Take an Assassination Vacation!

With summer in full swing, now is the time to get out there and take a vacation. Whether it be a lengthy week long trip to a city or shore far distant, or a day’s drive to a “not so nearby” locale, there’s nothing like the thrill of going somewhere new. For the historically minded, vacations often involve adventures such as visiting a museum, rediscovering a National Park, or just taking a selfie with a historical marker off the highway. No matter what form they may take, vacations allow us to make our own marks and memories in places outside our everyday lives.

I’ve long said that the story of Lincoln’s assassination is told all over this nation. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of nowhere when suddenly I find a reference to the assassination staring me right in the face. The impact of Lincoln’s death and the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth reached around the globe. Over the last week, I have been working diligently to update the Maps section of this website in order to demonstrate how far reaching it truly is. The result has been the creation of five new maps, four which cover the entirety of the United States and a fifth map representing the rest of the world. All of these maps provide the locations, a brief description and the exact GPS coordinates of different sites related in some way to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln Assassination Maps

The maps are still in the beginning stages. The 225 locations currently marked are little more than a drop in the bucket of the potential sites worldwide. Everyday, however, new sites pop into my head and I diligently research to determine their exact GPS coordinates. I’ve analyzed Civil War era maps to determine their modern counterparts, struggled with foreign languages in order to find international sites, and I have even spent hours staring at aerial pictures of cemeteries trying to determine the exact locations of specific graves. It is very slow work, but by pinpointing these sites with GPS coordinates, we can ensure that they will never be lost. The buildings and terrain around them may change but, with GPS, where they once stood can always be found.

With this in mind, I encourage you all to check out the newly updated Maps section of BoothieBarn. See if there’s something “not so nearby” that you might want to drive and see. Better yet, if you are already planning a trip somewhere, take a look and see if you’ll be passing by something assassination related. I mean what kid wouldn’t love to make a detour on their way to Disney World in order to visit a cemetery in Geneva, Florida? “Forget Cinderella’s Castle, Mommy. What I really want to see is the grave of Lewis Powell’s skull!”

So check out the Maps section here on BoothieBarn by clicking the image above. Then get out there and have yourself an assassination vacation!

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Lloyd-ering around Banks O’Dee

In Charles County, Maryland, located on the peninsula that is created by the merging of the Potomac and Wicomoco Rivers is a small rural area called Banks O’Dee:

Banks ODee, Maryland

The name Banks O’Dee or “The Banks of the Dee” was given its name by Welsh and Irish settlers to the region who named the area after the River Dee which forms part of the border between England and Wales. It is now, as it was then, a very small rural community with only a local road bearing the name Banks O’Dee Road to betray its existence. Yet, as we have often seen, even the most isolated and small communities can have connections to Lincoln’s assassination. Banks O’Dee, exemplifies this fact by having not one, but two associations to the great crime of April 14, 1865.

Mistaken Identi’Dee

After Lincoln’s assassination, the government mobilized troops and detectives to scour the entire region around Washington. Many men were sent into Southern Maryland which was a hotbed for Confederate sympathizers. Washington Provost Marshal, James R. O’Beirne, ordered several of his detectives into the region around Banks O’Dee in the search for John Wilkes Booth and David Herold in the hope that they had not yet crossed the Potomac River into Virginia. Three of O’Beirne’s detectives, Henry Bevans, Michael O’Callaghan, and Edward McHenry, were steamed in on April 19th to investigate the locals. Two the the detectives, McHenry and O’Callaghan, impersonated refugees and found themselves dining with a Banks O’Dee farmer by the named of Richard Claggett. During dinner, Claggett’s son revealed that at around 7:00 am on April 16th, he had seen two men in boat crossing over to a place on the Virginia shore called White Point (now Colonial Beach). The detectives passed this information along to O’Beirne and even crossed over the Potomac themselves in search for the two men in a boat, to no avail.

A farm near the water at Banks O'Dee. Thomas Harbin and Joseph Baden crossed the Potomac river near here on April 16, 1865.

A farm near the water at Banks O’Dee. Thomas Harbin and Joseph Baden crossed the Potomac river near here on April 16, 1865.

By April 24th days had gone by with no new credible sightings of Booth and Herold in Southern Maryland. O’Beirne, in the field himself at Port Tobacco, decided to once again bring the report of his detectives in Banks O’Dee to the attention of Lafayette Baker, head of the National Detective Police. Baker decided the report was now worth investigating further and approved the dispatch of men from the 16th New York Calvary to travel into the Northern Necks of Virginia in search of Booth and Herold. Two days later, this gamble paid off as the 16th New York cornered and killed John Wilkes Booth at the Garrett Farm in Caroline County, VA.

However, this report from Banks O’Dee of two men crossing over the Potomac in a boat on April 16th was a case of mistaken identity. From April 16 – 20, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were hiding out in a pine thicket near Samuel Cox’s Rich Hill farm. The two men who did cross from Banks O’Dee on April 16th were actually Joseph Baden and Thomas Harbin. Harbin had been an early recruit into John Wilkes Booth’s abduction plot and, when the assassin did manage to cross the river, Harbin briefly assisted Booth onward to Dr. Stuart’s. Still, had Harbin and Baden not been seen by a farmer in Banks O’Dee who then blabbed the sighting to undercover government detectives, John Wilkes Booth may have been able to escape further south.

