FBI: Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth

St. Helen, or Booth, says he left the Garrett home alone. Old man Garrett said, in reply to Lieut. Baker, that they had gone to the woods, referring to Booth, Buggies and Bainbridge, while young Gar­rett said to Lieut. Baker they had returned, refer­ring to Buddy and Herold, who had come in late that evening from Bowling Green, Virginia, expect­ing to meet Booth, where Booth had agreed to re­main in waiting for them, and would have done so, except for the warning from Buggies and Bainbridge five or six hours before Herold and Buddy returned.

It is evident that the government was not satis­fied with the only proof they had of Booth’s death, to-wit: The letters, pictures, etc., furnished them by Conger and Baker, that the body turned over to it by Baker and Conger was actually that of Booth; and were much puzzled by the circumstances of finding Booth’s letters, etc., on this body which was claimed to be that of Booth, and this was at least a strong circumstantial evidence of identity to those who did not know Booth by sight; but in Washington City there was no excuse for not obtaining positive iden­tification of Booth’s body because there were hun­dreds of people there who knew him personally.

If the government had been satisfied that the body delivered by Baker and Conger was that of John Wilkes Booth I dare say it would have been placed on public exhibition rather than have been held in the secret manner in which it was. At least, the body would have been sufficiently exposed for pub­lic and positive identification, which would have been a matter of general satisfaction to the Ameri­can people, for all sections of the country were clam­oring for the execution of the man who had taken the life of President Lincoln. For some reason this was not done, and it has not been done to this day, as will be learned upon the further reading of this story, where, in an unofficial statement from the War Department, it is admitted that the govern­ment has no direct or positive evidence of the cap­ture and death of John Wilkes Booth. In fact, the government has no proof of the capture and death of John Wilkes Booth other than the finding of the letters, pictures, etc., of Booth on the body of the man captured, killed and delivered by Baker and Conger.

Again, observe the minuteness and apparent per* fection of detail of Mr. Bay Stannard Baker, who was not present, but who assumes to speak as one present, presenting the most minute act, movement, to the very utterances and tone of voice attributed to Booth, in the supposed burning of the barn or corn crib, and that, too, written thirty-two years after the supposed capture and killing took place. That is, Booth was supposed to have been killed on or about April 26,1865, and Mr. Baker writes and pub­lishes his article in May, 1897, and admits that Ee was not present at the time in the pursuit of Booth, and personally knew nothing of what he wrote. Therefore, the physical facts and admissions con­demn Mr. Baker’s article as one of misinformation and pure invention or fiction—a misleading state­ment of an historical occurrence. For instance, he refers to the dark outlines of the dingy barn and to­bacco house, where Booth is claimed to have been killed, when, as a matter of fact, was there a barn on the place at all, or only two small corn cribs con­structed of poles or small logs, as is seen in the true pictures of the Garrett home here presented? Bos­ton Corbett, himself, recently said that he “shot Booth in a little house through a crack.” Boston Corbett was present and shot the man who was killed, so it will be seen that Baker’s description of the barn is purely one of his imagination.

Again, Baker has this man, supposed to be Booth, on two crutches in the barn, within the glare of the burning barn, when, as a matter of fact, Booth at no time had two crutches, but used only one, that made from an old broom handle by Dr. Mudd ten days prior to the time of which Baker writes, and this was discarded by Booth before he reached the Gar­rett home. At the Garrett home Booth was merely using a stick for support, the injury to his leg being a sprained ankle and slight fracture of the shin bone, about six inches above the ankle, and when Booth left the Garrett’s he was only using this stick. Again, if there was no barn to burn—and we under­stand there was none—then none was burned, as claimed and written of by Mr. Baker. The man killed was killed in the left hand corn crib, as you face them in the picture of the Garrett home and barnyard, shown in this volume, which is a true re­production of the Garrett home, together with the corn cribs as they were on the 26th day of April, 1865, and as we presume they are now. So that Baker neither had Booth, a barn or even a large corn crib for the tragic play he writes of Booth and his kill­ing at the Garrett home on the early morning of the 26th day of April, 1865. So his sentimental and pa­thetic story of the capture and killing of Booth is one drawn from his imagination, written prin­cipally, it would appear, for the purpose of robbing Lieutenant E. P. Dougherty of his share in the participation of the famous pur­suit and supposed capture of Booth, who, as a matter of fact, had command of the squad of cavalry in pursuit of Booth, and is justly entitled to any credit that is due the commander of this now famous troop; for it was Dougherty who was the superior officer in command of the whole cam­paign in pursuit of Booth, under the direction of CoL L. C. Baker, who remained at Washington. As a matter of fact, Mr. Baker’s article is an apparent plagiarism of Capt. Edward P. Dougherty’s report of his pursuit, capture and killing of the man sup­posed to be John Wilkes Booth, published in Janu­ary, 1890, twenty-five years after the incident; while Mr. Baker writes and publishes his remarkable story seven years after Capt. Dougherty’s is pub­lished and thirty-two years after the supposed kill­ing of Booth.

