Posts Tagged With: Escape

Grave Thursday: Lewis Chubb

On select Thursdays we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.


Lewis Lorenzo Chubb

Burial Location: Green Oak Union Cemetery, South Lyon, Michigan

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

On May 18, 1865, two separate military trials were occurring in the city of Washington. The one that garnered the most interest was, of course, the ongoing trial of the conspirators in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. On that specific day, a total of 26 witnesses testified at the conspiracy trial including Louis Wiechmann, Henry Rathbone, and Eaton Horner. It was a warm day, more summer than spring, and the newspapers covering the trial mentioned the oppressive temperature. George Atzerodt, it was reported, was “listless under the heat.”

Across town, there was another trial going on with a defendant who was undoubtedly feeling the heat as well. This second trial was a court martial hearing for a 13th Michigan Light Artillery sergeant named Lewis Chubb. Chubb faced two charges against him at the court martial: drunkenness on duty and disobedience of orders.

While one trial was for the crime of the century and the other trial was a relatively routine matter of military discipline, these two trials, occurring simultaneously, both involved one key player: listless George Atzerodt.


Lewis Lorenzo Chubb was born on September 24, 1843 in Livingston County, Michigan. He was the fifth of seven children born to Major Sherwood Chubb and Achsa Bennett. On his mother’s side, Chubb was a descendant of John Webster, a settler and one time governor of the Colony of Connecticut. When the Civil War broke out, an almost 18 year old Chubb enlisted in the 13th Michigan Infantry. He served almost a year and then was discharged. He re-enlisted in 1863 in the 13th Michigan Light Artillery Battery for the remainder of the war. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1864.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Lewis Chubb was in command of a picket on the turnpike between Georgetown, D.C. and Rockville, Maryland. At 12:10 am on April 15th, the commander of Chubb’s picket brigade, Col. Charles H. Long, sent out messengers with the news of the shooting of Abraham Lincoln. In addition, he gave his pickets orders to prevent any persons from crossing out of the city of Washington. At 2:55 am, Col. Long received similar orders to the ones he had already given. His pickets were to “arrest every man that comes near or attempts to pass from the City.”

It was in this manner that, in the early morning hours of April 15th, Sgt. Chubb had effectively shut down the turnpike leading out of Washington to Rockville. As morning dawned in Washington and people learned the horrors of the night before, Sgt Chubb followed his orders, preventing anyone from crossing his line. As one might expect however, the continued closure of a main turnpike out of Washington started to cause a bit of a traffic problem. As teams and wagons made their way to the picket, they found themselves stopped, searched, and unable to proceed. Chubb also followed orders in arresting all of those who came to his picket post, but they were not imprisoned in the traditional sense. One of those stopped by Chubb and his men was a man by the name of William Gaither. Gaither was a farmer who had come to D.C. on April 14th with eggs, butter and some other things to sell at market. After spending the night in Georgetown, Gaither was heading with his wagon back to his farm in Montgomery County. Gaither reached Chubb’s picket at about 10 am on April 15th and was not allowed to pass. He, like everyone else who arrived at the picket, was detained by Chubb and his men. Gaither was not under guard however, and testified that he, and the others detained, “went about where we pleased,” around the picket but “couldn’t go outside the line.”

Shortly after Gaither was stopped and detained, the Rockville stagecoach rode up. The stagecoach had a government pass due to its duties with the postal service. Due to this, the stagecoach was allowed to pass through the line, but Chubb ordered the sole passenger out of the coach. Chubb informed the passenger that he was detained until new orders came through. Gaither described the man Chubb took off of the stagecoach:

“…[A]bout five feet, eight or ten inches tall,  – lightish complexion, – sandy mustache, appeared to be very polite to every one, and acted as if he was acquainted with every one. The man’s name was George A. Atzerodt. I did not know the man’s name when we were at the post, but learned his name afterwards.”

Conspirator George Atzerodt had failed to attack his target of Vice President Andrew Johnson the night before and was attempting to make his way out of Washington. He had purchased himself a ticket on the stagecoach only to find himself dropped off and detained by the very forces he was hoping to escape from. Yet, despite being in a very bad position, according to Gaither, Atzerodt did his best to act completely unconcerned about his situation.

“Atzerodt was talking with almost every one. He came to me and entered into conversation – said he had been disappointed in getting a ride, and if I had no load he would like to ride with me… I told him that I had no load, and that some company was better than none. I told him that he could ride so far as I was concerned. I told him neither of us could go until they passed us through. Atzerodt asked me once or twice to go into the store to take a glass of cider with him. I drank with him twice or three times.”

Having secured a possible ride, George chatted with the others who had been detained. Eventually the conspirator in Lincoln’s death began conversing with the head of the picket, Lewis Chubb. Gaither testified about this interaction as well:

“The conversation occurred above the store, by the corner of the fence, – this was an hour or more after the stage passed on. Atzerodt and the accused [Chubb] were talking. I went up and joined them. Atzerodt asked us to go in the store and take a glass. We then went in the store and Atzerodt called for three glasses of cider. We each drank a glass of cider, – we were in the store about ten or fifteen minutes. I can’t say that accused [Chubb] staid so long. I don’t recollect whether we had any conversation or not.”

This casual drink with George Atzerodt and William Gaither was the basis of the drunkeness charge against Lewis Chubb during his court martial. However, as the court martial proceeded, the testimony of Gaither and others who interacted with Chubb easily proved that while Chubb may have consumed one alcoholic drink that day, he maintained his sobriety.