Lloyd-ering around Banks O’Dee

Banks O’Dee’s connection to the Lincoln assassination story stretches even further back than 1865.  In 1835, two large properties in the area were purchased by a man named Minchin Lloyd, Jr.  Mr. Lloyd’s father was an Irish immigrant who had set up his residence, and family, in Virginia and then in Port Tobacco, the county seat of Charles County.

Minchin Lloyd, Jr. was an enterprising businessman in Charles County, serving his county as a Deputy Sheriff and Deputy Tax Collector.  The second of six brothers, Minchin, Jr. had been entrusted by his siblings with many things of importance.  When his youngest brother Francis died, the financially successful Minchin inherited his entire estate.  He also inherited a large piece of his brother William’s estate when William died in 1833. William, who had been a businessman in Port Tobacco running a general store, also left two other things to his brother Minchin upon his death.  This two things were his two young sons.  Minchin became the guardian of William’s two children, Charles William and John Minchin Lloyd.

The latter name should sound familiar.  In 1865, John Minchin Lloyd would play a pivotal role in the assassination saga when, while renting Mary Surratt’s country tavern, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold arrived at the tavern, demanded the weapons that had been hidden there previously, and rode off after telling Lloyd they had assassinated President Lincoln.  John M. Lloyd would prove to be one of the government’s key witnesses against Mary Surratt at the trial of the conspirators and his testimony would help seal her fate.

When William died in 1833, John was 8 years old.  He and his younger brother went to live with his Uncle Minchin.  In 1835, Minchin bought a large (500+ acre) property near Banks O’Dee.  Minchin moved his whole family into a beautiful home which stood, “on an eminent hill in the center of the farm”.  The house was called Milton Hill and was constructed around 1792.  As a young boy of 11 years old, John is sure to have spent many days at Milton Hill with his uncle/adopted father.  John M. Lloyd grew up in the Banks O’Dee area and watched as the family acquired more land in the area.  Today a road, creek, and point in the region bear the Lloyd name and there are still descendants of the Lloyd family living in the area.  By about 1850, John M. Lloyd had left Banks O’Dee and had settled in Washington, D.C.  Lloyd became a brick layer, Washington Police Officer, and, later, unlucky tavern keeper.

Amazingly, the house in which a young John M. Lloyd lived still stands today in Banks O’Dee.  Milton Hill, which is private property, dates to about 1792.

Milton Hill, childhood home of John M Lloyd

Milton Hill, childhood home of John M. Lloyd


In addition to visiting Banks O’Dee and locating Milton Hall today, Kate and I tried to determine the final resting place of John M. Lloyd’s father, William.  It seemed that the Lloyds often worshiped at St. Mary’s Church at Newport, the same church where Confederate agent Thomas Jones is buried.  We traveled to St. Mary’s in hopes there might be a few Lloyds there. In the end we found this stone which seems very promising:

The possible gravestone for William Lloyd, father of John M. Lloyd

The possible gravestone for William Lloyd, father of John M. Lloyd in St. Mary’s Church in Newport, MD

If this is the stone for “our” William Lloyd than it seems the phrase “like father, like son” is applicable even in death.  John M. Lloyd also has a small stone with only his name on it that has been knocked flat over the passage of time:

Grave of John M. Lloyd in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Grave of John M. Lloyd in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Assassination Reward Files by William Edwards
The Lloyds of Southern Maryland by Daniel Lloyd

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“President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” at the Newseum

Located on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street in northwest D.C., the Newseum is an impressive institution devoted to the evolution of news reporting and the importance of free press in a society. The seven floor museum contains impressive permanent exhibits relating to some of the most news worthy events in American and world history. There are also many galleries in the museum which house an array of different temporary exhibits. When I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time in 2009, I made sure to tour the Newseum due to the fact that they were displaying a temporary exhibition based around James Swanson’s book, Manhunt. One of my very first posts on this site recounted that wonderful exhibit.

Since that time (and my subsequent move to Maryland), I have made many visits to the Newseum.  Their exhibits are fascinating and it is a wonderful place to bring guests from out of town.  As you might expect, there are several permanent items on display at the Newseum related to Lincoln’s assassination that I see each time I am there.  One permanent, 80 foot long display on the top terrace overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue and recounts the history of Washington’s most famous street.

Newseum Terrace

The display also points out that the site currently occupied by the Newseum was once the home to the National Hotel, the preferred hotel of John Wilkes Booth when he was in Washington.

The Newseum collection also contains different newspapers, both physical and digital, that cover the assassination of Abraham Lincoln:

However for this year, the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Newseum has created a very special exhibition:

New York Herald Exhibit Newseum

President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” is a detailed look at how one of the most widely read newspapers in the country covered the events of April 14, 1865.  Over a period of 18 hours following the shot at Ford’s Theatre, the New York Herald would publish an unprecedented seven special editions, each with new information regarding the President and Secretary of State’s conditions and the subsequent search for their assassins.  The Newseum may very well be the only institution in the world that contains copies of each of the seven editions of the New York Herald from that tumultuous time.

