John Wilkes Booth Death


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 13, 1865

The May 13, 1865 edition of Harper's Weekly featured the new president Andrew Johnson, who took office with the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  We have posted the newspaper below.  Click on the thumbnails to be taken to a complete, readable version of the page.


President Andrew Johnson

President Andrew Johnson

Confederate Amnesty

Confederate Amnesty

Capture of John Wilkes Booth

Capture of John Wilkes Booth

Death of John Wilkes Booth

Death of John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth Death

Abraham Lincoln's New York Funeral

Confederate Ship "Stonewall"

The Confederate Warship "Stonewall"

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Procession

President Abraham Lincoln's New York Funeral Procession








[MAY 13, 1865.

(Continued from Previous Page) are, and we want you. We have here fifty men with carbines and pistols. You can not escape."

After a pause BOOTH said: "Captain, this is a hard case, I swear. Perhaps I am being taken by my own friends." He then asked time to consider, which was granted. After a little interval BAKER threatened to fire the barn if they did not come out. BOOTH replied that he was a cripple and begged a chance for his life, declaring that he would never be taken alive. BAKER replied that he did not come there to fight but to capture him, and again threatened to fire the barn.

" Well, then, my brave boys," said BOOTH, " prepare a stretcher for me."

HAROLD now wanted to surrender, and, in the midst of a shower of imprecations from BOOTH, did so. CONGER then set fire to the barn. It is this instant that our artist has chosen for the graphic illustration on page 293. The World correspondent thus describes the scene:

" The blaze lit up the black recesses of the great barn till every wasp's nest and cobweb in the roof was luminous, flinging streaks of red and violet across the tumbled farm gear in the corner, plows, harrows, hoes, rakes, sugar-mills, and making every separate grain in the high bin adjacent gleam like a mote of precious gold. They tinged the beams, the upright columns, the barricades, where clover and timothy, piled high, held toward the hot incendiary their separate straws for the funeral pile. They bathed the murderer's retreat in a beautiful illumination, and while in bold outline his figure stood revealed, they rose like an impenetrable wall to guard from sight the hated enemy who lit them. Behind the blaze, with his eye to a crack, CONGER saw WILKES BOOTH standing upright upon a crutch. He likens him at this instant to his brother EDWIN, whom he says he so much resembled that he half believed, for the moment, the whole pursuit to have been a mistake. At the gleam of the fire WILKES dropped his crutch and carbine, and on both hands crept up to the spot to espy the incendiary and shoot him dead. His eyes were lustrous like fever, and swelled and rolled in terrible beauty, while his teeth were fixed, and he wore the expression of one in the calmness before frenzy. In vain he peered with vengeance in his look ; the blaze that made him visible concealed his enemy. A second he turned glaring at the fire, as if to leap upon it and extinguish it, but it had made such headway that this was a futile impulse and he dismissed it. As calmly as upon the battle-field a veteran stands amidst the hail of ball and shell and plunging iron, BOOTH turned at a man's stride, and pushed for the door, carbine in poise, and the last resolve of death, which we name despair, set on his high, bloodless forehead."

At this instant Sergeant BOSTON CORBETT fired through a crevice and shot BOOTH in the neck. He was carried out of the barn and laid upon the grass. Some water was brought and the dying man revived. BAKER put his ear close down and heard him say, " Tell mother I die for my country." He was then placed upon the porch before the dwelling. Reviving again he repeated his former words, adding, " I thought I did for the best." Finally the doctor arrived. Just at his coming BOOTH asked to have his hands raised and shown him. When this was done he muttered "Useless, useless." These were his last words. He died about four hours after he was shot.

BOOTH and HAROLD were dressed in rebel gray uniform. HAROLD was otherwise not disguised much. BOOTH'S mustache bad been cut off, apparently with scissors, and his beard allowed to grow, changing his appearance considerably. His hair had been cut somewhat shorter than he usually wore it.