The more problematic charge against Chubb at his trial was based on what occurred next. Unsure what to do with the long line of teams and wagons wishing to depart the city and his growing number of detainees, Chubb sent one of his underlings, a private named Albert Richmond, to his commander, Captain Charles DuPont. At about noon, Private Richmond informed Captain DuPont that the road was blocked up with teams and that Sgt. Chubb requested orders or what to do with them. Following the chain of command, Capt. DuPont went to see Col. Long regarding what instructions he should give. By this time, Col. Long had received the following written orders:

“…[Y]ou will instruct your pickets to pass all persons into town as may wish to come, and the same out again, if recognized. All persons that the picket are acquainted with will be allowed to pass and repass until 9 P.M. each day until further orders”

This order, while helpful in regards to the few people on the Maryland side of the line wanting to come into the city, did not really help in terms of the plethora of wagons still trying to get out of the city. Col. Long, however, seeing the difficulty Chubb was facing, seemed to extrapolate on the order and deduced that he could give permission for the detained teams to make their way out of town as well. Col. Long gave Captain DuPont verbal orders to, “search all the wagons and allow them to pass through arresting all suspicious looking persons, and to take the names of all persons going through.” It was the understanding of both Col. Long and Capt. DuPont that the men who would be allowed to pass out of the city were those with teams and no one else. Capt. DuPont gave the verbal order he had received from Col. Long to Private Richmond who then presented it to Sgt. Chubb at the picket. Chubb then proceeded to send the teams on their way having already searched their wagons and taken the names of those detained.

When the new order came in, William Gaither began preparations to get under way. It was now a little before 2:00 pm and the farmer was anxious to get on the road. Sitting in his wagon, Gaither looked around for the man who had requested to ride with him.

“When I got ready to go Atzerodt was talking to the accused [Chubb], and as I got in my wagon I called to him telling him I was going, and if he was going with me he must come along. I called out loud; loud enough for [Chubb] to hear what I said…[Atzerodt] started immediately in a hurry, like, as if startled, and jumped in the wagon, and took a seat by me.”

According to a statement Gaither gave after being arrested by the authorities, just as Atzerodt was about to hop into his wagon, the conspirator turned to Sgt. Chubb, made a very polite bow and said, “It’s all right so far.” With that, George Atzerodt made his way past the Union picket line and continued his escape.

Atzerodt’s freedom would be short-lived, however. On the morning of April 20th he was found at the Germantown home of his cousin, arrested, and returned to “detainee” status. Gaither’s statement of how he came to unwittingly assist Atzerodt in his escape brought attention onto Chubb and the fact that the sergeant had allowed the conspirator to pass through his picket in disobedience of orders.

The man who acted as prosecutor in Chubb’s court martial case was a Judge Advocate by the name of Charles Underhill. Captain Underhill successfully proved that Chubb was well aware of the fact that George Atzerodt was without his own team. At the court martial, William Gaither testified that Sgt. Chubb had taken Atzerodt off of the stagecoach himself and knew him to be a passenger.

Captain Charles W. Underhill, the Judge Advocate at Lewis Chubb’s court martial. Image courtesy of Rod Coddington.

Underhill called on Col. Long, Capt. DuPont, and Pvt. Richmond to testify. He also had a man named Lt. Frederick Dean testify. Though Lt. Dean was Chubb’s immediate superior that night, Dean was not involved in the transmission of orders. He did testify as to Chubb’s sober condition during the two times he saw him that day, further vindicating the sergeant of the drunkenness charge.

One would think that Sgt. Chubb would be in dire straits in defending himself against the disobedience of orders charge. Though no one accused him of knowing the background of the man who bought him a drink, the fact that Chubb had allowed a man to pass his line without a team of his own, one who was later proven to be an accomplice in Lincoln’s death, would seem like a career ending decision for Chubb. Luckily for Lewis Chubb, however, Judge Advocate Underhill was curious as to the specific orders that Chubb apparently disobeyed.

During Capt. DuPont’s testimony at the court martial trial, Underhill questioned the captain’s interpretation of Col. Long’s order and the way in which he then communicated this order to Private Richmond:

“Q. Did you understand that order to mean to pass anyone not suspicious looking – with or without teams?
A. No, Sir. I understood the order to mean to pass only those with teams.
Q. Why did you so understand it?
A. On the grounds that it had been reported to me that teams were waiting there.
Q. Was it so stated or given?
A. I think not.
Q. Why was not the order so worded by you as to convey your true meaning?
A. I thought I gave it so that he could understand what I meant.”

While Captain DuPont had assumed it was implied that only those with teams could exit the city, neither Col. Long nor himself had specifically stated such. The only distinct part of the order given from Long to DuPont to Richmond to Chubb, was that any suspicious looking people were to be arrested. When receiving the order, Private Richmond had asked Capt. DuPont to clarify what he considered to be suspicious. Capt. DuPont responded, “Tell Sergeant Chubb to search the wagons and see that there are no persons concealed in them or no government property.” Private Richmond passed the order to Chubb as stated. Though it may have been implied and expected that only those with their own wagons could pass the line, this was never an explicitly stated part of the order. Therefore, Sgt. Chubb could not be held liable for disobeying part of an order that he never received.

In the end, the six commission members of the court martial found Sgt. Chubb not guilty of the two charges against him. He was acquitted and returned to duty:

On July 1, 1865, Sgt. Lewis Chubb left the army when he was mustered out with the rest of his company in Jackson, Michigan. Six days later, the cause of all of Chubb’s grief, George Atzerodt, left this world when he was executed for his role in Lincoln’s assassination.


Though much of Chubb’s life after the Civil War is unknown, he did marry Catharine “Kittie” Wood on September 12, 1888 when he was 44 years old and Kittie was about 26. This was Kittie’s second marriage and her first husband recounted that Kittie had a “bad temper” and that he “could not live with her.” It appears that Kittie may have maintained her temperamental disposition as she also separated from Lewis Chubb after only a year of so of marriage.

In either the 1880s or 1890s, Lewis Chubb found employment in the railroad business. In 1893, he was living temporarily in Willow Hill, Illinois working on the Peoria, Decatur and Evansville Railway. In Willow Hill, Chubb married a woman named Louisa. Shortly after the wedding, in January of 1894, Lewis whisked Louisa back up to his native state of Michigan where Lewis worked for the Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Things were going well in Battle Creek for a while, until Chubb suffered an accident at work:

While working as the yard master for the Chicago and Grand Trunk railroad, Lewis Chubb got his leg crushed after his foot was caught in a railroad V-switch (also known as a frog). His right leg was crushed just below the knee from the cars of an oncoming train. An additional newspaper report stated that Chubb lost his leg due to the accident, but it is not clear if the accident removed his leg or if it was amputated in an attempt to save his life.

