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

Letter VIII: The Trial

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The next prisoner to the right is O'Laughlin. He is a small man, about twenty-eight years of age, attired in a fine, soiled coat, but without white linen upon either his bosom or neck, and handcuffs rest hugely upon his mediocrity. His moustache, eye-brows, and hair are regular and very black. He does not look unlike Booth, though he seems to have little bodily power, and he is very anxious, as if more earnest than any of the rest, to have a fair lease upon life. His countenance is not prepossessing, though he might be considered passably good looking in a mixed company.

Between O'Laughlin and the next prisoner, Spangler, sits a soldier in ultramarine--a discontented soldier, a moody, dissatisfied, and arbitrary soldier. His definition of military justice is like the boy's answer at school to the familiar question upon the Constitution of the United States:

"What rights do accused persons enjoy ?"

The boy wrote out, very carefully, this answer:

"Death by hanging."

The boy would have been correct had the question applied to accused persons before a court-martial.

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Spangler, the scene-shifter and stage-carpenter, has the face and bearing of a day-laborer. His blue woollen shirt does not confuse him, as he is used to it. He has an oldish face, wrinkled by fearful anticipations, and his hair is thin. He is awkwardly built, and watches the trial earnestly, as if striving to catch between the links of evidence vistas of a life insured. This man has a simple and pleading face, and there is something genial in his great, incoherent countenance. He is said to have cleared the stage for Booth's escape, but this is indifferently testified to. He had often been asked by Booth to take a drink at the nearest bar. Persons who drink assure me that the greatest mark of confidence which a great man can show a lesser one is to make that tender; this, therefore, explains Booth's power over Spangler.

Spangler is the first scene-shifter who may become a dramatis personae.

A soldier sits between Spangler and Doctor Mudd. The soldier would like Spangler to get up and go away, so that he could have as much of the bench as he might sleep upon. This particular soldier, I may be qualified to say, would sleep upon his post.

Doctor Mudd has a New England and not a Maryland face. He compares, to those on his left, as Hyperion to a squatter. His high, oval head is bald very far up, but not benevolently so, and it is covered with light red hair, so thin as to contrast indifferently with the denseness of his beard and goatee. His nose would be insignificant but for its sharpness, and at the nostrils it is swelling and high-spirited. His eyes impinge upon his brows, and they are shining and rather dark, while the brows themselves are so scantily clothed with hair that they seem quite naked. Mudd is neatly dressed in a green-grass duster, and white bosom and collar; if he had no other advantages over his associates these last would give it to him. He keeps his feet upon the rail before him in true republican style, and rolls a morsel of tobacco under his tongue.

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

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