Thomas Austin Jones is known to the Lincoln assassination field for his role in aiding John Wilkes Booth and David Herold during their escape. After arriving at the home of Confederate sympathizer Col. Samuel Cox, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were led to a nearby pine thicket to hide while Cox called for his foster-brother, Thomas Jones. Cox told Jones in no uncertain terms, “Tom, we must get those men…across the river.” Jones had been a chief agent of the Confederacy and later wrote the following about his duties and role:
“…I contracted with Col. William Norris, Chief of the Signal Service of the Confederacy, to act as Chief Agent for Maryland to forward all dispatches and other papers connected with the Confederacy, and to furnish said government with files of northern papers which were supplied promptly with but little interruption, receiving said papers the next morning after their publication. Also, it was part of my duty to aid all Confederate scouts and agents to and from Richmond who came with proper passes from the proper authority in Richmond…”
Jones was arrested and imprisoned for his treasonous activities in 1861. After signing an oath of allegiance he was released in March of 1862. He returned to his home in Charles County, MD and continued his secret mail line. When Booth and Herold were left in his care, Jones was vital at keeping them hidden and supplied with food and water while waiting for a chance to put the two men across the river to Virginia. After hiding out in the pine thicket for five days, Jones finally got the chance he was waiting for and sent Booth and Herold off in a boat on the evening of April 20th. Jones was subsequently arrested in the government’s round-up of possible conspirators and sympathizers. With knowledge or evidence of how vital Jones had been to the assassins, the government released him in June of 1865. Jones lived out his life quietly until, many years later, he admitted to journalist George Alfred Townsend of his involvement in the great saga. He wrote his own book recounting his time caring for Booth and Herold. Though it did not sell well in Jones’ time, it is now referenced often today. Thomas Jones died in March of 1895.
The following are some of the pictures I took today as I visited some of the sites associated with this very honorable man.
When asked by author Osborn Oldroyd if he ever considered Williams’ $100,000 offer to betray Booth, Jones responded:
“No, indeed; my word could not be bought for a hundred times that amount. I considered it a sacred trust. The little I had accumulated was irrevocably lost, but, thank God, I still possessed something I could call my own, and its name was honor.”