.

While Rich Hill would become known in American History due to the visitors that April night, the house and property had a notable history starting about 200 years before.  In April of 1666, a recent immigrant from Wales named Hugh Thomas was assigned and patented “600 acres of land, called Rich Hills, on the west side of the Wicomico river, in Charles county, Md.”[2]  Two years later, Hugh Thomas would sell half of his acreage at “Rich Hills” to an English immigrant turned St. Mary’s County merchant named Thomas Lomax.  Lomax paid Thomas using the standard currency of the day: tobacco.  For 3,500 lbs. of tobacco, Lomax acquired the northernmost 300 acres of the Rich Hill parcel, upon which the notable house would later be built.[3]   In 1676, Thomas Lomax gave his brother Cleborne (also spelled Claiborne/Cleiborne) Lomax 100 acres of the Rich Hill property.  When Thomas died in the early 1680’s, he was apparently unmarried and without any heirs and so the remainder of his Rich Hill property went to his brother as well.  In 1710, the Rich Hill land was sold out of the Lomax family to an intriguing widow by the name of Mary Contee.[4]

A trifecta of circumstances had made Mary Contee nee Townley a very wealthy woman:

  1. Mary Contee’s late husband, John Contee, had previously married a wealthy widow by the name of Charity Courts in 1703. When Charity died the same year of their marriage, John Contee inherited her sizable estate.  He and Mary were then married by June of 1704.
  2. In the same year of her marriage, Mary Contee’s cousin, Col. John Seymour was appointed the 10th Royal Governor of Maryland. Mary is recounted as a “favored cousin” of the Governor and due to this her husband John was appointed to several lucrative governmental positions becoming a representative of Charles County in Maryland’s Lower House and a justice in Charles County to name a couple.[5]
  3. Thus far, it has only been shown that John Contee had become a wealthy man. While Mary assumedly enjoyed the fruit of his abovementioned “labors”, how did she herself become wealthy?  That is where the real drama comes in.  John Contee died on August 3rd, 1708.  At the time of his death he possessed 3,697 acres of land and his personal property was assessed at 2,252 pounds sterling and 13 slaves.  According to his will which was passed by an Act of Assembly in 1708, Mary became the sole executrix of her husband’s vast estate.  However, it was later discovered that this will was not as it seemed.  In 1725, seventeen years after Mary Contee had inherited her husband’s holdings, John Contee’s blood nephew, a man by the name of Alexander Contee, had depositions taken with regards to the will that had made Mary such a wealthy woman.  Through these depositions Alexander Contee learned that John Contee’s will was a perjured fraud that was never agreed to by the deceased.  Alexander discovered that his uncle’s supposed will had actually been written by a man named Philip Lynes.  According the Alexander, Mr. Lynes was a man “very officious to oblige the said Mary” while John Contee was dying in the next room.  Philip Lynes was married to Anne Seymour, the Governor’s sister and therefore was also a cousin to Mary Contee.  The will was apparently brought before John Contee who was still of sound mind, and he refused to sign it as it was written.  Though Contee lived for about a week more, the will was never rewritten in terms he agreed to.  Due to these depositions, the Maryland Assembly passed another act in 1725 repealing the 1708 act that had granted Mary Contee as sole executrix.  The new act mentioned not only the maleficence of those who gained by this false will, but also the fraudulent way a knowingly unsigned will passed the Houses in the first place.  According to the new act, the fake will passed due to, “particular persons in power by whose Interest and Influence the said Act past both Houses of Assembly… contrary to the Standing rules of The Lower House.”  Perhaps Gov. Seymour, who was still in office in 1708, used his influence, once again, to intervene on behalf of his “favored cousin”.[6]

Therefore, it appears that Mary Contee purchased the Rich Hill property with fraudulently acquired capital.  She did not own it for very long, however.  By 1714, she had remarried a man by the name of Philemon Hemsley who facilitated the selling of the Rich Hill land for 21,000 lbs. of tobacco.  The new buyer was Gustavus Brown.[7]  Brown was a native of Dalkeith, Scotland and a surgeon by profession.  His immigration to Maryland was an accidental one:

“When a youth of 19 he became a Surgeon’s mate, or Surgeon, on one of the royal or King’s ships that came to the Colony in the Chesapeake Bay, 1708.  While his ship lay at anchor he went on shore, but before he could return a severe storm arose, which made it necessary for the ship to weigh anchor and put out to sea.  The young man was left with nothing but the clothes on his back.  He quickly made himself known, and informed the planters of his willingness to serve them if he could be provided with instruments and medicines, leaving them to judge if he was worthy of their confidence.”[8]

Brown started his medical practice in the Nanjemoy area of Charles County and quickly made a favorable reputation for himself.  In 1710, he married a woman by the name of Francis Fowke and the newlyweds lived temporarily with her father in Nanjemoy.

Dr. Gustauvs Brown Sr.

Dr. Gustavus Brown, Sr. Source: Smithsonian Institutions

Dr. and Mrs. Brown’s 1714 purchase of the Rich Hill property ushered in a new age for the estate.   Instead of solely using the land for the planting and harvesting of tobacco, Dr. Brown sought to create a home on the land.  It is this home that we see today and know as Rich Hill.

