Posts Tagged With: Graves

Grave Thursday: Julia Ward Howe

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.


Julia Ward Howe

Burial Location: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

A Happy Women’s History Month to you all you researchers out there. This is Kate, taking over for Dave today.

For this Grave Thursday, we are going to discuss the strong willed social activist and suffragist who not only gave the Union one of its most recognized anthems but also wrote a lesser known, though equally beautiful, poem for the Booth family.

Julia Ward Howe is most often remembered for transforming the lyrics of “John Brown’s Body” into the patriotic hymn “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This is rather appropriate considering her husband, Samuel, was a member of the Secret Six, a staunch abolitionist group that financed John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. However, Howe wrote many other poems during her lifetime that were never set to music.

Long before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Julia Ward Howe had made the acquaintances of various members of the Booth family, specifically John Wilkes’ older brother, Edwin, with whom she developed a close friendship. In writing about her life, Howe spoke of her early admiration and introduction to the great actor:

“It was in the days now spoken of that I first saw Edwin Booth. Dr. Howe and I betook ourselves to the Boston Theatre one rainy evening, expecting to see nothing more than an ordinary performance. The play was “Richelieu,” and we had seen but little of Mr. Booth’s part in it before we turned to each other and said, “This is the real thing.” In every word, in every gesture, the touch of genius made itself felt. A little later I saw him in “Hamlet,” and was even more astonished and delighted. While he was still completing this his first engagement in Boston, I received a letter from his manager, proposing that I should write a play for Mr. Booth. My first drama, though not a success, had made me somewhat known to theatrical people. I had been made painfully aware of its defects, and desired nothing more than to profit by the lesson of experience in producing something that should deserve entire approbation. It was therefore with a good hope of success that I undertook to write the play. Mr. Booth himself called upon me, in pursuance of his request. The favorable impression which he had made upon me was not lessened by a nearer view. I found him modest, intelligent, and above all genuine, — the man as worthy of admiration as the artist. Although I had seen Mr. Booth in a variety of characters, I could only think of representing him as Hippolytus, a beautiful youth, of heroic type, enamored of a high ideal. This was the part which I desired to create for him. I undertook the composition without much delay, and devoted to it the months of one summer’s sojourn at Lawton’s Valley…

Edwin Booth circa 1860

And here, through the summer heats, and in spite of many wasps, I wrote my five-act drama, dreaming of the fine emphasis which Mr. Booth would give to its best passages and of the beautiful appearance he would make in classic costume. He, meanwhile, was growing into great fame and favor with the public, and was called hither and thither by numerous engagements. The period of his courtship and marriage intervened, and a number of years elapsed between the completion of the play and his first reading of it.

At last there came a time in which the production of the play seemed possible. Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Booth were both in Boston performing, as I remember, but not at the same theatre. They agreed to act in my play. E. L. Davenport, manager of the Howard Athenaeum, undertook to produce it, and my dream was very near becoming a reality. But lo! On a sudden, the manager bethought him that the time was rather late in the season; that the play would require new scenery; and, more than all, that his wife, who was also an actress, was not pleased with a secondary part assigned to her. A polite note informed me of his change of mind. This was, I think, the greatest ‘let down’ that I ever experienced. It affected me seriously for some days, after which I determined to attempt nothing more for the stage.

In truth, there appeared to be little reason for this action on the part of the manager. Miss Cushman, speaking of it, said to me, “My dear, if Edwin Booth and I had done nothing more than to stand upon the stage and say ‘good evening’ to each other, the house would have been filled.””

Despite Howe’s deep disappointment over Edwin never performing the play she had written for him, the two remained close friends. This friendship extended to the woman who would become Edwin’s wife and the love of his life, Mary Devlin. Howe recalled the object of Edwin’s affection with great fondness:

“Mr. Booth, in the course of these years, experienced great happiness and great sorrow. On the occasion of our first meeting he had spoken to me of “little Mary Devlin” as an actress of much promise, who had recently been admired in several heavy parts.” In process of time he became engaged to this young girl. Before the announcement of this fact he appeared with her several times before the Boston public. Few that saw it will ever forget a performance of Romeo and Juliet in which the two true lovers were at their best, ideally young, beautiful, and identified with their parts. I soon became well acquainted with this exquisite little woman…”

Mary Devlin Booth, Edwin Booth’s first wife

In time, Howe’s friendship with the Booths extended to their daughter, Edwina. Much later in her life, Howe maintained a correspondence with Edwina Booth, even after her father’s death. In 1908, just two years before Howe’s own death in 1910, the 89 year-old Howe sent two poems to Edwina. According to the accompanying letter, Edwina, who was 48 at the time, had come across two poems that had been in her father’s possession. She believed one or both of them to have been written by Howe many years before. Edwina asked Howe to write her name below the verses she recognized as her own so she could correctly identify them. One of the pieces included with the letter was authored by Mary Elizabeth Blake, though Howe mislabeled the work as belonging to poet T. W. Parsons. The other poem, which was the work of Howe herself, was entitled To Mary. This poem had been written by Howe in 1863, upon her attendance at the funeral for Mary Devlin Booth.

To Mary

Thou gracious atom, verging to decay,
What wert thou in the moment of thy stay?
The flowers in thy faded hands that lie
More briefly than thyself scarce bloom and die.

How was it when swift feet thy beauty bore,
And Life’s warm ripple sunned thy marble o’er?
A slender maiden, captured by a kiss,
Wed at the altar for a three year’s bliss;

No longer space my life’s indenture gave,
From Juliet’s courtship to Ophelia’s grave.
The modest helper of heroic art,
The heaven bound anchor of a sinking heart.

Ask him who wooed me, earliest and last,
What was my office in Love’s sacred past?
What was she, here in silken shell empearled?
But my life’s life – the comfort of the world.

In addition to the poem, Howe recalled Mary Devlin Booth’s funeral in her autobiography:

“These lines recall to me the scene of Mary Booth’s funeral, which took place in wintry weather, the service being held at the chapel in Mount Auburn. Hers was a most pathetic figure as she lay, serene and lovely, surrounded with flowers. As Edwin Booth followed the casket, his eyes heavy with grief, I could not but remember how often I had seen him enact the part of Hamlet at the stage burial of Ophelia.”