Coverage Chronologically

Seven Issues of New York Herald Newseum

The current exhibit at the Newseum contains an original of each of these editions paired with large wall displays that highlight the differences and additions between them.

2:00 AM edition:

NYH 2 am edition Newseum

3:00 AM edition:

NYH 3 am edition Newseum

8:45 AM edition:

NYH 8 am edition Newseum

10:00 AM edition:

NYH 10 am Uncovering the Plot edition Newseum

10:00 AM “Reward” edition:

NYH 10 am Reward edition Newseum

2:00 PM edition:

NYH 2 pm edition Newseum

3:30 PM edition:

NYH 3 pm edition Newseum

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Floor to Ceiling Coverage

While the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit is only contained in one small room of the Newseum, there is no wasted space.  Even the floor and ceiling contain displays.  On the floor is a map of Civil War Washington with labelled sites relating to the assassination:

Floor map Newseum

Meanwhile the ceiling is festooned with wonderful banners (several of which I wish I could own myself) relating to the assassination:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The Stories Behind the Story

The displays not only provide commentary on the evolving story of how the country came to learn the details of Lincoln’s assassination, but they also introduce us to the people involved in reporting the news.  One of my favorite stories is that of Associated Press reporter, Lawrence Gobright who was responsible for the very first telegraphic dispatch covering Lincoln’s assassination:

First dispatch Newseum

In 1869, Gobright would recollect his actions that night:

“On the night of the 14th of April, I was sitting in my office alone, everything quiet : and having filed, as I thought, my last despatch, I picked up an afternoon paper, to see what especial news it contained. While looking over its columns, a hasty step was heard at the entrance of the door, and a gentleman addressed me, in a hurried and excited manner, informing me that the President had been assassinated, and telling me to come with him! I at first could scarcely believe the intelligence. But I obeyed the summons. He had been to the theatre with a lady, and directly after the tragedy at that place, had brought out the lady, placed her at his side in his carriage, and driven directly to me. I then first went to the telegraph office, sent a short ” special,” and promised soon to give the particulars. Taking a seat in the hack, we drove back to the theatre and alighted; the gentleman giving directions to the driver to convey the lady to her home.

The gentleman and myself procured an entrance to the theatre, where we found everybody in great excitement. The wounded President had been removed to the house of Mr. Peterson [sic], who lived nearly opposite to the theatre. When we reached the box, we saw the chair in which the President sat at the time of the assassination; and, although the gas had for the greater part been turned off, we discovered blood upon it…

Lawrence Gobright

Lawrence Gobright

My friend having been present during the performance, and being a valuable source of news, I held him firmly by the arm, for fear that I might lose him in the crowd. After gathering all the points we could, we came out of the theatre, when we heard that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated. I recollect replying that this rumor probably was an echo from the theatre; but wishing to be satisfied as to its truth or falsity, I called a hack, and my companion and myself drove to the Secretary’s residence. We found a guard at the door, but had little trouble in entering the house. Some of the neighbors were there, but they were so much excited that they could not tell an intelligent story, and the colored boy, by whom Paine was met when he insisted on going up to the Secretary’s room, was scarcely able to talk. We did all we could to get at the truth of the story, and when we left the premises, had confused ideas of the events of the night. Next we went to the President’s house. A military guard was at the door. It was then, for the first time, we learned that the President had not been brought home. Vague rumors were in circulation that attempts had been made on the lives of Vice-President Johnson and others, but they could not be traced to a reliable source. We returned to Mr. Peterson’s house, but were not permitted to make our way through the military guard to inquire into the condition of the President. Nor at that time was it certainly known who was the assassin of President Lincoln. Some few persons said he resembled Booth, while others appeared to be confident as to the identity.

Returning to the office, I commenced writing a full account of that night’s dread occurrences. While thus engaged, several gentlemen who had been at the theatre came in, and, by questioning them, I obtained additional particulars. Among my visitors was Speaker Colfax, and as he was going to see Mr. Lincoln, I asked him to give me a paragraph on that interesting branch of the subject. At a subsequent hour, he did so. Meanwhile I carefully wrote my despatch, though with trembling and nervous fingers, and, under all the exciting circumstances, I was afterward surprised that I had succeeded in approximating so closely to all the facts in those dark transactions…”

In addition to his quick reporting and continual dispatches throughout the night, Gobright also holds a place in history due to his brief custodianship over the derringer that was used to kill Abraham Lincoln.

Edwin Pitts holding the Derringer 1

After shooting Lincoln with the single shot pistol, John Wilkes Booth immediately dropped the gun onto the floor of the theater box. Somehow it went unnoticed during the chaos that ensued in the small box as physicians entered to care for the mortally wounded president. One of the men who had entered the box along with the physicians was a man named William Kent. Kent would later claim it was his penknife that was used to cut the collar from around Lincoln’s neck. After departing the theater that night, Kent discovered he had lost his keys and so returned to the theater and gained entry into the now empty box. He was searching for his keys when his foot struck something. Lawrence Gobright had also just arrived in the box to report on the scene of the crime:

“A man [Kent] standing by picked up Booth’s pistol from the floor, when I exclaimed to the crowd below that the weapon had been found and placed in my possession. An officer of the navy — whose name I do not now remember — demanded that I should give it to him ; but this I refused to do, preferring to make Major Richards, the head of the police, the custodian of the weapon, which I did soon after my announcement.”