His body and HAROLD were taken to Washington. Two sons of GARRETT were also taken, but the rebel captain had escaped. A post-mortem examination of the remains took place on board the Monitor Montauk, previous to his burial. BOOTH'S body was laid out on a carpenter's bench between the stern and turret, wrapped in a gray blanket, and a guard placed over it. The lips of the corpse were tightly compressed, and the blood had settled in the lower part of the face and neck. Otherwise his face was pale, and wore a wild, haggard look, indicating exposure to the elements and a rough time generally in his skulking flight. His hair was disarranged and dirty, and apparently had not been combed since he took his flight. The head and breast were alone exposed to view, the lower portion of the body, including the hands and feet, being covered with a tarpaulin. The shot which terminated his life entered on the left side, at the back of the neck, a point not far distant from that in which his victim, our lamented President, was shot.

On the night of the 27th of April a small row-boat received the remains of the murderer, and no one save two men, it is said, know the place or manner of his sepulture.

Sergeant CORBETT, the soldier who shot BOOTH, belongs to Company L, Sixteenth New York Cavalry. He was born in London, England, in 1832, and came to this country when seven years of age. He has lived in Troy, New York, where he learned his trade as hat-finisher, and subsequently worked in Albany, Boston, Richmond, and New York. He enlisted in the latter city in the Twelfth New York State Militia. While residing in Boston he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. Never having been baptized, he was at a loss what name to adopt, but after making it a subject of prayer he believed himself instructed to take the name of Boston, his place of conversion. Last June a detachment of the Sixteenth was sent to the vicinity of Culpepper, where they were hemmed in by MOSBY, and nearly all compelled to surrender except CORBETT, who stood out manfully, and fired his revolver and twelve shots from his breech-loading rifle at his assailants before surrendering, which he did after firing his last round of ammunition. MOSBY, in admiration of the bravery displayed by CORBETT, ordered his men not to shoot him, and received his surrender with other expressions of admiration. He was taken to Lynchburg and thence to Andersonville, where he experienced, during five months of imprisonment,

the same treatment as others have so numerously testified to. Out of fourteen members of his company, fellow-captives, but one besides himself returned. Upon one occasion he made his escape, but was tracked by blood-hounds and returned to captivity. When exchanged he was but a skeleton, and has not yet fully regained his health.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of CORBETT is his fervent religious enthusiasm. In a letter to his pastor last February he wrote :

"Do try and lead him" [speaking of an acquaintance] " to Jesus. Brother IRVINE is here with me, and we often kneel together and besiege the throne of grace, and bless God He makes us happy in His love. We do not forget our pastors and churches and brethren ; and we feel that we are not forgotten by those whom we have left for a while. Last night another brother who belongs to our regiment had a season of prayer with us, after reading the Word; and we three were just as happy as in a Big Meeting. Brother CORBETT shouted, and nobody was hurt by it. Glory to God!"

Further on he says : Give those dear little ones a kiss for me. God bless them ! I wish to be remembered with the kindest Christian love," etc.

Sergeant CORBETT is well known in this city. He was a constant attendant of the Fulton Street Meeting, and greatly annoyed it by what was considered his fanaticism. He took part frequently, and in his prayers was in the habit of adding "er" to all his words, as O Lord-er, hear-er our prayerer." When any thing pleased him he would shout, "Amen," " Glory to God," in a sharp, shrill voice, to the great horror of the official who controls the meeting. All remonstrance was in vain, and he shouted to the very last. He enlisted in the Twelfth Regiment, and made conscience his guide there. He was perpetually in hot water because he would follow the order of his conscience rather than the military order. He prayed in the corner of his tent regularly night and morning, nor could the taunts or jeers of his associates turn him aside. He was often seen in the guard-house, with his knapsack full of bricks as a punishment, with his Testament in his hand, lifting up his voice against swearing, preaching temperance, and calling upon his wild companions to " seek the Lord."