Unfortunately for Chubb, the trauma of the accident ultimately proved to be fatal. Lewis Chubb died on May 25, 1895 from blood poisoning caused by the crushing of his leg. He was 51 years old.

In addition to the death of her husband, further troubles were in store for Chubb’s widow, Louisa. Lewis had died without a will causing his estate to enter probate. Louisa applied to become the executor of her husband’s estate. However, three of Lewis’ siblings brought suit against Louisa and her attempt to gain control over the estate. It wasn’t until after her husband was dead that Louisa learned that her husband had been previously married. More importantly, however, was the fact that Lewis had apparently never actually divorced his first wife, Kittie. Though Lewis and Kittie had separated around 1890, there did not seem to be an official divorce on the books. To his credit, Chubb did start the divorce proceedings and Kittie even wrote a reply to the suit, but they never actually went through with the full process. Since Lewis and Kittie never truly divorced, Lewis and Louisa were not technically married, despite the marriage certificate and ceremony that claimed so. The attorneys from both sides of the case sought out Kittie Wood. In the end, it was found that Kittie had, herself, died in August of 1894. With the legal wife having predeceased Chubb, the judge in the case decided to move in favor of Louisa. He cited the deceased’s intention of legal marriage and cohabitation with Louisa as cause to find in her favor.

Despite the legal unpleasantness between Louisa and Chubb’s siblings, it appears that Louisa did agree with the idea that Lewis should be buried back with his own parents. Chubb’s body was transported, likely via railroad, from Battle Creek to a small cemetery in South Lyon, Michigan which held his mother and father’s grave. In the back corner of Green Oak Union Cemetery in South Lyon is the military headstone of Lewis Chubb next to the gravestone of his mother.

GPS coordinates for Sgt. Lewis Chubb’s grave: 42.430558, -83.690699


Epilogue

As someone who studies history, I am used to coming across instances in which the stories surrounding an individual change over time. Humans are, of course, imperfect, and that is why it is very important to question sources that come so long after an event. One of the sources I used in composing this post was a genealogical book containing information about the descendants of Gov. John Webster of Connecticut. The book gave me a small biography on Chubb with most of the information regarding dates and other family members being correct. However, sometime between 1865 and the publication of the genealogy book in 1915, the family story surrounding Chubb’s interaction with Lincoln’s assassination became extremely altered. Rather than telling about how Chubb unwittingly allowed conspirator George “Port Tobacco” Atzerodt to escape Washington and the subsequent court martial it caused, the genealogy book erroneously states the following:

Good grief!

References:
Court Martial of Sgt. Lewis L. Chubb Proceedings, May 18 & 19, 1865 (starts on page 153 in this PDF) accessed courtesy of Karen Needles’ Lincoln Archives Digital Project
History and genealogy of the Gov. John Webster family of Connecticut, with numerous portraits and illustrations
by William H. Webster
Image of Capt. Underhill courtesy of Rod Coddington
Newspaper articles accessed via GenealogyBank.com
The suit over Lewis Chubb’s estate can be accessed via Ancestry.com
Evening Star, May 18, 1865

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

“An Evening with John Wilkes Booth”

On March 3, 2017, Kate and I presented at an event for the Friends of Rich Hill and the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco. The event venue was the restored Port Tobacco courthouse in Port Tobacco, Maryland. Though Port Tobacco is the former stomping grounds of conspirator George Atzerodt, the subject of this event was the lead assassin, John Wilkes Booth. While I have given speeches about Booth in the past, including my 2016 speech for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum volunteers, I had never previously attempted to portray John Wilkes Booth in the first person. The event in Port Tobacco, billed as “An Evening with John Wilkes Booth”, was my first attempt at being John Wilkes Booth, rather than just discussing John Wilkes Booth.

The following play is meant to provide an insight into the mind of John Wilkes Booth by utilizing much of his own words and writings. Some of the words said by Booth are uncomfortable to hear, but they are vital if we are to truly understand the world view of Lincoln’s assassin. The video of the performance is embedded below or you can watch it directly on YouTube by clicking here.

If you are interested in more first person portrayals of conspirators, Kate will be performing as Mary Surratt twice in April, 2017. On April 1st, Kate will be performing her one woman show about Mrs. Surratt’s imprisonment at the annual Surratt Society Conference in Clinton, Maryland. To sign up for the conference please visit the Surratt House Museum’s website. Kate will also be portraying Mary Surratt at an event in Port Tobacco, Maryland on Friday, April 7th at 6:00 pm. At this performance, Mrs. Suratt will be joined by George Atzerodt and the two of them will discuss their involvement in the conspiracy against Lincoln. The event at Port Tobacco is free and open to the public.

EDIT: I just realized that today is the five year anniversary of my very first posting here on BoothieBarn. When I started this site, it was an outlet for me to share some of the interesting things I had learned while researching the Lincoln assassination. I didn’t really know if it would be of interest to anyone other than myself. However, through this site I have made many wonderful friends and have been fortunate enough to speak about John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln’s assassination in several venues. And so after 5 years, 400+ posts and almost 600 followers later, I want to thank you all for your much appreciated support. As long as I keep finding interesting things about the Lincoln assassination to share, I expect posts will continue here on BoothieBarn for many more years to come. 

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Grave Thursday: Cora Lee Garrett

Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.


Cora Lee Garrett

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Burial Location: Carlisle Cemetery, Carlisle, Kentucky

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Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

On Monday, April 24, 1865, at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, three men rode up on horseback to the farmhouse of Richard Henry Garrett and his family. Mr. Garrett was asked by the leader of the trio, a solider named Jett, if he would be willing to take care of one of their compatriots who had been wounded in the leg. The other two men promised to come back for their infirm friend on Wednesday morning. This temporary refuge was agreed upon with little deliberation by Mr. Garrett. He would later recall, “As it has always been one of the principles of my religion to entertain strangers, especially any in distress, I at once consented and promised I would do the best I could for him.”  Little did Mr. Garrett know at the time that he had just invited into his home the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth.

