|Could John Wilkes Booth Have Committed
Suicide at Garrett’s Farm?
1. Francis Wilson, John Wilkes Booth: Fact and Fiction of Lincoln’s Assassination (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1929), 180-82; Michael W. Kaufman, American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004), 321-23; Edward Steers, Jr., Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2001), 203; James L. Swanson, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 334-35, 339-40; Bill O’Reilly, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2011), 275-76.
Rob Wick, “Why Did Everton Conger Burn Down Richard Garrett’s Tobacco Barn?” Surratt Courier, 33 (May 2008), 6-7, theorizes that Col. Everton Conger was suffering from old war wounds on the extended ride to find Booth and wanted to get it over with posthaste. While not disagreeing with this analysis, we think that the fear that more Federal forces might arrive soon and dilute the reward money also had great influence in hastening the denouement.
2. On Boston Corbett, see Richard F. Snow, "Boston Corbett," American Heritage, 30 (June-July 1980), 48-49; and Laurie Verge, "The Killer of John Wilkes Booth," in Michael W. Kauffman (ed.), In Pursuit of . . . : Continuing Research in the Field of the Lincoln Assassination (Clinton, Md.: The Surratt Society, 1990), 111-12. Corbett's own intriguing tale is in Steven G. Miller (ed.), "Boston Corbett's Long-Forgotten Story of Wilkes Booth's Death," Surratt Courier, 26 (May 2001), 5-7; ibid., 26 (June 2001), 4-6.
3. U.S., 40th Cong., 1st Sess., 1867, House Reports, No. 7/2, “Impeachment: Testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in the Investigation of the Charges against Andrew Johnson,” 323-33, 479-90. A good summary of the “Impeachment Testimony” as regards the shooting of Booth and the pursuers’ response is William L Reuter, The King Can Do No Wrong (New York: Pageant Press, 1958), 43-51. One of the better accounts, unfortunately unpublished, is Jeanine Clarke Dodels, "The Last Days of John Wilkes Booth," 15-28.
The number of sources commenting on the death of Booth includes but is not limited to Jacob Mogelever, Death to Traitors: The Story of General Lafayette C. Baker, Lincoln's Forgotten Secret Service Chief (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1960), 357-60; Roy Z. Chamlee, Jr., Lincoln's Assassins: A Complete Account of their Capture, Trial, and Punishment (Jefferson N.C.: McFarland & Company Inc., Publishers, 1990), 155-57; Theodore Roscoe, Web of Conspiracy (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1959), 387-98; Osborn H. Oldroyd, Assassination of Abraham Lincoln: Flight, Pursuit, Capture, and Punishment of the Conspirators (Washington: O. H. Oldroyd, 1901), 70-78; Laughlin, Clara E. Death of Lincoln: The Story of Booth's Plot, His Deed and the Penalty (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1909), Death of Lincoln, 147-53; George A. Townsend, Life, Crime, and Death of John Wilkes Booth, 32-39; Michael W. Kauffman, “Booth's Escape Route: Lincoln's Assassin on the Run,” Blue and Gray Magazine, 7 (June 1990)[Special Issue], 49-50; David Rankin Barbee, "Lincoln and Booth" (Unpublished ms. in the David Rankin Barbee papers, Georgetown University), 959-84, passim, DRB papers, GU.
See also, Lt. L. B. Baker's testimony, Trial of John H. Surratt, in the Criminal Court for the District of Columbia (2 vols., Washington: Government Printing Office, 1867), I, 315-23; Lt. E. Doherty's "Official Report on the Capture of John Wilkes Booth," Surratt Courier, 25 (May 2000), 3-7; L. B. Baker, "An Eyewitness Account of the Death and Burial of J. Wilkes Booth," 425-46; Statement of Miss Holloway, in Francis Wilson, John Wilkes Booth: Fact and Fiction of Lincoln's Assassination (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1929), 171-93, 208-22; Otto Eisenschiml, "Death Visits Garrett's Farm," Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1937), 153-61; Steven G. Miller (ed.), "A Trooper's Account of the Death of Booth," Surratt Courier, 20 (May 1995), 5-9; Betsy Fleet (ed.), "A Chapter of Unwritten History: Richard Baynham Garrett's Account," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 71 (October 1963), 388-407, more easily accessed in Richard Baynham Garrett, "End of a Manhunt," American Heritage, 17 (June 1966), 40-43, 105.
4. H. Donald Winkler, Lincoln and Booth: More Light on the Conspiracy (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2003), 189-93.
5. Ingraham, Prentiss (ed.), “Pursuit and Death of John Wilkes Booth,” The Century Magazine, cited in Steven G. Miller, “Death of an Assassin: Homicide, Suicide, or Something Else,” in Lincoln-Assassinztion.com, splash page. The full citation is: The Century Magazine, 39 (No. 3, January 1890), 443-49, with Booth’s desire not to be taken alive and Confederate Lt. M.B. Ruggles’ belief that Booth killed himself rather than be captured on 446.
