FBI: Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth

Gen. Dana says: “I withdrew my guards to my headquarters and had dismissed them and was eat­ing my evening meal at about eleven o’clock, when I heard the President was shot.” Certainly Gen. Dana was not at his headquarters at the usual hour for taking meals.

If it be true that Dana withdrew the guards from the bridge it was certainly done after Booth and HerOld had passed, for it is a physical fact that the guards were there when they passed over, so that the logical conclusion is that if the guard left at all they left after Booth and Herold had crossed the bridge.

GeH. Dana shows that when he arrived at the headquarters of Major Gen. Augur that Gen. Augur gave Dana complete command of all the forces to pursue and capture Booth. And we ask, is it not a significant fact that Gen. Dana should have misdi­rected all the troops which he sent out other than a single detachment, in pursuit of Booth, unless he knew the direction Booth had gone? Is it not strange that he himself, with a detail of men, without hesita­tion and without other information than such as he possessed before the shooting of President Lincoln— in fact, as if by intuition, took the proper trail by leaving Washington directly for Surrattville, cross­ing the East Potomac bridge as Booth and Herold had done, following along the trail in the wake of Booth and Herold, who arrived at the home of Dr. Mudd3 about four o’clock a. m., while Gen. Dana turned from the road leading to Dr. Mudd’s home and went to Bryantown, just three and a half miles from Dr. Mudd’s home, reaching Bryantown at six o’clock a. m., while Booth and Herold were yet at the home of the doctor. Dr. Mudd administered to Bdoth’s pains, then went to Bryantown, where he called on Gen. Dana, and was permitted to leave Bryantown by Gen. Dana, as the general says, “at the request of his cousin, Dr. George Mudd.”

We ask, are these findings of fact mere incidents of the occasion 1 Shall we say it is entirely reason­able so to conclude 1

Gen. Dana, in commenting on the Dr. Mudd in­cident, says: “George Mudd, let me say in passing, never intimated to me that his friend was a doctor, or was a relative of his. I learned this the next day when it was too late (as usual he does not explain how he found it out) that his cousin was a rank rebel, and I plainly told George Mudd what I thought of him.”

Which we suggest must have been a great punish­ment to Dr. George Mudd and was quite the act of a hero on the part of Gen. Dana to thus occupy his time—reading lectures to Dr. George Mudd while in hot pursuit of and on the trail of the assassin of the President of the United States.

Thus spending his time at Bryantown, neglecting to go with his troops, or send them to capture Dr. Samuel Mudd at his home only three and a half miles away, in order that he might investigate the suspicious and offending conduct of Dr. Samuel Mudd, he, instead, sends a detachment of his troops with a guide to scour a nearby swamp looking for Booth and Herold, when a heavy storm came up and make it impossible to proceed with the search and the next day it was too late. As usual, conven­ient for Booth and Herold.

Thus practically ended Gen. Dana’s chase after Booth at Bryantown.

Realizing that he was hunted with a zeal beyond the zeal prompting the searchers in following the ordinary criminal and bringing him to justice; stim­ulated by a burning desire for vengeance for the crime that startled the whole world, no less than the hope of the magnificent reward, which meant a for­tune in those days, John Wilkes Booth decided to cast his lot among the Indians. He met many of the tribes and mingled with them, finally becom­ing associated with the Apache tribe, whose chief he described as being a man of docility, lazy and de­void of ambition. The males of the tribe, who are called bucks, were active and possessed of more than ordinary intelligence; the squaws, some of them pretty and attractive, were the slaves of the men. But, though these people were kind to him and his safety was absolutely secure among them, Booth could not accustom himself to the habits and customs of these rude people and the longing for kindred companionship drew him back again to the haunts of civilized man.

Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth_Page_164
BRYANTOWN, The Place Gen. Dana Reached on the Morning and Remained During the Day of April 15th, 1865, While Booth Was Resting That Same Day at the Home of Dr. Mudd, Only Three and a Half Miles Away.

He went to Nebraska City, Nebraska, where he met and was entertained by a Mr. TreadkeU, who employed him later as a teamster, under the name of Jesse Smith, in the fall of the year, 1866. Mr. Treadkell had a contract with the United States government for hauling overland the supplies to the United States army located at Salt Lake City, Utah.

