Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Rage of John Wilkes Booth.

April 14, 1865, 10:25 PM, five days had passed since General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his troops at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. The long and bloody Civil War was over.

John Wilkes Booth, age 27, was a southern sympathizer and a famous, highly recognizable actor from a celebrated family of actors. He had gone to Ford’s Theatre in the afternoon to check out the building and possibly to make some preparations.

In the evening, he came back to the theatre to fulfill a deadly mission. Booth was the ringleader of a deadly conspiracy against President Abraham Lincoln and the government of the United States.
Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. by Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, 1871.

As Booth neared the Presidential Box, Charles Forbes, a personal assistant to the President, stopped him. Booth calmly showed Forbes something, but what exactly is unknown.

Booth crept up to the presidential box and silently entered. Lincoln was only a few feet away from him, watching the play, Our American Cousin, with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and their guests Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris.

Booth grasped his Philadelphia Derringer pistol and waited. He knew the play well, and he wanted to time his actions. He saw Lincoln was holding his wife’s hand.

“What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?” Mrs. Lincoln whispered to her husband. The president replied, “She won’t think anything about it.”

He had spoken his last words. One of the actors delivered the funny line Booth had been waiting for and Lincoln laughed. The assassin sprang forward and shot the president in the back of the head.

Major Rathbone immediately lunged at Booth and they wrestled for a moment. Booth dropped his pistol, drew a knife from his pocket, and stabbed Rathbone in the left arm. Booth struggled out of the major’s grip and leaped from the box onto the stage. It was a 12-foot drop and Booth landed awkwardly.

Because Booth was a famous actor, many people in the audience recognized him, and most thought his entrance was part of the play. Booth shouted, “Sic Semper Tyrannus!” (Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants").

NOTE: While Booth and Lincoln were not personally acquainted, Lincoln had seen Booth at Ford's Theatre in 1863. After the assassination, actor Frank Mordaunt wrote that Lincoln, who apparently harbored no suspicions about Booth, admired the actor and had repeatedly invited him (without success) to visit the White House.

He had avenged the South. And, he had killed a man he hated. His diary recorded his thoughts about the president: Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.

At least one man recognized that this was not a new scene in an old play. Major Joseph B. Stewart jumped from the auditorium onto the stage and ran after Booth. Screams were emanating from the presidential box and Major Rathbone shouted, “Stop that man!”
President Abraham Lincoln's Box at Ford's Theater, Washington D.C., April 1865.

Booth burst through the side door into the alley, where he had left his horse with a stagehand named Edmund Spangler, mounted and galloped away. His plan was to go south, where he would be protected by Confederate sympathizers.

Lincoln was mortally wounded. He was comatose. The doctors, military personnel, and actors clustering around the president knew he couldn’t possibly survive a trip to the White House. Instead, they carried him across the street to the home of a tailor named William Petersen. They made a hopeless attempt to shield his face from the rain he could no longer feel, and laid the tall president diagonally on Petersen’s bed.

Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15. He was 56 years old. His friend and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was present and watched the president take his last breath. “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen,” he murmured. “Now he belongs to the ages.”

With Lincoln’s death ended any hope of empathy and kindness in Reconstruction. His Vice President, Andrew Johnson, was not well known by the public but no one harbored any hope he would have been as magnanimous as his predecessor.

Across the country and even the world, people heard of Lincoln’s murder with horror and despair. Abraham Lincoln was mourned. Many who had thought he was the worst president in the nation’s history saw him very differently now. There was no question of who had killed him or why. The only question on everyone’s lips was, “Where is John Wilkes Booth?”

John Wilkes Booth knew the shot he fired at Abraham Lincoln was fatal. He had a simple plan for his getaway. He ordered a stagehand to hold his horse at the side door and he fled Washington D.C. as fast as he could go.

Booth, meanwhile, had made good time getting out of town. He crossed the Navy Yard Bridge into Maryland and met one of his co-conspirators, 21-year-old David Herold.

Booth and Herold headed to Surratt Tavern, where they had left supplies to be in readiness. They picked up their things, but by then Booth’s left leg was giving him tremendous pain. He had broken it when he leaped from the balcony onto the stage, and now it forcibly derailed their plans. The two rode to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd.