As stated, Gobright did turn the derringer over to the Metropolitan Police and William Kent identified it on April 15th:

William Kent statement

Don’t Believe Everything you Read in the Newspapers

The New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also demonstrates how the newspapers covering Lincoln’s assassination made the same mistake as some modern journalists by printing unreliable or unsubstantiated claims in hopes of being the first to provide their audience with an exclusive.

Booth in custody Newseum

Rumors and speculation would fill every mouth, diary, and newspaper for the next twelve days as the entire country searched for John Wilkes Booth.

In addition to misinformation that was printed in a rush, the New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also brings attention to later instances that have caused unintended deception.  The New York Herald’s coverage of Lincoln’s assassination was so wide spread that even many years later, the paper was still very well connected to the event in the minds of the public.  Many advertisers attempted to benefit from this connection by creating their own, custom reprints of editions of the New York Herald.  On the face of it, the reprints appeared genuine though some, like the one below, included engravings that were never in the originals.  No matter how real they looked however, hidden either in the text of the front page or within the interior pages were advertisements for the latest miracle tonic, liniment, or some other product.

Fake NYH Newseum

This type of “historical advertising” was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.  People were more likely to hold on to the advertisement if it had something compelling on it.  Another example of this type of advertising is this reproduction CDV of John Wilkes Booth’s escape on a bag for dysentery syrup:

John Wilkes Booth Dysentery Syrup

While the newspapers were well known to be advertisements in their day, as time has passed reproductions like the one above have fooled many unknowing treasure seekers into thinking they have a genuine (and pricey) piece of American history. Most of the time, however, a careful read through (especially of the interior pages which are usually just full page ads for the product) will reveal it is a reproduction.  You can see a small sampling of some of the many advertising reproductions of the assassination editions of the New York Herald here.

Plan Your Visit

I highly recommend a visit to the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit at the Newseum.  It is located on the 4th floor of the museum which is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Tickets to the Newseum cost $23 for adults and allow you to return the next day for free.  While this price may seem a bit expensive compared to the federally funded museums in D.C. that offer free admission, the Newseum has many wonderful galleries and exhibits that make the price more than worth it.  This special New York Herald exhibit only runs until January 10, 2016 so be sure to visit the Newseum before it is gone.

President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum
Recollection of men and things at Washington during the third of a century by Lawrence Gobright (1869)
National Archives
Library of Congress

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A Military Tribunal Observance

Hello fellow history enthusiasts,

Kate Ramirez here stepping in for Dave to tell you all about some of the events hosted inside the walls of Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D. C.

As you know, commemorations remembering the 150 years since the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the death of John Wilkes Booth have long since passed. However, another milestone passed just a few weeks ago, 150 years since the beginning of the Lincoln Conspiracy Trial. Accordingly, Fort McNair hosted a two day event which I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.

(Side note: I’m trying to get the hashtag #LCT150 to go viral and become the official hashtag for the trial. So if you could use that for your various social media postings I would really appreciate it).

On May 8th, Fort McNair held a VIP event in the Officers’ Club which is only a few yards from Grant Hall, where the trial took place in a room on the third floor. Among the guests were Dave and I, many high profile military officials, Colonel Michael Henderson (Commander of Myer-Henderson Hall) delivered the welcome remarks, published Lincoln assassination historians like Kate Clifford Larson, and descendants of various individuals involved in the assassination, including Dr. Samuel Mudd and Thomas Ewing. After some mingling set to the tunes provided by some amazingly talented military musicians, four acclaimed speakers talked in depth about the military tribunal and its participants.

Fort McNair Event Program 5-8-15

Starting off the program was American Brutus author Michael Kauffman. He provided an overview of events and discussed the differences between military and civil trials.

Mike Kauffman Fort McNair 5-8-15

John Elliott, co-author of Inside the Walls: The Final Days of the Lincoln Conspirators, spoke about how it would have felt to be a spectator during the infamous trial of 1865. For all those who have seen Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, being a spectator was not as cushy as it appeared on film. In the days before fire codes and maximum capacity rules, there was nothing wrong with shoving as many people into a room as possible. Add that to the fact that air conditioning had yet to be invented and it was the middle of summer. You do the math.

John Elliott Fort McNair 5-8-15

Barry Cauchon, the second author of Inside the Walls, who thankfully got his computer connected to the projector in time, gave an AWESOME (yes, that word deserves to be in all caps) presentation about finding the smallest of details in the different execution photos. You can even see the Smithsonian Castle in one of the images. It was like “Where’s Waldo” but more fun.

Barry Cauchon Fort McNair 5-8-15

Betty Ownsbey, author of Alias Paine (a second edition was just released so go buy it), was the final presenter. This was fitting as she talked about the various myths surrounding the original burial of John Wilkes Booth (no, he was not tossed into any rivers in case you were wondering), the final resting places of the four executed conspirators, and the journey taken by the skull of Lewis Powell.

