Where John Wilkes Booth Died; The Garrett Farm – Abandoned Country (2022)

John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, would be aghast to see the spot where he met his end. After all, the vainglorious murderer scoffed at what he was told was the $140,000 price on his head. He thought it should be half a million.

The place where Booth died is as unsung as modernity can make it, a forgotten median, sandwiched between the north and southbound lanes of a divided, four-lane highway. Commuters and truckers speed by, wholly unaware that they’ve passed the location where the most famous manhunt in United States history came to a violent end.

Passersby can be excused for missing this landmark, though. All that’s there to tell what happened–and only on one side of the highway, no less–is a state historical marker some distance southwest of the spot. A hundred yards or so up the road there’s a shallow pull-off on the left shoulder. A trail leads into the densely wooded median. Nothing remains from the time of Booth’s death.

As a matter of course, I’m aiming to chronicle with this project abandoned places of historic value where physical traces remain. The site of Booth’s death, however, raises a number of intriguing questions. Should we preserve, thereby honoring to some degree, history’s uglier episodes? What to do with sites that have fallen victim to progress, that are too far gone for any meaningful preservation? Foremost among my concerns: why did this happen to such a noteworthy spot?

(Video) John Wilkes Booth Death Location - Garrett Farm

Booth died on the front porch of Richard Garrett’s house, and the farmstead entered a downward spiral shortly afterward. The Garretts claimed that Booth’s death was foisted on them. They didn’t ask for that notoriety. It was simply a matter of wrong place, wrong time.

Booth, and later his accomplice Davey Herold, called on the Garretts seeking shelter. The Garretts’ farm just happened to be the first on the road between the tiny Virginia hamlets of Port Royal and Bowling Green. Booth had shot Lincoln ten days before. The same night Herold helped in the attempted murder of the Secretary of State. They were on the run. But the pair didn’t let on to that; they told the unsuspecting family they were former Confederate soldiers, cousins named Boyd, and the Garretts took them in.

“It has always been one principle of my religion to entertain strangers, especially any that seemed to be suffering,” Richard Henry Garrett later wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Herald. Garrett was a deeply pious man, 55 when war broke out, too old for service, head of a household that included several children from two marriages and a 500-acre working farm called Locust Hill.

Nevertheless, when Booth sought shelter, the Garretts had a gut feeling that something was amiss, and the second night of Booth’s stay, they made Herold and him sleep in the tobacco barn. That’s where Federal soldiers caught up with the fugitives. Booth refused to give up (although Herold surrendered) so the soldiers lit the barn on fire. Still Booth refused to come out.

Against orders, and peering through the slats of the barn wall, a zealous sergeant named Boston Corbett shot Booth and severed his spine. Union soldiers carried the paralyzed Booth to the porch of the Garrett farmhouse where he expired several hours later.

Booth’s passing was just the beginning of the Garretts’ troubles, even though it may not have seemed like that at first. Garrett’s sister-in-law said the farm enjoyed notoriety for quite some time. “The blood spot where Booth’s head lay on the porch at Mr. Garrett’s has been visited by thousands of curiosity seekers and lovers,” Lucinda Holloway told and interviewer two decades after the capture. Holloway claimed that “a large some of money was offered for the plank where the blood spot was made,” although there’s evidence that Garrett didn’t sell off the wood.

Perhaps liquidating the blood-soaked lumber wouldn’t have done much to relieve the economic troubles imposed on Garrett with the whole affair anyway. Much of his livelihood went up in smoke that night with the tobacco barn. Shortly after the war Garrett petitioned the federal government to reimburse him for what he lost, a well-built barn “framed on heavy cedar posts…furnished with all the fixtures for curing tobacco,” and the long list of farm and personal items inside, which included a wheat-thrashing machine, two stoves and five hundred pounds each of fodder and hay. His total claim was $2,525. To put that in perspective, the pay of a private at the end of the Civil War was $192 a year.

(Video) A Timeline of the Hunt for John Wilkes Booth

Garrett was not a wealthy man. A couple of his neighbors swore under oath that Garrett had “a large and dependent family, and that he is in moderate circumstances.”

Lucinda Holloway claimed that the Booth’s capture “brought pecuniary ruin upon the entire family.”

Garrett pleaded with government officials. “I was opposed to secession and opposed to the war, thinking it unwise,” he said. He claimed to have once “administered to the wants of twelve wounded Federal soldiers, who had been captured and brought to my neighborhood in a suffering state.”

But a congressional committee on war claims had no mercy. A report on Garrett’s case doubted his claim that he didn’t know who Booth was until after the assassin was dead. Garrett “was undoubtedly disloyal,” the report claimed. His was a misfortune of war. He was “not entitled to any compensation.”

