The President’s Murderer is Dead

On April 26, 1865 Union soldiers out of Washington D.C. tracked down John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice David Herold to the Garrett family’s farm in Virginia.

Boston Corbett

Before dawn on April 26, the soldiers caught up with the fugitives, who were sleeping in Garrett’s tobacco barn. David Herold surrendered, but Booth refused Conger’s demand to surrender, saying “I prefer to come out and fight”; the soldiers then set the barn on fire. As Booth moved about inside the blazing barn, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him.

According to Corbett’s later account, he fired at Booth because the fugitive “raised his pistol to shoot” at them.

Conger’s report to Stanton, however, stated that Corbett shot Booth “without order, pretext or excuse”, and recommended that Corbett be punished for disobeying orders to take Booth alive.

Booth's Escape Route

Booth, fatally wounded in the neck, was dragged from the barn to the porch of Garrett’s farmhouse, where the actor turned assassin died three hours later at age 26.

The President’s Murderer

John Wilkes Booth

There seems now but little reason to doubt that the wretch whose name will be branded with everlasting infamy, as the murderer of Abraham Lincoln, was John Wilkes Booth, the actor.

He was the third son of Junius Brutus Booth, an English actor, who first appeared on the London stage in the year 1820, and was a few years after wants driven to emigrate to this country with his wife, in consequence of a quarrel with Edmund Kean, Mr. Booth played successful engagements in the principle cities, and made a wide, reputation for himself as an actor,—in fact, he was probably more widely popular than any other actor who has visited this country.

The Booth Brothers

He had four sons, Junius Brutus, Jr. Edwin, John Wilkes and Joseph, and one daughter, who afterwards married J. S. Clarke, the actor. These children were Mr. Booth presently took up his residence.

All the family adopted the stage as their profession, but Edwin Booth is the only one who has obtained a position that at all approaches eminence.

John Wilkes Booth has played many engagements in this city, but was given to rant and mouthing and showed in his acting the coarseness of his nature. His last engagement here was at the Howard Athenwum about a year ago.

Booth Wanted Poster

He is about twenty-five years of age, and unmarried. He is strongly built and muscular, with black hair and a dark complexion.

We have been informed that his character was far from good, and that although some of the members of his profession may at first have been friendly toward him, on account of his family connections, yet his tastes led him to seek the lowest company, and that this and his avowed disloyalty have of late caused him to be shunned by his brother actors. It is stated that he has been heard to express in the most violent language his hatred of the North and the Union, and lately his determination to kill the President. It is also stated, and we believe with truth, that he was driven by his brother Edwin from his house, for continuing to utter his reasonable language.

Wilkes Booth has for the last year given up the stage, and engaged in oil speculations which have, it is said, proved profitable. He played once in New York last winter for the benefit of the fund for the Shakespeare statue,—in the tragedy of “Julius Caeser,” if we mistake not,—with his two brothers Junius Brutus and Edwin. He has also appeared once in Washington, on the occasion of the benefit of all address, at Ford’s theatre, where the assassination took place.

The Assassination of President Lincoln

He was in this city no longer ago than last Monday, and on that day; and perhaps on previous days, visited the shooting gallery of Measrs, Floyd & Edwards, in Chapman place, opposite the Parker House, and practiced with a pistol, firing with the weapon under his leg, behind his neck, and in other strange positions. He is represented as being a frequent visitor at the gallery during his stay in Boston, and as having been very expert with the pistol. At this time, we are told he did not talk of politics, and spoke only of ordinary every-day matters.

— Boston Advertiser

Collection: The Liberator
Publication: THE LIBERATOR
Date: April 21, 1865
Location: Boston

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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