Betty Ownesby Fort McNair 5-8-15

The event then moved outside to the execution site where Barry Cauchon and John Elliott had earlier marked the locations of the gallows, the graves of the conspirators, the first burial place of Booth, the prison door, and various other structures we have all seen in pictures. Usually I do not find it fortunate that a tennis court was built on the hanging ground. However, said court does come fitted with bright lights which made seeing Barry, his informative presentation, and the gallows and shoe factor markers easy despite the sun having all but disappeared behind the horizon.

Barry Cauchon Execution Site 5-8-15

(Barry demonstrating the height of the gallows).

Barry Cauchon Shoe Factory 5-8-15

(Barry discussing how Alexander Gardner set up his cameras in the shoe factory, which was about 100 feet from the execution site).

As for admiring markers which were in darker areas, that gave everyone a valid excuse to return in the morning for the Grant Hall open house (except for Dave who attended the Tudor Hall symposium in Bel Air, MD). However, Dave and I did manage to get a few good pictures before leaving. 

Dave Taylor Execution Site 5-8-15

(Dave standing on the same spot as George Atzerodt when he was executed).

Kate Ramirez Execution Site 5-8-15

(I chose to sit where David Herold was standing when he was executed. I also look a bit like Vampria. I swear I’m not actually this pale in real life).

Kate Ramirez Shoe Factory 5-8-15

(The more natural lighting near the shoe factory marker shows my skin’s normal coloring).

Due to being on a military base, Grant Hall is only open once every quarter. May 9th was all the more special since it was the 150th anniversary of the trial’s beginning (the trial began in secret on May 9, 1865. May 10th was the first day the public was allowed inside) and visitors got to tour the refurbished trial room with John and the courtyard with Barry. I got much better pictures of the different markers in the sunlight. FYI: John needs to get some serious props since he got a facial sunburn while helping Barry put everything together. Dedication, ladies and gentleman. Dedication.

Surratt Grave Marker 5-9-15

Powell Grave Marker Grant Hall 5-9-15

Herold Grave Marker Grant Hall 5-9-15

Atzerodt Grave Marker Grant Hall 5-9-15

(The approximate locations of the executed conspirator’s original graves. Why the government felt they needed to keep dead bodies for four years I will never understand. But that’s just my opinion).

Grant Hall with Grave Markers 5-9-15

(The two red lines represent where the prison wall used to stand. It’s the place where all the soldiers were chilling on execution day in case you don’t know which wall I’m referring to).

Grant Hall Stairs Marker 5-9-15

(This red box marks where the stairs for the gallows were).

Grant Hall Prison Door 5-9-15

(The spot of the now demolished prison door through which the conspirators entered the courtyard on July 7, 1865).

Grant Hall Gallows and Wall Markers 5-9-15

(This is the length from the door to the stairs. The conspirators did not march a long dramatic distance like in the movies).

Grant Hall Gallows and Shoe Factory Markers 5-9-15

(The view from the gallows in the foreground to the shoe factory in the background).

Grant Hall Shoe Factory Marker 2 5-9-15

(And vice versa).

Execution Site from Trial Room 5-9-15

(You can see the entire execution site from the courtroom window on the third floor of Grant Hall).

Grant Hall John Wilkes Booth Burial Place Marker 5-9-15

(X marks the spot of John Wilkes Booth’s original burial place).

The courtroom was nicely decorated with pictures showing who sat where on the prisoner dock and at the commissioner table. This was especially helpful to me since I can usually recall where each conspirator was but often can barely remember the names of the commission members let alone where they chose to sit.




(That’s Samuel Arnold next to the window. The light obscured his picture).


While John gave his lecture on the details of the trial, I got the chance to talk with Michael Kauffman, who returned to speak about how the eight conspirators got involved with John Wilkes Booth and how that influenced their individual fates.


If you ever get a chance to talk with Mr. Kauffman, ask lots of questions because he is an endless storage of facts and tidbits. Did you know that the red color of the Surratt Tavern originally came from turkey blood? Yep, the paint was a mixture of milk and turkey blood. I also managed to get this picture once the chairs were free to sit on again.

Michael Kauffman Kate Ramirez Grant Hall 5-9-15

And this one when the tours were over and the Boothies still hanging around (no pun intended) decided to take advantage of the nice weather and continue chatting outside (and also because we had to vacate the courtroom or else be locked inside).

Kate Ramirez John Elliott Barry Cauchon Michael Kauffman Grant Hall 5-9-15

(Me, John Elliott, Barry Cauchon, and Michael Kauffman indulge in a group selfie).

Though the story surrounding Grant Hall is one of intense darkness in American history, the coordinators at Fort McNair were able to put together a spectacular event that was a remembrance of the past but also an environment for us in the present to interact with friends in a more light-hearted manner.

Fort McNair Event 5-8-15

Times of great horror have the ability to shed light not only on the past but also on the present and future. When we as historians can look objectively at acts of violence without passing too many judgments about the players we realize that we’re not so different from them after all.