6. Reuter, The King Can Do No Wrong, 47, 53-55.
7. Quoted in Steven G. Miller, “Death of an Assassin: Homicide, Suicide, or Something Else,” in Lincoln-Assassination.com, splash screen. Miller has looked at approximately 55 accounts of the shooting at Garrett’s farm and finds Parady’s story to be the only independently and marginally reliable (in our estimation, not Miller’s) one beyond Corbett’s own self-serving tale. Miller to Richter, November 26, 2011, e-mail in the author’s file.
8. Reuter, The King Can Do No Wrong, 46-51.
9. Robert A. Fowler, “Album of the Lincoln Murder: Illustrating How It Was Planned, Committed, and Avenged,” Civil War Times Illustrated, 4 (No 4, July 1965), 49.
10. Besides Winkler’s treatment, this is a main thesis of Joseph E. “Rick” Smith and William L. Richter, In the Shadows of the Lincoln Assassination: The Life of Confederate Spy Thomas H. Harbin (Laurel, Md.: Burgundy, 2007), 119-40. See also, Kate H. Mason, “A True Story of the Capture and Death of John Wilkes Booth,” Northern Neck Historical Magazine, 13 (December 1963), 127-39, and J. Sydnor Massey, “Chapter in the Death Chase of John Wilkes Booth,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 12, 1905, reprinted in Lincoln Assassination Discussion, General Category, All Things Lincoln Assassination, Enoch Mason’s Story of the Last Days of Booth” (Lincoln-Assassination.com).
11. Dr. Blaine V. Houmes and Steven G. Miller, “The Death of John Wilkes Booth: Suicide by Cop?” American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 25 (No. 2, 2004), 25-36. See also, Miller’s most recent effort in this matter, “Death of an Assassin: Homicide, Suicide, or Something Else,” in Lincoln-Assassination.com, splash page, and Miller (ed.), a modernization of James O. Hall, “A Case of Mistaken Identity,” in Occasional Papers, 1 (no. 1, November 2011), 35-48.
12. James L. Swanson, Manhunt: The 12-day Hunt for Lincoln’s Killer (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), 330-31. Rollin G. Osterweis, Romanticism and Realism in the Old South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), explains the Southern propensity to romantic callings. For Booth’s tendency in this direction, see his letters to T. William O’Laughen in John Rhodehammel and Louise Taper (eds.), “Right or Wrong, God Judge Me”: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 35-44, especially 37-39.
13. Osterweis, Romanticism and Realism, 3-57. Booth’s challenge to the Federal soldiers is straight out of the Old South and the Code Duello. See, e.g., Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), and Elliott J. Gorn, “Gouge, Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch: The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry,” American Historical Review, 90 (1985), 18-43.
14. Rhodehammel and Taper (eds.), The Writings of John Wilkes Booth, 155.
15. John K. Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of Their Assassinations (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980), 61-84.
16. Ibid., 79.
17. On Booth’s familiarity and skill with revolvers, see testimony of Benjamin Barker, War Department Records, Judge Advocate General, National Archives and Records center as excerpted in David Rankin Barbee papers, folder 216, box 4, Georgetown University.
18. Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln, 78-83.
19. See John F. May, "The Mark of the Scalpel," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 13 (1910), 49-68.
20. David Miller DeWitt, Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Macmillan, 1909), 90.
21. Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln, 75.
22. Ibid., 69-70.
23. See also, the autopsy report of Surgeon General J. K. Barnes, in Laurie Verge (ed.), The Body in the Barn: The Controversy Over the Death of John Wilkes Booth (Clinton, Md.: The Surratt Society, 1993). 67-68.
24. Ingraham, Prentiss (ed.), “Pursuit and Death of John Wilkes Booth [Ruggles’ story],” 446; Larry Starkey, Wilkes Booth Came to Washington (New York: Random House, 1976), 146-49, especially 147.
25. The best narrative of what happened at Garrett’s Farm is Jeannine Clarke Dodels, “The Last days of John Wilkes Booth at the Garrett Farm” (Unpublished and undated paper in the hands of Smith and Richter), who adopts the Corbett story without question. See also, Otto Eisenschiml, "Who Shot Booth?" in O. E.: Historian Without an Armchair (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), 159-66. Eisenschiml’s theory has gone “viral” since its inception; see Fowler, Robert H. "Was Stanton behind Lincoln's Murder?" Civil War Times, 3 (Aug. 1961), 4-13, 16-23; and David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr., The Lincoln Conspiracy (Los Angeles: Schick Sunn Classic Productions, 1977). The Lincoln Conspiracy was also made into a television special and a full-length movie.
26. Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln, 75.