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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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The troops dismounted, were stationed at regular intervals around it, and ten yards distant at every point, four special guards placed to command the door and all with weapons in supple preparation, while Baker and Conger went direct to the portal. It had a padlock upon it, and the key of this Baker secured at once. In the interval of silence that ensued, the rustling of planks and straw was heard inside, as of persons rising from sleep.

At the same moment Baker hailed:

"To the persons in this barn. I have a proposal to make; we are about to send in to you the son of the man in whose custody you are found. Either surrender to him your arms and then give yourselves up, or we'll set fire to the place. We mean to take you both, or to have a bonfire and a shooting match."

No answer came to this of any kind. The lad, John M. Garrett, who was in deadly fear, was here pushed through the door by a sudden opening of it, and immediately Lieutenant Baker locked the door on the outside. The boy was heard to state his appeal in under tone. Booth replied:

"Damn you. Get out of here. You have betrayed me."

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At the same time he placed his hand in his pocket as for a pistol. A remonstrance followed, but the boy slipped quickly over the reopened portal, reporting that his errand had failed, and that he dared not enter again. All this time the candle brought from the house to the barn was burning close beside the two detectives, rendering it easy for any one within to have shot them dead. This observed, the light was cautiously removed, and everybody took care to keep out of its reflection. By this time the crisis of the position was at hand, the cavalry exhibited very variable inclinations, some to run away, others to shoot Booth without a summons, but all excited and fitfully silent. At the house near by the female folks were seen collected in the doorway, and the necessities of the case provoked prompt conclusions. The boy was placed at a remote point, and the summons repeated by Baker:

"You must surrender inside there. Give up your arms and appear. There is no chance for escape. We give you five minutes to make up your mind."

A bold, clarion reply came from within, so strong as to be heard at the house door:

"Who are you, and what do you want with us?"

Baker again urged: "We want you to deliver up your arms and become our prisoners."

"But who are you?" hallooed the same strong voice.

Baker.--"That makes no difference. We know who you are, and we want you. We have here fifty men, armed with carbines and pistols. You cannot escape."

There was a long pause, and then Booth said:

"Captain, this is a hard case, I swear. Perhaps I am being taken by my own friends." No reply from the detectives.

Booth--"Well, give us a little time to consider."

Baker--"Very well. Take time."

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

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