Booth, portraying himself as Mr. Boyd, was kindly tended to by Mr. Garrett and his family. The occupants of the farm at that time numbered more than a dozen with Mr. Garrett, his wife, and ten children consisting of the bulk of the population. The children present on the farm were, in order: Mary Elizabeth, Jack, Kate, Will, Annie, Richard, Lillie, Robert, Nettie, and, the youngest, Cora Lee.

Though his broken leg pained him, John Wilkes Booth did make an effort to entertain the five youngest Garrett children, all of whom were 10 or younger. He mystified them by moving the needle of a compass around with his pocketknife and he even told them jokes and stories. However, it was to three year-old Cora Lee Garrett that Booth paid the greatest of attention.

Lillie Garrett, who was 8 years-old at the time of Booth’s visit would later give an account of Booth’s stay at the family farm to a newspaperman. In her account she detailed Booth’s fondness for Cora:

“We children were about him and with him nearly all of the time. Of course, we were full of romp and frolic, and sometimes he would attempt to be cheerful and encourage us in our play. Our little baby sister, then about 4 [sic] years old, he took a great fancy to, and used to pet her a great deal, but the rest of us he paid little attention to…

He talked more to my little sister than to any one else. He called her his little blue-eyed pet, and, at the last meal he took with us, she sat by his side in her high chair. We were all gathered around the table, when she began making a noise; mother spoke up quite sharply to her, and she burst into tears. Booth at once began soothing her, and said, “What, is that my little blue-eyes crying?”

Within twelve hours of drying his little blue-eyed pet’s tears, John Wilkes Booth was dead, shot in the tobacco barn belonging to her father. And while Cora may have made a distinct mark on John Wilkes Booth in his final hours, he might have been disappointed to learn that he did not make such a mark on her.

In 1881, a newspaper reporter named Col. Frank Burr visited the Garrett farm to talk with its inhabitants. Cora, then a young woman of 19, was still living with her sisters. Burr described his interaction with her:

“In a minute a bright rather handsome young girl, just budding into womanhood, stepped into the room, dressed in her riding habit. She had a full, round face and pleasant countenance lit up by a pair of large, poetic, blue eyes, and a wealth of golden hair fell down her back in a graceful braid, reaching below her waist. A jaunty riding hat evidently of home construction, set upon her shapely head…”

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“‘I don’t remember anything about Booth,’ said the cheerful girl, ‘but they have told me a great deal about him since his death. How I wish I could remember him! I’m just going for a ride,’ and, after a few moments’ conversation, she stepped up and took her riding-whip from its place near the old fashioned fire-place, and a moment later had darted out the door to where her pony was hitched. She put the saddle upon the horse herself, and sprang into it without assistance, and in less time than it takes to tell the story her black pony was flying down the country road, bearing toward a neighboring farm house John Wilkes Booth’s last sweetheart.”

Cora, like the rest of her siblings, would move away from the old farmstead. When her brother, Richard Baynham Garrett, became a Baptist minister in 1882, she accompanied him when he accepted a pastorate located in Carlisle, Kentucky. While in Carlisle she likely made the acquaintance of a widower by the name of William Henry Fritts. Henry was 22 years older than Cora and had a son that was only six years younger than she was. It appears that any romantic feelings between the two took a while to develop as Cora left Kentucky in 1889 when her brother took up a new pastorate in Austin, Texas. Eventually, Henry Fritts followed her to Austin and the two were married by her brother Rev. Richard Baynham Garrett in 1892.

Cora moved back to Carlisle with Henry and the pair had two children together. Sadly, however, both of the children died in childhood. In 1899, Rev. Garrett accepted a pastorate at a Baptist church located in Portsmouth, Virginia. Whether Cora was homesick for her native state or wanted to be closer to her family, we don’t know, but, regardless, within a couple years of Rev. Garrett’s move to Portsmouth, Henry Fritts also accepted a job in Portsmouth, Virginia. He and Cora reunited with her brother. Cora and Henry had a nice life in Portsmouth with Henry working at the Navy Yard. However, in 1913 Henry Fritts died. Cora had his body transported back to Carlisle for burial next to his mother and father. She then returned to Portsmouth. Cora outlived her brother, the Rev. Garrett, who died in 1922 and was buried in Portsmouth.

Cora Lee Garrett Fritts died at the age of 70 on November 18, 1932. She was the penultimate witness to John Wilkes Booth’s death (albeit without any memory of the event), and left her brother, Robert Clarence Garrett, as the only remaining person alive who had witnessed the assassin’s end.

Since Cora had no children of her own (she also outlived her step-son), her final arrangements were tended to by her nephew. The original thought was to bury her back near the old farmstead in Caroline County, Virginia where she was born. There she would have joined her father, mother, and several of her siblings in the Enon Baptist Church Cemetery. But it was later decided that she should be transported to Kentucky and be laid next to her husband.

Cora Lee Garrett, John Wilkes Booth’s blue-eyed pet and last “sweetheart”, is buried in the Fritts family plot in Carlisle Cemetery.

GPS coordinates for Cora Lee Garrett’s grave: 38.314908, -84.034176

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Grave Thursday: Silas T. Cobb

Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.


Sgt. Silas Tower Cobb

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Burial Location: Central Burying Ground, Holliston, Massachusetts

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Good evening enthusiasts of all things historic, 

This is Kate, returning for another Grave Thursday installment. For this post, I decided to incorporate my work with Dave’s to bring you the full story of the watchman on the bridge, Silas T. Cobb. 

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

Sergeant Silas Tower Cobb is most remembered to history as the man who unknowingly created the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route. On April 14, 1865, Cobb allowed John Wilkes Booth and David Herold to cross the Navy Yard Bridge out of Washington City and into Southern Maryland. Riders were not allowed to cross the bridge after 9 PM but Booth and Herold arrived at almost 11. Unaware that President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward were mortally and severely wounded, Cobb allowed Booth and Herold passage. Rules had been lax since the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and riders wishing to leave the Capitol City did not seem nearly as dangerous as riders seeking entrance. Cobb drowned two years later at the age of 29 during a boating accident in Grand Haven, Michigan.

