Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.
Burial Location: Greenlawn Cemetery, Bowling Green, Virginia
Connection to the Lincoln assassination:
One of the most forgotten and overlooked parts of the escape of the assassins of Abraham Lincoln involves the home of Mrs. Virginia Clarke. This is probably due to the fact that Mrs. Clarke’s home is technically not a part of John Wilkes Booth’s escape route. The lead assassin never got as far south as Mrs. Clarke’s home and, therefore, never saw the home pictured above. However, Booth’s accomplice and fellow fugitive, David Herold, not only saw this house but spent the night at Mrs. Clarke’s during the brief period of time where he separated from the assassin. On the afternoon of April 24, 1865, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were waiting at the ferry crossing of Port Conway, Virginia, waiting to cross over to Port Royal on the other side of the Rappahannock River. As they waited, three Confederate soldiers rode up to the ferry landing. After some parlay, the fugitives announced their identities to the men. The soldiers, Willie Jett, Absalom Bainbridge and Mortimer Ruggles vowed to give Booth and Herold assistance on their escape. After crossing the ferry Jett attempted to find Booth refuge at the home of Sarah Jane Peyton, but she rebuffed him after seeing the condition Booth was in. The group of five then rode about two miles south of Port Royal where Jett dropped Booth off with the Garrett family. It was at this time that Herold separated from John Wilkes Booth for the first time since the pair had met up at Soper’s Hill outside of Washington on April 14th. While Booth enjoyed the hospitality of the unsuspecting Garrett family on the night of April 24th, Herold made his way with Absalom Bainbridge to Mrs. Clarke’s home.
David Herold briefly mentions this visit to Mrs. Clarke’s in his interrogation:
“One of the soldiers named Bennington [Bainbridge], was going to see a gentleman named Clark[e] whom I met some three or four years ago, & of whom I had heard people in Maryland speak. I do not know Clark’s christian name. Both Bennington & Clark had belonged to Mosby’s command. We went there and Bennington introduced me…We staid there all night.”
James Clarke, Herold and Bainbridge’s mutual acquaintance, was not at home when the pair arrived. Therefore Bainbridge had to introduce Herold to James’ mother, Virginia Clarke. Bainbridge introduced Herold to Mrs. Clarke using the pseudonym of Mr. Boyd, the same name Jett had used to pass Booth off on the Garrett family.
Practically nothing is known about Herold’s stay with Mrs. Clarke and the next morning he was riding back with Bainbridge to Bowling Green to meet back up with Ruggles and Jett who had spent the night at the Star Hotel. Ruggles, Bainbridge, and Herold rode back up to the Garrett farm where Herold joined back up with Booth. The rest is history.
Mrs. Clarke’s home no longer stands. The area where it was once located has been transformed into a man-made lake.
When Virginia Clarke died in 1877, she was originally buried in a family cemetery belonging to her son-in-law’s family. However, when Fort A. P . Hill was created in Caroline County in the 1940’s, that family cemetery, along with many others, had to be removed. Greenlawn Cemetery in Bowling Green was created specifically to receive the transplanted graves of those originally interred on land now owned by Fort A. P. Hill.
Check out the Maps page for more details. For more information about the actions of Willie Jett, Absalom Bainbridge and Mortimer Ruggles click this link.
GPS coordinates for Virginia Clarke’s grave: 38.070225, -77.338979
What ever happened to the three confederate soldiers who aided Booth? Were they ever brought to trial for aiding and abetting a presidential assassin?