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Author Topic: What Were Really Powell's Last Words?  (Read 771 times)
Barry Cauchon
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« on: June 23, 2011, 01:39:30 PM »

Betty Ownsbey and I were chatting about Lewis Powell and Christian Rath's last exchange of words on the scaffold. Most of us accept the version we know today (give or take a word) which states the following:
"Captain Rath whispered to Powell 'I want you to die quick(ly)', to which Powell uttered his last words 'You know best, Captain. Thank you. Goodbye'.

Can anyone tell me what the earliest source for this quote?

The reason I am asking is because Richard Sloan was able to get me a scan of the Sept 4, 1898 Christian Rath interview with the NY Press. Rath addresses his exchange with Powell in the interview and the wording is not quite what we accept as correct today. It is a little longer and somewhat awkward sounding. If that is the correct quote, then I can see why history rewrote it for better impact. The quote from the NY Press interview states the following by Rath:

"I was obliged to make some slight change of the noose around his neck, and I asked his pardon for so doing. I advised him that it would make his death easier and quicker.

'All right, Captain Rath,' he complacently replied, 'you're the boss and should know better.'

These were the last words he spoke."

Thanks Richard for the original and thank you Betty for chatting about it with me. Thoughts?

Barry
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Randal
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2011, 04:41:39 PM »

I thought he said "anyone gotta light?" Grin
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Barry Cauchon
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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2011, 12:30:18 PM »

He did say that Randal. But that wasn't recorded until his 1912 interview with Tobacco Weekly!
B Wink
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Barry Cauchon
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2011, 12:48:50 PM »

John Elliott tells me that the red Surratt Courier books that there is a transcript from the Feb 1, 1888 Globe Democrat featuring an interview with Rath. Regrettably no mention of Powell's last words are stated there.
Thanks John.
B
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