March 30, 2014
by Barry Cauchon
On February 20, 2014, I received a ‘one sentence’ email from my good friend and researcher, Angela Smythe containing the following message Can I do a shout out now: “YO ADRIAN – WE DID IT!”.
With this proclamation, I instantly knew that Angela was telling me she had found something substantial in her research documenting John Wilkes Booth in RG#1.
Over the past five years, Angela Smythe has given me the honor of being the first to publish her ongoing work on John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays. Angela’s goal has been to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that several images of the Richmond Grays, which featured a man resembling John Wilkes Booth, was in fact, the man himself.
In May, 2010 I started a series on this blog called “STATE YOUR CASE” in which unknown researchers were invited to present their work in an open forum to the public. In return, they would received critiques and comments on their work. Angela was one of three to submit their work and her research caught the eye of several historians and researchers. As for me, I was so impressed with Angela’s methodology and reasoning behind her theory that, even though she did not have 100% proof at the time, she was definitely on the right path and it would just be a matter of time before she found success. Well, sometimes success takes a while. Five years to be exact. But Angela is now ready to present the final evidence in “Glimpsing a Shadow from Richmond” and “Conversations through the Glass” to prove that John Wilkes Booth is in these photos. And she has some strong backing from several historians and scholars. I am very proud of her and her ‘stick to it’ attitude that finally solved the puzzle.
If you’d like to read Angela’s previous submittals (always posted on May 10 – John Wilkes Booth’s birthday), please click on the links below.
STATE YOUR CASE (No. 3): Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays (May 10, 2010)
OUT OF HIDING – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays (May 10, 2011)
BOUND FOR GLORY by Angela Smythe (May 10, 2012)
CHASING SHADOWS 150 YEARS OLD – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays (May 10, 2013)
For now, this is just a “Glimpse” into the culminating article of the Five Part study on John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays, “Conversations through the Glass” which will be posted on, you guessed it, May 10, 2014.
Glimpsing a Shadow from Richmond by Angela Smythe
“He left Richmond and unsought enrolled himself as one of the party going to search for and capture John Brown.
He was exposed to dangers and hardships; he was a scout and I have been shown a picture of himself and others in their scout and sentinel dresses.”
Clarke, Asia Booth. The Unlocked Book: A Memoir of John Wilkes Booth by His Sister. New York; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1938. Pgs.111-112.
RG#1, viewed in positive orientation as a print
Always in search of a recollection or clue that would lead to the picture Asia described, on Friday, Valentine’s Day 2014, news arrived that morning from the most respected source possible, Professor Terry Alford, providing me with such a lead, linked to an improbable source – Izola Forrester’s book This One Mad Act.
Professor Alford, knowing of my 5 years on-going research seeking Asia Booth Clarke’s photograph, kindly provided me with his notes advising me that on page 345 of her book, Forrester commented that her grandmother’s Bible contained three photographs, one of them a group of uniformed men with John Wilkes Booth in the center rear (just as we see pictured in RG#1). Further, that the Historical Society of Harford County’s collection contained Booth family confidante and chronicler Mrs. Ella Mahoney’s copy of this book, complete with her handwritten note on this page in the margin next to this sentence where she remarkably confirmed “I have one of these from the Booth Family”.
When Professor Alford alerted me to look in this particular book, one which years ago I had abandoned any attempt to read at least one hundred pages before Forrester’s statement appeared, and asked me what I “made of it” in light of Mrs. Mahoney’s confirming written comment, I was flabbergasted to say the least.
While waiting (interminably it seemed over the next few intervening days) for Tom Fink’s kind assistance in locating Mrs. Mahoney’s annotated copy of the book at HSHC, I focused on the tantalizing possibility of what this could mean; that from the most unlikely of sources and out of the most inexplicable place, Izola Forrester had somehow pulled from grandmother’s Bible a vintage print of RG#1, and further, that Mrs. Ella Mahoney, someone with uncontested close contact with the Booth family, had attested in writing that she had been given one herself, by the family.
Potentially, this could mean finding not one but two vintage prints of a photograph that matched the description of the leading candidate I had identified in five years of research to be Asia Booth Clarke’s photograph of her brother, John Wilkes, taken in uniform while at Charles Town with the Richmond Grays in 1859.
While Mrs. Mahoney’s photograph obviously had solid provenance to the Booth family, just how could one have come from Izola Forrester grandmother’s Bible? Just what, Professor Alford asked, could I possibly make of that information?
Click “Glimpsing a Shadow from Richmond” above to take you to the article. Also in PDF below.
Glimpsing a Shadow from Richmond – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays (PDF)