Grant Hall Past and Present

(Okay, so it isn’t the clearest image in the world but you get the idea).

(Final image created by John Elliott and Barry Cauchon).

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Calendar: May 2015

I hope you were all able to take part in some of the April events that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the escape, and subsequent death of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Even though most of the big events have passed, there are still some programs and exhibitions going on in the month of May.  May 9th, in particular, has two very exciting events planned. Take a look at the events below and be sure to visit the Calendar section of this site for a full list.

May 1st – 4th:

Lincoln Funeral Train Weekend in Springfield, Illinois

  • Those of you in the central Illinois region will definitely want to make plans to visit the state capital.  Springfield is going all out with events and activities recreating the arrival of Lincoln’s Funeral Train.  For more information and a list of the many events planned, click here.

May 4th:

Brian Unger show

“Lincoln’s Killer on the Run” episode of Time Traveling with Brian Unger debuts on the Travel Channel

  • How the States Got Their Shape host, Brian Unger has a new show taking unsuspecting tourists to lesser visited historic sites.  On May 4th, at 10:00 pm EST, a new episode dealing with John Wilkes Booth is set to air.  Unger will take a group into a Maryland pine thicket (my doesn’t that sound familiar…), row across the Potomac, and visit the site of the conspirator’s execution.  For other dates and times of airings, click here.

May 9th:

2015 Tudor Hall Symposium Graphic

Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland and the Civil War Symposium in Bel Air, Maryland

  • The Junius B. Booth Society (JBBS) and the Historical Society of Harford County (HSHC) are holding a one day, one-of-a kind symposium titled Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland and the Civil War from 8:00 AM to 4:45 PM at the Bel Air Armory in Bel Air, MD. Tudor Hall, the home of the theatrical Booths of Maryland, a short distance away will be open to the attendees following the symposium for tours till 7 PM.  This is a fundraiser and the proceeds will be split between JBBS and HSHC. All proceeds to JBBS will be used for turning Tudor Hall into a museum. For more information and for directions on how to register for the symposium, click here.

150th Anniversary of the Trial of the Conspirators at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

  • Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C. contains Grant Hall, the site of the trial and execution of the Lincoln conspirators.  To mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the trial, Fort McNair will be having a very special event. Historians and authors, including Betty Ownsbey, Barry Cauchon, and John Elliott, will be presenting on the imprisonment, trial, and execution of the Lincoln conspirators.  Since Fort McNair is expecting higher than average visitation on this day, those wishing to participate in the programs need to RSVP for their desired hour of programming.  For more information, including the links of how to register to visit, click here.

May 17th:

Ann Hall's Grave

“The Loyal Servants of the Booths: Joe and Ann Hall” presented by Jim Chrismer at the Booth family home of Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland

  • Harford County Historian Jim Chrismer will present at 2:00 pm about the Booth family servants Joe and Ann Hall.  Ann Hall is buried not far from Tudor Hall. For more information, click here.

May 21st:

“Forensics of the Lincoln Assassination” presented by Douglas H. Boxler at the Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville, Indiana

  • Speaker Douglas Boxler used a Derringer pistol and a “Spatter Head” that simulates the structure of the human cranium to conduct research on his talk about the “Forensics of Lincoln’s Assassination”. Visit the home of Lew Wallace, a member of the military commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators at 7:00pm to watch his speech.  The Wallace Study also does a wonderful job live tweeting their lectures.  For more information, click here.

May 29th:

Silent Witnesses” Ends at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

  • This day marks the end of special exhibit, “Silent Witnesses“, at Ford’s Theatre.  Make sure to visit Ford’s on or before this date to make sure you see these unique treasures before they go back to their home museums:


Alias “Paine”: A Book Lecture by Betty Ownsbey at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York

May 31st:

“The Loyal Servants of the Booths: Joe and Ann Hall” presented by Jim Chrismer at the Booth family home of Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland

  • Deja vu? Jim Chrismer will repeat his May 17th program about the Halls at Tudor Hall. For more information, click here.

Ongoing Events/Exhibits:

Undying Words: Lincoln 1858 – 1865 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
A Fiendish Assassination at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
Remembering Lincoln at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL (ends May 10th)
Now He Belongs to the Ages at the Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, IL
A Nation in Tears: 150 Years after Lincoln’s Death at the University of Illinois’ Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Champaign-Urbana, IL (ends May 4th)
So Costly a Sacrifice: Lincoln and Loss at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, IN
Autopsy for a Nation: The Death of Abraham Lincoln at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY
The Attempted Assassination of William Seward at the Seward House in Auburn, NY (ends June 1st)
Shooting Lincoln at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA
His Wound is Mortal: The Final Hours of President Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland
President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. (ends May 29th)
The Full Story: Maryland, The Surratts, and the Crime of the Century at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD
Remembering Lincoln a digital archives project by Ford’s Theatre
History on Foot: Detective McDevitt is a great walking tour of D.C. put on by Ford’s Theatre of some of the sites associated with Lincoln’s assassination:

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BoothieBarn Live on Fox 5!

This morning at 7:30 am EST, I was interviewed along with Tim Morgan, the Chief of Tourism and Special Events for Charles County, MD, about the escape and death of John Wilkes Booth on Fox 5 in D.C. It was my first time on live television and definitely an exciting experience for me. Here’s a capture of the interview:

UPDATE: Fox 5 has put up a much better version of the interview on their website.  Watch it here: http://www.myfoxdc.com/clip/11429378/talking-john-wilkes-booth39s-escape-with-tim-morgan-and-dave-taylor

Admittedly, I made a couple slip ups during the interview. I caught myself after accidentally saying that Dr. Mudd broke John Wilkes Booth’s leg rather than setting Booth’s broken leg. I also gave the wrong weekend for the upcoming Symposium at Tudor Hall. That symposium is taking place on May 9th and you should all sign up for it today!

Well, I’m off to Port Royal now. At 2:00 pm we are having an unveiling ceremony at the Port Royal Museum of American History. We will be unveiling the new highway marker that has been placed near the site of John Wilkes Booth’s death, 150 years ago today. Keep an eye on my Twitter for details.

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Now He Belongs to the Ages: Commemorating Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre

It has been (and continues to be) a busy time for me recently.  With no time to write any blog posts here, I asked Kate to be a guest author here on BoothieBarn.  I hope you enjoy her write up about our adventures last week at the Lincoln Tribute put on by Ford’s Theatre. ~ Dave

Hello fellow readers, Boothies, and Lincolnites,

Since our favorite blogger extraordinaire is busy being our favorite Twitter extraordinaire, he asked me (Kate Ramirez) to post about our experience at the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln assassination commemoration. For 36 hours the historic Washington, D. C. landmark remembered the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. For those who couldn’t make it or simply want to hear another opinion, I have chronicled our journey below and I hope you enjoy it.

The story is well known. On April 14, 1865, rain fell from the dark evening sky like an endless shadow hovering above the Capitol City. 150 years later, the heavens once more cried for the fallen leader who led our nation through the long blood bath that was the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln.

Petersen House 4-14-15

For a moment it seemed as though the gloom had returned to cloak 10th street in a heavy mourning shroud. But as hundreds of candles broke through the dark, the procession began more and more to resemble the Illuminations that long ago lit the Capitol city.

Vigil outside Fords 4-14-15

Our night began backwards as we walked through Baptist Alley even before seeing what was happening in front of the historic Ford’s Theatre. It may sound cliché but I could swear I heard the pounding of horse hooves through the downpour. A strange and eerie chill settled over the looming brick building and it felt as though hands of time had suddenly ceased to turn.

Baptist Alley 4-14-15

Baptist Alley 2 4-14-15

Lining the barricaded 10th street were dozens of citizens celebrating the war’s end and groups of Union soldiers fortunate enough to have made it home from battle (They were costumed reenactors of course but why ruin the immerse dialogue by mentioning that).

Reenactors 4-14-15

Everyone, Dave and I included, was eager to see “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration.”

Inside Fords 4-14-15

The show was very well done and managed to strike just the right notes of tragic and heartbreaking but also touching and hopeful. Opening with the song “Someday” from the musical “Freedoms Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War” was the perfect choice. Though it features an upbeat tempo, I believe that is what Lincoln himself would have wanted. After all, it was Lincoln, lover of the theatre, who said that “a tragedy is best read at home.” From beginning to end never was there a dull moment. The Federal City Brass Band revived the music of the Civil War and the voice of Kevin McAllister rang out in the rafters as he magnificently performed “Father How Long?” From David Selby stirring the audience to laughter by telling some of Lincoln’s favorite jokes to local actors reminding us that Lincoln was a great leader not because he was perfect but because he was willing to admit when he was wrong, the night was not only a commemoration of life but a celebration of it too.

The clock struck 10:15 PM and the audience again returned outside to honor the memory of the President who never saw the sunrise with a candlelight vigil.

Vigil outside Ford's 2 4-14-15

Those who had been in the audience for “Our American Cousin” wandered the streets, regaling all who passed them with tales of how they saw Lincoln shot, witnessed John Wilkes Booth dramatically leap to the stage shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” and heard Mrs. Lincoln scream for help. Throughout the night, Dr. Charles Leale updated the crowd gathered outside the Peterson Boardinghouse on the condition of the wounded President, the look of his outward appearance, and his pulse and heart rate. Briefly on the steps appeared Florence Trenchard herself, Miss Laura Keene, who, in her theatrically perfected tone, recounted how she brought water to the presidential box and was allowed to hold the head of the dying commander in her lap, his blood staining her cuff.

Laura Keene at Petersen House 4-14-15

Dr Leale at Petersen House 4-14-15

Despite the rain, candles burned through the night as the vigil continued into the small hours of the morning and the news of the first presidential assassination swept through the Washington streets. Those who were so filled with cheer mere hours before, toasting the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, now wandered through a haze of shock and grief. Who would lead the nation now?

James Swanson talked with local reporters while American Brutus author Michael Kauffman spoke with members of the crowd.

James Swanson with Us 4-14-15

Mike Kauffman and Us 4-14-15

It had grown late. The air was colder. Dave seemed oblivious to the chill in his long coat but strong gusts of wind lacerated my bones like knives of ice. The sky was darker and not one star shown in the black abyss. I had lost track of the hour when we finally departed.

We did not return until the next morning. Though the ceaseless night had finally given way to sunrise, candles still burned as over five hundred souls waited to hear the final report of Dr. Charles Leale.

Outside Fords 4-15-15

It was 7:22 AM when his words came down like a guillotine. “The President has breathed his final breath.” In that moment, I’m sure many of us could not help but think of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. “Now he belongs to the ages.”

The President is Dead 4-15-15

The lonely call of taps wafted from the boardinghouse stairs which Lincoln had been carried up just hours earlier. The Federal City Brass Band played solemnly as a National Park Ranger, accompanied by military procession, laid a wreath at the foot of the steps.

Brass Band 4-15-15

Wreath 4-15-15

Though the tolling church bells could only faintly be heard, the bagpipers stationed just outside the theatre filled the air with their haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Ranger Eric Martin raised his hand in salute.

Eric Martin NPS Salute 4-15-15

Around 8 o’clock the vigil began winding down and 10th street reopened to cars. Dave and I had the chance to take a backstage tour of Ford’s Theatre with Brian Anderson, author of Images of America: Ford’s Theatre.

Brian Anderson 4-15-15

Seeing into the Presidential box and viewing the theatre from the Family Circle was an amazing experience. I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone looking to see Ford’s Theatre from a different angle. Plus, you get a free book at the end and if that isn’t motivation than I don’t know what is.

Box from the Dress Circle 4-15-15

The tour marked the end of the commemoration for us and as we walked back to our hotel I mentioned to Dave how sometimes it feels like historic events are so far away but remembering the Lincoln assassination at Ford’s Theatre brought 1865 to life again. And passing the H-Street boardinghouse that once belonged to Mary Surratt made me think how history is all around us, waiting to enthrall us with its stories. All we have to do is listen.

Us on stage at Ford's Theatre 4-15-15

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Make Plans to Visit Ford’s Theatre on April 14th

One week from today will be the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  Appropriately, Ford’s Theatre will be marking the occasion with a Lincoln Tribute.  The Tribute will consist of a 36 hour period of nonstop activities including orators reciting some of Lincoln’s favorite poetry, speakers discussing his legacy, a special performance leading up to the moment of his assassination, reenactors recreating the solemn death watch, and a wreath laying ceremony at 7:22 am on April 15th.  The Lincoln Tribute will, I’m sure, prove to be a particularly fitting vigil for our 16th President.

Perhaps the culminating piece of the Tribute is the special performance planned inside of Ford’s Theatre starting at 9:00 pm EST.  The program is entitled, “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration“.  Ford’s Theatre is describing the commemoration thusly:

Now he belongs to the ages

Ford’s Theatre will present a moving commemorative tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, 150 years to the day since his assassination. This evening event will include readings of Lincoln’s words and stories, Civil War-era music, excerpts from Lincoln’s favorite theatre and operas, and more. The event seeks to remind us that we not only lost a president; we lost a man who treasured his family, his friends and his country with a love so strong it could hold the Union together.

Tickets for the commemoration program sold out within minutes but those who do travel to D.C. can still share in the experience by viewing the commemoration with others at the nearby National Portrait Gallery.

For those who do not live in, or cannot make it to, the Washington, D.C. area, Ford’s Theatre has partnered with UStream to stream the commemoration online for free.

As cozy as it might sound watching the commemoration from the confines of your own home, I want to encourage you all, especially those of you in the D.C. metro area, to come out and be a part of the Lincoln Tribute and Commemoration in person.  I can think of no better way to truly immerse yourself in history.  Ford’s Theatre is providing a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to essentially travel back in time.  Costumed reenactors will allow you to experience first hand what it was like in the hours leading up to and following Lincoln’s death.  As someone who has taken the opportunity to reenact a portion of this story, trust me when I say that immersing yourself in the history is an unparalleled learning experience.  I wouldn’t miss this exclusive chance to “live through” Lincoln’s assassination.

Free Ticket Giveaway!

To further motivate you all to make plans to visit Ford’s Theatre on April 14th and 15th, I have two (2) extra commemoration tickets that I will be giving away that night.  The winner of these tickets will be able to view the 9 pm program, “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” from inside Ford’s Theatre rather than the streaming version at the Portrait Gallery.  Instead of giving them away in a contest ahead of time, I will be bringing the two extra tickets along with me when I attend the Lincoln Tribute on the evening of April 14th.  At a certain point before the show’s debut, I will send out a tweet on my @BoothieBarn Twitter page.  This tweet will contain a clue as to my location on the Ford’s Theatre campus.  The first person to find me and ask me for the tickets after I send out the tweet, will win the tickets.

So please, make plans to attend the Lincoln Tribute at Ford’s Theatre between April 14th and 15th.  It truly is going to be a once in a lifetime event that you won’t want to miss.  And, if you’re lucky and keep an eye on my Twitter page, you could win two free tickets to the “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” going on at 9:00 pm at Ford’s Theatre.

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