The exact date of construction on Rich Hill has not been determined.  According to its listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the house was “built probably in the in the early to mid 18th century”[9].  Looking at the genealogical records for Dr. Brown’s children, this author has determined that the house was built by 1720, as his daughter born that year was cited to have been born at “Rich Hills”.[10]

As it is today, Rich Hill was built as a 1 ½ story structure that appears as a full 2 story building from the exterior.  The original house had a hip roof and was built on top of cut stone piers.  While the front door was on the southwest side of the house as it is now, it was formerly on the center of this wall.  As you walked into Dr. Brown’s Rich Hill, the first floor consisted of four similarly sized rooms with a small stair hall in back flanked by a rear door.   The original building had two exterior chimneys which stood on the southeast and northwest sides of the house.[11]

The majority, if not all, of the Brown children were born at Rich Hill.  Dr. Brown and Frances had a total of twelve children as his practice prospered.  He had made a name for himself on both sides of the Potomac, treating residents of Maryland and Virginia.  One humorous story regarding Dr. Brown’s experiences as a physician is recounted below:

“On one occasion Dr. Brown was sent for in haste to pay a professional visit in the family of a Mr. H., a wealthy citizen of King George Co., Va., who was usually very slow in paying his physician for his valuable services, and who was also very ostentatious in displaying his wealth.  In leaving the chamber of his patient it was necessary for Dr. B. to pass through the dining room, where Mr. H. was entertaining some guests at dinner.  As Dr. B. entered the room a servant bearing a silver salver, on which stood two silver goblets filled with gold pieces, stepped up to him and said, ‘Dr. B., master wishes you to take out your fee.’ It was winter, and Dr. B. wore his overcoat.  Taking one of the goblets he quietly emptied it into one pocket, and the second goblet into another, and saying to the servant, ‘Tell your master I highly appreciate his liberality,’ he mounted his horse and returned home.”[12]

While his business grew, Gustavus Brown did suffer some of his own tragedies at home.  Out of his twelve children with Frances, three died in infancy.  In an odd twist, all of the children who died were boys who were named after their father.  Dr. Brown himself was actually the second Gustavus Brown as his father in Scotland bore the same name.  Dr. Brown named his first two boys, “Gustavus”, only to watch them both die before they were a year old.  When his third son was born, Dr. Brown gave him the name Richard, and this son would survive.  Perhaps thinking their curse of losing their male children was at an end, the couple named their fourth son “Gustavus Richard Brown” only to witness him perish 10 days after his birth.   While not documented, it is extremely likely that the three infant Gustavus Browns were buried somewhere on the Rich Hill property.

Frances Fowke Brown

Frances Fowke Brown Source: Smithsonian Institutions

Frances Fowke Brown died 1744 and was buried at the estate of her daughter and son-in-law in Stafford County, VA.  Dr. Brown remarried a widow named Margaret Boyd in 1746.  With Margaret, Dr. Brown had two more children at Rich Hill, a boy and a girl.  Though tempting fate, Dr. Brown named his youngest son after himself.  This “Gustavus Richard Brown” born on October 17th, 1747, would survive infancy, follow in his father’s footsteps into the medical profession, and enter the history books as one of George Washington’s friends and caregiver at the Father of Our Country’s final hour.  Dr. Brown’s other child with Margaret was named after her mother and would later marry Thomas Stone, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland.  Their shared home, Habre de Venture, in Port Tobacco, MD is a National Historic Site run by the National Park Service.[13]

In April of 1762, the senior Dr. Brown died at Rich Hill.  His death was from “apoplexy” which was a general term that meant death happened suddenly after a loss of consciousness (i.e. severe heart attack or stroke).[14]  Dr. Brown was buried at Rich Hill, though the exact spot of his grave is lost today.[15]  Rich Hill and its 300 acres passed to his wife Margaret and then to his eldest son Rev. Richard Brown (who was also a medical doctor) and his wife Helen.

Rev. Richard Brown Source: Smithsonian Institutions

Rev. Richard Brown Source: Smithsonian Institutions

During his tenure in the house, Rev. Brown, through marriage and purchase, managed to acquire a large portion of the 600 acre Rich Hill parcel that was split back in 1668.  A tax assessment for Rich Hill in 1783 shows Rev. Richard Brown owning 566 acres of Rich Hill.  He also made some unknown “improvements” to the property, which probably entailed some work on the house.[16]  When Rev. Brown died in 1789, Rich Hill and its acreage swapped hands a few times between his descendants, with a loss of some of the land the Reverend had managed regain.

The Brown family owned Rich Hill continually for 93 years.  At least four generations of Browns had made that house their home.  It raised the men and women who befriended and married America’s founding fathers.  When it was sold out of Brown family in 1807 to a man named Samuel Cox, a new chapter for Rich Hill began.  The new owner and his descendants would own Rich Hill for the next 164 years and would witness the night history came knocking on their door.

Samuel Cox, the new owner of Rich Hill, is not the same man to whom John Wilkes Booth appeared to in 1865.  Rather, this Samuel Cox was the latter’s maternal grandfather.  From Samuel Cox, Rich Hill descended to his daughter Margaret who had married a man by the name of Hugh Cox.  What relation, if any, existed between Margaret Cox and Hugh Cox has yet to be determined.  Hugh and Margaret had five children born at Rich Hill, including their son Samuel, named for his grandfather.  Samuel Cox was born on November 22, 1819.  When Samuel’s mother, Margaret, died, his father Hugh found himself a new wife, Mary Ann T. T. Cox.  Hugh had three more children by Mary Ann.[17]

When Samuel Cox was 15 years of age, he was sent to the Charlotte Hall Military Academy.  He returned home three years later and followed in his father’s footsteps as a member of the wealthy planter class.  On December 6th, 1842, Samuel Cox married his Washington, D.C. cousin, Walter Ann Cox.  Walter Ann was named for her father who died a couple months before she was born.  By the late 1840’s Hugh Cox and his wife Mary Ann, were residing away from Rich Hill on another property they owned near La Plata called “Salem”[18].  In 1849, Hugh and Mary Ann officially gave Rich Hill to Samuel Cox as a gift.  Hugh Cox would die in December of that same year at the age of 70.[19]  Rich Hill was now in the hands of the man who would give aid to the assassin of the President.