Julia Ward Howe was one of the few guests present at Mary Devlin’s funeral. Edwin was also joined by his mother, Mary Ann Holmes Booth, who had traveled from New York to Massachusetts to comfort her son. Edwin’s brother-in-law, John Sleeper Clarke was present but not his wife Asia Booth. Asia had never liked Mary Devlin (or really any other woman) and stayed home in Philadelphia. Howe described the only other family member who tended to Edwin in his grief:

“Beside or behind [Edwin] walked a young man of remarkable beauty, to be sadly known at a later date as Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln and the victim of his own crime.”

John Wilkes Booth was the only Booth sibling who was able/willing to attend the funeral service of his sister-in-law. John Wilkes cancelled his upcoming acting engagement and hastened to Cambridge to be with his grieving brother.

Though life expectancy in the nineteenth century was much lower than today, Julia Ward Howe was one of the exceptions to the rule, living to the old age of 91. During that time, she buried her own husband at Mount Auburn Cemetery in a grave about 80 yards away from Mary Devlin’s. In 1893, Howe returned to Mount Auburn to mourn the loss of Mary’s husband, Edwin. She returned to Edwin’s grave a year later when his beautiful monument was unveiled.

Julia Ward Howe, the groundbreaking poet, abolitionist, and suffragist died of pneumonia on October 17, 1910. She was laid to rest next to her husband in Mount Auburn Cemetery. Howe now lies just across from the hill atop which, 47 years earlier, she witnessed the funeral of a soul taken too soon. She never forgot the picture of the heartbroken husband, “his eyes heavy with grief,” and the dutiful brother by his side, “a young man of remarkable beauty.”

Until next time.

Kate

P.S. By Dave: Julia Ward Howe stated that one of her greatest disappointments in life was that the play she had written for Edwin Booth was never performed. After Howe’s death, actress Margaret Anglin sought to rectify this oversight. During her engagement in Boston in March of 1911, Anglin received permission to perform Howe’s forgotten play. Hippolytus was performed for one night only on March 24, 1911 with all the proceedings going to benefit the Julia Ward Howe Memorial Fund. The title role, which had been written for Edwin, was played by Walter Hampden with high praise. Years later, Hampden would become the fourth president of Edwin Booth’s private club, The Players. Today, the research library housed in The Players is known as the Hampden-Booth Library.

GPS coordinates for Julia Ward Howe’s grave: 42.369612, -71.147075

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Grave Thursday: Fleetwood Lindley

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.


Fleetwood Herndon Lindley

Burial Location: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

On September 26, 1901, Fleetwood Lindley was attending his school in Springfield, Illinois when he received a note sent by his father. The note told the 14 year-old to leave school immediately, hop on his bicycle, and ride quickly to Oak Ridge Cemetery. When Lindley arrived at the cemetery he found a group of twenty men and two women gathered around the outside of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb. Over the past 15 months, the final resting place of President Lincoln had undergone massive renovations. During that time, the coffins of the Lincoln family had been placed in a temporary crypt next to the tomb. With the restoration complete, the coffins were officially being moved back into the tomb. While the coffins of Mary Todd, Willie, Tad, and Eddie Lincoln, would be placed in the wall of the tomb, it had been ordered by the last surviving Lincoln son, Robert Todd, that his father’s coffin be placed in a cage ten feet deep where it would be encased in concrete for all time. This seemingly extreme burial procedure was due in part to the almost successful grave robbing of Lincoln’s remains in 1876.

Though Robert Todd Lincoln had requested that his father’s coffin not be reopened at the time of the final burial, those present on September 26, 1901 could not pass up the chance to look upon the face of the Great Emancipator. Under the guise of verifying that the body of Abraham Lincoln did, indeed, lay inside the coffin, the decision was made to open part of it. Lincoln’s coffin had been opened four times previous to this, the last of which having occurred in 1887. Fleetwood’s father, Joseph Lindley, had been present when the casket was opened back in 1887 and likely wanted his son to share in the experience this time.

A piece of the lead-lined coffin was chiseled away. Fleetwood Lindley joined the others present and took his turn gazing upon Lincoln’s face for the last time. After the identification was complete, the coffin was resealed, and Lincoln was placed into his concrete tomb.

Gazing upon the face of Abraham Lincoln made an indelible impression on Fleetwood, who was the youngest person present that day. He would describe the scene several times over the course of his life. He lived his whole life in Springfield, starting his own floral business which he ran for over 40 years. He was a frequent speaker around Springfield and later served as the president of the board of managers for Oak Ridge Cemetery. He could often be found greeting visitors to Lincoln’s tomb and telling his story about viewing Lincoln’s remains.

“Lincoln’s face seemed to be well preserved. It was ash white in color,” Lindley recalled in 1934. “The head piece in the lead coffin had rotted away and Lincoln’s head was thrown back and resting to one side. His clothes were mildewed.”

In 1962, Lindley told his rotary club that, “We all filed slowly around the coffin. Lincoln was a chalky white. The head rest had given away, so his head had slipped backward. He had been in the casket for 36 years. His nose and chin were the most predominant features. The body was remarkably well preserved. He looked just like his pictures.”

While Fleetwood Lindley was well known around Springfield, he achieved wider recognition when he was highlighted in Life Magazine on February 15, 1963. At the time of his interview, Lindley was the last surviving member of the group of 23 that had viewed Lincoln’s remains. He gave his interview to the Life Magazine reporter from his room at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield where he was awaiting a gall bladder operation. The Life Magazine article describing the final identification of Abraham Lincoln can be read, in full, here.

Lindley ended his recollections with the following, “Yes, his face was chalky white. His clothes were mildewed. And I was allowed to hold one of the leather straps as we lowered the casket for the concrete to be poured. I was not scared at the time but I slept with Lincoln for the next six months.”

Fleetwood Lindley in his later years

The interview for Life Magazine proved to be the last one Fleetwood Lindley ever gave. He passed away only a couple of days later on January 31*, 1963 at St. John’s Hospital. He was 75 years old.

