I watched them lead him out the door,
As he exited his cell.
I followed them, as he had asked,
To give his last farewell.

“A boy” I thought of him at first,
When I was called to pray,
But with death’s knocking out in the yard,
I saw a man today.

While saddened by his coming death,
He confessed to me his crime:
“I helped a man who killed a man.
Where will I spend all time?”

I said I could not answer him,
To God he must appeal.
We sat there in redemptive prayer,
And begged his soul to heal.

So while his frame may falter,
During these, his last grains of life,
On the gallows he’ll stand, with his clenched hands,
A man, adverse to strife.

Fictional poem from the perspective of Rev. Dr. Mark Olds, David Herold’s spiritual advisor on the scaffold.

Justified or not, four individuals paid the ultimate price for their involvement with John Wilkes Booth.  Those saved from execution faced their own mortality when they heard the drops fall and would carry the stigma of their association for the rest of their lives.  Lincoln’s assassination killed not only the President and the innocence of our nation, but also the lives of the misguided supporters who knew not what they were doing.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “7/7/1865

  1. Julie

    Dave – that was beautiful!

    Loved the post. And those close up photos of the convicted conspirators in their last moments of life are unnerving.

  2. Dave –

    Did you write this? You are so VERY, very talented! It’s beautiful….you never cease to amaze….

  3. rvsnorton

    I once asked Herb Swingle, “Don’t you wish we had more Dave Taylors in class when we were still teaching?” I second everything Betty said above.

  4. Richard Sloan

    I wonder if our magician friend Barry Cauchon can lighten this image so that we can see Herold’s face a bit. I’m going to ask him. This is a most revealing close-up. Do you notice that someone has placed a comforting hand on Davy’s right shoulder? Wow! Could that be Christian Rath? Notice that around that person’s neck there’s a long strip that will surely be used on the condemned! ANother one appears to be wrapped around his right wrist. (What do you think those multiple lines are on his shirt? They are in the shape of bullets in a belt. Are they some sort of shadows?

    • Richard I’d be happy to lighten it up for you and post it here. Currently I’m away from my computer but I’ll get to it tonight.

    • Well, I brightened the picture up a bit. Sadly it doesn’t seem to give that much more detail. Hopefully this will help, though.

      • Great! Thanks a bunch, Dave. It appears that it is McCall who has his hand on Davey’s shoulder – and that is probably Dr. Olds bending close and talking to Davey – however on second thought, it could be Dr. Old’s hand on Davey’s shoulder!

        Dr. Olds sure had curly hair!

        • If that is Dr. Olds speaking to Davy (and I too, think it would be appropriate) it couldn’t be his hand on Davy’s shoulder. The hand on the shoulder is a left hand and if Dr. Olds had his arm around Davy’s back, it would be his right hand on the shoulder. To me it looks like the man in white’s hand.

  5. This is a wonderful way of conveying what I always attempt to preach: Please consider the human factor in any facet of history that you study so that the event(s) reflect personalities, beliefs, regrets, etc.

  6. Agreed, Laurie! In order to correctly convey history – one must seek to “interact” with the personalities involved….

    I believe that is McCall’s hand on Herold’s shoulder.

  7. Gene C

    Great job Dave, It’s on thing to tell history, it’s a gift to have made us “feel” history.

  8. Thank you all for your kind words regarding the poem. It’s a difficult thing to try and humanize individuals that others see as villianous. I have no problem seeing Booth and the conspirators as people beyond their crimes. And in that light, they at least deserve a small mention in a humane way. Today I drove and (with the help of both a historical and a genealogical society) tracked down the graves of many of my great etc. grandparents. I took pictures and celebrated at each find. But more importantly, I acknowledged their existence. They were not people I ever knew, and I know little about their lives, but like the conspirators, they are deserving of that basic form of recognition. They were here once, and they affected those around them in both good and bad ways. A person’s life is never black and white and it is unjust to portray it as such.

    During my travels and subsquent “debrief” with my 94 year-old grandfather, I learned that my great great great-grandfather not only died on this date, July 7th, ninety-nine years ago but he also once met and shook hands with Abraham Lincoln. History is all around us.

    • I, for one, Dave believe like you that people are people – they are not just black and white. There is always that elusive “grey area” that we must seek to find. These people without consideration of their crimes, had lives, they lived, laughed, cried, loved and hated. They had passions and in this case, unfortunately, they let their passions overrule them – and they paid dearly.

      It’s great that you can travel about and find your ancestors and that you still have your grandfather – I know you treasure him!

  9. Your describing the necessity of recognizing historical people as human beings just put tears in my eyes. I used that same philosophy in explaining to some why the Surratt Society keeps marking graves of those whom history has tried to forget.

  10. Amen, Laurie!

  11. Eleanor Ford

    I cannot stand to see photos of hangings. They are horrible. Especially of Mrs. Surratt. But they are
    in every book it seems. And people wanting to be there to see it.

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