That night, something shook Garrett deep inside, too, and there seems to have been some emotional wounds he wasn’t ever able to repair. It might have been that the cavalry that showed up threatened to hang Garrett, whom they dragged out of the house half-naked at one in the morning, if he did not reveal where Booth and Herold were hiding. Garrett stammered incoherently, falsely claiming the men had gone off into the woods.

“From the effects of this exposure and brutal treatment,” recalled his sister-in-law, “Mr. Garrett never recovered, it bringing on disease which led to a premature grave.”

By 1878, Richard Garrett was dead, but a steady decline of his farmstead seems to have already been set in motion. Four years after Garrett’s death, one of his sons (also named Richard Garrett) wrote that a “lonely grave, a desolate and decaying homestead, a scattered family bear mute testimony to the wrong done us, not only by the government, but by our friends.”

(Video) Tour of the Garrett House Site

What Richard Garrett the younger was referring to was that the family, despite that hordes of curiosity seekers descended on the old farm, seems to have been considered a pariah no matter which direction they turned. Northerners thought the Garretts somehow abetted in the death of Lincoln. Southerners, embittered by the loss of the war, perceived that they were Union sympathizers. The family, Richard Garrett’s statement suggests, went their separate ways.

Oddly enough, people still came in droves to stand where Booth died. “The place has been an object of interest every [sic] since the awful tragedy was enacted there,” the Caroline Sentinel reported in 1890. “The blood stains are still on the porch where Booth was laid when mortally wounded.”

Indeed, there was so much macabre fascination with Booth’s bloody demise that “Mr. Evans, representing an English syndicate,” buyer of the property in 1890, according to the Caroline Sentinel, planned to dismantle the house, ship it across the country and put it on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

That ambitious plan fell through for whatever reason, but it suggests (though doesn’t prove) that the house, 25 years after Booth died on the front porch, was no longer inhabited. Sometime around 1900, Alpheus and Fannie Rollins became owners of the former Garrett homestead. The farmhouse was still firmly in place. It’s unclear if anyone lived there after the turn of the 20th century, but scant photographs suggest the structure had been all but left to the elements.

A grainy, undated photograph taken no later than 1924 shows the house in a sad state of disrepair, window panes missing, paint faded and flaked unevenly off the clapboard siding.

A 1937 photograph from the Virginia Works Progress Administration Historical Inventory Project shows the Garrett house far beyond repair, all the windows and doors gone, the structure broken and sagging in the middle as if cleaved by an ax. The accompanying report further illustrates the decay, hastened no doubt by scavengers seeking souvenirs: “All the mantels have been taken away, and some of the doors and windows have been removed.”

In 1940, as the United States inched closer to war, the federal government acquired more than 75,000 acres in Caroline County for live-fire and maneuverability training, and the wasted farmhouse fell on the northeastern rim of the newly-created Fort A.P. Hill.

(Video) An Incredible Story of John Wilkes Booth, David E. George, & John St. Helen

Two topographical maps–one from 1942 and another from 1952 suggest the last days of the Garrett house. A structure on what’s believed to be the site of the Garrett farm is marked on the former. On the latter, there’s no such symbol.

But if being forgotten is an insult to a place of historic significance, being paved over is perhaps one more degree of disrespect. Originally the Garrett house sat a short distance off the road. In the hours before the standoff, Davey Herold and Richard Garrett’s son John stood in the front yard and watched as a company of cavalrymen thundered by on the way to Bowling Green to follow a hot lead on the whereabouts of the assassins (not knowing they had just ridden right past them).

This very same road was eventually paved and became U.S. Route 301. In 1964, what had been the two-lane road became the northbound lanes of 301. Construction workers graded and paved two more southbound lanes parallel to–north of–the existing road. The wide median, a stretch of land on which Richard Garrett’s farmhouse once stood, is now all woods and hemmed in by wide ribbons of asphalt. It’s probable that the site of the tobacco barn, 50 yards or so from the main house, the spot where federal soldiers finally caught up with their quarry, was graded into oblivion for the sake of two more lanes.

Follow the path that ducks inconspicuously into the median and you come to a clearing that seems like it’s visited occasionally. A sign warns of the stiff penalties for carting off relics (though there are none to be found). There’s standard roadside litter about: cracked concrete pipes, old plastic bottles. An iron pipe is driven deep in the ground. It’s somewhat underwhelming, and the sense that this seems just another spot along a busy, unremarkable road recalls John Wilkes Booth’s last words: “Useless, useless.”