In speaking of Booth Mr. Treadkell said: ‘1 There was always a strange thing about Jesse Smith, or Booth. While he was a good driver of mules four in hand, he did not have the slightest knowledge of how to harness his team nor even how to hitch them to the wagon. But he was the life of the camp at night and rendered himself so agreeable that I never once thought of discharging him for his ignorance in this respect, that he never was able to hitch up his own team. The other drivers were always gladly willing to do this service for him and I myself would much rather do this than give him up, on account of his ability to entertain us at night. He would recite Shakespeare’s plays, poems, etcetera, and tell of his travels, which seemed to have been extensive. His recitations were grandly eloquent.”

The day before reaching Salt Lake City and the army officials Jesse Smith (Booth) left the wagon and his employer, disappearing without notice or compensation, according to Mr. Treadkell’s statement, which corroborates St. Helen’s (Booth) ver­sion of the same story. And I suppose he continued his journey west to San Francisco where he met htto mother and brother, Junius Brutes Booth.

A few yean later Mr. Treadkell purchased a bodk containing the story of the assassination of Presi­dent Lincoln and a picture of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin, from which picture he was greatly sur­prised to recognize in his mysterious teamster, Jesse Smith, no less a person than John Wilkes Booth.



The government for some reason took np the pur­suit of Booth independent of the movements of Gen Dana and the Army of Washington within the lines of the 3rd Brigade of Harden ‘n Division, 22d Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. G. C. Augur, when Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, sent the following telegram to New York City:

‘1 Washington, April 16th, 1865.

“3:20 P. M.

“Col. L. C. Baker—Come here immediately and see if you can find the murderer of the President.

41 (Signed.) EDWIN M. STANTON,

“Secretary of War.”

Early the next morning Col. Baker reached Wash­ington, accompanied by his cousin, Lieut. L. B. Bak­er, a member of the Bureau, who had recently been mustered out of the First District of Columbia Cav­alry.

They went at once to the office of the War De­partment and after a conference with Secretary Stanton, began the search for the murderer of the President.

“Up to this time,” says Col. Baker, “the con­fusion had been so great that few of the ordinary detective measures for the apprehension of crim­inals had been employed. No rewards had been of­fered. Little or no attempt had been made to col­lect and arrange the clue in the furtherance of a systematic search and the pursuit was wholly with­out a dictating leadership.”

Col. Baker’s first step was the publication of a handbill offering thirty thousand dollars for the capture of the fugitives. Twenty thousand dollars of this amount was subscribed by the City of Wash­ington and the other ten thousand dollars by Col. Baker, offered on his own account and authorized by the War Department.

On this handbill was a minute description of Booth, as follows:

“John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated the Presi­dent on the evening of April 14th, 1865, height 5 feet 8 inches, weight 160 pounds, compactly built; hair jet black, inclined to curl; medium length, part­ed behind, eyes black, and heavy brows. Wears a large seal ring on his little finger.

“When talking inclines his head forward and looks down.

“(Signed.) L. C. BAKER,

“Colonel and Adjutant of the War Dept.”

1 Hardly had these handbills been posted when the tinited States Government made the publication of f dditional reward to the amount of one hundred thousand dollors for the capture of Booth, Surratt #nd Herold, Surratt at that time being suspected of dire complicity in the assassination.

Three states increased this sum by twenty-five thousand dollars each and many individuals and companies, shocked by the awful atrocity of the crime, offered rewards of various amounts. Fab­ulous stories were told of the wealth which the assassin’s captors would receive, the sum being placed anywhere from five hundred thousand dol­lars to one million dollars.

This prospect of winning a fortune at once set hundreds of detectives and recently discharged Union officers and soldiers, and, in fact, a vast host of adventurers into the field of search and the whole of Southern Maryland and Eastern Virginia was scoured and ransacked until it seemed as if a jack rabbit could not have escaped, and yet at the end of ten days the assassins were still at large.

“Booth was accompanied in his flight by a callow stage-struck youth named David E. Herold, who was bound to Booth, the older, merely by ties of a mar­velous magnetism as a part of his art.”

“In beginning his search for the assassin CoL Baker proceeded on the theory that Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, and his Cab* inet, were involved in the plot and that Booth, Her­old and others, were mere tools in the hands of the more skilled conspirators. He therefore detailed Lieut. L. B. Baker to procure for the purpose of future identification, photographs of John Wilkes Booth, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confeder­acy; George N. Sanders, Beverly Tucker, Jacob Thompson and others unknown, all of whom were charged with being conspirators.

