Posts Tagged With: Herold

John Wilkes Booth in the Woods: Parts 1 – 3

For about four and a half days between April 16 – April 21, 1865, John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice, David E. Herold, hid from federal troops in the southern Maryland woods.  Near the 149th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, I undertook a project to reenact, as accurately as possible, this often forgotten part of the assassin’s escape route. My hope was to gain a better understanding of Booth’s conditions and the impact those days in the woods had on his state of mind.  The follow videos are parts of a series I’m calling “John Wilkes Booth in the Woods” which documents my endeavor.

I’m very pleased to present the first three parts of the “John Wilkes Booth in the Woods” project for your viewing pleasure:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

 

As editing of the footage continues, new parts will be uploaded and released here on BoothieBarn.  Stay tuned for much, much more!

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In the Dog House

There is a special connection between man and canine.  As a species, dogs provide humans a degree of loyalty that is unmatched in the animal world.  What’s even more interesting is how we, as people, develop the need to reciprocate that loyalty and devotion to our four legged friends.  Just this month, New York enacted a new regulation allowing pet cemeteries to accept cremated human remains, so that humans could be buried for eternity with their beloved pets.

Dogs provide a comforting effect.  Even in the most dire of circumstances they can provide an individual with a degree of ease and calm.  Therefore, it seems fitting that, while imprisoned as accessories in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, at least three of the conspirators’ thoughts were of their dogs.

David Herold Engraving

David Herold met his end on the scaffold on July 7th, 1865.  He demonstrated dog like devotion to John Wilkes Booth during his flight from justice.  Despite many opportunities to leave the wounded assassin behind, Herold remained loyal to him and that loyalty eventually cost him his life.  According to one newspaper account however, he was allowed the comfort of his own loyal friend before he died.  In 1888, Captain Christian Rath gave an interview to the newspapers about his legacy of being the conspirators’ executioner.  In part of the interview he stated, “I always regarded Harold as an unthinking boy – a spoiled child.  He was a great sportsman, though, fond of shooting, and the owner of a splendid pointer dog.  We kept the dog for him in the prison, and at his death he left it to Gen. Hartranft.”  If Rath’s memory is correct and true, then it is likely that Herold spent his last few days on Earth uniting with the creature he so expertly replicated in life.

Spangler Drawing Trial book

Edman Spangler survived the executions of July 7th.  Instead he was sentenced to 6 years in prison, a relative slap on the wrist compared to the sentences of the other conspirators.  Thomas Ewing, Jr., lawyer for Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Spangler, wrote a letter to his father dated the day of the execution.  In it, he described his continued efforts to gain the freedom of his clients through a writ of habeas corpus.  He also wrote the following, “They say Spangler was delighted at escaping hanging.  He sent a special request to Ford today to send him to prison his large testament, and his small dog!”  Whether Spangler was successful in acquiring his dog remains uncertain as there is no mention of it, or David Herold’s dog, in General Frederick Hartranft’s letterbook about his supervision of the Old Arsenal Prison.

I find it ironically appropriate that Spangler owned a “small” dog.  Years later, after his release from Fort Jefferson, Edman Spangler went to visit, and ultimately live with, his former cellmate, Dr. Mudd.  As Nettie Mudd wrote later in her book about her father, “A short time after Spangler’s release, he came to our home early one morning, and his greeting to my mother, after father had introduced him, was: ‘Mrs. Mudd, I came down last night, and asked some one to tell me the way here.  I followed the road, but when I arrived I was afraid of your dogs, and I roosted in a tree.'”  Clearly Spangler preferred his small dog over big ones like Dr. Mudd’s.

Arnold Drawing Trial Book

Samuel Arnold was imprisoned with Dr. Mudd, Spangler and Michael O’Laughlen at Fort Jefferson.  His later memoirs describe how painful and tortuous he found his imprisonment there.  With only rats and crabs as his animal companions, Arnold’s thoughts turned to his dog.  In a letter to his mother in 1867, Sam Arnold writes elegantly of his beloved pet:

“Keep my dog till he dies.  For my sake let him be treated well, and when dead bury him.  Erect a slab inscription, ‘A true friend,’ for he would never forsake me even should the whole world do so.  He loved me, even the ground I walked upon, and I loved him.  Poor Dash! We have forever parted.  Thou without a soul, yet did you love me, and thou art not forgotten.”