Samuel Cox, Sr.

Samuel Cox, Sr.

Sometime in the first half of the 1800’s a significant amount of remodeling was done to Rich Hill.  Whether the work was commissioned by Hugh or Samuel Cox is unknown.  Regardless, both the exterior and interior of the house were drastically changed from Dr. Brown’s initial layout.   The hip roof was replaced with a gable roof.  The two chimneys on either end of the house were replaced with a large, double chimney on the northwest side of the house.  On the southeast side, where one of the chimneys had been, the Coxes built a one story frame addition.  This new addition contained a dining room and a bedroom in which Samuel Cox and his wife slept.  The front door was moved from the center of the southwest wall to its current location right near the intersection between the southwest and southeast walls.  The interior layout of the house was changed, too.  Originally containing four similarly sized rooms with a rear stair hall, the layout was an end hall plan with a large front room and two small rooms to the rear.  Much of the layout of Rich Hill today still follows the renovations done by the Cox family in the early 1800’s.[20]

Rich Hill Floorplan 2013

Samuel Cox was a successful farmer and participated in many political and social groups in the county.  Through the exertions of Samuel and his father before him, the Rich Hill farm prospered to 845 acres, even larger than its initial 600 acres in 1666.[21]  Despite his success in farming, Samuel Cox, like another previously discussed owner of Rich Hill, had difficulty producing a namesake.  None of his children with Walter Ann survived infancy.  Instead, Samuel Cox ended up adopting his late sister’s son, Samuel Robertson.  Though this younger Samuel had spent much of his life on his uncle’s farm and property, he was officially adopted and had his named changed to Samuel Cox, Jr. three days after his 17th birthday in 1864.[22]

Samuel Cox, Jr. was present at Rich Hill when John Wilkes Booth and David E. Herold arrived in the morning hours of April 16th.  Years later, he would write about the night he was awakened so early by the sound of that brass knocker on the door:

“There was at the time in the house, Col Saml Cox, his wife, his wife’s mother Mrs Lucy B. Walker, Ella M. Magruder, now my wife, two servant girls, Mary and Martha and myself.  Pa’s bedroom was on the first floor – and to the extreme eastern end of the house, and to approach the front door, which opens into the hall, Pa had to pass through the dining-room, where Mary and Martha slept.  The stairway to the 2nd floor is approached through a door midway the hall and at the head of this stairway Mrs. Walker slept.  My room is on the second floor and directly over the hall and two windows in this room are immediately over the front door looking out upon the yard and lawn in full view of the road which approached the house.  When I was aroused by the knock I jumped out of bed and went down in the hall and as I approached the front door where I found Pa standing with the door partially open with Mary standing just behind him in the doorway of the dining room only some six feet away…”[23]

Samuel Cox, his adopted son, and their servant Mary Swann would claim to investigators that Booth and Herold were never allowed entry into the house and were, instead turned away almost immediately.  Cox, Jr. would hold onto this story to his dying day, telling assassination author Osborne Oldroyd in 1901 that his father found the fugitives attempting to sleep in a gully close to the house the next morning.  It was only then, according to Cox, Jr., that his father instructed his farm overseer, Franklin Robey, to guide them into a nearby pine thicket while he sent Cox, Jr. to retrieve Thomas Jones, who would care for the men during their stay in the pine thicket.[24]  Other sources, however, including Oswell Swann, the ignorant guide of the assassin and his accomplice, would state that Booth and Herold spent a few hours inside of Rich Hill before they departed.  Some later second hand accounts also speak of Booth and Herold entering Rich Hill during that early morning for food and drink.  Regardless of whether or not the men entered the house, the knocking on the door of Rich Hill by David Herold secured the home’s role in the history of the 12 day escape of the assassin of President Lincoln.

Samuel Cox, Mary Swann, and Samuel Cox, Jr. were all arrested in the aftermath of Booth’s visit to their house.  They were informed on by Oswell Swann, who brought the troops to Rich Hill at about midnight on April 23rd.  The three residents were transported at first to nearby Bryantown.  After getting Mary Swann’s statement of events, Samuel Cox, Jr. and Mary were released, only to be rearrested a couple of days later.[25]  Samuel Cox, the elder, was transported up to Washington and was imprisoned at the Old Capitol Prison.  Though the authorities strongly suspected that Cox had aided the fugitives, with Mary Swann contradicting the account of Oswell Swann, there was nothing to prove their beliefs.  While imprisoned at the Old Capitol Prison, Samuel Cox wrote a letter to his wife on May 21st.  Addressed to “Mrs. W. A. Cox, Port Tobacco, MD”, Cox recounts, in part, the degree of his imprisonment, “…I know my dear wife it will give you as much pleasure to inform you as it was for me to receive, permission just as your letter was received, to walk in the yard for exercise, which I have been deprived of until to day, having been confined to my room now for nearly four weeks.”[26]  Cox was eventually released from the Old Capitol Prison on June 3rd, and returned home to Rich Hill to his waiting family.

Samuel Cox, Jr.

Samuel Cox, Jr.

