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Author Topic: Richard Henry Garrett on the death of Booth  (Read 1103 times)
Steven G. Miller
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« on: June 21, 2012, 01:51:20 AM »

Here's an eyewitness account of Booth's death that I don't believe has been reprinted since it first appeared:

“An Authentic History of the Capture of J. Wilkes Booth, at the ‘Garrett’ Farm, in Caroline County, Va.,” ALEXANDRIA (VA) GAZETTE, April 29, 1868.
We copy from the Fredericksburg Herald the following account written and signed by Mr. Richard H. Garrett, of Caroline:
On or about the 20th day of April, 1865, a report was brought to our neighborhood from Richmond, that President Lincoln had been shot and killed in a theatre in Washington city, by an actor who was supposed to be Booth, but no circumstances attending the murder were stated. On the 23d of April, I heard the report confirmed by a gentleman from our section who had been to Richmond, and he stated that it was reported in Richmond that Mr. Seward and Vice President Johnson had also been killed. On the 24th day or April, about 4 o’clock, p. m., three men rode up to the edge of my yard. I went out to them and they were all strangers to me. The one that was in front introduced himself to me as Captain Jett. He then introduced the two men to me, the one as Lieutenant Ruggles, and the other as his friend Mr. Boyd. He stated that Mr. Boyd was a Confederate soldier, who had belonged to General A. P. Hill’s corps, that he was badly wounded in the leg, below Petersburg, a few days before the surrender of our army, that he and Lieutenant Ruggles were going on a little scout towards Richmond to see how matters were getting on, and that his friend Boyd was suffering so much from his wound, that he could not accompany them on horseback, and that he would thank me to take care of him until Wednesday morning, at which time they would call for him. As it had always been one of the principles of my religion to entertain strangers, especially any in distress, I at once consented and promised I would do the best I could for him. I found when he alighted from the horse he was on crutches, and could not put one of his legs to the ground. He went with me to my house and Jett and Ruggles rode off, leading the horse on which Boyd had ridden when he came. They went towards Bowling Green, and I saw no more of them. Boyd took supper with my family and slept that night in an upper room in which my two sons, John M. and Willie H., and two of my children slept.
My son John M. was in the house, up stairs, when the three men were at my yard; he came to the window and saw them, but was not near enough to hear any of the conversation that transpired between Jett and me, nor did he know either of the men, never having seen them before. Some time after breakfast, on Tuesday, my son John M. rode to a shoe-maker’s, Mr. Acors, about one and a half miles from my house, to get his shoes mended, and remained away about two hours; while there, Mr. E. Gravatt, the owner of the place on which Mr. Acors resided, came in, and he had by some means, obtained a Richmond newspaper, and in this paper it was stated that a reward of $150,000 had been offered for the arrest of the murderer of President Lincoln. At dinner, after his return, he stated that he had seen this paper and the statement about the reward. The man Boyd looked at him, and said he should not have been surprised if a reward of $500,000 had been offered, but that he had heard a day or so before that the murderer had been arrested between Baltimore and Philadelphia. I asked him if he had ever seen Booth, the reported murdered, and if he was an elderly man? He said he had seen him once in Richmond, about the time of the John Brown raid, and that he thought he was rather a young man. I thought at the time the murdered was Mr. Edwin Booth, never having heard of any other Booth, as an actor. I was not much with the man during the day, as I was attending to my laborers; he seemed to be restless, and my family informed me that he spent the great part of the day in reclining on the grass in the front yard. After I got my dinner, I went to where my laborers were at work, and some time after, two men on horseback, with a third man riding behind one of the others, got down and came to the house. The other two rode off towards Port Royal. When this man came to the house, the man that was here introduced this one to my son John M. as his cousin Boyd. The man that came asked my son to let him spend the night. My son told him his father was no at the house, and he was not in the habit of granting permission to persons to remain at night, and rather objected. The man seemed to be anxious to remain, and said he would wait until his father came to the h house. These two men then walked together some 150 yards in front of the house, and seemed to be in earnest conversation for some fifteen minutes, when they returned to the yard. About this time the two men that had ridden to Port Royal came back, riding very fast, and said to the two men that were here, Yankee Calvary (sic) are crossing at Port Royal, and you must take care of yourselves the best way you can; and then rode off again rapidly towards Port Royal. My son recognized one of these men as being one of the men that came to my house the evening before with Boyd.—The men that were here seemed to be very much excited as I was informed by my family, and Boyd demanded of my son John M., to go (sic) the room in which he had slept and bring him his pistols, which he did; the other man had brought with him a carbine. My son said to them, that he thought it very probably that this calvary (sic) were in pursuit of them, and if they had done anything to cause pursuit, they must leave here at once, as they would not only endanger themselves, but us also; they said they had done nothing to cause pursuit, but would leave the yard. About this time, one of my children came to where I was at work and told me that Yankee calvary (sic) were crossing at Port Royal. I immediately started to the house, and getting near to it, I saw two men going from the house towards the woods, the foremost one I recognized s Boyd; he was one hundred yards in advance of the other. Soon after I got to the house, the latter man returned to the yard. I told him I did not wish him to remain there; that he would endanger us as well (sic) himself; the cavalry (sic) were in pursuit of them. He said he had heard that several horses belonging to the Federal soldiers had been stolen the night before at The Trap, a place between this and Bowling Green, and the expected these were cavalry sent from Fredericksburg to endeavor to get the horses and arrest the thieves. He started again towards the woods, but about this time the Cavalry passed my house on the road to Bowling Green, and then this man went to the woods and brought Boyd back to the house. They seemed to be restless and uneasy, and expressed a great desire to get a conveyance to Orange C. H., as they said that they heard there were a good many Marylanders there going to Johnson’s army in the South, and they wished to get with them.