- Historic Sites
End Of A Manhunt
Who was the dark-haired stranger with the limp?
June 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 4
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon Messrs. Jett and Ruggles and a third horseman with a man behind him rode tip to the house and Mr. Boyd went up to the gate to meet them. After a moment the man behind the third horseman dismounted and the others rode off. At this time my father and brothers were not at the house but they soon returned and Mr. Boyd introduced his companion as Mr. Harris. [The new arrival was actually David Herold, one of Booth’s co-conspirators.] In speaking to him he called him Dave. In a short time a man rode rapidly up to the gate and said, “The Yankees are crossing the river at Port Royal.” Then wheeling he rode off at once. Our two visitors became very much excited and Mr. Boyd sent me up to his room tor his pistols. They then walked off back of the house into some woods nearby, Boyd giving as his reason lor his alarm that he was afraid they would make him take the oath. Soon after they left we saw a cloud of dust, and a detachment of cavalry rode past in the direction of Bowling Green. Our two guests soon returned and taking my brother to one side, offered him ten dollars to take them to Guinea station. This my brother refused to do as the horses had been working all day. Then Boyd proposed to buy the horses for one hundred and fifty dollars, but the offer was refused as they were all we had, but he told them that there was a Negro man living near who had a conveyance which could be hired for the purpose. One of my brothers went with the younger man and succeeded in hiring the wagon which was to come at daylight to take them away. In the meantime, Jack expressed his fears to my father and they arrived at the conclusion that something must be wrong with these men judging from their suspicious actions. My father’s idea was that they were guerrillas who had done something to cause them to fear arrest. When Herold [“Harris”] returned, my brother asked him the direct question, “Why are you so tmeasy about these soldiers if yoti are what you say you are?” Herold then said, “I will tell you the truth, over there in Maryland the other night we got on a spree and had a row with some soldiers and as we ran away we shot at them and I suppose must have hurt somebody.” This reply my brother repeated to father who then said, “I am afraid these men will get us into trouble, you had better watcli them tonight.” As he was quite unwell he then went into the house and retired leaving my brothers with their guests. Herold seemed to have recovered his spirits and told a number of absurd anecdotes. The other was the picture of dejection and said little. At last he turned to my brother and asked if they might sleep in a large tobacco barn as they expected to leave so early in the morning. About nine o’clock, Jack got the key to the barn and took them out there to spend the night. Double doors were on all four sides of the barn and in the upper story were large windows. Sticks of tobacco hung from the rafters, hay was piled up in places and furniture was strewn about. They moved the furniture, piled up some hay for a bed and the [brothers] locked them in for the night. [It is not clear whether Booth and Herold realized they had been locked in.] My two brothers becoming Uneasy for fear their horses might be stolen in the night, agreed to sleep in another barn between the large one and the stables where the horses were.
About two o’clock that night my father was awakened by a knock at the door. Thinking that some of the servants were sick, he went to the door in his night clothes and when he opened it a detective named Baker [Luther B. Baker, a Secret Service officer] thrust a pistol into his face and told him to open his month at his peril. The yard was filled with men who, with drawn swords or pistols, crowded around the door. “Where are the men who were here today?” asked the officer. “I do not know” said my father. “They said they were going away and did not sleep in the house.” The man angrily interrupted and said, “Lies will do no good now, we know they are here and we mean to have them if we have to burn the house to get them.” My lather again tried to explain that he had retired early and did not know where they were but someone shouted, “Bring a rope, hang the damned old rebel and we will find the men afterwards.”
A rope was brought and thrown over the head of the feeble old man and he was dragged in the yard in his nightclothes where the men were about to put their threat into execution, when my brother, having heard the noise, came vip to see what was wrong. The men immediately turned to him and repeated their question. “What do you want with the men and what have they done?” he asked. “That is none of your business,” was the reply. “We know they are here, we have Jett out there and he says he left them here. If you don’t tell us instantly we will hang you and the old man and burn this house.”
At this time some of the men came up and said, “Captain, there is someone in the barn.” My brother, alarmed for the safety of his brother whom he had left sleeping in the old corn crib, said at once, “The men you seek are over there.” My father was left under the guard of two brutes who would not allow us to bring him his clothes or even a wrap to protect him from the tool night air.
Arriving at the barn, about fifty yards from the house, it was found that some of the soldiers had already discovered the presence of the men within and were parleying with them. The barn, erected for the purpose of curing tobacco, had wide cracks between the boards forming the walls. Some valuable furniture was stored within, the property of refugees from the neighboring village of Port Royal.