In those days the blame for the fracture of the nation was laid at the feet of one man.
There were many who.saw him as a tyrant worth the same conviction with which others saw him as a savior.
Some would turn conspiratorial and dark, moving forward, with a sinister plan.
Especially one, burning with passion and to him, divine favor,
(according to his own mind)
Especially after Richmond fell,
his eyes burned with ferocity,
he planned with great precocity,
that great Judas would hang,
the thespian would end his life with a bang.
Booth would be remembered as a scoundrel, a filthy, Hunter animal.
Lincoln would become a martyr, the Great Emancipator.
In the end he was proven human and fallible,
Lincoln would be remembered for saving his nation, through the turbulence, a.steady navigator.
In the end the stage was set,
the day was done,
the South laid the bet,
the Union won.
“Indeed Booth had not only committed murder, he had performed it fully staged, before a packed house. At Ford’s Theatre, Booth broke the fourth wall between artist and audience by creating a new, dark.art – performance assassination.”
(Manhunt – The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, James.Swanson)
II. Sic Semper Tyrannus
On the night of April 14, 1865, Booth gathered his conspirators at the Herndon House just around the corner from the theater.
He had cash, his celebrity and his cause – they were his, loyal to no one but him – no dissent was spoken.
When this night as over, those fragile bonds that held the nation together would be even further broken.
To kill this tyrant would be the greatest act in the world.
Not just Lincoln and Johnson but Seward as well – all tyrants and traitors.
They were not murderers – Booth and his freinds would be remembered for.their cause, as crusaders.
The South would have another chance, the Union would be crippled,
their legacy – all of them would be heroes- their glory tripled.
Lewis Powell was present at the table.
He was given the mission to murder Seward and to be accompanied by Herold.
When this.night was over the act would become a.bloody, slaughtering fable.
Booth, meanwhile, talked and talked ,
Atzerrodt sat stunned – he had consented to kidnapping and ransom – at murder, he balked.
Booth found Atzerodt’s behavior alarming,
he put the entire operation at risk.
If he were to go to the authorities then the targets would be warned and we will go down as losers!
To be remembered as heroes is our reward – if we fail then surely they will kill us all, that decision would be fast and brisk.
“Come with us George – Come with us – go and get your horse….”
II. Corpus Delecti
Legend has it that Booth was waiting and watching in the shadows that night.
Later, Clara Harris, would comment how the thought chilled her to the bone.
There or not, Booth, was firm in his resolve, he was ready for a fight.
Booth knew the play would run like a clock.
He had memorized scenes, knew every line and how the crowd would react.
Every word, he would mentally tick and tock.
He readied his horse with shawl and saddle.
He called a.stage hand, Spangler, to hold the mare, Spangler defered and handed them off to John Peanut.
If either man failed in his task, Booth would be up the creek, without a paddle.
Then Booth went for a drink.
He wanted homestead his nerves and have a minute to think.
When he returned to the lobby he knew this was it – now was the time to act.
He was fully engaged in this murderous pact.
Up the stairs to the President’s box.
No one questioned why he was there – entry would be easy – no bars or locks.
At a precise moment, the peak of the laughter, Booth took his shot.
The President was.struck, his chin fell to his chest, it was done, this criminal plot.
No one moved!
The night, the stage, the President’s box, his companions were still – denial- would what seemed unreal be true – proved?
Major Rathbone would try to stop this feind, take him prisoner.
Booth shouted, raised his knife and slashed him – Rathbone was determined to stop this unwelcomed visitor.
Booth.slashed with an actor’s flourish.
Rathbone, though wounded would not perish.
With no more time to.waste Booth made his escape.
Jumping from box to stage he caught the spur of his blog on the decorative crepe.
From.center stage he would about – “Sic Sepmer Tyrannus” he had done it, this was his magnum opus.
Seward was lying the bed recovering from an accident.
Powell was waiting and ready to follow Booth’s bloody precedent.
He gained entry into Seward’s house by ruse,
once inside he completely blew his fuse.
He slashed at Seward’s throat,
unable to see in the dark he did not always hit his target, still be wounded him badly with a few hits,
He was pleased with his work but did not stick around to.gloat.
Fanny, Seward’s daughter, opened the door to the room and was horrified,
her brother was being beaten by a strong and determined man!
Who could this be and how did he get in? This house is completely fortified.
Powell, his work done, does the house and once outside he looked for Herold.
He was smart enough to know, he had to get away,
his life was now.seriously imperiled.
Johnson slept at Kirkwood House – and Atzerodt was tasked with visiting death to him that night,
after having to much time to.think,
he abandoned the mission out of a sense of fright.
After the chaos Booth left behind him he made his way out of the city.
His escape must be precise and quick, even with his broken leg, if caught, he would find no pity.
He made his way to the Navy Yard Bridge which would lead to Maryland.