—They asked my son if he knew of any conveyance they could get. He told them there was a colored man that lived a short distance frome (sic) thee that had a conveyance he sometimes hired out. They requested him to go and see him, and try to get his to carry them to Guiney’s Depot that night. He went, but the man was not at home. When he returned they said they would like to get horses, and one of them remarked I would like to have the horse I saw you riding this evening. He then told them he reckoned he would have to carry them, but not do it before the morning. They agreed with him to pay him ten dollars to take them to Guiney’s Depot next morning. Then, about 8 o’clock, went with my family to supper, (we supped in an out-house), and after supper I being unwell, went immediately to my bedroom, and they with my sons, took seats on my front porch. After remaining some time, they proposed going to bed. My son John H. objected to their sleeping in my dwelling house; they then said they would sleep under my porch; he told them we had very bad dogs and they would probably attack them during the night; he told them we had a tobacco house that had and fodder in it, they said they would then go and sleep in that. He carried them to it, opened the door and they went in; he then came to the house, but becoming uneasy for fear these men might get up in the night and take our horses and go off, he and his brother concluded that they would take their blankets and go and sleep in a corn house that was between the tobacco house and stable, and guard their horses; but fearing these men might get up and endeavor to get the horses, and as they were heavily armed, they might have some difficulty with them, they concluded they would lock the tobacco house outside and keep them in until the morning. They went into the corn house to sleep.
About 2 o’clock, A. M., I was aroused by my dogs barking very fiercely. I got up, went to my window, and saw that my house was surrounded by cavalry. I immediately drew on my pantaloons, and without putting on the balance of my clothes, I opened my end door to my close porch, and when I did so, three men rushed in, one of whom presented a pistol at my breast and asked me if there were not two men in my house. I told them there were not; he then said unless you tell us the truth, you will be a dead man in a minute. I told them these men were here in the evening bout the time they passed the road, but went to the woods and afterwards came back and got their suppers, but that I did not know then were they were. One of the men called to one that was in the yard, to hand in a rope, that they would hand me, as I was not telling them the truth.
About this time my son John M. came in at the door and said, Pa, these soldiers are in pursuit of the two men that were here; we had better tell them where they are. One of the officers said who are you and where did you come from. He told him that he belonged to the place. The officer ordered him at once to say no more, but go and show them the house in which these men were, upon peril of his life. They then put me under guard at my door and kept me there until after the man Boyd was shot. They surrounded the tobacco house, and the officer in command (Col. Conger) made my son open the door and go in the house and demand the arms of the two men, and their surrender. He told Colonel Conger that he was afraid to go in, but he threatened him unless he did, he would shoot him; he then went in and said, Mr. Boyd there is a force of fifty men around this house who demand your arms and your surrender. He ordered my son away and seemed to be in the act of drawing pistol, and he ran out. One of the officers then demanded their arms and surrender, and said he would give them five minutes to determine, and if they did not do it, the house would be fired. Boyd, alias Booth, then said, captain, give me a chance, withdraw your men fifty yards from the house, and I will come out, but don’t burn the man’s house, he is innocent, he knows not who I am. Col. Conger then ordered my son to pile brush outside of the house for the purpose of firing it, and while doing so, Boyd, alias Booth, came near the place and said, young man you had better not come here again, for you will be in danger. Soon after this the house was fired, and then through one of the spaces between the planks, one of the officers (Sergeant Corbitt {sic}) shot Booth. He was gotten out of the house directly, and brought to my dwelling and laid on a mattress in my front porch, and died about 7 o’clock. His corpse was taken soon after by the Cavalry in a cart and carried to a landing on the Potomac river, and from thence to Washington city. Herold, the other man, surrendered, and was also taken by the soldiers to Washington. After Booth was shot, William Jett, (who the officers had arrested at Bowling Green) was brought to my house, and my son John M. and I both, had conversation with him, and told him that he ought to tell the officers all about his bringing Booth to my house, and of our knowing nothing of who he was. He said he had told them all about it, and that they knew we were innocent as to any knowledge of the identity of the man. This was the first time my son had ever spoken to Jett. Col. Conger said he would either have to take me or my son to Washington, and he supposed I had better go, as the boys could do more labor than I could at home; but upon the representation of my bad health, he concluded to take them. They were carried to Washington and put in prison in close confinement and kept there for two weeks, after which they were taken out of prison, but kept in Washington two weeks longer, before they were allowed to come home.
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Richard Petersen
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2012, 09:20:58 AM »

Thanks for the post; very interesting.
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2012, 09:52:10 AM »

Wow! Where did you find that, Steve?

Best
Rob
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Using the internet since the 1990s to avoid actually getting something accomplished.
Steven G. Miller
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2012, 07:02:51 PM »

Rob, I could tell you, but then I'd havta kill you.
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Randal
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2012, 07:21:59 PM »

Rob,
The clue is the second line! Wink
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Steven G. Miller
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2012, 07:56:58 PM »

Darn it, Randal. You spoil all my fun. I believe I found it through Chronicling America.
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BCorbett1865
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2012, 09:05:38 PM »

Very interesting article. I have always wondered if the Garrett's knew who they were really entertaining at their house those few days in April of 1865.

Craig
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BoothBuff
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« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2012, 09:24:07 AM »

     I've wondered that too, Craig. I suspect old man Garrett knew.
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