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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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Here ensued a long and eventful pause. What thronging memories it brought to Booth, we can only guess. In this little interval he made the resolve to die. But he was cool and steady to the end. Baker, after a lapse, hailed for the last time.

"Well, we have waited long enough; surrender your arms and come out, or we'll fire the barn."

Booth answered thus: "I am but a cripple, a one-legged man. Withdraw your forces one hundred yard from the door, and I will come. Give me a chance for my life, captain. I will never be taken alive."

Baker--"We did not come here to fight, but to capture you. I say again, appear, or the barn shall be fired."

Then with a long breath, which could be heard outside, Booth cried in sudden calmness, still invisible, as were to him his enemies:

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

There was a pause repeated, broken by low discussions within between Booth and his associate, the former saying, as if in answer to some remonstrance or appeal, "Get away from me. You are a damned coward, and mean to leave me in my distress; but go, go. I don't want you to stay. I won't have you stay." Then he shouted aloud:

"There's a man inside who wants to surrender."

Baker--"Let him come, if he will bring his arms."

Here Harold, rattling at the door, said: "Let me out; open the door; I want to surrender."

Baker--"Hand out your arms, then."

Harold--"I have not got any."

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Baker--"You are the man that carried the carbine yesterday; bring it out."

Harold--"I haven't got any."

This was said in a whining tone, and with an almost visible shiver. Booth cried aloud, at this hesitation: "He hasn't got any arms; they are mine, and I have kept them."

Baker--"Well, he carried the carbine, and must bring it out."

Booth--"On the word and honor of a gentleman, he has no arms with him. They are mine, and I have got them."

At this time Harold was quite up to the door, within whispering distance of Baker. The latter told him to put out his hands to be handcuffed, at the same time drawing open the door a little distance. Harold thrust forth his hands, when Baker, seizing him, jerked him into the night, and straightway delivered him over to a deputation of cavalrymen. The fellow began to talk of his innocence and plead so noisily that Conger threatened to gag him unless he ceased. Then Booth made his last appeal, in the same clear unbroken voice:

"Captain, give me a chance. Draw off your men and I will fight them singly. I could have killed you six times to-night, but I believe you to be a brave man, and would not murder you. Give a lame man a show."

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

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