One day, at a dress parade in Franklin Square, opposite our office, BUTTERFIELD cursed and damned the regiment for something he did not like. CORBETT stepped out of the ranks and reproved the Colonel for breaking God's law. He was, of course, put under arrest. He made up his mind that the time for which he enlisted expired at twelve o'clock at night on a certain day. He gave notice that he should go home when his time was out. He was put on picket duty, and as the hour of midnight was sounded he laid his gun down on the line and marched off. He was tried by a court-martial and sentenced to be shot. The order was not executed, but he was drummed out of the regiment.

The illustration which we give on page 292 represents Colonel BAKER giving orders to Colonel CONGER and Lieutenant BAKER in relation to the pursuit of BOOTH. He has the map of Eastern Virginia before him, and is pointing out the probable route taken by the assassins. Pointing with a pencil to Port Royal he said : " You will find BOOTH within five miles of this place. I will give you twenty-five cavalry and a boat to land you at or near Belle Plain. If you find no wharf, throw your horses overboard and swim them ashore. You must not lose a moment. The cavalry will be under yours and Lieutenant BAKER'S entire control and dictation. Don't shoot BOOTH, but take him, alive." Thus the shooting of BOOTH by Sergeant CORBETT appears to have been in disobedience to orders.


Author of "BARBARA'S HISTORY," &C.



Two persons sat together in a first-floor room overlooking Chancery Lane. The afternoon sky was gray, and cold, and dull ; and the room was grayer, colder, duller than the sky. Every thing about the place looked sordid and neglected. The rain-channeled smoke of years had crusted on the windows. The deed-boxes on the shelves behind the door, the shabby books in the book-case opposite the fire-place, the yellow map that hung over the mantle-piece, the tape-tied papers on the table, were all thickly coated with white dust. There was nothing fresh or bright within those four walls, except a huge green safe with paneled iron doors and glittering scutcheons, fixed into a recess beside the fire-place. There were only two old - fashioned, horse-hair covered chairs in the room. There was not even a carpet on the floor. A more comfortless place could scarcely be conceived beyond the walls of a prison ; and yet, perhaps, it was not more comfortless than such places generally are.

It was the private room of William Trefalden, Esquire, attorney at law, and it opened out from the still drearier office in which his clerks were at work. There was a clock in each room, and an almanac on each mantle-shelf. The hands of both clocks pointed to half past four, and the almanacs both proclaimed that it was the second day of March, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty.

The two persons sitting together in the inner chamber were the lawyer and one of his clients. Placed as he was with his back to the window and his face partly shaded by his hand, Mr. Trefalden's features were scarcely distinguishable in the gathering gloom of tire afternoon. His client—a stout, pale man, with a finest of iron-gray hair about his massive temples—sat opposite, with the light fell upon his face. end his hands crossed on the knob of his umbrella.

   " I have come to talk to you, Mr. Trefalden,"
said he, " about that Custletoweres mortgage."

" The Castletowers mortgage?" repeated Mr. Trefalden.

" Yes—I think I could do better with my money. In short, I wish to foreclose."

The lawyer shifted round a little farther from the light, and drew his hand a little lower over his eyes.

" What better do you think you could do with your money, Mr. Behrens ?" he said, after a moment's pause. "It is an excellent investment. The Castletowers estate is burdened with no other incumbrance ; and what can you desire better than five per cent. secured on landed property ?"

"I have nothing to say against it, as an in-vestment," replied the client ; " but—I prefer something else."

Mr. Trefalden looked up with a keen, inquiring glance.

" You are too wise a man, I am sure, Mr. Behrens," said he, "to let yourself be tempted by any unsafe rate of interest."

The client smiled grimly.

You are too wise a man, I should hope, Mr. Trefalden," rejoined he, " to suspect Oliver Behrens of any such folly ? No, the fact is that five per cent. is no longer of such importance to the as it was seven years ago, and I have a mind to lay out that twenty-five thousand upon land."

" Upon land ?" echoed the lawyer. " My dear Sir, it would scarcely bring you three and a half per cent."