The doctor set Booth’s leg and gave him a pair of crutches. The fugitives stayed the night at the doctor’s home, but knowing a massive manhunt must be underway, they left in the morning.

The men then traveled to the home of a Confederate sympathizer named Samuel Cox the next day. From April 16–21, Cox helped Herold and Booth hide in the swamp to evade federal authorities.

Booth recorded his actions in his diary, and through his words, you get a sense of his feelings of grandiosity and how he perceived his own actions.
John Wilkes Booth Personal Diary.

The Text of John Wilkes Booth's diary is as follows:
"Until today nothing was ever thought of sacrificing to our country's wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture, but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. But its failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their country with a heart. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I walked with a firm step through a thousand of his friends, was stopped, but pushed on. A colonel was at his side. I shouted Sic semper before I fired. In jumping broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that night with the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment. The country is not what it was. This forced Union is not what I have loved. I care not what becomes of me. I have no desire to outlive my country. The night before the deed I wrote a long article and left it for one of the editors of the National Intelligencer, in which I fully set forth our reasons for our proceedings. He or the gov'r-

After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every man's hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for. What made Tell a hero? And yet I, for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew, am looked upon as a common cutthroat. My action was purer than either of theirs. One hoped to be great himself. The other had not only his country's but his own, wrongs to avenge. I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone. A country that groaned beneath this tyranny, and prayed for this end, and yet now behold the cold hands they extend to me. God cannot pardon me if I have done wrong. Yet I cannot see my wrong, except in serving a degenerate people. The little, the very little, I left behind to clear my name, the Government will not allow to be printed. So ends all. For my country I have given up all that makes life sweet and holy, brought misery upon my family, and am sure there is no pardon in the Heaven for me, since man condemns me so. I have only heard of what has been done (except what I did myself), and it fills me with horror. God, try and forgive me, and bless my mother. Tonight I will once more try the river with the intent to cross. Though I have a greater desire and almost a mind to return to Washington, and in a measure clear my name - which I feel I can do. I do not repent the blow I struck. I may before my God, but not to man. I think I have done well. Though I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me, when, if the world knew my heart, that one blow would have made me great, though I did desire no greatness. Tonight I try to escape these bloodhounds once more. Who, who can read his fate? God's will be done. I have too great a soul to die like a criminal. Oh, may He, may He spare me that, and let me die bravely. I bless the entire world. Have never hated or wronged anyone. This last was not a wrong, unless God deems it so, and it's with Him to damn or bless me. As for this brave boy with me, who often prays (yes, before and since) with a true and sincere heart - was it crime in him? If so, why can he pray the same?

I do not wish to shed a drop of blood, but 'I must fight the course.' Tis all that's left to me."

Word had reached Booth that the country was devastated over Lincoln’s assassination. Booth was in a state of disbelief. He had thought murdering Lincoln would make him a hero to Southerners. Now he was being denounced and life as he had known it—the grand Shakespearian plays, the adulation and fame, and his plans to marry Miss Lucy Hale—were out of reach forever.

The crowning blow was the first and only interview General Robert E. Lee gave after his surrender when he was asked about the assassination. Lee called it “deplorable.” He knew, as Booth did not, how generous Lincoln had been in his terms with the confederacy when Lee surrendered.

That night, Booth wrote in his diary, referencing an earlier failed plot to kidnap Lincoln. For six months we had worked to capture. 

In August of 1864, John Wilkes Booth recruited two longtime friends, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen, to help him kidnap the president. The abduction, he reasoned, would force the Union to free certain Confederate prisoners. Their plan was to attack Lincoln in his box at Ford’s Theatre on January 18, 1895, then tie him up and lower him down from the balcony to make a quick getaway. They didn’t get a chance to test this asinine plan because Lincoln changed his plans at the last minute, opting to stay at home instead of going to the theater on a stormy night.

But our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill.

The two men were able to cross the Potomac River on April 22nd and slept in a cabin on April 23rd. Booth, cold, hungry, and aching, wrote bitterly in his diary once more: With every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for… And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat.

