Chasing Shadows 150 Years Old – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays

May 10, 2013

by Barry Cauchon

Hi all: I am proud to present the newest installment of Angela Smythe’s wonderful research work on John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays. If you have been following her two earlier postings (May 10, 2011 and May 10, 2012) you will know that her work is thorough and engaging. Enjoy this third installment (Part one of two) and please do not hesitate to comment and compliment Angela on her outstanding efforts.




“Chasing Shadows 150 Years Old – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays”



Part One:

“Chasing a Shadow from Richmond”

by Angela Smythe                                                             

May 10, 2013


Several years ago, I began my quest to find the picture Asia saw.  In 2010,  I wrote “Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays” (“Hiding”). In 2011 I continued my quest in Out of Hiding – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays” (“Out of Hiding”), which examined some of the distinctive facts surrounding one of three 6th plate ambrotypes taken at Charles Town, Richmond Grays (RG) #1.  I concentrated on its most intriguing fact, that shortly after Booth’s return to Richmond from Charles Town in 1859, it had been reproduced and enlarged by a then rarely used early glass plate negative process to make albumen prints.


This rarity for its time and place lead one of its prints in 1911 to be misidentified in Francis Trevelyan Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War as “Young Southerners at Richmond Making Light of War” just before Bull Run.  This error would result in it becoming one of the most widely recognized and reproduced pictures representing the American Civil War, ironically taken during the time which many consider to be that war’s true beginning, John Brown’s invasion of Virginia.

My third installment researching these images, “Chasing Shadows 150 Years Old – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays,” will be presented in two parts.  Part One: “Chasing a Shadow from Richmond” (“Shadow”) tells how within a remarkable journey to reclaim their true identity, these misidentified Virginia Volunteers seen in RG#1 became the face of the American Civil War.

Throughout this photograph’s amazing history, the compelling faces of these young soldiers have entered our national consciousness.  Shadows from the past, they have somehow transcended their own time to now represent a “Band of Brothers” for all time.

For the past 150 years, has John Wilkes Booth’s face been among them, hiding from history in plain sight while proving his fealty to Virginia in the most iconic uniformed group image of his time?  No, he hasn’t been hiding; he’s been there in the shadows all along.

Come and follow RG#1’s “Shadow from Richmond” to see how…

Angela Smythe

May 10, 2013




My journey accompanying John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays continues in;

“Chasing Shadows 150 Years Old –

John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays”

 Part Two:

“Conversations through the Glass”

August, 2013


STATE YOUR CASE (No. 3): Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays

May 10, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Subject: Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays
Author: Angela Smythe (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Proposition: To determine if several photos of the Richmond Grays, a pre-Civil War Virginia militia group, taken during the John Brown deployment, contain John Wilkes Booth. Angela Smythe has taken this subject and painstakingly researched it presenting a very viable case for you to consider. The investigation starts by examining the most likely and widely known group images taken at that time and place. Next the investigation  turns to those Richmond Grays who have been documented at Charles Town during the 1859 deployment and an assessment of the Charles Town pictures, including visual comparison to other known pictures of some of the participants. Finally, careful consideration is given to whether John Wilkes Booth could possibly be in one or more of these pictures.
NOTE: For reasons of copyright requirements, Angela’s article is hosted on a secured website. The link is listed below (see LINK TO STATE YOUR CASE (No. 3) . I encourage you to comment on her work and give honest, fair feedback for her to consider. To do so, you will need to return to this site by clicking on the link at the bottom of her article. Once back here, you can then leave your comments in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.

For the past 10 years, I have supported the earth-orbiting Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Project (AIRS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Dr. Moustafa Chahine, our Science Team Leader is often asked about his opinion on climate change based on our satellite’s measurements, and he always replies that as an objective observer, he can only be a witness and his role is not, nor should it be, that of judge, jury, prosecutor or defense counsel. It is a wonderful explanation of what true research is all about, being a witness; and that is what I have tried to accomplish with “Hiding”.  I have written what I have seen.  It is up to the jury, the readers of “Hiding”, to determine for themselves if John Wilkes Booth has been hiding in plain sight.
Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight?
John  Wilkes  Booth and the Richmond  Grays
In  November of 1859 John Wilkes Booth accompanied the Richmond Grays during  their militia deployment to Charles Town in the aftermath of John Brown’s Raid at  Harper’s Ferry. This fact was known even in  Booth’s own lifetime.  His participation and presence have long been verified by first-hand narratives  and confirming documentation.
In The Unlocked Book, Booth’s sister Asia recounts seeing a picture of him with others dressed in their uniforms during  the 1859 Charles Town militia deployment.  A tantalizing possibility  arises, one which  begs an  important question.  Does Asia’s  picture, or any others taken of Booth during this time, still exist?
For the answer to this question… (click the link below to see the full article with supporting photographs).



DISCLAIMER: A Little Touch of History does not endorse or challenge the validity of the content presented here. The theories are published here solely for the purpose of giving aspiring researchers a place to present. I will not be taking sides or giving any personal comments publicly on their subjects. The authors have confirmed that the work is their own, and in publishing it here, take sole responsibility for any claims made.


Thank you.