That night it was guarded by Sgt. Cobb, the sly thespian would charm Cobb and soon be on his way to promised land.
To Surratsvile and in need of a doctor, now with Herrold, they rode on together.
A drink and a secret shares with the innkeeper they went off again, leg throbbing and tear in flesh and boot leather.
At this point no one in Maryland knew that Lincoln was shot – except for the tavern keeper.
Now there was one final meeting in a chain of events that would forever link Booth and Dr. Samuel Mudd for eternity.
He approached the good doctor’s house in the early morning hours of April 15.
Mudd, no sympathizer to Lincoln or the Union cause,
a Confderate through and through he could be trusted to stay quiet.
He would not turn Booth away into the darkness with his broken leg.
(Powell was wandering the city having been abandoned by Herold, Atzerod was wandering as well having given into his fear.)
Dr. Mudd answered his door, it was pitch bl;ack outside and he was suspicious.
Beign a doctor, it was probably someone in need,
this would be some medicinal business.
The stranger gave him his story and he took the wounded man into his parlor,
sittind on the couch he examined his leg,
the boot was cut, it clung like rock hard armour.
the broken leg was set and splinted,
then the men went to bed,
meanwhile in Washington the grisly news was being printed.
Later Mudd would make them leave in haste,
still he did not betray them, even making Boothe some crutches with boards and paste.
Ever the loyal Confederate, Mudd gave them the names of two loyal operatives.
He told them where to find them – they could be counted on to be cooperative.
Leving Dr. Mudd’s farm Booth and Herold got lost and it was only the help of Oswell Swain that got them on track,
got them to Captain Cox,
Booth had to get on the move, to get out of closing, hunted, dangerous box.
Cox told Booth he was only one person to get them to Virginia, to salvation,
but for now it was too dangerous to stay with him,
he would have to hide them both and wait for the rigth time,
for a time when the shadows grow and they could move without detection,
so he hid them in a pine thicket only known by locals.
Neither man yet knew,
that they were haunted and wanted criminals,
being hunted like animals.
Now, for days they would be forced to live lying on the ground,
dirty and hungry,
a bounty on their heads.
III. Across the River
Word was sent to Thomas A. Jones one of the most loyal Confederate agents.
“We must get them across the river and I will see what I can do.”
With these words, Jones agreed to help the two who were now living like hunted vagrants.
Jones set out to meet the infamous actor,
they were wary of visitors, armed and nervous.
After giving the signal the tension eased, he would be their travel contractor.
Jones spoke, “You two will have to stay put until the moment is right. We will have to move slowly, at night. The cavalry is out for revenge with all its might. This will be done my way or no way. I will know when the time is right.”
Jones promised to visit daily,
no fires, no noise, be quiet and still,
Booth was disapointed but agreed, frailly.
Jones went ot work on surviellance.
Everyday he rode to Allen’s Fresh and sometimes to Port Tobacco, hearing and listening for the right time to go.
He could not risk his honor to faillance.
(to prove his honor he turned down a chance for a reward of 100,000.00)
His listening paid off,
Booth was sighted, in rumour, in the wrong place,
the cavalry was diverted and his chance had arrived.
He raced to the thicket and collected the two men,
they made their way to the river, to his boat, right where he had left it.
After Booth and Herold were in he took a small candle from his pocket, along with a small wooden box, he lit the candle and showed him the way and the path to steer,
“use the candle to illiuminate the compass, keep to this course and you will be brought to Machodoc Creek,
Mrs. Quisenberry lives near the mouth of the creek and she will help you,
Hide the light and avoid being seen,
if the patrols catch you the situation will be bleak.”
Herold prpoelled the boat into the water – every stroke of the oars, closer to the promised land,
it felt good to be on the move again, stagnated and delayed again and again, now moving forward at last.
They moved closer and closer, the compass and its salvation firmly in hand.
Booth watched hte compass closley,
trying in vain to read the needle and the dancing motion it made,
where they heading in the right direction – to both it appeared they progressed much to slowly.
Booth noticed that Herold’s strength was fading, they had to land soon.
Herold was no physical brutebut he knew this parto f Marylamd and knew where to hide,
with relief withion reach their mood began to sing a different tune.
Herrold knew of a farm on the eastern side of Nanjamoy Creek,
at it’s mouth was Indiantown and two men to help, Davis and Hughes.
Though safe for now, having to stop, gave Booth the blues.
Hughes was pleased to see his old friend and without introduction, knew who Booth was.
Only then were they told to leave immediately,
again to the woods, to hide and to live like the hunted animals they were, dirty and unkempt, his appearance once so regal would now drop jaws.
The next night it was once again to the river, a new route to follow.
South of Blossom Point, east around Mathias Point, south again to Machodoc Creek, hopefully to Mrs. Quisenberry and Confederate Symapthy.
Booth, hunted like a dog,
broken leg and far from the hero he sought to be, made ready, his condition and situation a hard pill to swallow.