Sunday, October 21, 2012

Civil War Trails
The John Wilkes Booth Escape Route - Part 1

November 21, 2009

As part of a comprehensive tour of Civil War sites in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia during a week in November 2009 -- with my brother-in-law Tim Danklef (aka, 21st Century Stonewall Jackson) -- we re-traced the John Wilkes Booth escape route from Ford's Theatre through Maryland and ending at Garrett's Farm in Virginia.  

Booth was on the run for 12 days after Lincoln's assassination, utilizing an assortment of Confederate sympathizers to help him travel throughout southern Maryland and Virginia.  I have always found it interesting that eastern Maryland had more Confederate supporters than western Maryland, a fact that hindered the Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam during the Maryland Campaign in 1862 and in the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863.

We started early in the morning on a Saturday at Ford's Theatre.  The Theatre has a museum in the basement that has recently been renovated.  It has some interesting artifacts from the assassination of President Lincoln, including the .44 caliber Derringer used to shoot Lincoln in the head and one of the boots that Booth wore the night of the assassination. My favorite artifact in the museum is the Brooks Brothers wool coat that was made for Lincoln's second inauguration and that he had with him the night of the assassination.
Across the street from Ford's Theatre we visited the Petersen House where Lincoln was taken after being shot.  Lincoln was taken to a bed in a back bedroom until he died hours later.  In the bedroom you can still view the blood-stained pillow and pillowcase that Lincoln used that evening. 

Our next stop was the Surratt Tavern in Clinton, Maryland.  Mary Surratt provided guns and binoculars to Booth and his accomplice David Herold.  Booth and Herold stopped at the Surratt Tavern hours after the assassination the night of April 14, 1865.

Mary Surratt was a boarding house owner who had previously met Booth as part of a group of Confederate sympathizers in Washington, D.C. and Maryland.  She was eventually convicted in taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln and she and three other co-conspirators were hung on July 7, 1865. Surratt was the first women executed by the United States federal government. 

On the day we visited the Surratt Tavern, it was closed.  It now sits in an area of Maryland that is a typical suburban area, however, in 1865 it was basically the center of a small crossroads community known as Surrattsville. 

In Part 2 I will detail visiting Dr. Mudd's farmhouse, Booth's boat trip across the Potomac River and his eventual death at Garrett's Farm in Virginia.

John Wilkes Booth...the Brad Pitt of 1865.
The President's Box at Ford's Theatre.
Booth's .44 caliber Derringer used to shoot President Lincoln in the head.
Booth's boot which was cut by Dr. Samuel Mudd to set Booth's foot.
President Lincoln's Brooks Brothers wool coat that he was wearing the night of the assassination.
At the entrance to the Petersen House across the street from Ford's Theatre.
At the Surratt Tavern in Clinton, Maryland.
The Surratt Tavern in Clinton, was closed the day we visited.

To view all of our pictures from our Booth Escape Route tour visit:!i=1507623680&k=9D4Rqsm

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