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DAVID E. HEROLD. The Accomplice of John Wilkes Booth, and the Garrett Home, Where He Was Captured, Ruddy Killed, from Which Booth Escaped, Going to the Wood Spot Just North of the House.

Before leaving the subject of the personages found at the Garrett home and the facts reported by the Federal troops in command of Capt. Dough­erty, we wish to say that from all obtainable proof on both sides, which best harmonizes with reason and is most consonant with truth, Booth was car­ried to the Garrett home by Buggies and Bainbridge,, who remained to watch over him until Herold and Buddy should return from Bowling Green. And before Herold and Buddy could return for Booth, as had been prearranged the day before the troops came in pursuit, they having to walk going and coming from the Garrett home to Bowling Green, a distance of twenty to twenty-four miles, the nearest route they could travel from Ports Royal and Con­way would require the entire afternoon of the day they crossed the Rappahannock river, or more, to reach Bowling Green, and they most likely remained there half of the forenoon of the next day, so they could not have reached the Garrett home before late in the evening if they left Bowling Green at 12 o’clock noon. And there is some proof to show they did arrive at the Garrett home about 10 o’clock that night—the same day on which Booth left the Gar­rett home in the afternoon—and that as a fact Buddy and Herold were at the Garrett home asleep in the back or shed room of the house, which has a door opening out in direct line to the gate opening into the horse lot, as they are commonly called in the upland countries of the South. Booth left the Garrett home about 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and Buddy and Herold arrived at the Garrett home about 10 o’clock that night, six or seven hours later. Thus when Capt. Dougherty, guided by Jett, came upon the Garrett home and surrounded the house on the early morning of the next day—the morning following the day on which Booth left—they found Buddy and Herold asleep in this back room, who, when awakened by hearing the noise made by the Federal troops around the house, with Capt Dougherty demanding admission from old man Garrett at the front entrance of the house, made a dash under cover of the darkness (the hour being between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning) for the first hiding place, making their escape out of this back doorway through the gate mentioned and went into the corn crib, where they were discovered. They were located in this crib and surrounded by the soldiers, and Herold was taken a prisoner. And it was here in this crib that Boston Corbett, against orders, shot and killed the man supposed to be John Wilkes Booth. The body of Buddy was taken from the crib, after being shot, and on his body was found the letters, etc., belonging to Booth which Buddy had taken from the wagon after Booth had left the ferry and which he was trying to deliver to Booth at the Garrett home, as promised at their last meet­ing, but which, because Booth was gone, he could not deliver. So when Ruddy was killed they were found on his body. Finding the letters, pictures, etc., belonging to Booth on the body of the man who was killed, Capt. Dougherty reached the conclusion that the body in his possession was that of John Wilkes Booth, and thus it was that through the cir­cumstances mentioned the body of Ruddy was iden­tified as the body of John Wilkes Booth.

Two facts we wish to emphasize—they are unan­swerable—brought out and agreed upon by all that has been written and said on the subject. They are; First, that Booth was carried to the Garrett home by Buggies and Bainbridge, Confederate soldiers be­longing to Mosby’s command. Second, that Booth had notice of the pursuit by the Federal troops; that being notified by Buggies and Bainbridge, Booth did leave the Garrett home at their urgent request for his (Booth’s) safety; that they did see him leave alone, with the earnest and determined purpose to make good his escape, with a full knowledge of his present and impending danger of being captured, which he knew was death.

Can any one, under these circumstances and con­ditions, believe that Booth did not go and continue to go. Can any one believe that he would at that time have returned to the Garrett home? The sane and reasonable answer to these queries is unques­tionably and unequivocally.



After having read the publication of Gen. Dana in December, 1897, I remembered anew the inci­dents connected with the confessions of St. Helen land went persistently to work to ascertain, if pos­sible, the truth with respect to the escape of John Wilkes Booth.

