Friday, March 11, 2016

The Mystery of John Wilkes Booth by John Elfreth Watkins 1919

The Mystery of John Wilkes Booth by John Elfreth Watkins 1919

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See also Notorious Criminals, Crimes & Criminology - 100 Books on DVDrom and Killing Abraham Lincoln - 40 Books on CDrom (Plus Garfield & McKinley)

"The body buried in Greenmount was not that of Booth," declared Basil Moxley, a pall-bearer at the alleged funeral of Lincoln's assassin, held in Baltimore.

"I do not believe that Booth was ever killed in that barn," added Moxley, who for nearly a half century had been doorkeeper in Baltimore at the Holliday Street Theater and at Ford's Opera House. He was a trusted friend of the Booth family and a cyclopedia of information concerning the stage folk of his time.

Many men have shared Moxley's doubt as to the most commonly accepted version of the capture, shooting and burial of Lincoln's murderer. According to history, the demented actor, after shooting the President, and after breaking his leg while making his escape, took refuge in Garrett's tobacco barn, near Bowling Green, Va. The barn was surrounded by twenty-eight veterans of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, who, fearing to go in and capture one defiant man, set the building on fire and then shot Booth as he appeared to take aim at his pursuers.

The commonly accepted story of what next happened relates that Booth's body was sewed up in a saddle blanket and carried aboard the monitor "Montauk," where it was laid in the carpenter's bunk in the turret. After an autopsy in Washington, it was placed in a pine gun-box and secretly buried beneath the floor of a cell in the old Washington Penitentiary. After nearly four years had elapsed the great actor, Edwin Booth, persuaded President Andrew Johnson to allow the pine box bearing his brother's bones to be removed to Baltimore for secret burial in Greenmount Cemetery

Since the black tragedy of '65 there have been advanced more than fifty theories to the effect that Wilkes Booth escaped to enjoy life for a considerable time after his corpse was believed to have molded in its grave. General Eckert, who was Assistant Secretary of War when Lincoln was assassinated, and who later became president of the Western Union Telegraph Company, was quoted as having confessed to his nurse, on his deathbed, that with three other men he had taken the body of Booth out on Delaware Bay and thrown it into the water. A secret service man assigned to the assassination was quoted as stating that the identification of the corpse supposed to have been Booth's was never satisfactorily made. Such doubts and contradictions reiterated by men closely concerned in the search for the assassin led to the suspicion that greed for the seventy-five thousand dollars reward offered for Booth by the government resulted in the shooting of another man.

A few years ago Laura Ida Booth (Mrs. L. A. Howard), an actress, who has claimed to be the daughter of Wilkes Booth, announced that her father lived until 1903, when his long-troubled conscience led him to commit suicide at Enid, Okla. A Memphis attorney, Finis L. Bates, who knew the Enid suicide, and who believes him to have been Lincoln's assassin, has published a book in support of the theory. Some years ago Mr. Bates appealed to the National House of Representatives to definitely determine the identity of the embalmed corpse of the suicide, which, for four years, had been kept by an Enid undertaker. In his communication to Congress, Mr. Bates stated:

"I knew Booth as John D. Heley while living in 1872, and was associated with him as my client until the fall of 1877, when we separated in western Texas, he going to Leadville, Col., and I returning to Memphis. Booth left with me a small tintype for his future identification. This picture was taken some twelve years after the assassination of Lincoln and has been identified by Junius Brutus Booth, eldest nephew of John Wilkes Booth, as being the picture of his uncle. It has also been identified by the famous actor, the late Joseph Jefferson, and many others."

About a score of years after the Lincoln tragedy one Christopher C. Ritter, while lying very low in a hospital in Anderson, Ind., is alleged to have unburdened his conscience by confessing that after having been initiated into the Knights of the Golden Circle by Booth, he had been pressed to take part in a kidnapping of President Lincoln, but that before the plan was carried out Booth killed the President. Accompanying the escaped assassin to Philadelphia, Ritter claimed that he sailed with him for South America, where Booth became "Enos," the famous actor of Latin America

According to another story, Booth became an Episcopal clergyman and settled in a Georgia town, where he was visited by his brother, Edwin Booth. He continued to limp until death and failed also to disguise his love for liquor and his imperious temper. One story has it that the assassin spent the latter days of his life under the name of David E. George, and that he married a Kentucky widow; their child, a daughter, winning success upon the stage.

In New Orleans, Louisville, Denver, Albuquerque, San Francisco and Montreal the man who shot Lincoln was "located" during the generation following the Civil War. Improbable as the many theories as to his escape may seem, and after all of them have been sifted out and discarded, Wilkes Booth has nevertheless bequeathed to the world a mystery that has never been solved.

Where lie the bones of the man shot in the Garrett barn, whose body was brought to Washington and dissected? No one knows?

It is generally believed that the mound alleged to mark the assassin's grave in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore, covers no human remains. For fear of vandalism the Booth family very wisely hid the coffin which they buried.

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