“Lieutenant Baker, with half a dozen active men to help him, was sent into lower Maryland to dis­tribute the handbills describing Booth, Herold and others, and to exhibit the pictures of the fugitives when possible, under instructions from Col. Baker. They also made a search for clues, but they found themselves harassed and thwarted at Washington by private detectives and soldiers who tried to throw them off their trail (as Baker thought), in the hope of following it successfully themselves.”

In this connection I challenge attention to the conduct of Gen. Dana, as we left him at Bryantown resting under the seeming shadows of treacherous conduct, which accusation appears also to be well founded by the statements of Col. Baker, for he says that in their search for Booth and Herold they found themselves harassed and thwarted at every turn by private detectives and soldiers of the Federal Army who tried to throw them off the trail.

Baker says they regarded Booth, Herold and oth­ers as “mere tools in the hands of more skilled con­spirators.” Baker was more wise than even he knew in this conclusion as the events of after yean disclosed, proven by the confession of Booth himself of the plot and the persons connected with it.

“On his return to Washington Lieut. Baker told Col. Baker that it was his opinion that Booth and his companions had not gone South, but had taken some other direction, most probably toward Phila­delphia, where it was known that Booth had several women friends.

” ‘Now, sir/ was Col. Baker’s answer, ‘you are mistaken. There is no place of safety for them on earth, except among their friends in the still rebel­lious South.’

“Acting on this belief, Col. Baker, Theodore Woodall, one of the detectives in lower Maryland, accompanied by an expert telegrapher named Brak-with, who was to attach his instrument to the wires at any convenient point and report frequently to headquarters at Washington, started in pursuit of Booth.

“These men had been out less than two days when they discovered a valuable clue from a negro who told them without hesitation that two men answer­ing the description of Booth and Herold had crossed the Potomac below Port Tobacco on Sunday night, April 21st, 1865, in a fishing boat.

“This evidence or information was regarded as of so much importance that the negro was hurried to Washington by the next boat on the Potomac river. Col. Baker questioned him closely and after show­ing him a large number of photographs he at once selected the picture of Booth and Herold as being the persons whom he had seen in the boat. Col. Baker decided that the clue was of the first import­ance and, after a hurried conference with Secretary Stanton, he sent a request to Gen. Hancock for a detachment of cavalry to guard his men sent in pur­suit and Lieut. Baker was ordered to the quarter­master’s department to make arrangements for transportation down the Potomac river. On Lieut. Baker’s return he was informed that he and E. J. Conger and other detectives were to have charge of the party.

“The three men then held a conference in which Col. Baker fully explained his theory of the where­abouts of Booth and Herold. In half an hour Lieut. Edward P. Dougherty, of the 16th New York Cavalry, with twenty-five men, Sergeant Boston Corbett, second in command, reported to Col. Baker for duty, having been directed to go with Lieut. Baker and Conger wherever they might order and to protect them to the extent of their ability. Without waiting even to secure sufficient rations Lieut. Bak­er and his men galloped off down to the Sixth Street dock and hurried on the government tug, ‘John S. Ide,’ at a little after three o’clock, and that same afternoon the tug reached Belle Plain Landing. At this point there was a sharp bend in the river and Col. Baker advised his men to scour the strip of country stretching between it and the Bappahan-nock river.

“On disembarking Baker and Conger rode con­tinuously ahead, Lieut. Dougherty and his men fol­lowing within hailing distance. The country being familiar to both of the leaders of the expedition they assumed the names of well-known blockade runners and mail carriers and stopped at the homes of the more prominent Confederates to make inquiries, say­ing:

” ‘We are being pursued by the Yankees and in crossing the river we became separated from two of our party, one of whom is a lame man. Have you seen them!

“All night this kind of work was kept up, inter­spersed with much harder riding, but although the Confederates invariably expressed their sympathy it was evident that they knew nothing of the fugi­tives. At dawn the cavalrymen threw off their dis­guise and halted for an hour for rest and refresh­ments.