Fleetwood Lindley, the last living person to have seen the face of Abraham Lincoln, is buried not far from the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Location of Fleetwood Lindley’s grave in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL

* Many online sources, including Wikipedia and FindaGrave, give Lindley’s death date as February 1, 1963 due to that date having been given in the Life Magazine article. However, his obituary and death record clearly indicate he died at around 9:30 pm on Thursday, January 31, 1963.

GPS coordinates for Fleetwood Lindley’s grave: 39.822233, -89.658423

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Grave Thursday: Dr. Charles Urquhart

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.


Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr.

dr-urquhart-grave-1

Burial Location: Urquhart Family Cemetery, Locust Grove, Virginia

dr-urquhart-cemetery-1

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

At about 4:00 am on the morning of April 26, 1865, Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr. was hastily awakened from his bed in Port Royal, Virginia. The doctor was just a little shy of 65 years old and had been the resident physician in Port Royal since he first moved to Caroline County from Germanna, Virginia in 1821. Over the last forty years, Dr. Urquhart had become a pillar of the Port Royal community, serving not only as town doctor but also as a deacon at St. Peter’s Church and master of the masonic lodge in town for about 10 years. In 1853, Dr. Urquhart had married Louisa Care, a long time neighbor of his who was about 30 years his junior. The pair’s only child, a daughter named Finella “Nellie” Urquhart, was born in 1861. The Urquhart family owned several pieces of property in Port Royal but made their home right on the shore of the Rappahannock River. Their home was located just a few yards away from the landing for the ferry that ran between Port Royal and Port Conway on the other side of the river.

dr-urquharts-home-circa-1930

Dr. Urquhart’s home in Port Royal, Virginia as it appeared circa 1930. Image Source: Surratt House Museum

The good doctor may have been accustomed to receiving late night/early morning visitors who were in need of medical attention, but nothing could prepare him for this unique house call. Upon answering the door, Dr. Urquhart was met by a Union soldier who hastening him to get dressed and come with him a few miles south of Port Royal to the farm of Richard H. Garrett. By following the soldier’s command, Dr. Urquhart rode into the pages of history.

When the doctor arrived at the Garrett farm, he saw a tobacco barn being completely consumed by fire, a man with his arms tied behind a tree, and a detachment of over 20 Union solders meandering about the grounds. On the front porch of the house, Dr. Urquhart was presented with his patient; a young man about 25 years of age who was suffering from an apparent bullet wound to the neck. His name was John Wilkes Booth and he was the wanted assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.  The soldiers and detectives that were present pounced on the doctor to give his prognosis of the patient. Detective Luther Byron Baker stated:

“We asked the surgeon to examine him, to see if he would live. The surgeon examined him for ten or fifteen minutes, & probed the wound, though I told him the ball had gone through the neck. At first he said he thought Booth might live, he then expressed a different opinion, saying he could not survive… While the surgeon was examining him, he seemed to be unconscious. He slowly rallied afterwards, then sunk away. His mouth and lips began to look purple, and his throat became swollen.”

There was nothing Dr. Urquhart could do for the assassin other than to monitor him and direct the soldiers and Garrett ladies who were tending to him. Booth, as stated, had already lost consciousness before the doctor had arrived. Urquhart was, therefore, not present when Booth issued his final words of “Useless, Useless” while looking at his own hands. According to Baker, John Wilkes Booth died, “not half an hour after the physician pronounced his case hopeless.”

death-of-the-assassin-booth-urquhart

It was at the death of John Wilkes Booth that the Garrett family procured a small remembrance of the man they had unknowingly cared for during the past two days – a small lock of the assassin’s hair. There are many stories about who exactly cut the lock from Booth’s head, with one of the stories giving the credit to Dr. Urquhart. Lucinda Holloway, Mrs. Garrett’s sister and live-in teacher of her children, later told the story of Booth’s death to a newspaperman. The reporter then wrote, “A little struggle just as [Booth] died threw a lock of his jet black hair over his marble white forehead, which Dr. Urquhart clipped off at the request of Miss H[olloway], she thinking it would be a sweet memento for some friend or relation of his.” It would take a few years but eventually, in 1878, Edwin Booth did receive from the Garrett family a lock of hair cut from his brother’s head at the time of his death. It was not, however, the complete lock of hair the family had procured. The balance of the treasured item remained in the Garrett family for many years more.

Despite his brush with a note worthy event, it does not appear that Dr. Urquhart ever recorded his thoughts on being present at the death of John Wilkes Booth. In truth, however, he didn’t have that much time to reflect on his involvement with history. In June of 1866, Dr. Urquhart and his family went to visit his sister-in-law in Culpepper, Virginia. While enjoying their hospitality Dr. Urquhart suffered a stroke that left him speechless. Knowing his condition was mortal, he was able to make his final wishes known through writing. He asked to be buried alongside his mother in the family burial ground in Germanna. Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr. died on July 7, 1866.

After his death, Dr. Urquhart’s brother-in-law, Ezra Bauder, wrote a touching letter to another of their relatives about the doctor’s death and burial:

“It is with the most painful emotions that I feel called upon to announce the death of our dear friend & connection Dr. Chas. Urquhart. He is gone – calmly, tranquilly, oh! how quietly he has passed away! He is now sleeping his last sleep. He has fought his last battle with the rude world. There will be no other struggle. He now reposes by the side of his mother. His ashes will mingle with his kindred, whilst the sod which he trod in his infancy covers his remains. He is buried in a beautiful spot. The winds will not sigh through the big walnut, which shelters his father’s grave & his because a noble form is buried there. A life of quiet benevolence & Christian virtue has been illustrated in that now lifeless form, the tenement of that spirit which we know reposes on ‘the bosom of his Father & his God.'”

