Following the Escape Route: Pine Thicket to Huckleberry

One of my favorite books about the Lincoln assassination is Michael Kauffman’s, American Brutus.  The research is utterly superb and Kauffman delves into every nook and cranny to provide the clearest picture possible about the assassination.  Though I’ve only met Mike once at a talk he gave, I am also very impressed by his devotion to recreating the history.  The man has spent countless nights at Tudor Hall, jumped from a ladder onto the stage at Ford’s to replicate Booth’s jump from the box, attempted to row across the Potomac river, and even burned down a period tobacco barn that was scheduled for demolition.  I find all these recreations of history absolutely fascinating and also just plain cool.  Taking Michael Kauffman’s lead, I decided to get my feet wet today and try to recreate some of the escape route on foot.  To that end, today I walked from the location of where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were hidden by Thomas Jones in the Pine Thicket, to one of their stops before reaching the shores of the Potomac, Jone’s home of Huckleberry.

Pine Thicket to Huckleberry Map

Though not part of the trek before me, I started my day by driving from my house to Rich Hill, the former home of Samuel Cox.  It was on my way to the Pine Thicket and I wanted to check on the building which, sadly, will not be here for long is something is not done to keep it up:

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From Rich Hill, I drove to the Pine Thicket and parked my car in the area in front of the Maryland Civil War Trials signage in the area.  Exiting my car, I put on my backpack which contained a water bottle and Thomas Jones’ book, J. Wilkes Booth.  I started to walk down Wills Rd. and soon came to what is believed to be the Collis House.  In Jones’ book published in 1893, he states that the spot he first beheld the fugitives in the pines was now occupied by an Englishman named John Collis who built his home there.  It is thought, with relative certainty, that the Collis house still exists as part of this house on Wills Rd.

Collis House Engraving

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I knocked on the door, hoping to chat with the owner but either no one was home, or they did not want to talk with me, so I walked on.  Reaching the end of Wills Rd., I realized that this trip was a good opportunity to live up to my previous comment that I would attempt to record video of more of my Boothie adventures.  So, I switched from pictures to video on my iPhone, and I documented the rest of my journey with videos.  What follows are those 10 short videos.  I was speaking off the cuff with nothing prepared and so please forgive any factual errors I may have made.  During my last video, I turned the camera while recording, hoping the video would rotate as well.  It did not, so for part of the video you will have to tilt your head sideways.   Sorry.  It was an amateur production, what can I say?










I left Huckleberry and retraced my route exactly as I had came. I enjoyed it, but I was certainly in need of a shower by the time I got home. 90 degree heat with no breeze and very little shade makes for one sweaty walk no matter the distance.

In conclusion, today I did my best to walk a mile(+) in the shoes of John Wilkes Booth, David Herold, and Thomas A. Jones. They made a similar journey under the cover of darkness listening intently to every sound they heard. It took me 50 minutes to walk the same basic route that the trio walked between dusk and 9:30 pm on April 20th, 1865.

Huckleberry June 2013

My recreation of history may not be “burning down a tobacco barn” quality, but it’s a start.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Following the Escape Route: Pine Thicket to Huckleberry

  1. Steve Dixon

    Great stuff, Dave. Thanks for doing this. A future trek to the Potomac would be great, especially since on the JWB Escape Route tour you don’t go all the way down to the water’s edge.

    • That’s the plan, Steve. I’ve already sent out an email to the Retreat House seeking permission to visit their property. Here’s hoping they agree to it.

  2. Great. I wish I could have been with you. Do you happen to know who owns Rich Hill?

    • If I remember correctly, Rich Hill is owned by a D.C. lawyer or developer. He doesn’t live in the area and it appears he’s content to just let Rich Hill deteriorate from neglect.

  3. That was great! Thanks so much for sharing your research and hard work. I have done a little exploring of abandoned plantations here in VA, but only in winter for fear of snakes!

  4. Fascinating! Great narration. I look forward to seeing more of these videos.

    Thanks–

    –Jim

    • Thanks, Jim. A couple of the videos seemed to hang precariously close to the realm of “The Blair Witch Project” for my liking. I wonder if they make a tripod for a iPhone.

  5. Heath

    Dave, this was my favorite post yet. Great job. Although I loved the Surratt tour, it was disappointing not to stop at the Pine Thicket. When you are ready to recreate the row across the Potomac, let me know, as I will be happy to play the part of JWB and steer while you row your arms off like poor Davey did!
    Heath

    • I’ll admit that taking to the Potomac is something that I’d like to do. However, I’d need to make friends with an experience nautical man before trying it. Plus, I wouldn’t even try rowing since I know I wouldn’t make it that way.

      • Heath

        Driving across the bridge made me marvel at how Herold was able to row across that night. I can’t imagine how tired he must have been when they landed back in MD that night.

  6. Fantastic, Dave! Very commendable – especially in 90 degree heat! Now that’s dedication!!

    I’ve always wanted to do the entire escape route on horseback! When you’re ready for that – let me know!

  7. Richard Sloan

    great stuff, Dave. Many yedars ago, James Hall, John Brennan, myself, and Robert Pogue (author of “Maryland Landmarks” ?) took a 15-foot runabout across the Potomac from Pope’s Creek. But the weather changed; the waters got choppy, and the anchor rope became tangled in the blades of the motor’s propeller. It was mid-April. The Potomac was pretty cold. It took me 10-15 mins. to untangle the rope, and my hands were so cold, I feared they were frostbitten. I succeeded, and we returned to Pope’s Creek, “wet, cold, … with every man’s hand against us.”!!!

  8. Rich smyth

    I really enjoyed this. Thank you!

  9. Richard

    Thanks for your continued posts. The nearest I have been to the escape route is The Surratt Society map and the book, In the Footsteps of the Assassin; which is detailed recap of The Surratt Society semi annual JWB escape tour.
    I need to put the March conference and the escape tour on my bucket list.

  10. Pingback: Teaser – Another Escape Route Trek | BoothieBarn

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