Page images
PDF
EPUB

away across Prince George's county.

His wound was now painful, and although he seems to have wished to get the surgical aid of Dr. Stewart, he stopped on Saturday morning, before sunrise, at the house of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, three miles from Bryantown. Mudd was brought to trial with Mrs. Surratt, Harold, Payne, and others, and is shown to have known Booth, and had private business with him a short time before. At all events he now cut off Booth's riding boot and hastily set his leg, extemporizing splints, and ordering a hired man to make him a pair of crutches. Dr. Mudd knew that there was need of haste, and used all expedition. He sheltered them all day, but towards evening they slipped their horses from the stable and rode away in the direction of Allen's Fresh.

Below Bryantown run certain deep and slimy swamps, along the belt of these Booth and Harold picked up a negro named Swan, who volunteered to show them the road for two dollars; they gave him five more to show them the route to Allen's Fresh, but really wished, as their actions intimated, to gain the house of one Sam. Coxe, a notorious rebel, and probably well advised of the plot. They reached the house at midnight. It is a fine dwelling, one of the best in Maryland. And after hallooing for some time, Coxe came down to the door himself. As soon as he opened it and beheld who the strangers were,

he instantly blew out a candle be held in his hand, and without a word pulled them into the house, the negro remaining in the yard. The confederates remained in Coxe's house till 4 A. M., during which time the negro saw them drink and eat heartily; but when they appeared they spoke in a loud tone, so that Swan could hear them, against the hospitality of Coxe. All this was meant to influence the negro; but their motives were as apparent as their words. He conducted them three miles further on, when they told him that now they knew the way, and giving him five dollars more—making iwelve in all—told him to go back.

But when the negro, in the dusk of the morning, looked after them as he receded, he saw that both horses' heads were turned once more toward Coxe's, and it was this man, doubtless, who harbored the fugitives from Sunday to Thursday, aided, possibly, by such neighbors as the Wilsons and Adamses.

At the point where Booth crossed the Potomac the shores are very shallow, and one must wade out some distance to where a boat will float. A white man came up here with a canoe on Friday, and tied it by a stone anchor. Between seven and eight o'clock it disappeared, and in the aftesnoon some men at work on Methxy creek, in Virginia, saw Booth and Harold land, tie the boat's rope to a stone, and fling it ashore, and strike at once across a ploughed field for King George Court House. They thence reached the Rappahannock at Port Conway, and crossing, were aided on their route by a party of rebel cavalrymen on their way to their homes. By their help they reached the house of one Garrett, near Bowling Green, the court-house town of Caroline County, a small scattered place.

Meanwhile the authorities at Washington had been scouring the country in vain, till the regular detectives of Baker's force were set at work. A negro was soon found who declared that he had seen Booth and another man cross the Potomac in a fishing boat. The point of crossing led Colonel Baker to conclude that he would attempt to pass Port Royal as the only feasible point. A party of twenty-five cavalry, under Lieutenant Dougherty, was accordingly despatched, the expedition being under the command of Lieut.-Col. E. J. Conger, of Ohio. At Port Royal they got the first certain traces of the assassins; pushing on they surprised, in bed, at Bowling Green, Jett the rebel captain, on whose horse Booth had ridden. He soon reyealed all he knew. The party then taking him as a guide retraced their steps, and by two o'clock on the morning of the 25th of April they halted at Garrett's gate. Rousing up the proprietor, they demanded where the men were. Garrett at first declared that they had gone, and the women of the family, whose rooms were searched, corroborated this statement. But Garrett's son acknowledged that the fugitives were in the barn. This was at once surrounded; but instead of bursting in at different points, they began to parley.

Lieutenant Baker hailed:

To the persons in this barn. I have a proposal to make; we are about to send into you the son of the man in whose custody you are found. Either surrender to him your arms and then give yourselves up, or we'll set fire to the place. We mean to take you both, or to have a bonfire and a shooting match." No answer came to this of

any

kind. The lad, John M. Garrett, who was in deadly fear, was here pushed through the door by a sudden opening of it, and immediately Lieutenant Baker locked the door on the outside. The boy was heard to state his appeal in an under tone. Booth replied: "Damn you. Get out of here. You have betrayed me," and apparently attempted to kill the lad, who escaped in terror. Baker then said:

“You must surrender inside there. Give up your arms and appear. There is no chance for escape. We give you five minutes to make up your mind.”

“Who are you, and what do you want with us ?”

Baker again urged: “We want you to deliver up your arms and become our prisoners.”

“But who are you ?” hallooed the same voice.

Baker.-" That makes no difference. We know who you are, and we want you. We have here fifty men, armed with carbines and pistols. You cannot escape.

