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The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth George Alfred Townsend

Letter IV: The Assassin's Death

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When, therefore, twenty-five men, under one Lieutenant Dougherty, arrived at his office door, Baker placed the whole under control of his former lieutenant-colonel, E. J. Conger, and of his cousin, Lieutenant L. B. Baker--the first of Ohio, the last of New-York--and bade them go with all dispatch to Belle Plain on the Lower Potomac, there to disembark, and scour the country faithfully around Port Royal, but not to return unless they captured their men.

Conger is a short, decided, indomitable, courageous fellow, provincial in his manners, but fully understanding his business, and collected as a housewife on Sunday.

Young Baker is large and fine-looking--a soldier, but no policeman--and he deferred to Conger, very properly, during most of the events succeeding.

Quitting Washington at 2 o'clock P. M. on Monday, the detectives and cavalrymen disembarked at Belle Plain, on the border of Stafford county, at 10 o'clock, in the darkness. Belle Plain is simply the nearest landing to Fredericksburg, seventy miles from Washington city, and located upon Potomac creek. It is a wharf and warehouse merely, and here the steamer John S. Ide stopped and made fast, while the party galloped off in the darkness. Conger and Baker kept ahead, riding up to farm-houses and questioning the inmates, pretending to be in search of the Maryland gentlemen belonging to the party. But nobody had seen the parties described, and, after a futile ride on the Fredericksburg road, they turned shortly to the east, and kept up their baffled inquiries all the way to Port Conway, on the Rappahannock.

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On Tuesday morning they presented themselves at the Port Royal ferry, and inquired of the ferry-man, while he was taking them over in squads of seven at a time, if he had seen any two such men. Continuing their inquiries at Port Royal, they found one Rollins a fisherman, who referred them to a negro named Lucas, as having driven two men a short distance toward Bowling Green in a wagon. It was found that these men answered to the description, Booth having a crutch as previously ascertained.

The day before Booth and Harold had applied at Port Conway for the general ferry-boat, but the ferryman was then fishing and would not desist for the inconsiderable fare of only two persons, but to their supposed good fortune a lot of confederate cavalrymen just then came along, who threatened the ferryman with a shot in the head if he did not instantly bring across his craft and transport the entire party. These cavalrymen were of Moseby's disbanded command, returning from Fairfax Court House to their homes in Caroline county. Their captain was on his way to visit a sweetheart at Bowling Green, and he had so far taken Booth under his patronage, that when the latter was haggling with Lucas for a team, he offered both Booth and Harold the use of his horse, to ride and walk alternately.

In this way Lucas was providentially done out of the job, and Booth rode off toward Bowling Green behind the confederate captain on one and the same horse.

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The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth
George Alfred Townsend

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