You can read more about Cobb’s later life here. This is the story of his life leading up to April of 1865. 

Named after his father, Silas Cobb was born on October 13, 1838 in Holliston, Massachusetts to Silas and Sophia Cobb. He spent his childhood training as a boot maker, a trade which he would resume after the Civil War, and sailed to the Arctic when he was 19 as a crewman aboard a whaling ship. Cobb did not immediately enlist in the Union Army following the firing on Fort Sumter. Instead, he married Sophia Treen. The couple had one child together, a daughter named Ada, but she died in infancy about a month after the execution of the conspirators. In 1863, Cobb enlisted in the Union Army, joining the 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The regiment remained in its home state until it was called to Washington City to guard its various bridges and passageways. In 1862, General Lee had attempted a march on Maryland to put pressure on Washington and by 1863 had invaded Pennsylvania. Perhaps one reason the 3rd Massachusetts was sent south was to barricade the Capitol in the event that Lee managed to break significant Union lines. Lee’s campaign ultimately failed but it placed Cobb on the Navy Yard Bridge, keeping him from being lost to the pages of history as another name on another roster. While Lee never appeared, on April 14th Cobb received a different kind of Southern sympathizer on the bridge. The rest is history.

It is not known for certain why Cobb was in Grand Haven when he died. Some historians theorize that he was attempting to sell boots, having been honorably discharged from the Union Army and resumed his shoe making. Evidence for this theory points to a friend Cobb knew from his time in Holliston, Edgar Fletcher, who was also a boot maker. The pair were traveling through Michigan together. Both perished in the accident.

The body of Silas T. Cobb was brought back home to Holliston where it was laid to rest in the Central Burying Ground. A small military headstone marks the site today. Much like Cobb, it is a stop on the road to more recognized places (Fall River to the South, Boston and Salem to the North) but it is still a stop worth discussing due to its brush with history.  

Until next time.

-Kate 

GPS coordinates for Silas Cobb’s grave: 42.202776, -71.429104

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Grave Thursday: Virginia Clarke

Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.


Virginia Clarke

The home of Virginia Clarke outside of Bowling Green, Virginia.

The home of Virginia Clarke outside of Bowling Green, Virginia.

Burial Location: Greenlawn Cemetery, Bowling Green, Virginia

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Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

One of the most forgotten and overlooked parts of the escape of the assassins of Abraham Lincoln involves the home of Mrs. Virginia Clarke. This is probably due to the fact that Mrs. Clarke’s home is technically not a part of John Wilkes Booth’s escape route. The lead assassin never got as far south as Mrs. Clarke’s home and, therefore, never saw the home pictured above. However, Booth’s accomplice and fellow fugitive, David Herold, not only saw this house but spent the night at Mrs. Clarke’s during the brief period of time where he separated from the assassin. On the afternoon of April 24, 1865, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were waiting at the ferry crossing of Port Conway, Virginia, waiting to cross over to Port Royal on the other side of the Rappahannock River. As they waited, three Confederate soldiers rode up to the ferry landing. After some parlay, the fugitives announced their identities to the men. The soldiers, Willie Jett, Absalom Bainbridge and Mortimer Ruggles vowed to give Booth and Herold assistance on their escape. After crossing the ferry Jett attempted to find Booth refuge at the home of Sarah Jane Peyton, but she rebuffed him after seeing the condition Booth was in. The group of five then rode about two miles south of Port Royal where Jett dropped Booth off with the Garrett family. It was at this time that Herold separated from John Wilkes Booth for the first time since the pair had met up at Soper’s Hill outside of Washington on April 14th. While Booth enjoyed the hospitality of the unsuspecting Garrett family on the night of April 24th, Herold made his way with Absalom Bainbridge to Mrs. Clarke’s home.

David Herold briefly mentions this visit to Mrs. Clarke’s in his interrogation:

“One of the soldiers named Bennington [Bainbridge], was going to see a gentleman named Clark[e] whom I met some three or four years ago, & of whom I had heard people in Maryland speak. I do not know Clark’s christian name. Both Bennington & Clark had belonged to Mosby’s command. We went there and Bennington introduced me…We staid there all night.”

James Clarke, Herold and Bainbridge’s mutual acquaintance, was not at home when the pair arrived. Therefore Bainbridge had to introduce Herold to James’ mother, Virginia Clarke. Bainbridge introduced  Herold to Mrs. Clarke using the pseudonym of Mr. Boyd, the same name Jett had used to pass Booth off on the Garrett family.

Practically nothing is known about Herold’s stay with Mrs. Clarke and the next morning he was riding back with Bainbridge to Bowling Green to meet back up with Ruggles and Jett who had spent the night at the Star Hotel. Ruggles, Bainbridge, and Herold rode back up to the Garrett farm where Herold joined back up with Booth. The rest is history.

Mrs. Clarke’s home no longer stands. The area where it was once located has been transformed into a man-made lake.

Site of the Clarke house Caroline

When Virginia Clarke died in 1877, she was originally buried in a family cemetery belonging to her son-in-law’s family. However, when Fort A. P . Hill was created in Caroline County in the 1940’s, that family cemetery, along with many others, had to be removed. Greenlawn Cemetery in Bowling Green was created specifically to receive the transplanted graves of those originally interred on land now owned by Fort A. P. Hill.

Check out the Maps page for more details. For more information about the actions of Willie Jett, Absalom Bainbridge and Mortimer Ruggles click this link.

