THE BOOTH AUTOPSY PHOTO: A MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT COMING THIS WEEK

harpers-weekly-may-13-1865

May 29, 2013

Barry Cauchon

As many of you know, my research partner, John Elliott and I have been working on our book, “Inside the Walls: The Final Days of the Lincoln Conspirators” which is due for release at the end of this year. On May 17, John was investigating aspects of photographer Timothy O’Sullivan’s involvement in the Lincoln conspirator photo sessions conducted aboard the Union monitors Saugus and Montauk. During his search, John discovered a major find of historical importance related to the John Wilkes Booth autopsy photograph.

For those of you not familiar with the story of John Wilkes Booth’s autopsy photograph and the significance of what will be presented here and on our Facebook page “Inside the Walls”, I will quickly summarize what this is about.

On April 26, 1865, after twelve days of being on the run following Lincoln’s assassination, John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice David Herold were tracked down by Union soldiers in Bowling Green, Virginia. After a short standoff, Herold gave himself up but Booth, refusing to surrender, was shot and died on site. Herold and the body of Booth were transported back to Washington and in the early morning hours of April 27, delivered to the USS Montauk, a Union monitor anchored 100 yards offshore from the Navy Yard. Moored next to the Montauk was a second monitor, the USS Saugus. The two ships were heavily guarded and received Herold, who joined seven other prisoners suspected of being involved in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln and other government officials. Booth’s body was placed on a carpenter’s bench on the deck of the Montauk. Later that morning, photographer Alexander Gardner, who had visited the ships over the previous week and a half for the purpose of photographing some of the prisoners, was called upon again. Gardner and an assistant were summoned to photograph the autopsy of John Wilkes Booth. According to a letter written by Detective James A. Wardell published in Mark Katz’ 1999 book “Witness to an Era: The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner”, Wardell reported that he was instructed to collect Gardner and his assistant (Timothy O’Sullivan) and escort them to the Navy Yard for the sole purpose of photographing Booth’s autopsy. Only one photograph was to be taken and he was instructed to personally accompany the assistant back to the studio to obtain one print from that negative. He was then to deliver the negative and print to Secretary of War Stanton at the War Department. Based on Wardell’s letter, he did as he was told and went to the War Department where he met Col. Lafayette Baker just outside of Stanton’s office. Wardell gave Baker the envelope containing the negative and print. Once satisfied with its content, Baker dismissed Wardell. The photograph has never been seen since. 

In the world of Lincoln Assassination research circles and Civil War photography investigators, this photograph is considered to be one of the Holy Grails of relics associated with this tragic event.

Besides the Wardell letter, other clues point to its existence. A NY Tribune article published on April 28, 1865 stated that a photograph was taken. Then in May, two woodcut illustrations were published (one in Harper’s Weekly and one in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper). Both drawings looked similar in detail and supposedly were based on Gardner’s actual photograph (a practice often employed by the newspapers since printing technology to reproduce photographs didn’t exist at that time). To further add to the belief that the photograph existed, in 1952, a fourteen year old boy name Ron Rietveld discovered an authentic photograph of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin. This photograph had originally been confiscated by Secretary of War Stanton and was thought to be destroyed. The belief was that if Stanton held onto this photograph, then in all likelihood he kept the photograph of Booth’s autopsy as well.

This week, John and I will publish one of the biggest finds we’ve ever made since we began investigating and researching the story of Lincoln’s assassination. And it will shed new and very exciting information about the Booth autopsy photograph. Stay tuned.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

LOOKING FOR HISTORY – CHECK YOUR GRAND PARENTS’ ATTICS

November 26, 2009: Barry Cauchon

LOOKING FOR CIVIL WAR DIARIES, LETTERS, PHOTOGRAPHS, ARTIFACTS AND KEEPSAKES for possible inclusion in our upcoming book and documentary about the Old Arsenal Penitentiary and the Lincoln Conspirators.

Example: Ed Isaacs family has been living in the northeastern United States for several hundred years. Last year Ed’s cousin Pam gave him the diary of his great-great grandfather George Dixon. George was a Civil War Union soldier who was stationed at the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in Washington DC during the incarceration, trial and eventual punishments of the Lincoln conspirators. Amongst other interesting notations found in the diary, George listed the cells used by the prisoners and the guards who watched over them on the last day or two leading up to the executions of four of the conspirators. Ed Isaacs contacted me awhile ago and shared George’s diary with me. We have become friends and are planning on including information about George Dixon and his diary in our upcoming book and documentary. Ed hopes that it will help celebrate his ancestor’s life and we are thrilled to do so. To read the story of George Dixon and his diary as presented by Ed Isaacs, please click on the following link  https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/an-awesometalk-with-ed-isaacs-owner-of-civil-war-diary-from-soldier-who-guarded-the-lincoln-conspirators/).

APPEAL FOR HIDDEN HISTORY: We are appealing to others out there who might have ancestors who were connected directly or indirectly to the Lincoln conspiracy, the Old Arsenal Penitentiary, Washington DC or other Civil War occurences that related to the events that took place between March and August of 1865 in Washington DC and other surrounding areas. Items such as personal diaries, letters, photographs, artifacts, keepsakes and other Civil War related items in your possession could contain valuable historical information of great significance presently unknown to the research community. We would love to include your finds, if historically relevent, in our book and documentary.

So check your attics, basements, the old shed out back, garages, farm houses, barns and even below the floor boards of your old home. Check with your family members about stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Those conversations may give you a clue as to where your ancestors may have been during the time of the Civil War and the Lincoln assassination and conspiracy. Even if you do not know whether you have something that is important, you should inform us anyway. A name of a buddy or commander found in a diary could be very important. A location mentioned is a possibility. A comment about contemporary events from the time of the assassination may be the perfect thing we are looking for.  You never know what might be important to our projects and the historical community in general. And if you do find something that doesn’t necessarily fit within our research, we will do our best to help direct you where you can go to get more information about your find.