The doctor’s final wishes were granted and he was buried beside his mother and father in the old Urquhart burying ground in Germanna. Given his wealth and his family’s tenderness for him, it seems likely that Dr. Urquhart had a gravestone when he was buried in 1866. However, as time went by, the Urquhart family cemetery was slowly covered by overgrowth and the victim of vandalism. Around 1960, the land where the Urquhart Family Cemetery was located was acquired by the Germanna Foundation, which is an organization that “preserves the heritage of the earliest organized settlements of Germans in colonial Virginia”. At the time of the Germanna Foundation’s initial possession of the cemetery, there was only one gravestone left in the cemetery and it, too, had been felled and broken by vandals. The sole gravestone in the cemetery was that of Dr. Urquhart’s mother, Finella Urquhart. The stone, which is heavily eroded from time, is engraved with the following:

“Finella Urquhart – wife of Charles Urquhart – departed this life May 23rd, 1816 in the 30th year of her age – this tomb is dedicated to her remains as a memorial of her worth by an affectionate husband. Her virtues are recorded in the memory of her neighbors and filial tears consecrate her resting place”

In the 1980’s an effort was made by Carroll M. Garnett, a descendant of one of Mrs. Urquhart’s sisters, to put a marker on the grave of Dr. Urquhart. This task was accomplished on April 12, 1983 with a special ceremony. The quote for Dr. Urquhart’s memorial comes from the letter written by his brother-in-law after his death. At the 1983 ceremony a foot stone for Dr. Urquhart was also put in that read “The Physician who Attended John Wilkes Booth, Garrett’s Farm, Caroline County, VA, April 26, 1865”. In the years since the dedication ceremony, however, this foot stone has gone missing.

Mr. Garnett also attempted to get two historic highway markers put in to honor Dr. Urquhart. Though neither of the signs came to fruition, one marker was to be placed on the site of Dr. Urquhart’s home in Port Royal. The home (which burned down in 1935) was not far from St. Peter’s Church where Louisa Urquhart and her daughter Nellie are buried. The proposed text for that marker was:

“HOME OF BOOTH’S DOCTOR

During the early morning of April 26, 1865, Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr., residing at this site, was roused by Union cavalrymen and ordered to the Garrett farm, located 4 miles SW, to give medical attention to John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin. Dr. Urquhart treated Booth for his gunshot wound and later pronounced him dead.”

The other proposed highway marker was to be near what is now the Brawdus Martin Germanna Visitor Center in Locust Grove, Virginia. It is from this visitor center that the Germanna Foundation continues to care for the Urquhart Family Cemetery. One can visit the cemetery by parking at the visitor center, which is adjacent to Germanna Community College. The Foundation has cut a path through the grass and woods that leads right to the Urquhart cemetery.

dr-urquhart-cemetery-trail

Dr. Charles Urquhart was probably pretty tired after being awakened so early on the morning of April 26, 1865. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that, “he is now sleeping his last sleep,” under the trees of his family burying ground in Germanna.

References:
Program: Honoring Dr. Charles Urquhart, Jr. at Germanna, Orange County, Va, Tuesday, April 12, 1983
Carroll M. Garnett’s application for historic highway markers, August 15, 1982

GPS coordinates for Dr. Chalres Urquhart’s grave: 38.376483, -77.784450

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grave Thursday: General Lew Wallace

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.


General Lewis Wallace

Gen Lew Wallace NARA

Burial Location: Oak Hill Cemetery, Crawfordsville, Indiana

Lew Wallace Grave 1

Lew Wallace Grave 2

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

On February 15, 1905, Major General Lew Wallace died at his home in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The late general had been many things during his lifetime: soldier, lawyer, governor, diplomat, inventor, and artist. Today, however, he is most likely known for his work as an author and especially for his acclaimed novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ. There have been several books written about Lew Wallace and his study in Crawfordsville is a wonderful museum about his life and legacy.

I previously visited the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in 2014 and posted about this fascinating place. As I noted then, Wallace’s name is most known to assassination researchers due to his being assigned as one of the nine military commissioners that presided over the trial of the conspirators. During the lengthy trial proceedings, Wallace took the time to sketch the accused conspirators and later used these drawings to compose a painting of Booth and his accomplices which is now on display in his Crawfordsville study:

The Conspirators in the Lew Wallace Study Labeled

During the conspiracy trial proceedings Wallace kept fairly quiet, but he did pipe up from time to time. He was one of the first to defend Senator Reverdy Johnson, a defense lawyer for Mrs. Surratt who was accused by another of the commission members as being ill suited to appear before the court because he represented a secretly treasonous state during the war, Maryland. Wallace asked that Johnson be allowed to explain himself and wanted him to be able to do so in open session. The complaint against Johnson was dropped and he would be approved by the court. After a few days of service however, Johnson would relieve himself from the proceedings, leaving Mrs. Surratt’s defense to Frederick Aiken and John Clampitt.

Lew Wallace was also responsible for the first instance of “dress up” for conspirator Lewis Powell. During the testimony of George Robinson, the army nurse who had grappled with Powell during the latter’s attack on Secretary of State William Seward, Wallace asked for the prisoner to rise. Wallace then had the guard who had been sitting next to Powell place the hat that had been found at the Secretary’s home on the head of the prisoner to see if it fit. According to the newspapers, “Payne here stood up in the dock and the hat was placed on his head for purpose of identification. As this was done Payne smiled with a sort of grimace at the sort of figure he was making.” Wallace then asked the guard, “Does it fit pretty loose, or pretty tight?” The orderly replied that the hat was, “Pretty tight”. Later on during that day’s testimony, Lewis Powell would exhibit more of the clothes he had worn when he attacked Seward.

In June of 1865, during the final days of the conspiracy trial, Wallace wrote to his wife about his growing impatience and predictions about the outcome:

“The trial is not yet over: but I say to myself, certainly it can’t endure beyond this week, and do all I can to be patient. Judge Bingham, on the side of the government, speaks tomorrow, and then the Com. votes ‘guilty or not guilty.’ I have passed a few words with my associate members, and think we can agree in a couple of hours at farthest. Three, if not four, of the eight will be acquitted that is, they would be, if we voted today. What effect Bingham will have remains to be see.”

Wallace’s assumption that “three, if not four, of the eight” conspirators would be acquitted is an interesting one. The case against Edman Spangler was the prosecution’s weakest which would account for at least one acquittal in Wallace’s mind. The other questionable cases to Wallace were likely those of Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen, and Dr. Mudd. General Wallace was one of four commission members who did not sign the clemency plea on behalf of Mary Surratt, likely demonstrating his belief that Mrs. Surratt was guilty. In the end, however, Wallace’s belief of three or four acquittal’s did not prove to be accurate since all eight of the conspirators were found guilty.