FAQs

What did John Wilkes Booth say before death? ›

The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback.

What were Booth's final words? ›

Then, in the last seconds before David Herold left the barn, Booth whispered the last words exchanged between them: “When you go out, don't tell them the arms I have.” With that, Herold passed from fugitive to captive.

Why did Garrett let Booth stay at his house? ›

Booth decided to take refuge here after a number of days of being on the move without rest, made more critical due to his broken leg set by Doctor Samuel Mudd (whose house was not far from D.C.) . Posing as ex-Confederate soldiers, Booth and his friend, Davey Herold, persuaded the Garrett family to let them stay.

How long was Booth out of the tobacco barn? ›

Luther Baker, one of the detectives, told the two fugitives they had five minutes to come out, or the men would set the barn on fire.

What is the phrase Sic Semper Tyrannis mean? ›

Definition of sic semper tyrannis

: thus always to tyrants —motto of Virginia.

What did John Wilkes Booth diary say? ›

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.

How did Booth escape? ›

Booth escaped out the back door of Ford's Theatre. He jumped onto a rented horse he had left there and rode frantically out of Washington.

Who shot Lincoln at Ford Theater? ›

April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m. After John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln, soldiers carried Lincoln from Ford's Theatre and across Tenth Street, so that he could pass his last moments peacefully, surrounded by those who knew him best.

Who set Booth's leg after he escaped? ›

Samuel A. Mudd, who set Booth's broken leg, and his wife. April 21, 1915, The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), Image 5.

What three choices did Booth have once the barn was set on fire? ›

The offer was refused, and the Cavalry set fire to the barn. Booth was left with three choices: commit suicide, fight his way out, or resign himself to die inside the blaze. Booth chose to fight. As he made his way to the door, he placed his carbine upon his hip, as though he were bringing it into a firing position.

Why did Garrett decide to make Booth and Herold stay in the barn after the first night? ›

Why did Garrett decide to make Booth and Herold stay in the barn after the first night? He had seen Union soldiers in town and realized Booth and Herold were Lincoln's killers.

Who owned the Garrett farm? ›

Sometime around 1900, Alpheus and Fannie Rollins became owners of the former Garrett homestead. The farmhouse was still firmly in place. It's unclear if anyone lived there after the turn of the 20th century, but scant photographs suggest the structure had been all but left to the elements.

How much was the reward for the capture of Booth? ›

This printed broadside, issued five days after Lincoln's death, announced a $100,000 reward for the apprehension of John Wilkes Booth and two of his known accomplices, “John H. Surrat” and “David C. Harold,” in connection with the assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865.

How was Booth captured? ›

John Wilkes Booth Captured in Virginia

On April 24, they crossed the Rappahannock River and arrived at Garrett's Farm near Port Royal, Virginia and the next day, the group was captured by soldiers there at the farm and John Wilkes Booth was shot.

How many miles did Booth travel during his attempted escape? ›

Today, much of the countryside on Booth's escape route is unchanged, and several of his more famous stopovers, including the Surratt Tavern and the farm of Dr. Samuel Mudd, are preserved as historic sites and museums. The 90-mile route can be explored in a single day.

Why did John Wilkes Booth yell Sic semper tyrannis? ›

John Wilkes Booth wrote in his diary that he shouted "Sic semper tyrannis" after shooting U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, in part because of the association with the assassination of Caesar.

Who originally said Sic semper tyrannis? ›

Etymology. From the Latin sīc semper tyrannīs (“thus always to tyrants”). While the line is sometimes said to have been uttered by Brutus after he assassinated Julius Caesar, the utterance itself is recorded in no ancient sources and appears to be a modern invention.

How do you pronounce Sic semper tyrannis? ›

How To Say Sic Semper Tyrannis - YouTube

How did people react to Abraham Lincoln's assassination? ›

Many people mourned — some even sought out his bloodied clothing and other relics. But others, in both the North and South, celebrated and reveled in the president's death. And many people simply didn't believe it was real.

What injury has Booth suffered how was it treated? ›

Booth had a broken leg, the fibula. It was treated by making a splint for it. How did the nation officially learn of Lincoln's death?

What conclusion did doctors come to attempting to treat Lincoln's wound? ›

Conclusions: The wound made by John Wilkes Booth's derringer ball in Lincoln's brain was devastating; it was clearly the cause of his death. Good Samaritan surgeon Leale has been falsely accused of contributing to Lincoln's death.

How many times did Booth cross over water? ›

After assassinating President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington, John Wilkes Booth led a wild chase through the lower Potomac countryside, through the Zekiah Swamp and across the river twice before being tracked down in Caroline County, Virginia.