On April 24, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold arrived at the tobacco farm of Richard H. Garrett. They had been on the run for nine days. Booth lied to Garrett, claiming to be a wounded Confederate soldier, and the farmer agreed to let the men stay in his tobacco barn. The men were nervous, knowing the countryside was swarming with people looking for them.

The government was offering a $100,000 reward for the conspirators’ capture, which is the equivalent of $1.6 million in 2021. The biggest price was on Booth’s head, for $50,000.

Explicit warnings on the Wanted posters stated that anyone assisting the fugitives in any way would be treated as accomplices, who would be subject to a trial by a military commission and the death penalty.
The description of JOHN WILKES BOOTH was light on details. “Booth is 5' 7" or 5' 8" in height, slender build, high forehead, black hair, black eyes, and wears a heavy black mustache.”

Herold’s description was more substantial. “DAVID C. HAROLD is 5' 6" tall, hair dark, eyes dark, eyebrows rather heavy, full face, nose short, hand short and fleshy, feet small, instep high, round-bodied, naturally quick and active, slightly closes his eyes when looking at a person.”

In the pre-dawn hours of April 26, soldiers from the 16th New York Cavalry arrived at the Garrett farm and surrounded the tobacco barn. They had tracked Booth and Herold to the area, and they had reliable information John Wilkes Booth was inside the barn. The soldiers were under strict orders to take Booth alive.

When they had surrounded the barn, the soldiers called out, awakening the terrified men. They shouted they would set fire to the barn if they did not surrender. David Herold came out at once and surrendered.

Not Booth. He shouted: “I will not be taken alive!”

The soldiers shrugged and made good on their threat. The barn was set on fire. Booth, armed with a pistol and a rifle, scrambled to escape the inferno.

33-year-old Sergeant Boston Corbett, in defiance of orders, crept up behind the barn and shot Booth in the back of the head, severing his spinal cord and instantly paralyzing him.
Sergeant Boston Corbett, who was credited with killing John Wilkes Booth.

This was followed by slow death. A soldier poured water into Booth’s mouth, but he could not swallow it. He turned his head and spit it out. A little while later, he said, “Tell my mother I died for my country.”

He asked the soldier to lift up his hands where he could see them. The soldier did as he asked and Booth cried, “Useless… useless!” The soldier let his hands drop.

He did not speak again but he lingered for two hours and then word went around the soldiers clustered together that John Wilkes Booth was dead. Just eleven days had passed since Lincoln died ithe 23-year-old army clerk, William T. Clark's rented bedroom in the back of the first floor of the Petersen House, across the street from Ford's Theatre.

The soldiers examined his pockets, which contained a compass, his diary, and photographs of five women, including Booth’s fiancée Lucy Hale.
Booth's lady Friends.

Booth’s body was wrapped in a blanket, tied to the side of a wagon, and brought to the Navy Yard. According to official records, more than ten people who knew John Wilkes Booth identified him as the assassin. He was identified by a tattoo of his initials (JWB) on his left hand and a scar on the back of his neck. Three of his vertebrae were removed to access the bullet that killed him, and these bones can be seen today at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. The body was temporarily buried in a storage room at the Old Penitentiary.

Meanwhile, Booth’s co-conspirators were captured and tried. Four of them—Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt—were hanged
The Execution of Four Lincoln Co-conspirators.

Dr. Mudd, whose crime was setting Booth’s broken leg, received a life sentence. Edmund Spangler, the stagehand, was given 6 years in the federal penitentiary for being an accessory to the crime. In 1869, Mudd and Spangler were pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. Until the day he died in 1875, Spangler always insisted his only connection to the plot was that Booth asked him to hold his horse.

According to the official reports, Booth’s body was moved from the Old Penitentiary to a warehouse. In 1869 it was sent to Baltimore for burial in the family plot. John Wilkes Booth’s grave is unmarked, but visitors often leave pennies on the grave of Booth’s father. Pennies, of course, feature the bust of Abraham Lincoln.

Before the final burial of John Wilkes Booth in the family plot in 1869, his mother, brother, and sister viewed the body. The mayor of Baltimore, William M. Pegram, who had known Booth well, was also present. In 1913, Mayor Pegram signed a sworn statement that the remains he saw in 1869 were those of John Wilkes Booth.