Samuel Arnold in later life, enjoying the company of another devoted dog.

Samuel Arnold in later life, enjoying the company of another devoted dog.

The connection between man and dog transcends guilt or innocence.  Whether its owner is a President or a criminal, a dog will stay by an owner who loves him.  Even the worst criminals can demonstrate their humanity by the way they treat their dogs.  In the midst of their confinement for the crime of the century, David Herold, Edman Spangler, and Samuel Arnold showed their humanity in this way.

References:
Mrs. Surratt’s Case, The Evening Repository, 2/16/1888
Thomas Ewing Family Papers, LOC
The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd by Nettie Mudd
Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator by Michael Kauffman

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Following the Escape Route: Dent’s Meadow

Yesterday, I visited Dent’s Meadow, the spot where John Wilkes Booth and David E. Herold first set across the Potomac River.  What follows is the short video clip that I made while standing on that Maryland shoreline:

Further images will come later as I complete a Crossing the Potomac Picture Gallery. In the meantime, here is an animated image of the spot in 1901 and now:

Dent's-Meadow-Spot-Animated

EDIT: One reader was a little confused regarding the location where I shot my video versus the location of Henry Woodland in the photograph taken by Osborn Oldroyd in 1901. I created this little map to hopefully alleviate that confusion:

Dent's Meadow Map

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Booth on the shores of Nanjemoy Creek

“As I was in the act of shoving the boat off Booth exclaimed, “Wait a minute, old fellow.” He then offered me some money. I took eighteen dollars, the price of the boat I knew I would never see again. He wanted me to take more, but I said no, what I had done was not for money. In a voice choked with emotion he said, “God bless you, my dear friend, for all you have done for me. Good-bye, old fellow.” I pushed the boat off and it glided out of sight into the darkness. I stood on the shore and listened till the sound of the oars died away in the distance and then climbed the hill and took my way home.”

These are the words written by Thomas A. Jones as he recounted the night he put John Wilkes Booth and David E. Herold onto the Potomac River. For days, Jones had tended to the fugitives as they remained hidden from Union troops in a pine thicket. Finally, on the night of April 20th, 1865, Jones brought them to a boat on the bank of the Potomac and directed them to the Virginian shore. However, Booth and Herold did not greet the morning sun of April 21st on Virginian land. Rather, they found themselves making landfall in Maryland, further away from their intended destination than before.

When it comes to the escape route of John Wilkes Booth, millions of people visit Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. every year. Ten thousand visit the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD. Thousands visit the Dr. Mudd House, and a few hundred participate in the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Bus Tours put on by the Surratt House. The B.E.R.T. (Booth escape route tour)provides you with the most bang for your buck, but still has the limitations of fitting the entire route (and return trip) into a 12 hour tour. Due to this, some of the minor places in the escape are left unseen. The place where John Wilkes Booth and David E. Herold found themselves on the morning of April 21s and where they stayed until dusk of April 22nd, is one of these unseen places. Today, I wanted to rectify this and see if I could at least get close to this forgotten stop during the escape.