The extent of Booth’s visit to Rich Hill remained quiet for a number of years.  During the interim, Samuel Cox died on January 7th, 1880.  In his will he left Rich Hill to his wife until her passing, after which the home and property would go to his only heir, Samuel Cox, Jr.  In 1884, newspaper correspondent George Alfred Townsend (GATH) met with Thomas Jones.  After years of silence, Jones shared with GATH his involvement in helping Booth and Herold during their “missing days” of the escape.  Jones did nothing to shield the Coxes from their involvement, divulging how he was brought to Rich Hill by Cox, Jr. and how his father insisted Jones help get the men across the river when the time was right.  In his article, entitled, How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac, GATH describes Rich Hill:

“The prosperous foster brother [Cox] lived in a large two-story house, with handsome piazzas front and rear, and a tall, windowless roof with double chimneys at both ends; and to the right of the house, which faced west , was a long one story extension, used by Cox for his bedroom.  The house is on a slight elevation, and has both an outer and inner yard, to both of which are gates.  With its trellis-work and vines, fruit and shade trees, green shutters and dark red roofs, Cox’s property, called Rich Hill, made an agreeable contrast to the somber short pines which, at no great distance, seemed to cover the plain almost as thickly as wheat straws in the grain field.”[27]

Though Samuel Cox, Jr. was the man of the house, he officially became the sole owner of Rich Hill upon the death of his adoptive mother in 1894.  By that time, Cox, Jr. had already married and had 3 children by his wife, Ella Magruder.  These young Cox children, Lucy, Edith and Walter, grew up and were raised at Rich Hill.  Ella died in 1890 and Cox subsequently remarried a cousin of his named Ann Robertson.

Like his father before him, Cox, Jr. became a prominent member of Charles County society.  He had a sizable plantation with Rich Hill and he also owned Cox’s Station, a stop of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad line that ran from Pope’s Creek on the Potomac up to Bowie in Prince George’s County where it connected to other lines.  The modern town of Bel Alton (where Rich Hill is located) bore the name Cox’s Station up until Cox sold a sizable parcel of land to the Southern Maryland Development Company in 1891 and they renamed the area to its modern name.  Cox, Jr. was also involved in local politics, running for and winning a seat in the Maryland general assembly in 1877.  Dr. Mudd, another familiar name in the Lincoln assassination story, ran alongside Cox, but was not elected.[28]

Cox and Mudd for Delegates

Samuel Cox, Jr. died on May 5, 1906 at the age of 59.  The ownership of the property passed to Cox’s son, Walter, who sold his share of it to his married sister, Lucy B. Neale.  Lucy and her family did not live at Rich Hill.  The last member of the Cox family to reside at Rich Hill was Samuel Cox, Jr.’s second wife, Ann Robertson Cox.  Her death on March 4th, 1930, marked the end of the Cox family’s habitation of Rich Hill.

Between the years of 1930 and 1969, Samuel Cox, Jr.’s grandchildren operated Rich Hill’s property as a tobacco farm for sharecroppers.  The land shrunk back down to 320 acres by 1971.  That year, Rich Hill and its 320 acres were sold to its current owner, Joseph Vallario, a senior member of the Maryland House of Delegates.[29]  In celebration for the bicentennial of the United States in 1976, Delegate Vallario restored Rich Hill to its appearance during Dr. Brown’s day.  This involved removing the front and back piazzas along with the one story addition that had been added by the Cox family in the 19th century.[30]  Though this did make Rich Hill look less like the house that Booth and Herold saw on April 16th, 1865, the restoration worked to preserve Rich Hill and keep it from falling down.  Rich Hill served as a beautiful rental property for many years after.

Today, however, Rich Hill is suffering heavily from neglect.  There are large, gaping holes in the exterior walls that expose the structure to the elements.  The once beautiful rooms that housed generations of Browns and Coxes, are crumbling and filled with trash.  To be frank, Rich Hill needs help and action if it is going to be saved.

While Rich Hill’s involvement in the story of Lincoln’s assassination is the house’s most discussed historical aspect, it is far more than the “stop on the trail of John Wilkes Booth” sign that stands some distance from it.  As has been shown through this article, Rich Hill has had a notable and lengthy lifespan.  It not only holds an important place in the history of Charles County, but it also affected the history of the nation due to the men and women who were raised under its roof.  If Rich Hill is left in its current neglected state, it will crumble and collapse.  If this happens, future generations will be the victims.  As a restored museum run by Charles County in conjunction with the Historical Society of Charles County, Rich Hill would continue to influence and affect the history of our nation.

[1] Samuel Cox, Jr., Letter to Mrs. B. T. Johnson, July 20, 1891, James O. Hall Research Center.

[2] William F. Boogher, Gleanings of Virginia History: An Historical and Genealogical Collection (Washington, D.C.: W.. F. Boogher, 1903), 283.

[3] 26 Apr. 1668. Charles County Circuit Court Liber D, Page 14.

[4] 3 Mar. 1710. Charles County Land Records, Liber C#2, Page 245.

[5] Edward C. Papenfuse, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature 1635-1789 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 230.

[6] Acts of the General Assembly hitherto unpublished 1694-1698, 1711-1729, Volume 38, ed. Bernard Steiner (Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press, 1918), 384-386.

[7] 12 Jan 1714. Charles Co. Land Records, Liber F#2, page 51

[8] Horace Edwin Hayden, Virginia Genealogies: A Genealogy of the Glassell Family of Scotland and Virginia : Also of the Families of Ball, Brown, Bryan, Conway, Daniel, Ewell, Holladay, Lewis, Littlepage, Moncure, Peyton, Robinson, Scott, Taylor, Wallace, and Others, of Virginia and Maryland (Wilkes-Barre, PA: E. B. Yorby, 1891), 152.

[9] National Registry of Historic Places Nomination Form, Rich Hill Farms (1976).

[10] Hayden, Virginia Genealogies, 162.

[11] Registry, Rich Hill Farms.

[12] Hayden, Virginia Genealogies, 153.

[13] Ibid, 147.

[14] Ibid, 151.

[15] Norma L. Hurley, “Samuel Cox of Charles County,” The Record – Publication of the Historical Society of Charles County, Inc., October 1991, 1-5.