I wrote at once to Gen. Dana for further facts.

Having no knowledge whatever of the Booth fam­ily before my meeting with St. Helen, I could only explain the information I had received from him concerning this family and the escape of John Wilkes Booth upon the theory that St. Helen was related to Herold and knew Booth’s personal and family affairs by reason of his association with either Booth or Herold, or both. So, I assumed, without foundation in fact, that the tintype picture of himself given me by St. Helen when he believed he was dying must be a picture of some one of the Herolds. So I wrote Gen. Dana, who in return sent me the first pictures I ever remember to have seen of Booth, also Herold and others. I at once identified John Wilkes Booth for the first time, by comparing the tintype picture of St. Helen with the picture of John Wilkes Booth sent me by Dana. St. Helen was indeed the man he claimed to be—John Wilkes Booth. I at once had a picture made from the tintype and sent it to Dana, whose reply, from Lubec, Maine, January 17, 1898, with respect to this picture, is as follows:

“Dear Sir: Your favor of January 8th at hand and read. I must say I was somewhat surprised at the turn things took, for I expected the likeness of Herold, or that it would have some of the features in it of the man Herold you wrote me about, but it seems it was Booth instead.

“Can this be J. B. Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth f Will it be asking too much of you to send me a copy of the confession which you havef I would like to have it for my own satisfaction. If I can be of any help to you, will gladly aid all I can. Regarding J. B. Booth, I shall write to some one of the Booth family and learn all I can of his death, and where. When received will send to you.

“Respectfully yours, etc.,

” (Signed.) DAVID D. DANA.”

Especial attention is called to Gen. Dana’s identi­fication of the tintype picture as that of John Wilkes Booth, and his intimate knowledge of the Booth family, asking as he does if this picture is that of his brother, J. B. Booth, and the readiness with which he could approach “some one of the Booth family and learn all I can of his death,” getting all the information he desired of J. B. Booth, whom he claimed to be dead, and whose name had in no way been brought into the discussion except by Gen. Dana. But for some reason unknown to me Gen. Dana did not write giving me the information which he had voluntarily promised.


I have since learned, however, that the brother of Booth unmistakably referred to by Gen. Dana as J. B. Booth was Junius Brutus Booth, the oldest brother of John Wilkes Booth, who, with the excep­tion of a few years spent in the West, lived and died in Boston, Mass. The next eldest brother lived and died in New York City. The youngest brother, Dr. Joseph Adrian Booth, a physician of acknowledged ability, was associated with his brother, Edwin Booth, the famous actor of New York City, in a busi­ness way other than that of acting, as he made no pretention to the stage, died some years ago, I am informed.

Of these four brothers only John Wilkes Booth came South, and he only after the assassination of President Lincoln, the other brothers living and dying in the East.

The entire Booth family, consisting of two sisters and four brothers, of which John Wilkes was one, were similar in appearance, and you would recog­nize a family likeness, yet they were very unlike in many features, so that no one knowing the family could mistake one for the other. This statement is made from actual knowledge, for I have before me ‘ the pictures of the entire Booth family, the father and mother, four brothers and two sisters, which constitutes the entire family. Should any one doubt, the accuracy of this statement or be curious to see, he may dispel the one and gratify the other by secur­ing a copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, published April 27, 1902, and find the group referred to at page 1, section 4, of this Sunday edition, a study of which I affirm will prove the statements made by me in regard to the Booth family.

The identification of the tintype picture of St. Helen as that of John Wilkes Booth by Cen. Dana stirred to activity my resting energies and revived my purpose to investigate. I at once began to call for proof of the death of John Wilkes Booth, and began by asking of Dana what evidence they had of the capture and killing of Booth. In reply to this lettter Gen. Dana says, by letter of date Decem­ber 25, 1897:

“Booth, I personally knew; Herold I did not. After Booth was killed he was brought to the navy yard, and I went on the boat and identified him. But the body was very much thinner and features very much pinched up, as though he had suffered a great deal.

“He was buried near the old jail and a battery of artillery drawn over his grave to obliterate all trace of it.”

Thus we have Gen. Dana claiming to identify the body of John Wilkes Booth on the boat in April, 1865, with the reservation that the body was much thinner and features much more pinched up than usual for Booth, and on the 17th day of January, 1898, thirty-three years later, we have Gen. Dana identifying John Wilkes Booth from a tintype pic­ture of St. Helen, claiming to be Booth, taken twelve years after Dana is supposed to have identified the dead body of John Wilkes Booth on the boat. Which identification is COBBECT?

