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


BOUND FOR GLORY by Angela Smythe

May 10, 2012: Barry Cauchon

Another year has passed since researcher Angela Smythe published her latest findings here on John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays. In true tradition, she is back again with her most intricate look at the man and the outfit he joined in November of 1859. “Bound for Glory”, in conjunction with her other two previous works, “Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight” (published May 10, 2010) and “Out of Hiding” (published May 10, 2011) should be combined into one fine book . . . at least that is what I keep telling Angela. Perhaps one day soon … if we are lucky! I am very proud of her and the work she has generated since she first started this project over three years ago. Way to go Angela! Keep it up…and may we see more in the future!





(click BOUND FOR GLORY above to link to the article)

by Angela Smythe


This article is the third in the continuing series on John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays. The earlier companion pieces, Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays (May 2010) and Out of Hiding – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays (May 2011) , both examined period militia images, searching for the group militia picture that Asia Booth Clarke saw which contained her brother:

“He (John Wilkes Booth) left Richmond and unsought enrolled himself as one of the party going to search for and capture John Brown…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, pg. 111-112).

“Bound For Glory” is a different search for yet another picture, the true picture of just how Asia’s brother “unsought enrolled himself” on the evening of November 19, 1859. Among the many men who sought to volunteer that night, John Wilkes Booth alone was allowed to join his adopted “Band of Brothers,” the Richmond Grays, when they accompanied Governor Henry A. Wise on a special military train, deployed to the anticipated seat of war at Charlestown.

Bound for Glory:

  • Reconstructs that night’s events using period sources
  • Presents additional information on John Wilkes Booth’s association with the Richmond Grays
  • Examines the overlooked recollection by Richmond Gray John O. Taylor, which
    • Correctly chronicles how John Wilkes Booth boarded the military train that evening,
    • Clarifies previously known facts about that event found in other, more frequently cited, recollections, and provides a complete and comprehensive picture of the November 19, 1859 journey to Charlestown.


and I hope you enjoy the ride….

To see all three articles and much, much more, go to