Lew Wallace near the end of his life

Lew Wallace, in his study, near the end of his life

To learn more about General Lew Wallace, a man who led an illustrious life outside of his brief connections to the Lincoln assassination story, I highly suggest a visit to the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The museum has a great website and is also very active on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Wallace’s final resting place in Oak Hill Cemetery is only a short drive from the museum. His obelisk, seemingly the tallest in the cemetery, is capped with the carved shape of a draped American flag, a fitting tribute to a lifetime of service to his country.

Lew Wallace Grave 3

GPS coordinates for Lew Wallace’s grave: 40.056945, -86.914723

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Grave Thursday: Sidney Raymond

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.


Sidney Raymond

sidney-raymonds-grave

Burial Location: Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

Believe it or not, Jake Rittersbach (the subject of last week’s Grave Thursday) is not the only individual buried at the Hampton National Cemetery who has a connection to conspirator Edman Spangler. In 1865, Sidney D. Raymond was a Union army veteran who was employed as a detective in the D.C. provost marshal’s office. On the night of April 17th, it was decided that enough evidence had been produced to arrest Edman Spangler for complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Two detectives were sent out to locate Spangler and make the arrest at his boardinghouse. Detectives Sidney Raymond and William Eaton completed this task. After Spangler was taken to the Old Capitol Prison, a second group of detectives was sent back to Spangler’s boardinghouse in order to search his room. These investigators consisted of Sidney Raymond, Charles Rosch, and a third, unnamed detective. They only found a carpet bag at the house as Spangler apparently kept most of his things inside a trunk at Ford’s Theatre. The carpet bag consisted of nothing but an eighty-one feet coil of rope, some blank papers, and a dirty shirt collar. Raymond and the other detectives confiscated these items. The innocuous rope would later be used by the trial prosecution who attempted to prove that it was going to be used for nefarious purposes relating to Lincoln’s death. It was one of the many weak pieces of evidence used against Spangler.

Other than the arrest of Spangler and the search of his living quarters, nothing else is known of Raymond’s participation in the manhunt for Booth and his conspirators. On the 19th of May, William Eaton and Charles Rosch both were called to testify at the trial of the conspirators. Eaton testified about his arrest of Spangler while Rosch documented the few items found in his room. Nowhere in either one of these men’s testimonies is there any mention of Raymond, though Rosch did admit to having searched the room with two other detectives whose names he could not remember. Raymond no doubt read the testimonies of Eaton and Rosch in the next day’s newspaper and was apparently upset that his part in the investigation was not mentioned. On May 21st, Raymond wrote a letter to Col. Henry Burnett, who was serving as Judge Advocate at the trial, in order to set the record straight:

sidney-raymonds-letter-to-col-burnett

Unlike others, Raymond does not appear to have petitioned for any of the reward money for the capture of the assassins. Charles Rosch applied, and was awarded $500, but his reward stemmed from the fact that he was also present at the arrest of Lewis Powell.

Even though Sidney Raymond’s involvement in the Lincoln assassination story is brief, a few of his other unique life experiences bear mentioning.

Sidney Raymond didn’t live with his third wife

Sidney married his first wife, Eliza, in 1862. She died in 1871, at the age of 29. Raymond remarried a few years later to his second wife, Florence. This marriage lasted until 1909, when Florence passed away. Raymond was 66 years old when Florence died and one might think that his marrying days were over. But wouldn’t you know it, in 1915, love found a way. The then 72 year old Sidney Raymond married his third wife Alice, who was 49. On the occasion of their one year anniversary and Sidney Raymond’s 73rd birthday, the Baltimore newspapers ran a story about how Mr. Raymond had received a gift from his wife…through the mail:

“It is understood that the couple agreed that it would be happier to live apart, for the groom is afflicted with paralysis and the wife found this a handicap to her ideas of married life. Mr. Raymond said yesterday when seen at his home that he continues to contribute to the support of his wife, and exhibited a necktie that she had sent him as a remembrance of either the birthday or the marriage anniversary, she having failed to specify which.

Still Mr. Raymond was happy. He took a short walk in the morning and in the afternoon spent the time fondling his granddaughter Ruth, the daughter of his son, with home he now lives. His daughter-in-law is most solicitous for his comfort and the veteran feels better in her charge, he said, than if his wife were his caretaker…

‘Some day, maybe,’ said Mr. Raymond, ‘my wife and I may live together again, but at present we feel that both get along better separated.'”

Sidney Raymond won the lottery

In July and August of 1901, over 2 million acres of land were seized in southwestern Oklahoma. It was, sadly, yet another of our country’s shameful abuses of Native American tribes, as the land seized by the government consisted of the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache and the Wichita-Caddo-Delaware reservations. These seized reservations were the same ones that the Native American tribes had been forced into in the 1800’s when their original lands were seized. This complete disenfranchisement of Native peoples, and betrayal of prior treaties between the Untied States and the Native tribes, resulted in the profitable use of the Oklahoma territory by white settlers. To entice people to come and cultivate Oklahoma, over 13,000 160 acre tracts were given away in a lottery. Interested individuals registered and then waited for the drawing. Sidney Raymond entered this drawing and won. In 1901, he moved his family out to Oklahoma to live on his tract of land. For whatever reason, he did not stay there. After three years he sold his piece of the Native Americans’ land for $1,200 and moved back to Baltimore.

Sidney Raymond lost his whole family for 50 years!

When Sidney Raymond went off to fight in the Civil War his parents, eight brothers, and two sisters moved out west, eventually settling in Michigan. Unfortunately, no one thought to send word to Sidney about their move. When Sidney returned home from the war he found his homestead empty, with no idea where his family had gone. It took him 50 years to track them down:

sidney-raymonds-family-reunion-1916

Sidney Raymond, one of the men who arrested Edman Spangler in 1865, spent his final years at the Old Soldier’s Home in Hampton, Virginia. It would be interesting to know if he ever saw or talked to Jake Rittersbach, a man with whom he shared an unknown connection. Raymond died on March 7, 1927 and was buried in the Hampton National Cemetery just a few yards from Rittersbach, who had died less than a year prior.

raymond-and-rittersbach-proximity

GPS coordinates for Sidney Raymond’s grave: 37.018699, -76.334927

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Grave Thursday: Jacob Rittersbach

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.