[16] J. Richard Rivoire, Rich Hill Tract History (Charles County Historical Society).

[17] Hurley, “Samuel Cox”.

[18] “Mary Ann Cox Obituary,” Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA), February 9, 1856.

[19] Hurley, “Samuel Cox”.

[20] Registry, Rich Hill Farms.

[21] Michael W. Kauffman, American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004), 250.

[22] David Taylor, “The Name Game,” August 24, 2013.

[23] Cox, Letter to Mrs. B. T. Johnson.

[24] Osborn H. Oldroyd, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (Washington, D.C.: O. H. Oldroyd, 1901), 267.

[25] Cox, Letter to Mrs. B. T. Johnson.

[26] Samuel Cox, Letter to Mrs. W. A. Cox, May 21, 1865, James O. Hall Research Center.

[27] George Alfred Townsend, “How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac,” Century Magazine, April 1884, 827.

[28] Report of the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Maryland State Bar Association held at Ocean City, Maryland July 3rd – 5th, 1907 (Baltimore, MD: Maryland State Bar Association, 1907), 75.

[29] Rivoire, Tract History.

[30] Registry, Rich Hill Farms

A group called “Friends of Rich Hill” was formed by the Historical Society of Charles County to raise donations for the renovation of Rich Hill. If you are interested, please send your donations to Friends of Rich Hill, P.O. Box 2806, La Plata, MD 20646

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The 4th of July at Port Royal

Port Royal Event 7-4-2015

Every year for the past 16 years, Port Royal, Virginia has put on a celebratory Independence Day event.  The day is filled with musicians, Revolutionary and Civil War reenactors, speakers, 18th century dancers, bagpipers, and a formal reading of the Declaration of Independence. It is a wonder annual program and a great way to spend part of the 4th.  Here are a few pictures that I managed to take of the event:

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This year, I had the honor of being asked to give a short speech.  Knowing my interest in the Lincoln assassination story, my fellow board members of Historic Port Royal asked me to speak on the topic of John Wilkes Booth.  I heartily agreed.  Later on though, as I was trying to prepare for my speech, I had a hard time reconciling the discussion of a Presidential assassin on the day of our country’s birth.  So, rather than discussing John Wilkes Booth, I decided to present a more Revolutionary tale.  Below is a video of the speech I presented.

I wish you all a very happy Independence Day.

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Take an Assassination Vacation!

With summer in full swing, now is the time to get out there and take a vacation. Whether it be a lengthy week long trip to a city or shore far distant, or a day’s drive to a “not so nearby” locale, there’s nothing like the thrill of going somewhere new. For the historically minded, vacations often involve adventures such as visiting a museum, rediscovering a National Park, or just taking a selfie with a historical marker off the highway. No matter what form they may take, vacations allow us to make our own marks and memories in places outside our everyday lives.

I’ve long said that the story of Lincoln’s assassination is told all over this nation. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of nowhere when suddenly I find a reference to the assassination staring me right in the face. The impact of Lincoln’s death and the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth reached around the globe. Over the last week, I have been working diligently to update the Maps section of this website in order to demonstrate how far reaching it truly is. The result has been the creation of five new maps, four which cover the entirety of the United States and a fifth map representing the rest of the world. All of these maps provide the locations, a brief description and the exact GPS coordinates of different sites related in some way to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln Assassination Maps

The maps are still in the beginning stages. The 225 locations currently marked are little more than a drop in the bucket of the potential sites worldwide. Everyday, however, new sites pop into my head and I diligently research to determine their exact GPS coordinates. I’ve analyzed Civil War era maps to determine their modern counterparts, struggled with foreign languages in order to find international sites, and I have even spent hours staring at aerial pictures of cemeteries trying to determine the exact locations of specific graves. It is very slow work, but by pinpointing these sites with GPS coordinates, we can ensure that they will never be lost. The buildings and terrain around them may change but, with GPS, where they once stood can always be found.

With this in mind, I encourage you all to check out the newly updated Maps section of BoothieBarn. See if there’s something “not so nearby” that you might want to drive and see. Better yet, if you are already planning a trip somewhere, take a look and see if you’ll be passing by something assassination related. I mean what kid wouldn’t love to make a detour on their way to Disney World in order to visit a cemetery in Geneva, Florida? “Forget Cinderella’s Castle, Mommy. What I really want to see is the grave of Lewis Powell’s skull!”

So check out the Maps section here on BoothieBarn by clicking the image above. Then get out there and have yourself an assassination vacation!

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“President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” at the Newseum

Located on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street in northwest D.C., the Newseum is an impressive institution devoted to the evolution of news reporting and the importance of free press in a society. The seven floor museum contains impressive permanent exhibits relating to some of the most news worthy events in American and world history. There are also many galleries in the museum which house an array of different temporary exhibits. When I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time in 2009, I made sure to tour the Newseum due to the fact that they were displaying a temporary exhibition based around James Swanson’s book, Manhunt. One of my very first posts on this site recounted that wonderful exhibit.

Since that time (and my subsequent move to Maryland), I have made many visits to the Newseum.  Their exhibits are fascinating and it is a wonderful place to bring guests from out of town.  As you might expect, there are several permanent items on display at the Newseum related to Lincoln’s assassination that I see each time I am there.  One permanent, 80 foot long display on the top terrace overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue and recounts the history of Washington’s most famous street.

Newseum Terrace

The display also points out that the site currently occupied by the Newseum was once the home to the National Hotel, the preferred hotel of John Wilkes Booth when he was in Washington.