After Booth and Herold left Thomas Jones and ventured into the Potomac, something occurred to steer the men off course. Thomas Jones attributed the flood tide and unfriendly currents as to the reason why Booth and Herold did not keep to their course. Booth dramatically wrote in his diary, “After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair.” Booth may be exaggerating the reason for their return to Maryland, but something, manmade or otherwise, kept the pair from making it to Mrs. Quesenberry’s. Instead, Booth and Herold arrived northwest from their departure point and landed in Nanjemoy Creek. Crossing the Potomac map The exact point the two men made landfall in Nanjemoy Creek is unknown. On the map above you will see two creeks on the eastern side of Nanjemoy Creek. They are Burgess Creek (with Gumtree Cove at its mouth) to the north and King’s Creek to the south. Booth and Herold rowed into one of these creeks and hid their boat among the marshy shores. I’m of the opinion that the pair entered King’s Creek,but, again, there is no documentation one way or the other. Eastern side of Nanjemoy Creek According to reporter George Alfred Townsend (GATH) in 1884, it was after beaching the boat that, Booth and Herold, “discovered a house nearby, to which Herold made his way, the latter saw something familiar about the place, he knowing all that country well.” The pair had inadvertently reached the farm of Peregrine Davis, a verbose character in Charles County who was described by General Hooker as, “one of the noisiest” rebels in the area. The land was called Indiantown Farm, and it was tended by Davis’ son-in-law, John J. Hughes, who lived on the property with his family. Booth and Herold would spend about 36 hours on Indiantown property.

The exact details of this 36 hour layover are very much lacking. As author William Tidwell wrote, after the death of Booth, “It became common knowledge in Charles County, Maryland that Booth had visited Indiantown, occupied by Peregrine Davis’ son-in-law, John J. Hughes. Unfortunately there is no contemporary documentation of the visit.” What we know about Booth and Herold and their inadvertent return to the Maryland is largely based on three sources: David Herold’s statement after his arrest, GATH’s 1884 account of Booth crossing the Potomac, and family lore from the Hughes family.

David Herold’s Account:

Herold 1 After Davy Herold was arrested at the Garrett Farm, he gave a lengthy statement while imprisoned. Davy is evasive and cunning in what he tells the investigators, mixing a tale of truth and lies. Nevertheless, Davy does provide period documentation that he and Booth did not cross the river the first time and made land at Nanjemoy:

“…We started to cross the Potomac. It was very foggy. We got along the Maryland shore to Nanjemoy Creek, and went to a man’s house and wanted to buy some bread. He said he hadn’t baked, and would not bake any. He said he had nothing to drink either. I said we were wet and would like to have something to drink. I had a bottle, and asked if he would sell me some whiskey. He said he would not do it. Booth gave the man’s little boy a quarter of a dollar for filling the bottle with milk…”

Taking Davy Herold at his word would imply that John Hughes provided no aid to the fugitives at all. According to Davy, Hughes refused to give them, literally, bread and water. However, we cannot take David Herold at his word. This is the same man who claimed not to have known about the assassination until later and was then forcibly coerced by Booth to accompany him. While not trustworthy, Davy does provide evidence that there was some interaction between Hughes and the fugitives.

GATH’s article:

How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac In April 1884, Century Magazine ran George Alfred Townsend’s article, “How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac“. The article was mostly about Thomas Jones and the assistance he gave Booth and Herold in the pines and then, sending them across. GATH interviewed Jones and got the story from him. GATH was also a successful reporter who had a long history reporting on the assassination. In addition to the piece I quote before, GATH wrote the following regarding Booth and Herold on the Nanjemoy Creek shores:

“It was the residence of Col. John J. Hughes, near Nanjemoy Stores, in Maryland, directly west of Pope’s Creek, about eight or nine miles. The Potomac is here so wide, and has so many broad inlets, that in the darkness the Virginia shore and the Maryland shore seem the same. Herold went up to the house and asked for food, and said that Booth was in the marsh nearby, where they had pulled up the boat out of observation. The good man of the house was much disturbed, but gave Herold food…The keeper of the house at Nanjemoy became frightened after they left, and rode into Port Tobacco and told his lawyer of the circumstance, who took him at once before a Federal officer.”

