One practically required aspect of studying the Lincoln assassination is to at one point retrace John Wilkes Booth’s route as he escaped south. Nowadays, this is generally done either by yourself in a car, or with a group in a bus and narrator. The fact is tracing the escape route is really a necessity for all of those interested in the Lincoln assassination. The miraculous invention of the automobile allows us to complete an only slightly abridged version of Booth’s twelve day escape in a mere 12 hours. However, retracing Booth’s footsteps is not a modern occurrence. A mere 10 days after his death at the Garrett’s barn, the first official retracing of the route occurred when Lieut. Luther Baker traveled down Booth’s route looking for suspects and items. From that day on, countless people have retraced the escape route by a variety of means. So much of our knowledge, in fact, is based on the early accounts of individuals who retraced Booth’s escape route by foot. One such individual, from whom we get a lot of our knowledge about the escape route, was Osborn Oldroyd. A noted Lincoln collector who lived in both Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL and the Petersen House where Lincoln died, Oldroyd retraced Booth’s steps on foot through Maryland and Virginia. Oldroyd brought along a camera, photographing his many stops and, in 1901, published his book containing his travels and a history of the assassination called, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln: Flight, Pursuit, Capture, and Punishment of the Conspirators. Oldroyd’s book and walk is very useful and is still cited and read today.
Though such a pedestrian journey commencing at Ford’s Theatre and ending at the Garrett’s farm near Port Royal, VA, seems momentous, this trip was just a drop in the bucket for Mr. Oldroyd. As it turns out, Mr. Oldroyd was an enthusiastic walker as this article from 1913 shows:
For those of you who are interested, I’ve figured out a way to “one up” Osborn Oldroyd. All you have to do is walk the distance between two of Osborn Oldroyd’s former homes, the Lincoln home in Springfield to the Petersen house in D.C. According to Google, the walking distance is 756 miles and would only take 249 hours to complete. Dig out those Nikes folks!