GPS coordinates for Virginia Clarke’s grave: 38.070225, -77.338979

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Visit to “The Trap”

On April 24, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, the fugitive assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was dropped off at the Garrett farm just outside of Port Royal, Virginia. Over the prior ten days, Booth and his accomplice David Herold had successfully eluded the massive manhunt searching for them in Maryland and had made their way into Virginia. By portraying himself as a wounded Confederate soldier named James Boyd, John Wilkes Booth was welcomed in by the Garrett family and given the hospitality of their home and farm. David Herold, on the other hand, decided for the first time to depart from Booth’s company. Whether this was his own choice or whether Booth sent him away on purpose, perhaps to scout the route ahead, is unknown. Regardless, Herold did not stay at the Garrett farm on April 24th and, instead, continued on towards Bowling Green with the three Confederate soldiers that he and Booth had met in Port Conway. When the sun went down on April 24th,  Herold and one of the soldiers, Absalom Bainbridge, would spend the night outside of Bowling Green, Virginia at the home of a Mrs. Virginia Clarke. Before that would occur, however, David Herold and the three Confederate soldiers would all make a pit stop on the road between Port Royal and Bowling Green at a tavern known as “The Trap.”

The Trap was built around 1752 and initially operated as a private home. Its location of being about half way between Port Royal and Bowling Green earned it the nickname of the “Halfway House.” In 1777, a wealthy man by the name of Peyton Stern (whose land holdings in Caroline County at that time stretched over 2,000 acres and included what would become the Garrett family farm) started operating the building as a tavern. In the 1830’s the tavern was acquired by a man named George Washington Carter, whose family owned an adjacent land tract of 452 acres. George Washington Carter died in 1853 leaving his widow, Martha, to care for their large family of children. Similar to the Surratt Tavern in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Mrs. Carter would continue to operate the tavern as a means of income and offer lodging for visitors passing by on the road. The Trap also operated as the local post office in the same way the Surratt Tavern did.

In 1865, Mrs. Carter was running The Trap with the help of her four daughters. The daughters were twins Martha and Mary (27), Sarah (23), and Agnes (20). On April 5, The Trap briefly received a fairly distinguished guest by the name of Thomas Conolly.

Thomas Conolly

Thomas Conolly

Conolly was an Irish member of British parliament who had crossed the Atlantic to visit the Confederacy. He was well connected, wealthy, and was able to meet many of the Confederacy’s elite. Conolly was lavishly wined and dined during his trip, likely in the hopes that impressing him would motivate him to convince his countrymen to support the Confederacy. Conolly had departed Richmond just before the Union troops seized it and was making his way north. He mentions his stop at The Trap in his diary which has been published as An Irishman in Dixie: Thomas Conolly’s Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy.

“Stopped again from the exhausted state of our horse at the Trap 1/2 way to Port Royal where we find Mrs Carter & her 4 pretty daughters. The house was full of Virginia Cavalry going to join their Regts & the girls & mother serving them all round with all they had. Got some dinner bacon & greens & pickled peaches & corn bread & milk. Matty [Martha] & I had a pleasant chat & I gave her the other gold stud wh[ich] pleased her much.”

Conolly’s diary paints The Trap as a bustling and busy tavern with soldiers anxious to get food and drink. It was, therefore, not out of the ordinary when, on April 24th, David Herold, Willie Jett, Mortimer Ruggles and Absalom Bainbridge stopped by The Trap after dropping John Wilkes Booth off at the Garrett farm.

The men all took drinks while at The Trap and apparently discussed, within earshot of Mrs. Carter or her daughters, their plan to split up at Bowling Green and for Herold and Bainbridge to find lodging at Mrs. Clarke’s while Jett and Ruggles stayed at the Star Hotel. After their rest stop at The Trap, the man saddled back up and rode on to Bowling Green.

About 12 hours later, on April 25th, David Herold, Absalom Bainbridge and Mortimer Ruggles returned to The Trap this time headed in the opposite direction. They had followed through on their plan to spend the night in and outside of Bowling Green and now Herold was heading back towards Booth with Ruggles and Bainbridge as his guides. Once again, Herold, Bainbridge and Ruggles took drinks at The Trap. Sadly we do not really know any of the conversation or even the amount of time the men stayed at The Trap before they bade the Carter ladies goodbye.

Herold 1

 

David Herold was dropped off at the Garrett farm on April 25th and rejoined John Wilkes Booth who had been treated with much generosity and kindness by the unsuspecting Garretts. Bainbridge and Ruggles continued on the road until they reached Port Royal and witnessed a detachment of Union troops crossing the Rappahannock river. This was the 16th New York Cavalry and they had finally found John Wilkes Booth trail. The troops had learned from William Rollins in Port Conway that Booth had been seen in the company of Confederate soldiers, one of whom was Willie Jett. Mrs. Rollins knew that Willie Jett was dating a girl in Bowling Green and that they would likely be heading there. Bainbridge and Ruggles turned around and rode back to the Garretts to warn Booth and Herold before heading out of the area themselves.

The 16th NY Cavalry, with William Rollins in tow, successfully crossed the Rappahannock and then began riding down the same road Booth and Herold had been on the day before. They unknowingly passed John Wilkes Booth and David Herold as they rode by the Garrett farm on their way to Bowling Green. By 9:00 pm, the band of soldiers found themselves at that old half way house, The Trap.

When the Union soldiers entered The Trap and began searching the premises, Mrs. Carter and her daughters were understandably excited and distraught at the intrusion by Yankee soldiers. The soldiers found no men in the large, log house as the Carter ladies “raised and kept up such a clamor.” In order to try to get some needed information from the Carters, two of the detectives with the 16th NY, Everton Conger and Luther Baker, told them that they were in pursuit of “a party that had committed an outrage on a girl.”

Everton Conger and Luther Baker

Everton Conger and Luther Baker

This claim softened the Carter ladies’ dispositions and made them inclined to tell the soldiers all they could. They verified that a group of men had stopped by the day before on their way to Bowling Green and that three of them had come back a few hours before the troopers arrival. The Carters also mentioned having overheard the conversation about the men splitting up with some lodging at Mrs. Clarke’s home. The detectives contemplated splitting up the detachment in order to send some men to Mrs. Clarke’s and the rest on to Bowling Green, but decided to move, as a whole group, on to Bowling Green. The 16th NY was at The Trap for about a half hour to forty-five minutes before carrying on.