In GATH’s account, Hughes provided food to the pair. GATH also mentions that John J. Hughes later went to Port Tobacco to report the men. While there is no documentation to support that Hughes talked to officials about the men at his house, there was a letter that the provost marshal of Washington received from a man named William R. Wilmer of Port Tobacco. In the letter, Mr. Wilmer recalled that on Friday, April 21st, he saw two men in Nanjemoy Creek, one of whom answered to the description of John Wilkes Booth. By the time the letter got to the provost marshal, Booth had already been cornered and killed, so the matter was not investigated further. However, it is possible that this report from Mr. Wilmer is the one that GATH is recalling. John J. Hughes had studied law and passed the bar himself, so it unlikely that he would have needed to consult a lawyer as GATH claims.

3. Family Lore of the Hughes family:

John J. Hughes

John J. Hughes

In 1975, assassination researcher James O. Hall interviewed one of John J. Hughes’ grandsons. According to the family story given to him, Booth and Herold did not make their presence known to the family members in the house, but somehow made contact with John J. Hughes. Hughes, uncomfortable with having the men stay at his house, allowed the pair to stay in a nearby slave cabin near the water’s edge. Hughes proceeded to take food out to the pair without the rest of the family knowing it.

By putting these different pieces together, it is possible to make a probable accounting of Booth and Herold’s time at Indiantown farm. After coming ashore and pulling up their boat, Booth had Herold make his way towards the nearest house, while the former stayed at the boat with his broken leg. Herold recognized the farm from his hunting days and somehow, secretively or otherwise, made contact with John J. Hughes. Hughes did not want the men at his house but allowed them to stay nearby in the slave quarters. During the course of the two days and one night Booth and Herold stayed there, Hughes brought the pair food and water. The fugitives may have had interactions with Hughes’ children or former slaves, as presented in Davy’s statement, or they were completely hidden from the family. After dusk on April 22nd, Booth and Herold pushed off from the Nanjemoy Creek shores, leaving John J. Hughes and Indiantown Farm behind.

With this history in my head today, I made my way down the peninsula created by Nanjemoy Creek and the Potomac River. From looking at a map, I noticed that “Blossom Point Rd.” would take me all the way down the peninsula. I planned to drive to the end of the road, hop out of my car, and take a few pictures of the shore where the Potomac meets Nanjemoy Creek. It wouldn’t be exactly where Booth and Herold landed, but it would be as close to the water as I could get. On my way back north, I planned on taking a picture of the sign for Indiantown Farms, which, like it was in 1865, is privately owned. The entrance to the farm is about a mile and a half from the water, so I knew I wouldn’t see anything except for the sign.

Though the map showed a clear road straight down to the point of the peninsula and, in truth, it probably goes there, the map did not warn me that three miles from the end of the peninsula northward is the property of the U.S. Army and is used for ordinance testing and the like. When I was presented with a fancy looking gate bearing signs stating, “Restricted Access”, I quickly turned around. I was going to have to settle for just pictures of the Indiantown Farm sign.

As I pulled my car off the road and walked towards the sign to take a picture I made eye contact with, a very kind woman who had just finished her laborious work of weed whacking a long stretch of perfectly manicured white fence, and her granddaughter. I walked up and introduced myself, asking them if I was indeed on the same property John Wilkes Booth was said to have temporarily stayed on. They replied that it was and, with their own generosity of spirit shining through, they offered to give this stranger before them a tour of the property. I was ecstatic by the offer and graciously took them up on it.

As I got in their truck and we proceeded to drive the mile and half to the water’s edge, I was struck by how much nature was around me. I saw countless deer, eagles, ospreys, kestrels, rabbits, and songbirds among the hay fields. My host was very generous in sharing what she knew about the history of the place. When we got to the water’s edge, she pointed out to me the house that is believed to have been where John J. Hughes and his family would have been living when Booth showed up. She was not certain that it was the same house, but recounted that they believed it was. While there have obviously been several additions made to the house, the chimney looks to old enough to me.

Hughes House 2

Hughes House 3

The assumed former home of John J. Hughes on the Indiantown property.  The entrance to Burgess Creek by way of Gumtree Cove is to the left of the house.  Burgess Creek is one of the two possible creeks that Booth and Herold could have landed at.