There was a long pause, and then Booth said: “Captain, this is a hard case, I swear. Perhaps I am being taken by my own friends.” No reply by the detective.

Booth.-"Well, give us a little time to consider."
Baker.—“Very well. Take time."

Here ensued a long and eventful pause. What thronging memories it brought to Booth, we can only guess. In this little interval he made the resolve to die. But he was cool and steady to the end. Baker, after a lapse, hailed for the last time.

“Well, we have waited long enough; surrender your arms and come out, or we'll fire the bårn.” Booth answered thus: “I am but a cripple, a one-legged

Withdraw your forces one hundred yards from the door, and I will come. Give me a chance for my life, captain. I will never be taken alive."

Baker.-“ We did not come here to fight, but to capture you.. I say again, appear, or the barn shall be fired.”

Then with a long breath, which could be heard outside, Booth cried in sudden calmness, still invisible, as were to him his enemies :

“Well, then, my brave boys, prepare a stretcher for me." There was a pause repeated, broken by low discussions within.

man.

between Booth and his associate, the former saying, as if in answer to some remonstrance or appeal, “Get away from me. You are a damned coward, and mean to leave me in my distress; but go, go. I don't want you to stay. I won't have you stay." Then he shouted aloud :

"There's a man inside who wants to surrender." Baker.—“Let him come, if he will bring his arms."

Here Harold, rattling at the door, said: "Let me out; open the door ; I want to surrender." Baker. 66 Hand out

your arms,

then.” Harold.—“I have not got any."

Baker.-"You are the man who carried the carbine yesterday; bring it out."

Harold.-"I haven't got any."

This was said in a whining tone. Booth cried aloud at this Desitation : “He hasn't got any arms; they are mine, and I have kept them."

Baker.—“Well, he carried the carbine, and must bring it out."

Booth.—“On the word and honor of a gentleman, he has no arms with him. They are mine, and I have got them."

At this time Harold was quite up to the door, within whispering distance of Baker. The latter told him to put out his hands to be handcuffed, at the same time drawing open the door a little distance. Harold thrust forth his hands, when Baker seizing him jerked him into the night, and straightway delivered him over to a deputation of cavalrymen. The fellow began to talk of his innocence and pleaded so noisily that Conger threatened to gag him unless he ceased. Then Booth made his last appeal in the same clear, unbroken voice:

"Captain, give me a chance. Draw off your men and I will fight them singly. I could have killed you six times to-night, but I believe you to be a brave man, and would not murder you. Give a lame man a show."

Ere he ceased speaking, Colonel Conger slipping around to the rear, drew some loose straws through a crack, and lit a match upon them. They were dry and blazed up in an instant. Booth was now at bay. Unable from the light to detect any one of those outside, he at last, carbine in poise, pushed to the door, evidently resolved to sell his life dearly, but before he reached it, Boston Corbet, a sergeant, eyeing him through a

[ocr errors]

crack, fired. The ball entered Booth's head, and he fell. Conger and two sergeants then entered, and carrying him out of the flames laid him on the grass. He appeared to be insensible, but in a few minutes partially revived, and made efforts to speak. By placing his ear close to Booth's mouth, Colonel Conger heard him say, “Tell my mother I die for my country."

He was then carried to the porch of Garrett's house. Colonel Conger sent to Port Royal for a physician, who, on his arrival, found Booth dying. Before the moment of final dissolution he repeated, “ Tell mother I died for my country. I did what I thought was for the best."

When an effort was made to revive him by bathing his face and hands in cold water, he uttered the words "Useless-useless." He was shot at about fifteen minutes past three A. M., and died a little after seven A. M., on Wednesday.

When it was ascertained that he was dead, the body was placed upon a cart—the only conveyance that could be procured --and brought to Belle Plain, where it was placed upon the steamer, and conveyed to the navy yard at Washington. After it was deposited there it was identified by Dr. May, who had on one occasion cut a tumor from Booth's neck, and recognised the scar thus made. It was also identified by some thirty others, who were familiar with Booth during his lifetime, as well as by his initials on his arm. The body was somewhat bruised on the back and shoulders by the ride in the cart from Garrett's farm to Belle Plain, but the features were intact, and perfectly recognisable.

After the identification, by order of the War Department, the body was privately buried, in the clothing which was upon it at the time Booth was shot.

Thus closed the career of Booth, who is to be regarded either as one of that silly weak-minded class in the Border States, who have outheroded Herod in their attempts to gain the good opinions of the South Carolinians, or perhaps more likely as a mere cut-throat, lured by a bribe to commit treason in its most concentrated shape, the assassination of the head of the government, the base-born son of a mad actor, the fitting tool for the last crime of Slavery.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »