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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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So much learned, the detectives, with Rollins for a guide, dashed off in the bright daylight of Tuesday, moving southwestward through the level plains of Caroline, seldom stopping to ask questions, save at a certain halfway house, where a woman told them that the cavalry party of yesterday had returned minus one man. As this was far from circumstantial, the party rode along in the twilight, and reached Bowling Green at eleven o'clock in the night.

This is the court-house town of Caroline county--a small and scattered place, having within it an Ancient tavern, no longer used for other than lodging purposes; but here they hauled from his bed the captain aforesaid, and bade him dress himself. As soon as he comprehended the matter he became pallid and eagerly narrated all the facts in his possession. Booth, to his knowledge, was then lying at the house of one Garrett, which they had passed, and Harold had departed the existing day with the intention of rejoining him.

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Taking this captain along for a guide, the worn out horsemen retraced, though some of the men were so haggard and wasted with travel that they had to be kicked into intelligence before they could climb to their saddles. The objects of the chase thus at hand, the detectives, full of sanguine purpose; hurried the cortege so well along that by 2 o'clock early morning, all halted at Garrett's gate. In the pale moonlight three hundred yards from the main road, to the left, a plain old farmhouse looked grayly through its environing locusts. It was worn and whitewashed, and two-storied, and its half-human windows glowered down upon the silent cavalrymen like watching owls, which stood as sentries over some horrible secret asleep within. The front of this house looked up the road toward the Rappahannock, but did not face it, and on that side a long Virginia porch protruded, where, in the summer, among the honeysuckles, the humming bird flew like a visible odor. Nearest the main road, against the pallid gable, a single-storied kitchen stood, and there were three other doors, one opening upon the porch, one in the kitchen gable, and one in the rear of the farmhouse.

Dimly seen behind, an old barn, high and weather-beaten, faced the roadside gate, for the house itself lay to the left of its own lane; and nestling beneath the barn, a few long corn-cribs lay with a cattle shed at hand. There was not a swell of the landscape anywhere in sight. A plain dead level contained all the tenements and structures. A worm fence stretched along the road broken by two battered gate posts, and between the road and the house, the lane was crossed by a second fence and gate. The farm-house lane, passing the house front, kept straight on to the barn, though a second carriage track ran up to the porch.

It was a homely and primitive scene enough, pastoral as any farm boy's birth-place, and had been the seat of many toils and endearments. Young wives had been brought to it, and around its hearth the earliest cries of infants, gladdening mothers' hearts, had made the household jubilant till the stars came out, and were its only sentries, save the bright lights at its window-panes as of a camp-fire, and the suppressed chorusses of the domestic bivouac within, where apple toasting and nut cracking and country games shortened the winter shadows. Yet in this house, so peaceful by moonlight, murder had washed its spotted hands, and ministered to its satiated appetite. History--present in every nook in the broad young world--had stopped, to make a landmark of Garrett's farm.

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

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