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possession of him.
Every detail of preparation and execution was thought out. He knew the President was to attend the theatre. As an actor he had been many times upon its stage, and was acquainted with all its passageways. He visited the building, examined the box which would be occupied by the Presidential party, bored a hole in its door through which he might look before entering to fire the fatal shot. His forethought provided a wooden bar to be placed across another door opening to the area behind the box. By this means he could prevent any interference with the execution of his plans. That the world might know his motives and applaud his act, he wrote a carefully prepared statement, which he intrusted to a fellow-actor, Mr. Mathews, to be delivered to the "Nation Intelligencer" for publication.
He hired a fleet horse at a livery-stable, and rode the animal to accustom himself to its gait. His scheme contemplated the assassination of President Lincoln, also Vice-president Johnson and Secretary Seward. The last - named had been thrown from his carriage, and was lying helpless upon his bed with a fractured jaw and arm. Harold was detailed to murder the Vice-president, and Payne the Secretary of State.
The box in which the President and his party were sitting had been decorated with the Stars and Stripes. It was ten o'clock, and the curtain had risen upon the second scene of the last act. At that moment Booth dismounted from his horse in the alley at the rear of the theatre. He gave the reins to a boy, passed into the restaurant, and drank a glass of brandy. He then entered the front of the theatre, and reached the door opening to the area behind the President's box. He was well known to the employés, and was admitted by the attendant. He placed the wooden bar across the door, stepped to the box door, peeped through the hole which he had bored and saw the position of the President, drew his revolver and knife, and softly entered. He held the pistol near the President's head, fired, and leaped forward. Major Rathburn sprang to seize him. Booth struck at his throat with the knife. Rathburn, in parrying the stroke, received a wound in the arm. In leaping upon the stage a spur on one of Booth's feet caught in the folds of the flag he hated, and he fell headlong. A bone of one leg was broken; but he rose, uttered his triumphant shout, ran across the stage, gained the alley, sprang upon his horse, and disappeared.
There is poetic justice in the thought that the flag of the republic should be the means of bringing swift retribution to the murderer and his accomplices. Had it not been for the fracture of one limb, it is
altogether probable that before sunrise he would have been on the Virginia side of the Potomac, and before the week ended so far away that he would have, for a time at least, escaped capture.
A little past ten o'clock a sentinel stationed at the navy-yard bridge crossing the Eastern Branch of the Potomac saw a man on horseback rapidly approaching.
"I live out here in Charles County, and have been waiting for the moon to rise," said the horseman. The sentinel allowed him to pass, and he rode swiftly on.
Another man on horseback came. He also said that he lived in Charles County and was going home, and was permitted to cross.
A third horseman arrived.
"That fellow ahead of me has stolen my horse," he said.
"I can't allow you to pass," the sentinel replied. No explanation or entreaty availed.
The first who had crossed the bridge was Booth, and the second Harold, who was acting as his assistant.
It was midnight, and the moon two hours above the horizon, when Booth and Harold rode up to a tavern owned by Mrs. Surratt, in the village of Surrattsville. The landlord, Mr. Lloyd, knew that some desperate undertaking had been planned. Harold leaped from his horse and entered the tavern. "We have killed the President. Let me have the things," he said. The landlord made no reply, but handed him a bottle of whiskey, a field-glass, and two guns. Booth could not take a gun. He was suffering terrible pain. They rode to the house of Dr. Mudd. Booth was well acquainted with him. Though living in Maryland, Dr. Mudd had ever sympathized with the South. He lifted Booth from his saddle to a bed, and set the fractured limb. Through the following day the murderer and his accomplice rested. When night came they left Surrattsville and rode to Port Tobacco. Thomas Jones sheltered them not in his own house, but in a thicket-giving them food, and waiting for an opportunity to ferry them to the Virginia shore.
Booth had been recognized by a number of persons when he leaped upon the stage of the theatre. The police very soon learned that he had frequented Mrs. Surratt's house. The sentinel at the bridge had a story to tell of two horsemen making their way to Charles County. Detectives were quickly on their track. The assassin Payne, who attempted the life of Secretary Seward, and who had wounded Mr. Frederick Seward and the attendants, had left behind a blood-stained knife, a broken revolver, and his hat. He did not ride to Charles County to join the chief conspirator, but made his way to a piece of woods. If he had matured a plan to escape, it was abandoned. For two days he remained in hiding. He could think of no better course to pursue than to return to the house of Mrs. Surratt, where the conspirators had been at home in maturing their plans. It was nearly midnight when the officers who had taken possession of Mrs. Surratt's house heard a knocking at the door. It was opened by Major Smith, who saw a man wearing a cap made from a portion of his coat-sleeve. He had a pick upon his shoulder.
"Who are you? What do you want?" asked the officer.
"I have come to dig a drain for Mrs. Surratt," said the man.