New Gallery – Port Tobacco

“Tuesday morning, after my visit to the pine thicket, I rode up to Port Tobacco.

Tuesday was then, as it is now, the day for the transaction of public business in our county. I was therefore likely to meet a good many people in the county-town that day, and bear whatever was going on.

I found the men gathered about in little groups on the square, as men in villages will al ways be found when anything of more than usual interest is engaging public attention. Upon this occasion, of course, they were discussing the assassination, and the probable whereabouts of the assassin. The general impression seemed to be that Booth had not crossed the river.

I mingled with the people and listened till I was satisfied that nothing was positively known. Every expression was merely surmise.

It was while in Port Tobacco that day I made the acquaintance of Captain Williams. He was standing in the bar-room of the old Brawner Hotel (now St. Charles Hotel) in the act of drinking with several gentlemen who were gathered around him, when I entered. Some one introduced me to him and he politely invited me to drink with him. Just as we were about to take the drink, standing with our glasses in our hands, he turned to me and said, ‘I will give one hundred thousand dollars to any one who will give me the information that will lead to Booth’s capture.’

I replied, ‘That is a large sum of money and ought to get him if money can do it.’

In Mr. George Alfred Townsend’s article, ‘How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac’ published in the Century magazine of April, 1884, the author comments upon this offer made in my presence and partly to me, in the following terms: ‘When we consider that the end of the war had come and all the Confederate hopes were blasted and every man’s slave set free, we may reflect upon the fidelity of this poor man whose land was not his own and with inevitable poverty before him perhaps for the rest of bit days,’ etc. It appears from this that Mr. Townsend thinks I deserve some need of praise for not being bribed to betray what I considered a sacred trust. But it seems to me that, had I, for money, betrayed the man whose hand I had taken, whose confidence I had won, and to whom I had promised succor, I would have been, of all traitors, the most abject and despicable. Money won by such vile means would have been accursed and the pale face of the man whose life I had sold, would have haunted me to my grave. True, the hopes of the Confederacy were like autumn leaves when the blast has swept by. True, the little I had accumulated through twenty years of unremitting toil was irrevocably lost. But, thank God, there was something I still possessed — something I still could call my own, and its name was Honor.

In 1889, soon after I was dismissed from the humble position I had held under the Federal Government in the Navy Yard at Washington, I met, for the first time since those memorable and eventful days of which I have been writing. Captain Williams. He was then a detective in Washington City. In the interview I then had with him (a not very accurate account of which was published in the newspapers at the time) Captain Williams told me that that day in Port Tobacco he very strongly suspected I knew more than I was willing to tell. But there was certainly nothing in his manner from which I could have inferred that he was any more suspicious of me than he was of any one else in southern Maryland.” – Thomas Jones from J. Wilkes Booth

Visit the newest Picture Gallery here on BoothieBarn:

Port Tobacco

Port Tobacco weaves in and out of the assassination story.  In the days of the kidnapping plot, John Surratt and Thomas Harbin convinced Port Tobacco-ite Richard Smoot to sell them a boat with which to ferry the abducted President across the Potomac river.  Conspirator George Atzerodt lived, worked, and “married” in Port Tobacco before joining Booth in his plot.  As seen above, Thomas Jones, while hiding Booth and Herold in the pine thicket after the assassination, could have made a fortune in Port Tobacco had he betrayed the pair.  Conspiracy was ripe in Port Tobacco.

You can read more about Port Tobacco’s history as the former county seat of Charles County and it’s involvement in the Lincoln assassination story by visiting these sites:

The Port Tobacco Trail
Port Tobacco Archaeological Project
Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco

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