The assumed former home of John J. Hughes on the Indiantown property. The entrance to Burgess Creek by way of Gumtree Cove is to the left of the house. Burgess Creek is one of the two possible creeks that Booth and Herold could have landed at.

From the main home (which, by the way, has one of the most splendid view of the water I have ever seen) we proceeded to a place that I had seen a picture of once, but could not believe still existed: the slave cabin where Booth and Herold are said to have slept and spent time in.

The slave cabin that Booth and Herold are said to have slept in.

The slave cabin that Booth and Herold are said to have slept in.

In the June, 1990 issue of Blue & Gray Magazine, author Michael Kauffman included this picture of the inside of the cabin: Hughes Cabin Kauffman 1990 Since that time, the exterior of the cabin has been restored. The following are some of the pictures and a short video I took of the interior of this cabin:

Inside Hughes Booth Cabin 1

View of Nanjemoy Creek from one of the cabin's windows.

View of Nanjemoy Creek from one of the cabin’s windows.

Inside Hughes Booth Cabin 3


After departing the cabin, my host took me to where King’s Creek border’s the property. The marshy landscape of the creek and its relatively close distance to the main house and slave cabin, makes me think this was the place where Booth and Herold would have hidden their boat. My host stated that she often goes kayaking here and that Booth and Herold could have easily rowed their boat into King’s Creek and hidden it among the marshy shores. Once on land and beyond the few trees around the shore, John Hughes’ house would have been easily visible to them.

The entrance to King's Creek from Nanjemoy Creek.  King's Creek is south of Indiantown and the supposed Booth cabin.

The entrance to King’s Creek from Nanjemoy Creek. King’s Creek is south of Indiantown and the supposed Booth cabin.

King's Creek

King’s Creek

Indiantown Farm is a quiet and tranquil place (at least when the nearby military facility isn’t blasting, my host told me). With a roof over his head and some time to rest, it seems logical that the John Wilkes Booth would take out his pocket diary and write. His last entry was dated as “Friday, 21” and, if he was being true in his dating, that would have placed his writing at Indiantown.

The Booth cabin with the Hughes house in the background.

The Booth cabin with the Hughes house in the background.

As I departed Indiantown Farm, I thanked my generous host immensely. She was hoping to learn more about the role Indiantown Farm had in John Wilkes Booth’s escape, and so I gave her my website’s name and told her that I would be blogging about my trip later that day. I hope that I have done a decent enough job here of presenting what little is known about Booth and Herold’s largely unknown layover at Indiantown.

Indiantown Farms

Indiantown Farm will continue to be one of the unseen places of John Wilkes Booth’s escape. However, today we were able to see that the history that still exists, thanks to the kindness and openness of those who live there. Hughes Booth Cabin on the Shore

References:
On the Way to Garrett’s Barn: John Wilkes Booth & David E. Herold in the Northern Neck of Virginia April 22 – 26, 1865 by James O. Hall
How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac by George Alfred Townsend
Abstracts from the Port Tobacco Times by Roberta Wearmouth
Come Retribution by William Tidwell, James O. Hall, and David Gaddy
J. Wilkes Booth by Thomas A. Jones
American Brutus by Michael Kauffman
In the Footsteps of an Assassin by Michael Kauffman
Booth’s Escape Route: Lincoln’s Assassin on the Run by Michael Kauffman (Blue & Gray Magazine, June 1990)
Booth Crosses the Potomac: An Exercise in Historical Research by William Tidwell (Civil War History, 1990)
Art Loux Archive

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New Gallery – David Herold

David Edgar Herold had a unique role among John Wilkes Booth’s conspirators.  Beyond the failed abduction plot and the assassination itself, Davy was the only individual who accompanied John Wilkes Booth throughout his escape.  Though given ample opportunities to leave Booth behind and make his own, swifter escape, Davy Herold stayed by Booth’s side.  While many authors have tried to downplay Davy’s intelligence and character (Gore Vidal personified this when he described inventing, “a low life for him,” in his book, Lincoln), with the devotion he demonstrated, Davy Herold may very well be the most complex of all of Booth’s associates.

Our newest Picture Gallery here on BoothieBarn consists of images relating to the life of David Herold.  The images show snapshots of his life before Booth, his involvement in Booth’s plot and their shared escape south, his capture at the Garrett’s farm, the trial of the conspirators, and his eventual execution on July 7th, 1865.  Click here to see the new David Herold Picture Gallery!

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Another jaunt through Congressional Cemetery

Lindsey and I visited Congressional Cemetery again today. Our main purpose was to visit her subject of interest, conspirator David Herold, but we also took the time to track down a few more people related to the assassination that we hadn’t before. Consider this post an addendum to my previous “Jaunt“.

First off, as part of Lindsey’s research we tracked down all of David Herold’s sisters. Fortuitous for us, all of them are buried here at Congressional:

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Mary Ann (Herold) Nelson

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Margaret Cecelia (Herold) Rockwell

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Catharine Virginia (Herold) Brown

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Alice King (Herold) Earnshaw

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Georgia Isabel (Herold) Earnshaw

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Emma Frances (Herold) Keilholtz

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Elizabeth Jane Herold. Elizabeth is buried right on top of her unmarked brother, David.

From there we went to see a few other individuals.

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William Francis Walsh was a pharmacist near the Navy Yard. David Herold was employed by Walsh for 11 months until he quit in order to have more time to go hunting.

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As his descriptive stone states, Charles Forbes was Abraham Lincoln’s footman and was present at Ford’s the night of the assassination.

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John E. Buckingham was the doorman at Ford’s and later wrote a book about his souvenirs of the event.

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William Wood was involved in the search for Booth and Herold and was the superintendent of the Old Capitol Prison when Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd were there.

Those are all the assassination related graves we saw at Congressional Cemetery today. There are still many more people involved with the great drama buried at Congressional so don’t be surprised if there’s another jaunt in the future.

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Davy on Spangler

After his capture, David Herold gave a lengthy statement to authorities while imprisoned aboard the monitor Montauk.  He impressively mixed fact with fiction in his attempt to dig himself out of his own grave.  Reading his statement provides a valuable look into the reaction Booth had towards the reports of his actions.  For example, Herold twice recalled that Booth was, “sorry from the bottom of his heart about the sons” of Secretary Seward, which he had heard were killed in the attack upon their father.  Though this proved not to be true both Frederick and Augustus Seward survived their encounter with Powell, Booth seemed to feel remorse over the spilling of innocent blood.

During the interrogation, Davy was shown several photographs and asked to identify the individuals pictured.  After one such photo Davy responded with the following:

“I don’t know him. (After a pause) Yes, I have seen him at Ford’s Theatre.  He was the stage carpenter there, I think.  Mr. Booth had a horse up at the back of Ford’s Theatre, and he loaned it to me.  This carpenter & a boy up there attended to the horse.”

David Herold and Edman Spangler

Later, the questioning returns to this carpenter:

Q. Did you see the carpenter the Friday before you left town?

A. I have not seen that carpenter for I believe six weeks.  I will tell you what Booth did say.  He said there was a man at the theatre that held his horse that he was quite sorry for.

Q.  Did he say what man it was?

A.  He did not say his name, and if I were to hear it, I would know it.  Booth said it might get him into difficulty.

After that, there is no more mention of the Ford’s Theatre carpenter, Edman Spangler.  If Davy is to be believed and Booth actually did express these sentiments about the “difficultly” Spangler might get into for the holding his horse, it certainly places Spangler in a softer light.  Could this statement be another instance of Booth lamenting the plight of the innocent? Or is it one conspirator trying to protect another?  Where do you come down on Edman Spangler’s guilt or innocence?

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Booth’s Boat

While I sit here in the midst of a hurricane, I can’t help but think of the currents that John Wilkes Booth and David Herold had to overcome in their attempts to cross the Potomac River.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be out on the water today with this little row boat.

References:
Engraving from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 5/20/1865
Article from the Philadelphia North American 5/5/1865

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