This unusual statement was necessary because an alternative history emerged of what happened at Garrett’s farm in the early morning hours of April 26. According to that story, John Wilkes Booth did not die at the age of 27 on the front porch steps of Garrett’s farmhouse. A 1911 Washington Post article claimed there were more than 50 theories of what had really become of Booth. In the same article, they described a box containing Booth’s body being sent to Baltimore. The box was decayed but the body itself “was in a fair state of preservation”.

Booth was buried 15 minutes after midnight on a cold February night. Only a handful of people were present. The family wanted privacy and they did not want the public to know exactly where John’s body was.

According to the main alternative theory, Booth died in 1903 at age 65 in Enid, Oklahoma, by his own hand, and the government covered up the truth. Could this possibly be true? Apparently, there is some evidence to support this. Two men, Nate Orlowek and Dr. Arthur Chitty have spent many years researching John Wilkes Booth. Much of the theory is bolstered by the evidence they have brought forward.

According to Nate Orlowek, “There is tremendous physical evidence that proved beyond a doubt that John Wilkes Booth was not killed by the Federal Government Officers as they claimed. In fact, he lived until January 13, 1903, when he died in Enid, Oklahoma territory.”

Let’s go back to Garrett’s farm. The conclusions of Nate Orlowek and Dr. Chitty differ from the official version at the point when the federal officers surrounded Garrett’s barn. When Herold ran out of the barn, according to Dr. Chitty’s research, he told the soldiers, “The man in there is not Booth.” 

Dr. John May was summoned to make the identification. May was a Washington DC surgeon who removed a tumor from the back of Booth’s neck a few months earlier. He looked startled when he saw the body. Speaking in a low tone to the presiding officer, he said whoever the victim was, it was not John Wilkes Booth. According to the research of Dr. Chitty, it was made clear to Dr. May that regardless of what he saw, “this better be Booth.”

Perhaps that’s the key to the extraordinary statement Dr. May wrote. Like much of the documentation about the case, it was hidden from the public for 70 years. Today, the statement is housed in the National Archives.

The summation reads: "I’m sure this is Booth. But it doesn’t look like him. But this is certainly John Wilkes Booth." John Frederick May

Supporters of the government’s story cited a 40-page statement David Herold made to investigators 36 hours after his arrest. Herold mentioned Booth by name ten times when he talked about the barn being set on fire. Dr. Chitty claimed Herold was pressured into changing his story. “He was trying to save his neck. When he thought he would survive by changing his story, he changed his story.”

Dr. May was not the only eyewitness to contradict the official version of the story. In 1937, Mrs. Helen Allen, the widow of Lieutenant William C. Allan, said her husband told her the man who was shot and killed at Garrett’s farm had red hair. The government knew it wasn’t Booth but they were determined to pass him off as the assassin.

You can see why the government might be motivated to do this. The Civil War had only ended three weeks ago. The new peace was uneasy and the people, enraged by Lincoln’s murder, demanded vengeance. If the federal authorities could not produce Booth, who knows what would happen? 

Several witnesses corroborated Lieutenant Allan’s statement on the record. They said the redheaded man who was shot and killed on the farm did not look at all like the raven-haired actor. Two of the soldiers, Joseph Zisgen and Wilson Kenzie, knew Booth personally, and they agreed that the redheaded man did not look like Booth. Neither mentioned a broken leg.

The soldiers who got close enough to see Booth were told to keep their mouths shut. The officers in charge warned there would be dire consequences to anyone who spoke up.

But the story refused to be snuffed out. In the early 1900s, John Shumaker, General Counsel to the Department of the Army, wrote:  “The evidence put forth by the government to support the conclusion that the body was that of John Wilkes Booth was so insubstantial that it would not stand up in a court of law.”

In 1922, Wilson Kenzie, then 77 years old, described what happened at the farm in a sworn affidavit: “As I rode up, Joe Zisgen called, ‘Sergeant, this ain’t John Wilkes Booth at all.’  I could see the color of his hair. I knew at once it wasn’t he. His body was exposed and he had no injured leg.”