"I know that," replied the client. "I can afford it."

There was another brief silence.

" You will not give notice, I suppose," said Mr. Trefalden, quietly, "till you have seen some-thing which you think likely to suit you."

"I have seen something already," replied Mr. Behrens.


"Yes; in Worcestershire—one hundred and thirty miles from London."

" Is that not somewhat far for a man of business, Mr. Behrens?"

"No, I have my box in Surrey, you know, adjoining the Castletowers grounds."

"True. Have you taken any steps toward this purchase?"

"I have given your address to the lawyers in whose care the papers are left, and have desired them to communicate with you upon the subject. I trust to you to see that the title is all as it should be."

Mr. Trefalden slightly bent his head.

"I will give you my best advice upon it," he replied. "In the mean time, I presume, you would wish to give notice of your desire to fore-close the mortgage."

"Precisely what I came here to do."

Mr. Trefalden took up a pen and an oblong slip of paper.

" You will allow twelve months, of course ?" said he, interrogatively.

"Certainly not. Why should I? Only six are stipulated for in the deed."

"True; but courtesy—"

"'Tush ! this is a matter of law, not courtesy," interrupted the client.

" Still, I fear it would prove a serious inconvenience to Lord Castletowers," remonstrated the lawyer. "Twenty-five thousand pounds is a large sum."

"Lord Castletowers's convenience is nothing to me," replied the other, abruptly. " I'm a man of the people, Mr. Trefalden. I have no respect for coronets."

Very possible, Mr. Behrens," said Trefalden, in the same subdued tone; "but you may re-member that your interest has been paid with 1 scrupulous regularity, and that it is a very hard matter for a poor nobleman—Lord Castletowers is poor—to find so heavy a sum as twenty-five thousand pounds at only six months' notice."

" He did not think it too short when he gave me the bond," said Mr. Behrens.

"He wanted money," replied Mr. Trefalden, with a scarcely perceptible shrug of the shoulders.

" Well, and now I want it. Come, come, Mr. Trefalden, Lord Castletowers is your client, and, no doubt, you would like to oblige him ; but I am your client too—and a better one than he is, I'll be bound

"I trust, Mr. Behrens, that I should never seek to oblige one client at the expense of an-other," said the lawyer, stiffly. " If you think that I would, you wrong me greatly."

"I think, Sir, that, like most other folks, you have more respect for a lord than a wool-stapler," answered the man of the people, with a huried smile. "But I don't blame you for it. You're a professional man, and all professional men have those prejudices."

" I beg your pardon," said Mr. Trefalden. "I have none. I am the son of a merchant, and my family have all been merchants for generations. But this is idle. Let us proceed with our business. I am to take your instructions, Mr. Behrens, to serve Lord Castletowers with a notice of your desire to foreclose the mortgage in six months' time?" Mr. Behrens nodded, and the lawyer made a note of the matter. "I am also to understand that should Lord Castletowers request a further delay of six months, you would not be disposed to grant it?" " Certainly not."

Mr. Trefalden laid his pen aside. " If he can't find the money," said the woolstapler, "let him sell the old place. I'll buy it." " Shall I tell his lordship so ?" asked Mr. Trefalden, with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice.

" If you like But it won't come to that, Mr. Trefalden. You're a rich man—aha! you needn't

I shake your head—you're a rich man, and you'll lend him the money."

"Indeed you are quite mistaken, Mr. Behrens," replied the lawyer, rising. "I I am it very poor man."

" Ay, you say so, of course ; but I know what the world thinks of your poverty, Mr, Trefalden. Well, good-morning. You're looking pale, Sir. You work too hard, and think too much. That's, the way with you clever, saving men. You should take care of yourself."

Pshaw ! how can a bachelor take care of himself?" said Mr. Trefalden, with a faint smile

" True ; you should look out for an heiress.

The lawyer shook his head.

" No, no," said he, " I prefer my liberty. Good-morning."

" Good-morning."

