CHASING SHADOWS 150 YEARS OLD, PART II, “CONVERSATIONS THROUGH THE GLASS”, JOHN WILKES BOOTH AND THE RICHMOND GRAYS by Angela Smythe

May 10, 2014

Barry M. Cauchon

Well, this is it. Angela Smythe has sent me the last installment of her fantastic research. It was five years in the making. Each step was shared here on this blog each year on the anniversary of John Wilkes Booth’s birth (May 10). The final piece of the puzzle is now presented here. Congratulations Angela. I’m proud of you. You are a wonderful friend and colleague and I appreciate that you allowed me to be a part of this exceptional journey.

Barry

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Chasing Shadows 150 Years Old, Part II

“Conversations through the Glass”

John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays

by Angela Smythe

“I think that’s John Wilkes Booth!”

I remember that moment from almost six years ago as if it was yesterday

My interest as an “armchair historian” was never in the American Civil War. I had no family history, both sides coming here long afterwards. My knowledge base was limited solely to the occasional documentary, reading (and seeing) Gone with the Wind, marveling at Bette Davis’ performance even earlier as the quintessential southern belle in Jezebel, and a glancing knowledge of what I thought were the facts, or what I had been taught were the facts about that war years ago.   A dear friend of mine, the late Dr. Moustafa Chahine, asked me one day over lunch while rehashing our shared history interests “Did I think that Mrs. Lincoln was crazy?”  I said I didn’t really know and he asked me to “Look into it and tell me what I thought.”  So I read a few books and provided my opinion.  He then asked me “Did I think Mrs. Surratt was guilty?”  Again I gave him the same response, which again prompted his earlier one of  “Well, look into and tell me what YOU think.”  In search of that answer; of course any path leads you to the Lincoln Assassination and to John Wilkes Booth.  The more I read about the historic “John Wilkes” the less he seemed to fit the image of “Booth” that I remembered from my now long ago college years.  In hoping to learn about the man behind the myth, I consulted his sister’s memoir, Asia Booth Clarke’s The Unlocked Book where I found her mention of a photograph taken of him in uniform while at Charlestown.  An armchair artist in addition to an armchair historian, this immediately got my attention – Did it still exist?

That was in the summer of 2009. Throughout a path that has lead from a troop train in Richmond in 1859 to a note written in one of Mrs. Ella Mahoney’s library books in 1937, the answer has proved to be yes.  Not only a newly discovered image of him, but of him in THE most iconic image of the American Civil War.

“Conversations through the Glass” completes the 5 year journey from thinking it to proving it.

http://antebellumrichmond.com/conversations.html

Conversations FINAL V11

John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays – The Final Word by Angela Smythe

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.

Congratulations Angela.

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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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

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?

“Glimpsing a Shadow from Richmond”   answers that question.

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)

 

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

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.

Best

Barry

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

IntroPix1of2

                       

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.

IntroPix2of2

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

CLICK ON THE LINK OR PDF BELOW

ChasingShadowsMay8

http://antebellumrichmond.com/chasing-a-shadow-from-richmond.html

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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!

Best.

Barry

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BOUND FOR GLORY

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

by Angela Smythe

INTRODUCTION

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.

“ALL ABOARD!”

and I hope you enjoy the ride….

To see all three articles and much, much more, go to AntebellumRichmond.com.

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Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

147th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination (April 14, 1865)

April 14, 2012: Barry Cauchon

Like the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, tonight marks the 147th anniversary of the shooting of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The time was 10:15 pm EST. Tonight, if you are in the Eastern Time Zone under Daylight Savings Time, if you wish to accurately commemorate the moment, you would do this at 11:15 pm EDT.

The President would live throughout the night but die at 7:22 am the following morning on Saturday, April 15. This can be commemorated at 8:22 am EDT.

In three years (2015), it will be the 150th anniversary of the assassination.

Best.

Barry

Published in: on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at '8:55 pm'  Comments (1)  
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What Time Did the RMS Titanic Really Hit the Iceberg?

April 03, 2012: Barry Cauchon

The triple screws of the RMS Titanic

The triple screws of the RMS Titanic

As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches, I thought I’d republish an article I wrote back on April 18, 2009. I’ve updated the introduction and clarified some points, but the rest remains intact and is still relevant today. Enjoy. Barry

PS: I have added a TIME ZONE chart at the bottom of this article for people in the United States wishing to commemorate the exact time the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank (for your time zone today).