That brings us to one of the most compelling pieces of evidence that Booth managed to escape. The government was exhaustively documenting everything related to Lincoln’s assassination, but they inexplicably neglected to photograph Booth’s body. The other conspirators were photographed multiple times, including in prison and at their hanging. Why would they fail to take a photograph of the man who had masterminded the plot? They had plenty of time, for the body was taken to Washington Navy Yard, and placed aboard the Montauk, where the autopsy was conducted by three doctors.

But if Booth did not die at the farm, what happened to him?

There was a substantial amount of eyewitness testimony that the man who was killed at Garrett’s farm was not John Wilkes Booth. But if it wasn’t, where was Booth? And who was the man with red hair who was shot and killed?

Fast forward twelve years to 1877. In a little place called Granbury, Texas, a man named John St. Helen lay dying. He summoned Finis Bates, his attorney, and confessed that he was not John St. Helen. “My name is John Wilkes Booth.”

Bates thought his client was delirious until St. Helen began to explain in detail how he had murdered Lincoln and escaped. According to St. Helen, he did not go to Garrett’s farm. Instead, he left Dr. Mudd’s house hidden in the back of a wagon.

When Booth heard Union soldiers were nearby, he hurriedly got out of the wagon to hide in the woods. In the process, his personal papers, compass, and journal were dropped in the road. Booth knew he dropped them but was too frightened to stop and pick them up. That night he sent a messenger, a young man with red hair, back to retrieve the papers. While the messenger was looking for the actor’s possessions, a second messenger hurried to Booth’s side.

The Union soldiers were closing in, the boy said. Booth, terrified, decamped immediately. When the messenger returned, at last, triumphantly carrying Booth’s things, the actor was long gone. Not knowing what to do with Booth’s journal and personal effects, the messenger stuffed them in his pockets. They were still with him when he was killed in Garrett’s barn two days later.

To his great surprise, St. Helen recovered. Making a deathbed confession and then failing to die is bad business, and St. Helen knew it. He left town and was heard from no more.

But in January 1903, St. Helen resurfaced at a boarding house in Enid, Oklahoma. He was now 64 years old and using the name David George.

St.Helen/George had decided to end his mortal miseries. He drank a glass of wine laced with Strychnine. Finis Bates, his attorney from Texas, learned of the suicide and arranged to take custody of the corpse. When he arrived and beheld David George, not only did he recognize his old client, John St. Helen, but he was certain that he was looking at the body of John Wilkes Booth.
David George aka John St Helen aka John Wilkes Booth.

But in January 1903, St. Helen resurfaced at a boarding house in Enid, Oklahoma. He was now 64 years old and using the name David George.

St.Helen/George had decided to end his mortal miseries. He drank a glass of wine laced with Strychnine. Finis Bates, his attorney from Texas, learned of the suicide and arranged to take custody of the corpse. When he arrived and beheld David George, not only did he recognize his old client, John St. Helen, but he was certain that he was looking at the body of John Wilkes Booth.

Bates had a picture made of the body, and then he had it mummified. In 1907, he wrote a book called The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth. By 1913, he had sold more than 70,000 copies.

The attorney then took his show on the road, in a very literal sense, by exhibiting St. Helen’s mummified body in carnival sideshows as the “Man Who Shot Lincoln”.
Cashing in on the Mummy of John Wilkes Booth.

In 1931, six Chicago physicians examined the mummified body of John St. Helen. According to their sworn affidavit, the body had a scarred right eyebrow, a crushed right thumb, and a broken left leg. John Wilkes Booth had a scarred right eyebrow, a crushed right thumb, and a broken left leg.

Chain of Custody for Booth's Diary Evidence
Mystery surrounds this diary. The little book was taken off Booth's body by Colonel Everton Conger. He took it to Washington and gave it to Lafayette C. Baker, chief of the War Department's National Detective Police. Baker in turn gave it to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The book was not produced as evidence in the 1865 Conspiracy Trial. In 1867 the diary was rediscovered in a "forgotten" War Department file with pages missing. Although most sources indicate, 9 seperate sheets—18 pages were missing. Were all those pages missing since 1867?