In Bowling Green, the troopers found Willie Jett asleep in the Star Hotel. He immediately surrendered and informed the men that Booth was at the Garrett farm and that they had unwittingly gone right past him. They placed Jett under arrest and then hightailed it back up the road, passing right by The Trap again without stopping.

The rest, as they say, is history. The 16th NY successfully corner John Wilkes Booth in the Garretts’ tobacco barn, light the barn on fire to smoke him out, and then Sergeant Boston Corbett paralyzes Booth with a gunshot wound to the neck. John Wilkes Booth dies around dawn on April 26, 1865. David Herold, two of the Garrett sons, William Rollins, and Booth’s body are all taken back up to Washington for trial, imprisonment and questioning, and burial, respectively.

Mrs. Carter and her daughters likely heard later that the men the troopers were looking for at their tavern were not wanted for an outrage on a girl but, rather, for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

After the Civil War, Mrs. Carter and her daughters continued to run The Trap as tavern. Out of the four daughters, only Agnes would marry but would be widowed soon after the birth of her own daughter. Unfortunately, times continued to be tough for the Carters and in 1870’s Mrs. Carter had defaulted on her loans. She sold off some of her land to try to stay afloat but in 1888 the land containing the tavern was auctioned off to pay for her debts. The tavern property was purchased by a man named George Lonesome who, in 1913, sold it to man named J. Harvey Whittaker. Sometime between 1900 and 1924, The Trap tavern was demolished. A subsequent owner named J. D. Smithers built and ran a store on the site from 1924 until 1941.

During World War II, the United States government, in need of suitable training and maneuvering ground, seized and purchased over 77,000 acres of Caroline County, Virginia. Residents in the area were given between two weeks and two days to move out of their homes, taking all of their belongings with them, never to return. For many, the land seized by the government had been their homesteads for generations. It was a difficult time for many families in the area who had to leave the farms that had been in their families for years. Yet, the land provided to create the training grounds of Fort A.P. Hill was essential for the war effort. Today, Fort A.P.Hill is split in half by a highway, Route 301. The southern half, which contains the area of The Trap, is the home of various live weapons ranges and is practically always off limits to the public, even to those whose ancestors lived, died, and were buried there.

That being said, today, June 11, 2016, was the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Fort A. P. Hill and as such they had various history exhibits and activities planned for the day that were open to the public. The activities included a one time tour of the Delos area where The Trap was located. What follows are some pictures of The Trap site that David Herold and the members of the 16th New York Cavalry visited.

Trap Tour Map

This map was provided in a booklet tour participants received and shows a modern aerial photo of the sites with former land tracts superimposed over the image. The Trap tavern where Herold et al stopped is actually labelled here as #2 Smithers’ Store, as a man named Smithers ran a store on the former site of The Trap from 1924 – 1941. As stated above, the farm owned by George Washington Carter and inherited by Martha Carter was 452 acres which is why #1 is labeled as the Trap farm but is actually the location of a later home built on the property around the 1890’s.

Trap Ice House 1

Trap Ice House 2

While the main residence that occupied #1 “Trap Farm” was built in the 1890’s, there are some remnants of a much earlier outbuilding in the area that was likely connected to the tavern. These pictures show what is left of an old, sizable ice house. In the days before refrigeration, families would essentially dig a large hole in the ground. The deeper you dig the cooler the earth is and at a certain point it can get close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You would place your ice in these deep pits and then cover it  with saw dust or another insulator to slow down melting, allowing you to have ice even in the summer months. The whole thing would then be covered with a primitive roof of some sort. The size and depth of this ice house and its relative proximity to The Trap tavern has led the archaeologists to conclude that this ice house was used by the tavern to provide them with their ice.

 

Trap dirt explanation

This image is a preface for the ones that follow and explains why much of The Trap site and the old road that ran right in front of it look like a construction site today. The entire site around The Trap is covered in this layer of “foreign dirt” that had to be removed before excavations could be done.

Trap Rolling Road

In this image you can see very clearly the traces of the old “Rolling Road” that connected Bowling Green to Port Royal. This image is taken looking southwest in the direction of Bowling Green.

Trap Rolling Road 2

This image shows the remains of the Rolling Road in the opposite direction. You can just make out at the end how the road is beginning to turn towards the left. Following that turn takes you north towards Port Royal. David Herold, Bainbridge, Ruggles, and the 16th New York Cavalry all traveled this road twice on their way to and from Bowling Green.

The Trap Site 6-11-16

The Trap site 2 6-11-16

These pictures show the site of The Trap tavern itself. In the top picture you can see a dark square in the foreground. That is one of the brick piers that the tavern sat on. It was highlighted by spraying it with water to make the color more noticeable. In the bottom image you can no longer see the square as the water has evaporated but it is located between the green bags in the middle. The bottom image is taken from the Rolling Road to give you an idea of how close to the road the tavern stood. It was located on this perfect spot where the road curved north making its own intersection.

Kate in The Trap

Dave in The Trap

These are two images of Kate and me standing “in” The Trap. You can see the Rolling Road behind me.

The tour of The Trap site was a wonderful experience and one that we felt lucky to take part in. The location of The Trap inside the boundaries of the live range area of Fort A. P. Hill insures that it will rarely be open to the public. At the same time, Fort A. P. Hill seem to be the perfect stewards of the site and their archaeology efforts demonstrate their commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of the land they occupy.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not address the two “elephants in the room” when it comes to The Trap. One issue is the correct spelling of the tavern. I, like many others, have always spelled it as The Trappe. You can find this spelling in other texts and articles about the assassination. According to one of our guides for the day, John Mullins, the site was originally spelled Trap and not Trappe. John says that this spelling did not come about until the 1890’s or so and was likely started after the area became known as Delos. The spelling of The Trap with the extra “pe” was likely people’s inadvertent way of referring to the old name and making it seem ever older by giving it the old English spelling.