Was it Booth’s body on the boat, or was it the living Booth sitting for the picture taken at Glen­rose Mills, in Western Texas, twelve years after his dead body is supposed to have lain on the boat at Washington?

This leaves a doubt in the minds of all men who read this state of facts. Under the rule of law in the application of evidence in matters criminal the doubt resolves itself against the truth of the witness and the benefit of the doubt is given to the defend­ant, Booth. Dana both identifies the supposed body of Booth on the boat and then unquestionably identi­fies the living Booth from the tintype picture, taken as before stated. This being true, then applying the legal rule as to civil proof, his evidence stands at an equipoise, and under that condition we find in favor of Booth’s escape until there is a preponderance of proof to the contrary.

Being advised that Gen. Lew Wallace was the only surviving member of the military court which tried and convicted David E. Herold, Mrs. Surratt and others, by the judgment of which court Herold and Mrs. Surratt were hanged and the others con­victed, I wrote under the date of January 25, 1898, calling on Gen. Wallace for the proof which was heard at that court. I also asked for such evidence as was then and now in possession of the govern­ment of the United States showing that Booth had been captured and killed.

The General replied as follows:

“Crawfordsville, Ind., Jan. 27, 1898.

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GEN. LEW WALLACE. One of the military court who sentenced Mrs. Surratt with others to be hanged.

“Dear Sir: In reply to yours of the 25th inst., I beg to say that to my certain knowledge John Wilkes Booth was buried under a brick pavement in a room of the old penitentiary prison of Wash­ington City; also that after he had lain buried there for a time, at the request of his friends, his remains were taken up and transferred to Baltimore, where they now lie, under a very handsome marble monu­ment erected to his memory by men of whom I have reason to think as little as I did him. Bespectfully yours,

” (Signed.) LEW WALLACE.

From this man, great in war and greater by far in the literary field of fiction, I expected much val­uable proof or suggestions germane to the issue, but the reading of Gen. Wallace’s letter can best explain the disappointment it contained in this respect. He speaks positively of his knowledge, without giving the facts on which that knowledge was based—an evasion keen and shrewd, that others might measure the sufficiency of the proofs by his conviction (cer­tain knowledge.) Therefore, in the absence of spe­cific facts, heard by him before a military court, we must rationally conclude that his conviction (cer­tain knowledge) is born of the result of the circumstantial evidence, the finding of the letters, pictures, etc., belonging to Booth on the supposed body of Booth. A body said to be Booth’s was buried, Gen. Wallace says, and subsequently exhumed and transplanted from Washington City at the Old Navy Yard, to the Booth lot in a Baltimore cemetery, and a monument erected to the memory of Booth. These are mere circumstances tending to create the impres­sion that the body so transplanted was that of Booth, but is at best a mere surmise, and in the absence of other and further positive and direct proof does not justify a finding of facts as of certain and personal knowledge.

It will be noticed that Gen. Wallace says that the body of Booth was buried under a “brick pavement in a room of the old penitentiary prison of Washing­ton City,” to his “certain knowledge,” while Gen. Dana says, and is equally positive of his “certain knowledge,” that the “body was buried out in the old Navy Yard, and a battery of artillery run over the grave to obliterate any trace of it.” This is a complete contradiction of the statement of Gen. Wal­lace, based on his “certain knowledge,” and this can not be an immaterial mistake merely as to de­tail between these two gentlemen, because each has stated matters of material physical facts, based on their own knowledge, yet in direct contradiction of each other. Then the question is, Who is right t For if the body was buried as Gen. Wallace says, “under a brick pavement in a room of the old peni­tentiary prison of Washington City,” then it could not have been buried, as Gen. Dana says, “out in the Navy Yard,” the grave being obliterated by ‘ * running a battery of artillery over it.9 ‘ It was not in the building if it was out in the yard, and not out in the yard if it was in the building. Then, who is BIGHT?

It is a physical impossibility for them both to be correct, but it is possible for them both to be mis­taken. And so, in being mistaken, their “certain knowledge” of these facts must fall. To these state­ments, contradictory as they are, I hold their sol­emn signed letters, including the statements made, which I thought at the time, and now think, come from among the best sources of information on this subject, yet they are to be further contradicted and worse confounded by the statement of others.

The public press, in referring to the death of the late Wm. P. Wood, of Washington City, said:

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