“Again in their saddles they struck across the country in the direction of Port Conway, a little town on the Rappahannock river, about twenty-two miles below Fredericksburg. Between two and three o’clock in the afternoon they drew rein near a plant­er’s home, half a mile distant from this town, and ordered dinner for the men and feed for their horses. Conger, who was suffering from an old wound, was almost exhausted from the long, hot and dusty ride. He and the other members of the party, except Baker and a corporal, dropped down on the roadside to rest. Baker, fearing that the presence of the scouting party might give warning to Booth and his companions, should they be hiding in the neighborhood, pushed on ahead to the bank of the Rappahannock river. He saw dozing in the sunshine in front of his little cottage a fisherman, or ferryman, whose name was Rollins. He asked him if he had seen a lame man cross the river within the past few days. The man answered yes he had, and that there were other men with him. In faet he had ferried them across the river.. (This was Booth, Herold and Buddy. Notice that the ferryman re* fers to men being with Booth—not a man).

“Baker drew out his photographs and without hesitation Bollins pointed out the pictures of Booth and Herold. (Baker had no picture of Buddy).

” ‘These men/ he said, nodding his head, ‘They are the men, only this one,’ pointing to Booth’s pic­ture, ‘had no mustache.’ (The fisherman evidently was thinking of Buddy, and identifying him from Booth’s picture, because Booth had a mustache and Buddy did not have a distinguishable mustache, having an even growth of whiskers on his entire face. This would seem to show that Buddy could have been, and was, mistaken for Booth, without 3 long mustache.)

“It was with a thrill of satisfaction that Baker heard these words. He was now positive that he of all the hundred detectives and soldiers who were looking for Booth, was on the right trail. Not a moment was to be lost now that the object of their search might be riding far into the land of the Bebels. Baker sent the corporal back with orders for Conger and his men to come up without delay. After he was gone Bollins explained that the men had hired him to ferry them across the river on the previous afternoon and that just before starting three men had ridden up and greeted the fugitives.

“In response to questioning Rollins admitted that he knew the three men well; that they were Major M. B. Buggies, Lieut. Bainbridge and Gapt. Jett, of Mosby’s Confederate command.

” ‘ Do you know where they went!’ Baker press­ed the questioning.

14 ‘Wall,’ drawled the fisherman, ‘this Capt. Jett has a lady love over at Bowling Green and I recEon he went over there.’ And he further explained that Bowling Green was about fifteen miles to the south and that it had a big hotel which would make a good hiding place for a wounded man. As the cav­alry came up Baker told Rollins that he would have to accompany him as a guide until they reached Bowling Green. To this Rollins objected on the ground that he would incur the hatred of his neigh­bors, none of whom had favored the Union cause.

11 ‘But you might make me your prisoner,’ he said in his slow drawl, ‘then I would have to go.’ Bak­er felt the necessity of exercising the greatest energy in the pursuit if the fugitives were to be snatched from the shelter of the hostile country.

“Rollins’ old ferry boat was shaky and, although the loading was done with the greatest dispatch it took three trips to get the detachment across the river, when the march for Bowling Green was be­gun. The horses sweltered up the crooked sandy road from the river. Baker and Conger, who were riding ahead, saw two horsemen standing motion­less on the top of a hill, their black forms showing well fegainst the sky. (This was Major or Lieut. Buggies and Bainbridge on sentinel duty, guarding Booth at the Garrett farm, which was only a abort distance to the north of where these men were seen).

“These men seem much interested in the move­ments of the cavalry. Baker and Conger at once suspected them of being Booth’s friends, who had in some way received information of the approach of the searching party.

“Baker signaled the horsemen to wait for a parley but instead of stopping they at once put spurs to their horses and galloped up the road. Conger and Baker gave chase, but they bent to the necks of their horses and riding at full speed they were away. And just as they were overhauling them the two horsemen dashed into a blind trail leading from the main road into the pine forest. (This is when Buggies and Bainbridge rode to the Garrett home, a short distance north of the main road, in which the Federal troops then were on their way to Bowl­ing Green, and then it was that they notified Booth to leave the Garrett home, as explained to me by St.Helen (or Booth), when he left the Garrett home and went into the wooded spot where he was after­ward picked up by Buggies and Bainbridge, and fur­nished a horse by which means he made his escape.)

“The pursuers drew rein on their winded horses and after consultation decided not to follow further, but to reach Bowling Green as promptly as possi­ble/’ These men, Baker and Conger say, they were afterward informed, were Buggies and Bainbridge, and that Booth, at the time they turned back, was less than half a mile away, lying on the grass in front of the Garrett house. Baker says further that “indeed Booth saw his pursuers distinctly as they neared his hiding place and commented on their dusty and saddle-worn appearance.” (In this Baker is mistaken. Booth did not see them, but was in­formed of their movements only by Buggies and Bainbridge.)

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