Jacob Rittersbach

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Burial Location: Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

Jake Rittersbach was a French immigrant who came to the United States with his family when he was eight years old. His family settled in Pennsylvania and, after the Civil War broke out, 21 year-old Jake joined the 124th Pennsylvania Infantry. He served in the army for a period of 9 months before he was discharged. After leaving the service, Rittersbach found his way to Washington, D.C. where he sought out a way to make a living using his knowledge of carpentry. As he looked for a job, he took up residence at a boardinghouse owned by a Mrs. Scott on the corner of 7th and H streets in D.C. One of Rittersbach’s fellow boarders at Mrs. Scott’s home was another carpenter by the name of Edman Spangler.

Spangler made his living as a carpenter and a scene shifter at Ford’s Theatre. After about a year and a half in Washington, Jake Rittersbach found himself working side-by-side with Spangler when he too was hired by the Ford brothers to work as a carpenter in their theater in March of 1865.

It would have been impossible for Rittersbach, a Union veteran, not to have quickly picked up on the pro-Southern sentiments of his fellow coworkers at Ford’s Theatre. Many of the others engaged in backstage work supported the Confederacy and were mourning the recent events. Rittersbach often found himself quarreling with Spangler about their differing political views. Yet, they continued to do their work together, nonetheless.

Like the other employees of Ford’s Theatre, Jake Rittersbach was present backstage when John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Rittersbach was situated right near Spangler on the stage left side (the side of the stage where the President’s box was located) when Booth fired the fatal shot. After Booth leapt to the stage and then made his way out the back door, both Spangler and Rittersbach followed in the direction of the commotion.

On the Stage 4 Frank Leslie's 5-20-1865

“That was John Booth!” declared Rittersbach. “Hush your mouth!” Spangler replied. “You don’t know whether it’s Booth or not.” In his reply, Spangler was speaking a likely truth. Rittersbach had been at Ford’s Theatre for such a short amount of time that he was not very familiar with John Wilkes Booth. It had only been earlier that day that Rittersbach had finally asked Spangler for the name of the actor he had seen around from time to time. Though Rittersbach ended up being correct in his identification of the assassin, in those hectic first moments, Spangler wanted only to protect a man he had known for years and worked alongside in the theater from being wrongfully accused. In the minutes after the assassination, Spangler grabbed his coat and exited out the same back door to search for John Wilkes Booth in hopes of proving this identification incorrect.

But, to Edman Spangler’s dismay, it was John Wilkes Booth who had shot Lincoln. This truth caused a lot of problems for the scene shifter who had known the Booth family since 1852 and who had done errands for John Wilkes, one of the few actors who treated stagehands with respect. Since the crime was committed at Ford’s Theatre and Spangler’s theatrical friendship was well known, Spangler was quickly identified as person of interest.

However, before Spangler found himself under arrest, Jake Rittersbach had already been laying the groundwork to incriminate him. Rittersbach spent the night of April 14-15 in the manager’s office of Ford’s Theatre. He was awakened in the morning by another stagehand named Louis Carland who was looking for Spangler. Rittersbach told his version of events to Carland but added that, upon claiming that it was John Booth who ran out the door, Spangler had slapped him in the mouth. Later, when back drop painter, James Lamb, reported to work, Rittersbach once again told him that Spangler had slapped him the night before. In the opinion of Tom Bogar, author of Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination, “Rittersbach appeared intent on making sure everyone knew what he had experienced, but was too new to Ford’s to perceive how each would receive the information.”

When Rittersbach left to take his breakfast at his boardinghouse on Saturday morning, he found Spangler there. After failing to find Booth, Spangler had spent the night at the home of two of the actors, John and Kate Evans. After a few minutes at breakfast, policemen arrived at Mrs. Scott’s and took both Spangler and Rittersbach in for questioning. Rittersbach was released quickly while Spangler had to endure almost four hours of questioning before he was released. After hearing rumors that Ford’s Theatre would be burned, Spangler, Rittersbach, Carland and some of the other employees decided to spend the night. On Sunday morning, Carland took Spangler to the home of the Gourlay family, a family of actors who had been in Our American Cousin on the 14th. Jeannie Gourlay was engaged to the Ford’s Theatre orchestra director, William Withers, and both had been near Booth’s path when he escaped. Carland asked Withers and Jeannie if either of them had seen Spangler slap Rittersbach as had been told to him. Though the couple had been nearby neither one claimed to have seen any sort of slap between the two men.

Spangler, however, seemed unaware that Rittersbach was making plans to implicate him. On Monday, Spangler took his supper at Mrs. Scott’s boardinghouse and found Rittersbach waiting in the doorway for him when he was leaving. He suggested the pair take a friendly walk. According to Bogar:

“[The walk] lasted about a half hour, the main topic of conversation being Rittersbach’s desire to get some of the reward money being offered. Did Spangler know of any information they could use? Rittersbach said that he, too, had given a statement at police headquarters on Saturday (although no evidence exists that he did). Spangler, as trusting as the animals he befriended seemed completely unaware that Rittersbach had already implicated him to others. Back at their boardinghouse around sunset, the two men parted ways (for good, as it turned out), and Spangler went upstairs to rest…”

Edman Spangler was arrested, for the final time, about two hours after his walk with Rittersbach. He was placed in irons and imprisoned in the Carroll annex of the Old Capitol Prison. Later, Spangler would be moved to the iron clad warships that housed Booth’s core group of conspirators.

spangler-manacled

If Rittersbach was hoping to get a piece of the reward money, it was in his best interest to continue to incriminate Spangler as an active party. Claiming that Spangler slapped him was a great way to cast suspicion. Perhaps Rittersbach hoped that, if Spangler was found to be an active conspirator in Booth’s plot, he would get some money out of his “assistance” to the authorities. It’s possible that Rittersbach had already laid the groundwork when he was briefly detained on Saturday. If this was Rittersbach’s plan, however, it seems that he changed his mind about it when he, himself was arrested. Jake Rittersbach was arrested one day after Spangler, Tuesday, April 18th. He was imprisoned in a communal room at the Old Capitol Prison and gave a brief statement. Despite the pains he had taken to inform others at Ford’s that he had identified Booth and that Spangler had apparently slapped him because of it, Rittersbach made no such claims in his statement. Rather, he told the prison superintendent that “he did not see [Booth’s] face and could not say who it was.”