The second item that I failed to address was the reputation of The Trap and the Carter ladies. Some texts and authors state that The Trap was a thinly disguised brothel run by Mrs. Carter and her daughters. When I first began researching the Lincoln assassination I heard from several knowledgeable individuals that The Trap had a slightly scandalous reputation. However, in researching the topic I have yet to come across anything that truly supports this idea. The origin of this misconception appears to be an April 27, 1865 statement from Luther Baker. In recounting the hunt for Booth, Baker shares the detachment’s stop at the Trap thusly: “About halfway to Bowling Green, which is 15 miles from the ferry, we stopped at a log house called the halfway house. We found there four or five ladies, who keep a house of entertainment.” Baker then proceeds to recount how no men were found in the house and how the ladies eventually gave them the information they needed. This wording that the Carter ladies kept a “house of entertainment” seems to be the fairly innocuous wellspring from which all unseemly rumors have flowed. However, in its early days, The Trap was a house of entertainment. Horse races and card games took place there. According to one of our guides for the tour, the name of The Trap was an old reference to how the tavern was a money trap for those who went there to play cards. Whether Mrs. Carter and her daughters still allowed card playing when they owned the tavern is unclear, but even if they did, a little card playing doesn’t equate to a house of sin. Unless better evidence can be found to support the idea that they were improper in anyway, I think Mrs. Carter and her daughters deserve to have their reputations vindicated.

References:
Former Community of Delos (The Trap) Tour Itinerary booklet
“The Trappe” by James O. Hall published in the Surratt Courier June 1987
John Mullins, Kerri Holland, Rich Davis – Archaeologists
The Lincoln Assassination – The Reward Files edited by William Edwards
An Irishman in Dixie: Thomas Conolly’s Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy edited by Nelson D. Lankford

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Inside Thomas Jones’ Huckleberry

Thomas Austin Jones has gone down in history for the assistance he gave assassin John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice David Herold. Jones not only cared for the two fugitives as they hid out in a pine thicket in Charles County, but he also transported Booth and Herold from the thicket to the shores of the Potomac from which they got into a boat and attempted to row across to Virginia.

Thomas Jones 1

Thomas Jones, who was born in the Port Tobacco area in 1820, owned two houses in Charles County during the Civil War. It was from his larger home on the Potomac River called Ravenscliff that Jones began his career as a mail agent for the Confederacy, but by 1865, his financial situation and death of his wife had caused him to downsize his estate to the more modest Huckleberry farm. Jones was living at Huckleberry with his nine children when Samuel Cox, Jr. showed up on the morning of April 16th and beckoned Jones to return with him to his father’s farm of Rich Hill. At Rich Hill, Jones would learn about Cox’s nighttime visitors and be given the task of caring for the fugitives while looking for an opportunity to get them across the Potomac.

Huckleberry-Animation

Today, as part of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage in Charles County, Thomas Jones’ home of Huckleberry was open to the general public for the first time in 56 years when it was featured in the 1960 Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage. The house has been remodeled and updated since Thomas Jones’ days but still maintains much of its same 1865 character.

Huckleberry exterior

Huckleberry door

Huckleberry Parlor

Huckleberry stairs

Huckleberry meeting room

Huckleberry kitchen

Jones Mantle

These images, along with the watchable yet somewhat motion sickness inducing video that follows, were all taken today after the garden tour was completed. About 450 people showed up and toured through Huckleberry while I stood in the room with chairs giving visitors a brief overview of Thomas Jones and his life before, during, and after John Wilkes Booth.

The visitors truly seemed to enjoy learning more about this unique man and his role in the Lincoln assassination story. Probably the most interesting little known fact about Thomas Jones is that, in 1893 when he traveled to the World’s Fair in Chicago in order to try to tell his book about helping Booth, Jones actually borrowed and brought with him two artifacts from Dr. Mudd’s house. The Mudd family allowed Jones to borrow the bed that Booth slept in at the Mudd house along with the parlor sofa on which John Wilkes Booth laid on while Dr. Mudd had inspected his leg. Having these artifacts did not help Jones much, however. His book sold very poorly in the Land of Lincoln and he came back to Charles County with many copies of the book and a great deal of debt from the venture.

Though it is impossible to say the next time that Huckleberry will be open to public tours again, the Loyola on the Potomac Retreat House has done a wonderful job as stewards of the house and property since they acquired it in the 1950’s. So even if Huckleberry waits another 56 years before being on the garden tour again, I think, in the meantime, it will stay in very good hands.

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

BoothieBarn Live on NBC 4!

If any of you in the D.C. metropolitan area happened to be watching NBC’s News4 Midday today, you might have seen a familiar face and outfit. I was asked to appear on the live news show along with Melissa Willett of the Charles County Garden Club in order to promote this Saturday’s Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage in Charles County. Every three years the pilgrimage takes place in Charles County and this year it will be featuring two properties connected to the Lincoln assassination story. Participants in the tour will have the opportunity to visit and go inside Thomas Jones’ house of Huckleberry as well as walk the property of the Loyola on the Potomac Catholic Retreat which contains the exact site of where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold got into a boat and tried to cross the Potomac. Melissa and I were interviewed about the event by NBC anchor Barbara Harrison:

UPDATE: NBC 4 has put up a much better version of this interview on their website. Watch it here: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Historic-Homes-Tour_Washington-DC-380991271.html

As stated in the interview I will be at Huckleberry from 10:00 – 5:00pm on Saturday, showing people the inside of the house and discussing Thomas Jones’ role in assisting John Wilkes Booth. Tickets for the tour, which contains a total of eight homes, are $35 and they can be purchased at any of the sites during the tour on Saturday, May 28, 2016. The proceeds from the event will be benefiting the Maryland Veterans Museum.

I enjoyed the interview with Ms. Harrison and was happy to see that, in the footage that rolled as we spoke, the highway marker for the Garrett site made an appearance. Kate and I wrote the text for that marker and it was on the day that we unveiled it that I made my first live television appearance. I always have fun sharing my interest in the Lincoln assassination story with others, even if it is for a brief time during a busy news show.

Categories: News | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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