Who was known for the final death of the Civil War? ›

John Jefferson Williams (1843 – May 13, 1865) was a Union soldier and private in Company B the 34th Regiment Indiana Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the last land battle of the American Civil War, and is generally recognized as the last soldier killed in the conflict.

How long was Booth imprisoned? ›

Summary. Having spent three months in jail, framed for the murder of three Black Ops agents posing as FBI agents, Booth realizes that many of the prisoners he is serving time with are those who his investigations placed there.

How many times was Lincoln shot? ›

He shot Lincoln in the back of the head once with a . 44 calibre derringer, slashed Rathbone in the shoulder with a knife, and leapt from the box to the stage below, breaking his left leg in the fall (though some believe that injury did not occur until later).

Can you sit in Lincoln's box at Ford's theater? ›

When patrons tour Ford's Theatre today, they often wonder if they can sit where Lincoln once sat. Today, the Presidential Box is a museum space of its own, and none of the other theatre boxes are used for event seating either.

How old was Abraham Lincoln when he was shot? ›

The first lady lay on a bed in an adjoining room with her eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, at her side, overwhelmed with shock and grief. Finally, Lincoln was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, at the age of 56.

Who was the first woman hung in the United States? ›

Mary Surratt

What does it mean when someone says your name is mud? ›

Definition of someone's name is mud

informal. —used to say that people do not like or trust someone The scandal ruined his reputation and now his name is mud.

Which flag did Booth catch his spur on when he jumped? ›

When John Wilkes Booth leaped from the Ford's Theatre Presidential Box after he shot President Abraham Lincoln, the spur of his boot caught on a U.S. Treasury Guards flag adorning the box.

What happened to John Wilkes Booth at the barn? ›

Booth's companion David Herold surrendered, but Booth maintained a standoff. After the authorities set the barn ablaze, Union soldier Boston Corbett fatally shot him in the neck. Paralyzed, he died a few hours later. Of the eight conspirators later convicted, four were soon hanged.

Why did Garrett secretly lock Booth and Herold in the tobacco barn? ›

Why did Garrett lock Booth and Herold in the tobacco barn? Garrett locked Booth and Herold in the tobacco barn because he thought that they were going to steal his horses during the middle of the night. And during that time, because of the war, horses were very valuable.

Who offered a $100000 reward for the capture of Booth Surratt and Herold? ›

12 1/2" x 23 7/8" $100,000 Reward Broadside issued by the U.S. War Department for the apprehension of John Wilkes Booth, John H. Surratt (misspelled "Surrat"), and David C. Herold (misspelled "Harold"), signed in print by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

What did Booth yell after killing Lincoln? ›

President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback.

Why did Booth and Herold shoot their horses? ›

In the thicket, Thomas Jones told Booth and Herold that it was too dangerous for him to carry horse feed when he came to see them the next day. Herold led the horses to a quicksand pit a mile away, shot them, and watched their bodies get swallowed up.

What were booths last words? ›

Booth later requested to see his hands and spoke what is generally reported to be his last words, “Useless, useless.” However, according to the sworn testimony of a lieutenant colonel and a provost marshal detective, Booth subsequently heard Willie Jett's name mentioned and spotted him standing nearby.

Does the Garrett farm still exist? ›

The Garret Farm, named after Richard Garrett, was the site of the death of John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln's murderer. The farm itself is no more. In its place now is a busy road. All that remains to show that the historical site existed is a sign and a seemingly insignificant median.

Where is Assassin's end? ›

Assassin's End – Port Royal, Virginia - Atlas Obscura.

What is Assassin's end? ›

Assassin's End. . This is the site of Locust Hill, Richard Henry Garrett's farm. Early on the morning of 26 April 1865, a 16th New York Cavalry detachment cornered John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, and his co-conspirator, David E. Herold, as the two men slept in Garrett's tobacco barn.

How was Booth able to escape so easily the night he shot Lincoln? ›

Booth escaped out the back door of Ford's Theatre. He jumped onto a rented horse he had left there and rode frantically out of Washington. Booth made his way into Maryland, where he met up with David Herold.

Who shot Lincoln at Ford Theater? ›

April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m. After John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln, soldiers carried Lincoln from Ford's Theatre and across Tenth Street, so that he could pass his last moments peacefully, surrounded by those who knew him best.

Where was Booth found hiding when he was shot and killed? ›

Abraham Lincoln. During the massive manhunt he was discovered by Federal troops while hiding in the barn of a Virginia farm. After being shot, either by a soldier or by himself, Booth was carried to the farmhouse porch, where he subsequently died, though rumours persisted that the man killed was not Booth.