So, we have this contradiction with Rittersbach. When the stakes were lower, Rittersbach told his fellow stagehands Carland and Lamb that he had identified Booth and that Spangler had slapped him. However, while under arrest, he denied having both recognized Booth and the slap. Perhaps protecting himself from any suspicion was worth more than trying to turn against Spangler. As the investigation continued and the authorities heard about Rittersbach’s prior statements to Carland and Lamb, they would take an active role to eliminate these contradictions.

A few years after the events, John T. Ford, who had also found himself locked up at the Old Capitol Prison, recounted an instance where significant pressure was put upon Rittersbach to re-implicate Spangler:

“Ritterspaugh [sic] – a witness- was brought before Colonel Lafayette C. Baker, at Baker’s office. Being questioned in regard to what happened on the stage, Ritterspaugh told that when Booth jumped from the box and ran across the stage, after firing the pistol, he (Ritterspaugh) said that that was Booth; and that Spangler turned and said: ‘Hush your mouth! You don’t know whether its Booth or not.’ Here Baker broke in on Ritterspaugh, saying: ‘By God, if you don’t testify to what you said to me before, I’ll put you among the rest, ‘ (meaning the prisoners.) ‘You said to me that Spangler, when you said ‘It’s Booth,’ said: ‘Don’t say which way he went.’

This bullying by Baker was perfectly calculated to shake Ritterspaugh’s nerves and cause him to think he believed he heard what he did not believe he heard.”

There may be some truth to Ford’s belief that Rittersbach was turned (perhaps rather easily based on his own actions before being arrested) against Spangler by the authorities. When Rittersbach was first put upon the stand by the prosecution at the trial of the conspirators on May 19th, he was not asked any questions about what happened at Ford’s Theatre on April 14th. Instead, the prosecution only used Rittersbach as witness regarding Spangler’s arrest and the government’s seizure of his belongings. It was not until May 30th that the prosecution recalled Rittersbach to the stand to testify about the events at Ford’s Theatre. In the trial transcript, right before Rittersbach is brought back, it gives the following statement:

“The Judge Advocate, stated that, since the examination of Jacob Ritterspaugh [sic] for the prosecution, facts had come to the knowledge of the Government not known at the time that witness was examined, and he proposed now to recall that witness for the purpose of examining him in relation to the accused, Edward [sic] Spangler; and he applied to the Commission for permission to re-examine that witness.”

In his new testimony, Rittersbach became the key witness against Spangler. He testified about Spangler having struck him after he identified Booth. Rittersbach also changed Spangler’s words, claiming that Spangler said, “Don’t say which way he went!” and “For God’s sake, shut up!” None of Rittersbach’s testimony was ever supported by Jeannie Gourlay who stood near Rittersbach and Spangler when the exchange was supposed to have occurred. In what may be the most telling piece of evidence of all, Rittersbach was released from prison on the very same day he gave his damning testimony.

While Spangler’s defense attorney, Thomas Ewing, did a noble job of poking holes in Rittersbach’s version of events, he could not completely undo the damage it had done to his client. Mainly due to Jacob Rittersbach, Edman Spangler was found guilty of aiding and abetting in John Wilkes Booth’s escape and was sentenced to 6 years of hard labor.

While Spangler was taken to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas to serve his prison sentence, Jake Rittersbach largely fell from view. John T. Ford invited most of his former workers to help him re-open Ford’s Theatre but that was prevented and the government purchased the building. Some of the stagehands found employment in Ford’s Holliday Street Theater in Baltimore but it is highly unlikely Rittersbach was ever offered a position given what he had done to Spangler.

Despite everything that had happened, Jacob Rittersbach stayed in D.C. for over 30 years working as a carpenter. After the death of his wife, Rittersbach moved to Ohio, where, in 1901, he finally tried to get some money from the government for the events of April 14, 1865. Rittersbach appealed to his Congressman, Representative Charles Grosvenor, not for any reward money for Spangler’s conviction, but for the loss of his tools that were stolen after the assassination:

rittersbachs-claim

Rep. Grosvenor was apparently unsuccessful in getting Rittersbach his reimbursement in 1901 as the Congressman introduced the same bill in 1903. It is unknown if the bill ever passed.

By 1913, Jake Rittersbach had returned to the east coast. On June 12th of that year, he was accepted into the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers located in Hampton, Virginia. He only stayed in the home for three months before asking to be discharged. He re-entered the home on April 5, 1914 and lived there for over four years before he was transferred to the National Home in Dayton, Ohio. He resided there until 1920 when he was transferred back to Hampton.

Jacob Rittersbach died at the Soldier’s Home in Hampton on June 28, 1926. While some of his former coworkers survived him, at 86, Rittersbach was the longest lived of those working at Ford’s Theatre on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. He was buried with a military stone in Hampton National Cemetery.

jacob-rittersbach-grave-2

GPS coordinates for Jacob Rittersbach’s grave: 37.018650, -76.334817

Most of the information in this post came from Thomas Bogar’s wonderful book, Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actor’s and Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre. Please pick up a copy today to learn more about the many people who were working at Ford’s Theatre when their lives, and our history, changed forever.

backstage-at-the-lincoln-assassination-by-thomas-bogar

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

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

cora-lee-garrett-boothiebarn

Burial Location: Carlisle Cemetery, Carlisle, Kentucky

cora-lee-garrett-grave-1

cora-lee-garrett-grave-2

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…”

cora-lee-garrett-boothiebarn-2

“‘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

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Grave Thursday: John Somerset Leaman

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.


John Somerset Leaman

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Burial Location: Upper Seneca Baptist Church Cemetery, Germantown, Maryland

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

John Somerset Leaman was a resident of Germantown, a village in Montgomery County, Maryland northwest of Washington, D.C. Leaman, who went by both John and by Somerset, his middle name, was a thirty year old carpenter who had lived in Montgomery County his whole life. On April 16, 1865, Easter Sunday, John and his younger brother James were enjoying the hospitality of one of their neighbors named Hezekiah Metz. Metz had invited the Leaman brothers to join him and his family for Easter lunch. Shortly before the noontime meal was to begin, an old acquaintance of both the Leamans and the Metzes showed up at the door. He was known to everyone in the region as Andrew Atwood. His father had once owned a farm in Montgomery County but had moved some years back. Nevertheless Andrew and his brother regularly returned to the Germantown area to visit. Andrew told them that he had come from Washington and that he was heading to his cousin’s home which was only about two miles off. He was a likable enough man and was quickly invited in to join the group for their meal.