Mr. Trefalden ushered his client through the office, listened for a moment to his heavy foot-fall going down the stairs, hastened back to his private room, and shut the door.

" Good God !" exclaimed he, in a low agitated tone, "what's to be done now ? This is ruin —ruin !"

He took three or four restless turns about the room, then flung himself into his chair, and buried his face in his hands.

"He might well say that I looked pale," muttered he. " I felt pale. It came upon me like a thunder-stroke. 1 a rich man, indeed ! I with twenty-five thousand pounds at command ! Merciful powers ! what can I do? To whom can I turn for it? What security have I to give ? Only three months' notice, too. I am lost ! I am lost !"

He rose, and went to the great safe beside the fire-place. His hand trembled so that he could scarcely fit the key to the lock. He threw back one of the heavy iron-paneled doors, and brought out a folded parchment, with the words, "Deed of MORTGAGE between Gervase Leopold Wyncliffe, Earl of Custletowers, and Oliver Behrens, Esq., of Bread Street, London," written upon the outer side. Opening this document upon the desk, he resumed his seat, and read it carefully through from beginning to end. As he did so the trouble deepened and deepened on his face, and his cheek grew still more deathly. When he came to the signatures at the end, he pushed it from him with a bitter sigh.

" Not a flaw in it!" he groaned. "No pre-text for putting off the evil day for even a week beyond the time ! What a fool I was to think I could ever replace it ! And yet what could I do ? I wanted it. If it were to do again tomorrow I should do it. Yes, by Heaven ! I should, be the consequences what they might."

He paused, rose again, and replaced the mortgage deed in the safe.

"If I only dared to burn it!" said he, with a lingering glance at the fire. "Or if—"

Be took a letter from the table, and stood looking for some moments at the signature.

"Oliver Berhens!" he mused. "A bold hand, with something of the German character in that little twist at the top of the 0, easy to imitate; but then the witnesses— No, no, impossible! Better expatriation than such a risk as that. If the worst comes to the worst, there's always America."

And with this he sank down into his chair again, rested his chin upon his open palms, and fell into a deep and silent train of thought.


As William Trefalden sat in his little dismal private room, wearily thinking, the clouds in the sky parted toward the west, and the last gleam of daylight fell upon his face. Such a pale, eager face as it was, too, with a kind of strange beauty in it that no merely vulgar eye would have seen at all ! To the majority of persons William Trefalden was simply a gentlemanly, "clever-looking" man. Attracted by the upright wall of forehead, which literally overbalanced the proportions of his face, they scarcely observed the delicacy of his other features. The clear pallor of his complexion, the subtle moulding of his mouth and chin, were altogether disregarded by those superficial observers. Even his eyes, large, brown, luminous as they were, lost much of their splendor beneath that superincumbent weight of brow. His age was thirty-eight; but he looked older. His hair was thick and dark, and sprinkled lightly here and there with silver. Though slender, he was particularly well made—so well made that it seemed impossible to hint to prove ungracefully. Ilis hands were white and supple; his voice low; his manner grave and polished. A very keen and practiced eye might perhaps have detected a singular sub-current of nervous excitability beneath that gravity and polish—a nervous excitability which it had been the business of William 'I'refntlden's whole life to conquer and conceal, and which none of those around him were Lavaters enough to discover. The ice of a studied reserve had effectually crusted over that fire. His own clerks, who saw him daily for three hundred and thirteen dreary days in every dreary year, had no more notion of their employer's inner life than the veriest strangers who brushed past him along the narrow footway of Chancery Lane. They saw him only as others saw him. They thought of him only as others thought of hire. They knew that he had a profound and extensive knowledge of his profession, an iron will, and an inexhaustible reserve of energy. They knew that he would sit chained to his desk for twelve and fourteen hours at a tittle, when there was urgent business to be done. They knew' that he wore it shabby coat, lunched every day on a couple of dry biscuits, made no friends, accepted no invitations, and kept his private address a dead secret, even from his head clerk. To




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