Over the years there has been endless speculation on those missing pages including rumors that they had surfaced. Nevertheless, they remain officially missing. Two of the pages were torn out by Booth himself and used to write messages to Dr. Richard H. Stuart on April 24, 1865. To speculate on their contents makes for interesting reading, but it's essentially fruitless as no one knows for sure what the rest of the missing pages may or may not have contained.

John Wilkes Booth Missing Diary Pages
Booth's diary was a small book, which was actually an 1864 appointment book kept as a diary, was found on the body of John Wilkes Booth on April 26, 1865. The datebook was printed and sold by James M. Crawford, a St. Louis stationer. The book measured 6 by 3 1/2 inches with pictures of 5 women found in the diary pockets. Booth's entries in the diary were probably written between April 17 and April 22, 1865. 

Mystery surrounds Booth’s diary. The little book was taken off Booth’s body by Colonel Everton Conger. He took it to Washington and gave it to Lafayette C. Baker, chief of the War Department’s National Detective Police. Baker in turn gave it to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Despite its obvious interest to the case, the book was not produced as evidence in the 1865 Conspiracy Trial.

In 1867 the diary was re-discovered in a forgotten War Department file with more than a dozen pages missing. Conspiracy theorists became convinced that the missing pages contained the key to who really was behind Lincoln’s assassination, and several fingers pointed toward Stanton. 
Support for this theory came about in 1975 when Joseph Lynch, a rare books dealer, claimed to have found the missing pages through one of Stanton’s descendants. Despite the apparent authenticity of Lynch’s claim, his story contained a few missing pages of its own. Over the years there has been endless speculation on those missing pages including rumors that they had surfaced. Nevertheless, they remain officially missing.

In 1977, yet another administrator with the National Park Service’s National Capital properties asked the FBI to examine this little book “in order to rest any question about the possibility of invisible writing in the diary.” (The concerns of the Park Service grew from the release that same year of The Lincoln Conspiracy, a film that alleged the secret involvement of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in the president’s death.) In addition, the Park Service hoped that the FBI would authenticate Booth’s handwriting by comparing the handscript in the diary with the handwriting in letters known to have been composed by Booth. The FBI did disclose they felt confident no one had added to or edited the diary entries. They also confirmed nothing was written with invisible ink.

The FBI exposed the historical artifact to a variety of light frequencies, including ultraviolet, fluorescence with ultraviolet excitation, infrared, and x-ray. No hidden notations appeared. The agency judged the handwriting to be Booth’s. FBI's forensic laboratory has examined the diary and stated that 43 separate sheets are missing. This means that 86 pages are missing. 

Was Lincoln’s death part of a larger conspiracy? Did Booth write about working for the Secretary of War? Were the missing pages torn out deliberately by Stanton, or was it someone else who had something to hide? We may never know.

In 1994, a small group of historians from the Smithsonian worked with Booth family descendants to obtain a court order for the exhumation of John Wilkes Booth’s body. They wanted to “prove or disprove longstanding theories on Booth’s escape.”

Their plan was to conduct a photo-superimposition analysis. A Baltimore Circuit Court Judge refused, saying it was a “less-than-convincing” conspiracy theory. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling.
Was St. Helen/George really John Wilkes Booth?
In 2010, the Booth descendants tried again. This time they sought to exhume Edwin’s body to obtain DNA samples to compare with the DNA in the bones of the man shot and killed at Garrett’s farm. The three vertebrae the doctors had removed were at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Three years later, the museum announced, without further comment, that the family’s request to extract DNA from the vertebrae was denied.

The mummy is owned by a private collector. It was last seen in public in the 1970s.

The government stands by its story that John Wilkes Booth was killed by federal troops on April 26, 1865, eleven days after murdering President Lincoln.

But there are voices that continue to ask troublesome questions about Booth’s story. Why doesn’t the government have photos of the body of the man who was killed at Garrett’s farm? Why did eyewitnesses who knew Booth say the dead man was not him, and describe a man with red hair and no leg injury who bore no resemblance to the actor? Why does the government continue to block petitions by the Booth family to exhume John Wilkes Booth or his brother Edwin so the theory that Booth escaped can be proven or disproven, once and for all?

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
Main Contributor; Kimberly Tilley

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