The fact that Andrew had come from Washington was of great interest to John Leaman and the other guests. The news of Lincoln’s assassination was everywhere and everyone clamored to hear the news directly. Before the meal began John Leaman asked Andrew in jest, “Are you the man that killed Abe Lincoln?” Andrew answered, “Yes” and then laughed. After the shared laughter ended, John Leaman asked Andrew for more details in order to confirm some of the things they had heard. Andrew told them that yes, Lincoln had been assassinated and that while Secretary Seward had been stabbed along with his sons, he had not been killed. Then Leaman asked Andrew about General Grant. “We had heard that General Grant was assassinated at the same time on the same night,” Leaman said. Andrew replied, “No: I do not know whether that is so or not. I do not suppose it is so. If it had been so, I would have heard it.”

A short time after everyone sat down for the Easter supper and Andrew found himself once again fielding questions from those present, most of which were the same questions Leaman had asked him earlier. Again the question about General Grant’s possible assassination came up. “No, I do not suppose he was,” Andrew replied. “If he was killed, he must have been killed by a man that got on the same train or the same car.”

The attention he was receiving must have given Andrew Atwood a little boost of confidence because he started to make slight flirtations with Hezekiah Metz’ 17 year-old daughter Martha. To John Leaman and his brother James, these attempts at paying his addresses to Ms. Metz made Atwood act confused but calm. These advances were subsequently rebuffed by Ms. Metz with Leaman later agreeing that Martha was “showing him the cold shoulder on that day”.

After dinner was over, Andrew began to depart and was joined for a bit in the yard by John’s brother James. James believed the cold treatment Andrew received from Ms. Metz was bothering Andrew. “Oh, my! What a trouble I see!” Andrew said to James before departing. “Why, what have you to trouble you?” James Leaman inquired. “More than I will ever get shut of,” Andrew replied. With that Andrew bade his goodbye and walked the remaining two miles to his cousins’ home.

The Leaman brothers enjoyed the remainder of their time with the Metzes before they also departed back to their shared home.

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Life continued very much as it had before for the Leaman brothers for the next few days. Either they or Hezekiah Metz made causal mention of the news Andrew had brought regarding the false report of Grant’s assassination to another neighbor named Nathan Page, but they thought nothing else of it.

Then in the early morning of April 20th, the Leaman brothers saw a contingent of Union soldiers heading towards their home. When the soldiers got near the house, James put his head out of the window and called to the soldiers. The sergeant in charge asked James if he knew a man by the name of Atzerodt. James replied that he didn’t. That name was not familiar to him. Then the sergeant asked if he knew a man named Atwood. To this, James replied in the affirmative. The sergeant then went up to the door and John Leaman came out. The sergeant asked John if he knew a man named Atwood and John replied that he did. The sergeant made a motion to the soldiers who had stayed back a bit and John Leaman watched as Andrew Atwood was brought forward. Atwood kept his head down, but when he got in front of John, the two shook hands and Leaman identified the man as Andrew Atwood. John also seemed to recall something that his younger brother didn’t. He confirmed that Atwood’s family name was actually Atzerodt. Upon hearing this information, the sergeant thanked John and sent Atwood away with a detachment of the soldiers.

It was shortly thereafter that the Leaman brothers learned what was going on. It appears that their acquaintance Andrew Atwood was actually named George Andrew Atzerodt and that he was wanted in connection with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Atzerodt CDV

 

A strange case of the game of telephone had occurred over the last few days. Remember how “Atwood” had calmly told the Leaman brothers and the Metzes at Easter dinner that the only way Grant was assassinated was “if a man had followed him onto his train”? That piece of news was told to neighbor Nathan Page who passed it on to another neighbor who was a Union detective named James Purdom. By the time Purdom passed the information on to a detachment of Union soldiers camped nearby, the story had been transformed into a man named “Lockwood” having stopped eating in the middle of the meal, thrown down his knife and shouted that “if the man on the train had followed Grant dutifully, he would have been assassinated too.” This latter statement is far more incendiary than George’s actual words. This is what sent Sergeant Zachariah Gemmill of the First Delaware regiment to the home of Hartman Richter looking for a man named “Lockwood”. While the name was wrong, the description he had been given was accurate enough for Gemmill to compel “Atwood” to come with him. Sgt. Gemmill took “Atwood” to the Leaman brothers’ home where he was unmasked as Atzerodt.

It is important to note that even if the game of telephone style of reporting hadn’t brought Gemmill to the door of Hartman Richter, George Atzerodt would still have been arrested on that day. Just a few hours after Gemmill made his arrest, a separate group of federal detectives arrived at Hartman Richter’s home to arrest George. They had been sent on a lead given to them by John Atzerodt, a detective for the Maryland provost marshal and George’s own brother. This group of detectives were too late to arrest George and also missed out on the reward money for his capture that went to Gemmill and his men.

At the trial of the conspirators, John Leaman, James Leaman, and Hezekiah Metz were all called to testify. The Leaman brothers were used more as defense witnesses, testifying that Atzerodt was calm during the supper and to his exact wording regarding Grant. Metz was a bit more unsure about Atzerodt’s wording regarding Grant, but reinforced the idea that he did not act in any unusual way and definitely did not throw down his knife and make a dramatic statement of any sort. Even Sgt. Gemmill would write in his report about the arrest that he, “could get no evidence around there to prove that [Atzerodt] did say” anything as dramatic as what was reported to him.

Life went back to normal for the Leaman brothers. John Somerset Leaman lived out the rest of his live in Montgomery County. He died on December 15, 1883 at the age of 48. His younger brother James outlived him by a number of years, dying in 1917 at the age of 80. James Leaman is buried in D.C.’s Rock Creek Cemetery.

GPS coordinates for John Somerset Leaman’s grave: 39.2408082, -77.2335394

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

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