On This Date In History:
A new conspiracy theory got started when presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth was killed in a barn on this date in 1865. It’s kinda interesting how infamous he is to this day. Americans these days generally are pretty poor when it comes to history yet, this guy is probably one of the better known villains known to just about everyone. Probably not as well known as Colonel Sanders, but still, most people recognize the name John Wilkes Booth. That was true in 1865 as well because he was quite famous as an actor. Today, it would be like a famous, good looking actor like Brad Pitt being an assassin. Or maybe more like Alec Baldwin because Booth’s brothers were also actors and all three followed in the footsteps of their father, Junius. Anyway, after he murdered President Lincoln, Booth escaped Ford’s Theatre by jumping from the presidential box to the stage. His spur caught in a curtain or some bunting and he landed awkwardly such that he broke his leg. The story of Booth’s escape remains so compelling that as recently as 1995, the Washington Post published a story retelling the fugitive’s tale.
No doubt, the broken leg complicated his original plan for elusion. He and co-conspirator David Herold made their way to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd on April 15, 1865. In a statement to authorities, Dr. Mudd recounted that he had met Booth previously at St. Mary Catholic Church in Bryantown, MD, where he was introduced by Mudd’s neighbor, J.C. Thompson, as someone looking to purchase some land. Booth spent the night at the doctor’s home before purchasing a horse from Mudd’s neighbor. Suspicion has held that Booth was really recruiting Mudd as an accomplice but the evidence at the time obviously was not too convincing. Mudd was convicted later for aiding Booth but President Andrew Johnson pardoned Mudd after the doctor served four years in prison. Mudd set Booth’s leg in a make-shift splint and he and Herold left the next day. Eventually, they crossed the Potomac River into Virginia where Booth had hoped to gain sancutary.
They came to the farm of Richard H. Garrett south of Port Royal, Virginia. Garrett’s 11-year-old son grew up to become a Baptist minister and made a little cottage industry of retelling the tale of the final hours of John Wilkes Booth. According to the then young Garrett, Confederate mail had been halted after Lee’s surrender and the family had no idea that the president had been killed. However, it must be noted that many historians have been unable to confirm the story of Booth’s visit with the Garretts except that a detachment of men who were hot on the trail of Booth and Herold caught up with the men and found them hiding in Garrett’s barn on the morning on this date in 1865. Herold surrendered when the order was given for the men to do so, but Booth refused.
Rev. Garrett’s story notwithstanding, the whole Booth episode has been muddled over the years and there are many loose ends, which I suppose is one reason why it remains a relatively popular subject in literary circles. There is a website that claims that the Ghost of John Wilkes Booth appeared in Chicago and said that he really broke his leg falling off his horse. Keep in mind that this site thinks there was a Union General “McClennon” and not the proper McClellan, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in it. A more famous story is that of Finis L. Bates, who wrote in 1907 that Booth really escaped, changed his identity and committed suicide in 1903. In some association with that story, there has been a rumor that Booth lived as John St. Helen in Texas before moving to Enid, Oklahoma as David E. George and then killed himself.
Anyway, the prevailing orders to the pursuers of the assassin were to take Booth alive. With the presumed guilty party trapped in the barn, he had nowhere to run so they could have just waited him out. Instead, the Union soldiers lit the barn on fire to try and smoke him out. But, before he had a chance to come out, Sergeant Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett stuck his musket through a slit in the barn walls and shot him. I think the thought is that the bullet severed Booth’s spine. So, the assassin was killed and whenever an assassin is killed before being brought to trial, conspiracy theories begin. That has certainly been the case with John Wilkes Booth.
Corbett testified that he fired a carbine, yet the autopsy showed Booth was killed with a pistol bullet. When Booth was dragged from the barn, the officer in charge said, “He shot himself.” Then of course came the claims that Booth really wasn’t killed and that it was all made up or the dead guy was a Booth lookalike. There is also the theory that Corbett was part of a cover up and that he killed Booth to make sure that the accused couldn’t talk. That same type of thing came up 100 years later when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald following the assassination of President Kennedy. In the early 20th century, a carnival barker claimed that he had the mummified body of John Wilkes Booth. I’m not sure if anyone has explained how or why the presidential assassin would have been turned into a mummy but I suppose the display was intended as proof that they got their man!
Corbett went on claiming he shot Booth and had a simple explanation as to why he disobyed orders. He blamed God! He said that God told him to do it and that his orders from God were ultimate. He also said that God once told him to avoid sexual temptation. To insure that he would avoid such circumstance, Corbett said that he castrated himself with a pair of scissors in 1858. If nothing else, it shows he was somewhat of a zealot or perhaps it illustrates that he was a nut.
I’m not sure what it took in the 19th century to disqualify one for a job because the man who was not at his post guarding the door the night the president was assassinated kept his job in security. And, in the same way, the self-castrating-order-disobeying Corbett managed to gain employment with the state of Kansas when he was appointed as the doorkeeper of the Kansas legislature. Corbett was dismissed in 1887 after threatening a lawmaker with a gun. He was committed to an insane asylum (imagine that) but escaped and was never heard from again. Now, there is a famous photo of Mary Todd Lincoln from between 1870-76 that supposedly revealed the image of her dead husband standing behind her comforting her. So, perhaps it’s best to be careful. Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett may still be at large and running around out there somewhere. He may even have a pair of scissors in his hand! But, then again, there may be nothing to fear as the real fate of Corbett is that God simply told him to just go away.
Weather Bottom Line: Rain chances hold tough for Tuesday as a shortwave dives down from the northwest through the flow. Probably nothing overly significant but Monday and Tuesday will be relatively cool with a fairly fast and significant warm up for the rest of the week into the weekend. Low 80’s by Friday if not Thursday. Question is the weekend. The GFS is very fast with its evolution of a storm system and its progression across the US. If the GFS as the 12Z Monday run is verfied, then we could see some significant storms this weekend, quite possibly around post time for the Derby. But, the European model has no such thing and keeps the deep trof way out to the west. Tough to say which one wins out. I’m betting on something in between….guess is we get storms but not until Sunday. I say its a guess but maybe its an example of wishcasting.