The Newseum collection also contains different newspapers, both physical and digital, that cover the assassination of Abraham Lincoln:

However for this year, the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Newseum has created a very special exhibition:

New York Herald Exhibit Newseum

President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” is a detailed look at how one of the most widely read newspapers in the country covered the events of April 14, 1865.  Over a period of 18 hours following the shot at Ford’s Theatre, the New York Herald would publish an unprecedented seven special editions, each with new information regarding the President and Secretary of State’s conditions and the subsequent search for their assassins.  The Newseum may very well be the only institution in the world that contains copies of each of the seven editions of the New York Herald from that tumultuous time.

Coverage Chronologically

Seven Issues of New York Herald Newseum

The current exhibit at the Newseum contains an original of each of these editions paired with large wall displays that highlight the differences and additions between them.

2:00 AM edition:

NYH 2 am edition Newseum

3:00 AM edition:

NYH 3 am edition Newseum

8:45 AM edition:

NYH 8 am edition Newseum

10:00 AM edition:

NYH 10 am Uncovering the Plot edition Newseum

10:00 AM “Reward” edition:

NYH 10 am Reward edition Newseum

2:00 PM edition:

NYH 2 pm edition Newseum

3:30 PM edition:

NYH 3 pm edition Newseum

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Floor to Ceiling Coverage

While the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit is only contained in one small room of the Newseum, there is no wasted space.  Even the floor and ceiling contain displays.  On the floor is a map of Civil War Washington with labelled sites relating to the assassination:

Floor map Newseum

Meanwhile the ceiling is festooned with wonderful banners (several of which I wish I could own myself) relating to the assassination:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The Stories Behind the Story

The displays not only provide commentary on the evolving story of how the country came to learn the details of Lincoln’s assassination, but they also introduce us to the people involved in reporting the news.  One of my favorite stories is that of Associated Press reporter, Lawrence Gobright who was responsible for the very first telegraphic dispatch covering Lincoln’s assassination:

First dispatch Newseum

In 1869, Gobright would recollect his actions that night:

“On the night of the 14th of April, I was sitting in my office alone, everything quiet : and having filed, as I thought, my last despatch, I picked up an afternoon paper, to see what especial news it contained. While looking over its columns, a hasty step was heard at the entrance of the door, and a gentleman addressed me, in a hurried and excited manner, informing me that the President had been assassinated, and telling me to come with him! I at first could scarcely believe the intelligence. But I obeyed the summons. He had been to the theatre with a lady, and directly after the tragedy at that place, had brought out the lady, placed her at his side in his carriage, and driven directly to me. I then first went to the telegraph office, sent a short ” special,” and promised soon to give the particulars. Taking a seat in the hack, we drove back to the theatre and alighted; the gentleman giving directions to the driver to convey the lady to her home.

The gentleman and myself procured an entrance to the theatre, where we found everybody in great excitement. The wounded President had been removed to the house of Mr. Peterson [sic], who lived nearly opposite to the theatre. When we reached the box, we saw the chair in which the President sat at the time of the assassination; and, although the gas had for the greater part been turned off, we discovered blood upon it…

Lawrence Gobright

Lawrence Gobright

My friend having been present during the performance, and being a valuable source of news, I held him firmly by the arm, for fear that I might lose him in the crowd. After gathering all the points we could, we came out of the theatre, when we heard that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated. I recollect replying that this rumor probably was an echo from the theatre; but wishing to be satisfied as to its truth or falsity, I called a hack, and my companion and myself drove to the Secretary’s residence. We found a guard at the door, but had little trouble in entering the house. Some of the neighbors were there, but they were so much excited that they could not tell an intelligent story, and the colored boy, by whom Paine was met when he insisted on going up to the Secretary’s room, was scarcely able to talk. We did all we could to get at the truth of the story, and when we left the premises, had confused ideas of the events of the night. Next we went to the President’s house. A military guard was at the door. It was then, for the first time, we learned that the President had not been brought home. Vague rumors were in circulation that attempts had been made on the lives of Vice-President Johnson and others, but they could not be traced to a reliable source. We returned to Mr. Peterson’s house, but were not permitted to make our way through the military guard to inquire into the condition of the President. Nor at that time was it certainly known who was the assassin of President Lincoln. Some few persons said he resembled Booth, while others appeared to be confident as to the identity.

Returning to the office, I commenced writing a full account of that night’s dread occurrences. While thus engaged, several gentlemen who had been at the theatre came in, and, by questioning them, I obtained additional particulars. Among my visitors was Speaker Colfax, and as he was going to see Mr. Lincoln, I asked him to give me a paragraph on that interesting branch of the subject. At a subsequent hour, he did so. Meanwhile I carefully wrote my despatch, though with trembling and nervous fingers, and, under all the exciting circumstances, I was afterward surprised that I had succeeded in approximating so closely to all the facts in those dark transactions…”

In addition to his quick reporting and continual dispatches throughout the night, Gobright also holds a place in history due to his brief custodianship over the derringer that was used to kill Abraham Lincoln.

Edwin Pitts holding the Derringer 1

After shooting Lincoln with the single shot pistol, John Wilkes Booth immediately dropped the gun onto the floor of the theater box. Somehow it went unnoticed during the chaos that ensued in the small box as physicians entered to care for the mortally wounded president. One of the men who had entered the box along with the physicians was a man named William Kent. Kent would later claim it was his penknife that was used to cut the collar from around Lincoln’s neck. After departing the theater that night, Kent discovered he had lost his keys and so returned to the theater and gained entry into the now empty box. He was searching for his keys when his foot struck something. Lawrence Gobright had also just arrived in the box to report on the scene of the crime:

“A man [Kent] standing by picked up Booth’s pistol from the floor, when I exclaimed to the crowd below that the weapon had been found and placed in my possession. An officer of the navy — whose name I do not now remember — demanded that I should give it to him ; but this I refused to do, preferring to make Major Richards, the head of the police, the custodian of the weapon, which I did soon after my announcement.”

As stated, Gobright did turn the derringer over to the Metropolitan Police and William Kent identified it on April 15th:

William Kent statement

Don’t Believe Everything you Read in the Newspapers

The New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also demonstrates how the newspapers covering Lincoln’s assassination made the same mistake as some modern journalists by printing unreliable or unsubstantiated claims in hopes of being the first to provide their audience with an exclusive.

Booth in custody Newseum

Rumors and speculation would fill every mouth, diary, and newspaper for the next twelve days as the entire country searched for John Wilkes Booth.

In addition to misinformation that was printed in a rush, the New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also brings attention to later instances that have caused unintended deception.  The New York Herald’s coverage of Lincoln’s assassination was so wide spread that even many years later, the paper was still very well connected to the event in the minds of the public.  Many advertisers attempted to benefit from this connection by creating their own, custom reprints of editions of the New York Herald.  On the face of it, the reprints appeared genuine though some, like the one below, included engravings that were never in the originals.  No matter how real they looked however, hidden either in the text of the front page or within the interior pages were advertisements for the latest miracle tonic, liniment, or some other product.

Fake NYH Newseum

This type of “historical advertising” was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.  People were more likely to hold on to the advertisement if it had something compelling on it.  Another example of this type of advertising is this reproduction CDV of John Wilkes Booth’s escape on a bag for dysentery syrup:

John Wilkes Booth Dysentery Syrup

While the newspapers were well known to be advertisements in their day, as time has passed reproductions like the one above have fooled many unknowing treasure seekers into thinking they have a genuine (and pricey) piece of American history. Most of the time, however, a careful read through (especially of the interior pages which are usually just full page ads for the product) will reveal it is a reproduction.  You can see a small sampling of some of the many advertising reproductions of the assassination editions of the New York Herald here.

Plan Your Visit

I highly recommend a visit to the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit at the Newseum.  It is located on the 4th floor of the museum which is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Tickets to the Newseum cost $23 for adults and allow you to return the next day for free.  While this price may seem a bit expensive compared to the federally funded museums in D.C. that offer free admission, the Newseum has many wonderful galleries and exhibits that make the price more than worth it.  This special New York Herald exhibit only runs until January 10, 2016 so be sure to visit the Newseum before it is gone.

President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum
Recollection of men and things at Washington during the third of a century by Lawrence Gobright (1869)
National Archives
Library of Congress

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Calendar: May 2015

I hope you were all able to take part in some of the April events that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the escape, and subsequent death of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Even though most of the big events have passed, there are still some programs and exhibitions going on in the month of May.  May 9th, in particular, has two very exciting events planned. Take a look at the events below and be sure to visit the Calendar section of this site for a full list.

May 1st – 4th:

Lincoln Funeral Train Weekend in Springfield, Illinois

  • Those of you in the central Illinois region will definitely want to make plans to visit the state capital.  Springfield is going all out with events and activities recreating the arrival of Lincoln’s Funeral Train.  For more information and a list of the many events planned, click here.

May 4th:

Brian Unger show

“Lincoln’s Killer on the Run” episode of Time Traveling with Brian Unger debuts on the Travel Channel

  • How the States Got Their Shape host, Brian Unger has a new show taking unsuspecting tourists to lesser visited historic sites.  On May 4th, at 10:00 pm EST, a new episode dealing with John Wilkes Booth is set to air.  Unger will take a group into a Maryland pine thicket (my doesn’t that sound familiar…), row across the Potomac, and visit the site of the conspirator’s execution.  For other dates and times of airings, click here.

May 9th:

2015 Tudor Hall Symposium Graphic

Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland and the Civil War Symposium in Bel Air, Maryland

  • The Junius B. Booth Society (JBBS) and the Historical Society of Harford County (HSHC) are holding a one day, one-of-a kind symposium titled Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland and the Civil War from 8:00 AM to 4:45 PM at the Bel Air Armory in Bel Air, MD. Tudor Hall, the home of the theatrical Booths of Maryland, a short distance away will be open to the attendees following the symposium for tours till 7 PM.  This is a fundraiser and the proceeds will be split between JBBS and HSHC. All proceeds to JBBS will be used for turning Tudor Hall into a museum. For more information and for directions on how to register for the symposium, click here.

150th Anniversary of the Trial of the Conspirators at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

  • Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C. contains Grant Hall, the site of the trial and execution of the Lincoln conspirators.  To mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the trial, Fort McNair will be having a very special event. Historians and authors, including Betty Ownsbey, Barry Cauchon, and John Elliott, will be presenting on the imprisonment, trial, and execution of the Lincoln conspirators.  Since Fort McNair is expecting higher than average visitation on this day, those wishing to participate in the programs need to RSVP for their desired hour of programming.  For more information, including the links of how to register to visit, click here.

May 17th:

Ann Hall's Grave

“The Loyal Servants of the Booths: Joe and Ann Hall” presented by Jim Chrismer at the Booth family home of Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland

  • Harford County Historian Jim Chrismer will present at 2:00 pm about the Booth family servants Joe and Ann Hall.  Ann Hall is buried not far from Tudor Hall. For more information, click here.

May 21st:

“Forensics of the Lincoln Assassination” presented by Douglas H. Boxler at the Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville, Indiana

  • Speaker Douglas Boxler used a Derringer pistol and a “Spatter Head” that simulates the structure of the human cranium to conduct research on his talk about the “Forensics of Lincoln’s Assassination”. Visit the home of Lew Wallace, a member of the military commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators at 7:00pm to watch his speech.  The Wallace Study also does a wonderful job live tweeting their lectures.  For more information, click here.

May 29th:

Silent Witnesses” Ends at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

  • This day marks the end of special exhibit, “Silent Witnesses“, at Ford’s Theatre.  Make sure to visit Ford’s on or before this date to make sure you see these unique treasures before they go back to their home museums:


Alias “Paine”: A Book Lecture by Betty Ownsbey at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York

May 31st:

“The Loyal Servants of the Booths: Joe and Ann Hall” presented by Jim Chrismer at the Booth family home of Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland

  • Deja vu? Jim Chrismer will repeat his May 17th program about the Halls at Tudor Hall. For more information, click here.

Ongoing Events/Exhibits:

Undying Words: Lincoln 1858 – 1865 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
A Fiendish Assassination at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
Remembering Lincoln at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL (ends May 10th)
Now He Belongs to the Ages at the Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, IL
A Nation in Tears: 150 Years after Lincoln’s Death at the University of Illinois’ Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Champaign-Urbana, IL (ends May 4th)
So Costly a Sacrifice: Lincoln and Loss at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, IN
Autopsy for a Nation: The Death of Abraham Lincoln at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY
The Attempted Assassination of William Seward at the Seward House in Auburn, NY (ends June 1st)
Shooting Lincoln at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA
His Wound is Mortal: The Final Hours of President Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland
President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. (ends May 29th)
The Full Story: Maryland, The Surratts, and the Crime of the Century at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD
Remembering Lincoln a digital archives project by Ford’s Theatre
History on Foot: Detective McDevitt is a great walking tour of D.C. put on by Ford’s Theatre of some of the sites associated with Lincoln’s assassination:

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BoothieBarn Live on Fox 5!

This morning at 7:30 am EST, I was interviewed along with Tim Morgan, the Chief of Tourism and Special Events for Charles County, MD, about the escape and death of John Wilkes Booth on Fox 5 in D.C. It was my first time on live television and definitely an exciting experience for me. Here’s a capture of the interview:

UPDATE: Fox 5 has put up a much better version of the interview on their website.  Watch it here:

Admittedly, I made a couple slip ups during the interview. I caught myself after accidentally saying that Dr. Mudd broke John Wilkes Booth’s leg rather than setting Booth’s broken leg. I also gave the wrong weekend for the upcoming Symposium at Tudor Hall. That symposium is taking place on May 9th and you should all sign up for it today!

Well, I’m off to Port Royal now. At 2:00 pm we are having an unveiling ceremony at the Port Royal Museum of American History. We will be unveiling the new highway marker that has been placed near the site of John Wilkes Booth’s death, 150 years ago today. Keep an eye on my Twitter for details.

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Make Plans to Visit Ford’s Theatre on April 14th

One week from today will be the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  Appropriately, Ford’s Theatre will be marking the occasion with a Lincoln Tribute.  The Tribute will consist of a 36 hour period of nonstop activities including orators reciting some of Lincoln’s favorite poetry, speakers discussing his legacy, a special performance leading up to the moment of his assassination, reenactors recreating the solemn death watch, and a wreath laying ceremony at 7:22 am on April 15th.  The Lincoln Tribute will, I’m sure, prove to be a particularly fitting vigil for our 16th President.

Perhaps the culminating piece of the Tribute is the special performance planned inside of Ford’s Theatre starting at 9:00 pm EST.  The program is entitled, “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration“.  Ford’s Theatre is describing the commemoration thusly:

Now he belongs to the ages

Ford’s Theatre will present a moving commemorative tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, 150 years to the day since his assassination. This evening event will include readings of Lincoln’s words and stories, Civil War-era music, excerpts from Lincoln’s favorite theatre and operas, and more. The event seeks to remind us that we not only lost a president; we lost a man who treasured his family, his friends and his country with a love so strong it could hold the Union together.

Tickets for the commemoration program sold out within minutes but those who do travel to D.C. can still share in the experience by viewing the commemoration with others at the nearby National Portrait Gallery.

For those who do not live in, or cannot make it to, the Washington, D.C. area, Ford’s Theatre has partnered with UStream to stream the commemoration online for free.

As cozy as it might sound watching the commemoration from the confines of your own home, I want to encourage you all, especially those of you in the D.C. metro area, to come out and be a part of the Lincoln Tribute and Commemoration in person.  I can think of no better way to truly immerse yourself in history.  Ford’s Theatre is providing a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to essentially travel back in time.  Costumed reenactors will allow you to experience first hand what it was like in the hours leading up to and following Lincoln’s death.  As someone who has taken the opportunity to reenact a portion of this story, trust me when I say that immersing yourself in the history is an unparalleled learning experience.  I wouldn’t miss this exclusive chance to “live through” Lincoln’s assassination.

Free Ticket Giveaway!

To further motivate you all to make plans to visit Ford’s Theatre on April 14th and 15th, I have two (2) extra commemoration tickets that I will be giving away that night.  The winner of these tickets will be able to view the 9 pm program, “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” from inside Ford’s Theatre rather than the streaming version at the Portrait Gallery.  Instead of giving them away in a contest ahead of time, I will be bringing the two extra tickets along with me when I attend the Lincoln Tribute on the evening of April 14th.  At a certain point before the show’s debut, I will send out a tweet on my @BoothieBarn Twitter page.  This tweet will contain a clue as to my location on the Ford’s Theatre campus.  The first person to find me and ask me for the tickets after I send out the tweet, will win the tickets.

So please, make plans to attend the Lincoln Tribute at Ford’s Theatre between April 14th and 15th.  It truly is going to be a once in a lifetime event that you won’t want to miss.  And, if you’re lucky and keep an eye on my Twitter page, you could win two free tickets to the “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” going on at 9:00 pm at Ford’s Theatre.

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