We are looking for genuine historical articles from the time of President Lincoln’s assassination, funeral, conspiracy trial and prisons located in Washington DC (Old Arsenal Penitentiary, District Penitentiary, Washington Penitentiary, Old Capitol Prison, Carrol Annex and Carrol Branch Prison). Items related to the Navy Yards and the ironclad monitors USS Saugus and USS Montauk could all be important clues to help tell the story better. And don’t forget the potential connection to the Confederate Secret Service primarily run out of Montreal, Canada or Lafayette Baker who was the head of the Secret Service for the Union. All great possibilities where hidden history may lie.

WHAT THIS IS NOT

Regretably we are not offering to purchase your family relics or assign a price to them. That is not our specialty and we cannot offer expert advice on an artifact’s value short of its historical significance to the story. As mentioned before, we will do our best to help direct you towards those who might be able to assist you. But no guarantees of course.

If you have an item that you think might be of interest to us, please do not use the comment area below. Instead, write me directly at outreach@awesometalks.com and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please describe the item (and include a picture if possible). If relevent, please explain why you think this may relate to our research.

As you can see from previous postings on this blog over the past 18 months, we have had a few really cool finds that I’ve been able to share with you. The George Dixon diary, Mr. P’s original fake ‘Lincoln in Death’ photo used in many Lincoln books published over the years and some genuinely great stories from family members from their ancestor’s past.

Give it a try. Everyone has treasures in their family. Share them.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

UPCOMING STORIES ON ‘A LITTLE TOUCH OF HISTORY’

Updated April 06, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Here is what I am currently working on for A Little Touch of History.

A: “The Lincoln Conspirators Execution Photos: A Study in Detail”. is now posted. Click on the following link to start at Chapter 1 to read the whole series.

B. “An Awesometalk With” 2nd Lieutenant George Hauck, 8th Air Force Group, World War II, Prisoner of War. I have posted my interview with Mr. George Hauck  (March 31, 2009) who was an airman during World War II. While returning from a bombing raid over Germany in 1944, his plane was shot down and he was taken prisoner. George is a very charismatic man and our talk was extremely enjoyable. You will enjoy his story and his openess about his experiences.

C. “An Awesometalk With” Andrew Jampoler, author. Andy is a retired US Navy Captain who has written three books and is working on his fourth. I completed this fascinating interview with Andy on March 26 and you won’t want to miss the stories he had to tell. Andy’s first three books are “Adak, the Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586”, “Sailors in the Holy Land: the 1848 American Expedition to the Dead Sea and the Search for Sodom and Gomorrah” and “The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows”. Currently his fourth book, in progress, is called “Horrible Shipwreck”, the wreck of the female convict transport “Amphitrite” in September, 1833. I was riveted as I listened to Andy’s description about all four books and his life in the military. Look for this AWESOME TALK sometime in April, 2009.

D. “An Awesometalk With” Steven G. Miller, Lincoln Expert specializing in the hunt for Booth and his capture at Garrett’s farm. Steven was also an expert witness in the 1993 court case to exhume Booth’s body in Baltimore. My conversations with Steven have been fascinating and he is a wealth of information. If you have been following some of my postings, Steve has contributed to some of my stories (look for his reposted article called “Who Was The Boy At the Hanging”.  Steve has a lot to share and you won’t be disappointed. The interview was recorded on April 4 and will be published sometime in May/09.
.
E. “An Awesometalk With “Laurie Verge, Director of the Surratt House Museum”. Laurie has been very helpful to me and our plan is to do our interview during the week of April 6 to 10.
.
F. The History of the Construction of the Washington Monument – In progress.

G. What’s In A Picture? A Look Beyond the Main Subject – The plan is to study a series of photographs over time and look beyond the main subject. The first one I will review Alexander Gardner’s Rooftop View of the Lincoln conspirator executions from the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary on July 7, 1865.  My focus in this photograph will be the Washington DC cityscape seen above and behind the roof top.

Enjoy.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

———————————————————————–

Current interviews posted on ‘A Little Touch of History’.

“An Awesometalk With” HAROLD HOLZER, Lincoln Scholar (posted on November 10, 2008)

 “An Awesometalk With” DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ, Illinois State Historian (posted on December 08, 2008)

“An Awesometalk With” ROGER NORTON, Webmaster of the ‘Abraham Lincoln Research Site’ (posted on December 30, 2008
“An Awesometalk With” LAURA FRANCES KEYES, Mary Todd Lincoln performer (posted on January 26, 2009)  
“An Awesometalk With” ROBERT KRAUSS, 509th Composite Group Historian (posted on December 16, 2008)

 

UPDATED (Mar 12): The Lincoln Conspirators Execution Photos, A Study in Detail

March 12, 2009: Barry Cauchon

cu-herold-atzerodt-atr53

 

The 15 chapter serial presentation on The Lincoln Conspirator Execution Photos –  A Study in Detail is now completed. It is a detailed study of the ten Alexander Gardner photographs known to exist from the executions of the convicted Lincoln assassination conspirators. Each photograph was analzyed, with a focus on the details, to help bring the story of the event to life. Warning: The subject matter of this study is graphic and should not be viewed by young children.

I’m sure you will find this study fascinating as you view the photographs and the stories behind them.

The series is located under my ‘Pages’ section, and can be accessed there or through the links below.

Here is a breakdown of the chapters. Click on the links below to take you to the chapter you wish to view.

Best Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com