Who set Booth's leg after he escaped? ›

Samuel A. Mudd, who set Booth's broken leg, and his wife. April 21, 1915, The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), Image 5.

Did Booth saved Lincoln's son? ›

Robert Lincoln rescue

Edwin Booth saved Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert, from serious injury or even death. The incident occurred on a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey. The exact date of the incident is uncertain, but it is believed to have taken place in late 1864 or early 1865.

How was Booth captured? ›

John Wilkes Booth being dragged from the barn on Garrett's farm by Union cavalry sent to capture him after his assassination of President Lincoln.

What did Booth request Jones bring him upon his return Why? ›

What did Booth request Jones to bring him upon his return? Why? Booth requested newspapers either from that day, the 16th, or from the day of Lincoln's assassination. He wanted to read about his own dead in the newspaper.

Why was Lincoln's assassination so important? ›

Lincoln's assassination damaged the north's and south's relationship, increasing the north's hate toward the south. His death gave the Radical Republicans more freedom to punish the south. And it put Andrew Johnson in charge who also wanted to punish the south and had a very bad relationship with the Congressmen.

Who set Booth's leg after he escaped? ›

Samuel A. Mudd, who set Booth's broken leg, and his wife. April 21, 1915, The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), Image 5.

What play was Lincoln watching when he was shot? ›

On the morning of April 14, 1865 (Good Friday), actor John Wilkes Booth learned President Abraham Lincoln would attend a performance of the comedy Our American Cousin that night at Ford's Theatre—a theatre Booth frequently performed at.

Who was with Lincoln when he died? ›

Accompanying him at Ford's Theatre that night were his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, a twenty-eight year-old officer named Major Henry R. Rathbone, and Rathbone's fiancée, Clara Harris.

What were Lincoln's last words on his deathbed? ›

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Some say his last words were, "It doesn't really matter." Lincoln's comment was in reply to his wife's question regarding what another woman, seated next to them at Ford's Theatre, would have thought if she spotted them holding hands. He was shot a short time later.

How did people react to Lincoln's death? ›

As news of the president's death spread, disbelief, sorrow, and even joy crossed the minds of many Americans. Many exclaimed their opinions publicly, while others quietly expressed their grief or exultation in their letters and diaries. The first reaction to Lincoln's death was disbelief.

Who won the Civil War? ›

Fact #8: The North won the Civil War. After four years of conflict, the major Confederate armies surrendered to the United States in April of 1865 at Appomattox Court House and Bennett Place.

Who was the first woman hung in the United States? ›

Mary Surratt

What does it mean when someone says your name is mud? ›

Definition of someone's name is mud

informal. —used to say that people do not like or trust someone The scandal ruined his reputation and now his name is mud.

Which flag did Booth catch his spur on when he jumped? ›

When John Wilkes Booth leaped from the Ford's Theatre Presidential Box after he shot President Abraham Lincoln, the spur of his boot caught on a U.S. Treasury Guards flag adorning the box.

Can you sit in Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater? ›

When patrons tour Ford's Theatre today, they often wonder if they can sit where Lincoln once sat. Today, the Presidential Box is a museum space of its own, and none of the other theatre boxes are used for event seating either.

How old was Abraham Lincoln when he was shot? ›

The first lady lay on a bed in an adjoining room with her eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, at her side, overwhelmed with shock and grief. Finally, Lincoln was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, at the age of 56.

How many times was Lincoln shot? ›

He shot Lincoln in the back of the head once with a . 44 calibre derringer, slashed Rathbone in the shoulder with a knife, and leapt from the box to the stage below, breaking his left leg in the fall (though some believe that injury did not occur until later).

Who shot Lincoln at Ford Theater? ›

April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m. After John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln, soldiers carried Lincoln from Ford's Theatre and across Tenth Street, so that he could pass his last moments peacefully, surrounded by those who knew him best.

When did the civil war start? ›

Videos

1. The Grave of John Wilkes Booth & his Family at Green Mount Cemetery
(Dave Taylor)
2. Did John Wilkes Booth avoid capture and live another 40 years?
(Jimmy's Train Station and Travel Adventures)
3. Can DNA solve the mystery of John Wilkes Booth’s death?
(The Verge)
4. Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack - Season 4, Episode 2 - Full Episode
(Unsolved Mysteries - Full Episodes)
5. Lincoln's Assassin - Retracing John Wilkes Booth's Final Days
(Mobile Instinct)
6. Lincoln Assassination Conspirators and Booth Escape Route Livestream with Robert Kelleman
(Washington, DC History & Culture)

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