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April 14 & 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. If you are like me, I enjoy thinking about events like this in ‘real time’. For instance, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at 10:15 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) on April 14, 1865. I currently live in this same time zone so on every anniversary (April 14), originally between the hours of 10:00 pm and 10:30 pm, I would imagine the series of events that took place minute by minute. I’ve done this since I was a kid so please don’t assume that I’m certifiable (at least not just yet)! But a few years ago I realized that I had not factored in Daylight Savings Time. For you perfectionists, by considering Daylight Savings Time, the correct tim for these events actually should take place between 11:00 and 11:30 pm EDT.

In the sinking of the Titanic, a number of different factors come into play that mess up my little game so I thought I’d spend a few minutes explaining them to you (lol). The accepted facts about the sinking are this:

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 2:20 am on April 15, 1912.

Now here is where it gets tricky.

The times noted above were based on “shipboard” time (the actual time on the ship). Calculating time at sea does not follow conventional land-based time zones. This was certainly the case in 1912. But to truly know what the time difference was, relative to other time zones, requires whose version of the events you use. It has become a puzzle for many, but two main ‘time differences’ are generally considered.

The first is based on the testimony of Titanic’s Second Officer Charles Lightoller who put the time as being 1 hour, 33 minutes ahead of New York City time (Eastern Standard Time)(EST). The other is from Charles Bigham, known as “Lord Mersey” of the High Court of the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry. Bigham indicated that the time difference was 1 hour and 50 minutes ahead of EST. As many of us are not lucky enough to be in the middle of the North Atlantic when the anniversary is celebrated, here are the adjusted times for Eastern Standard Time using both calculations.

Lightoller’s Version (1 hour 33 minutes ahead of EST)(-5)

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 10:07 pm (EST) on April 14, 1912.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 12:47 am (EST) on April 15, 1912.

Lord Mersey’s Version (1 hour 50 minutes ahead of EST)(-5)

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 9:50 pm (EST) on April 14, 1912.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 12:30 am (EST) on April 15, 1912.

But wait, there is more! For the real perfectionists out there, what about Daylight Savings Time in the Eastern Time Zone (EDT)(Eastern Daylight Time)? Well Daylight Savings Time was not a factor in 1912 as it didn’t go into use in England, Germany and the United States until WWI. However, it is in effect today. So if you attempt to reenact the minute by minute events in real time by using the EST calculations listed above you will once again be incorrect. Assuming that you are in, let’s say New York City for example, during Daylight Savings Time (EDT), then these are the correct times to base your ‘real time’ reenactment.

Lightoller’s Version (33 minutes ahead of EDT)(-4)

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:07 pm (EDT) on April 14, 2012.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 1:47 am (EDT) on April 15, 2012.

Lord Mersey’s Version (50 minutes ahead of EDT)(-4)

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 10:50 pm (EDT) on April 14, 2012.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 1:30 am (EDT) on April 15, 2012.

Confusing! You bet! But if this kind of perfection turns your crank, then use this last set of calculations above to get as close to the truth (as we know it) as you can get.

titanic

On April 14, 1912 I struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm shipboard time and sank at on April 15, 1912 at 2:20 am shipboard time.

So the next time you think about the RMS Titanic on the evening of April 14 & 15 know what time it really struck the iceberg and when it sank based on the two options above.

Note: If you are not in the Eastern Time Zone (such as New York City) and want to know the Titanic times as listed in the last example for 2012 times, go to any Time Zone Map and calculate the difference in hours between your time zone and the Eastern Time Zone, then either add or subtract the difference to find the correct times. For instance, California (PDT) is three hours behind New York City. Don’t forget about Daylight Savings Time if applicable (in this case, it is).

Lightoller’s Version (3 hours, 33 minutes ahead of EDT)

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 8:07 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 10:47 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012.

Lord Mersey’s Version (3 hours, 50 minutes ahead of EDT)

  1. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 7:50 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012.
  2. The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later at 10:30 pm (PDT)(-7) on April 14, 2012.

Best

Barry

QUICK REFERENCE CHART FOR UNITED STATES TIME ZONES
These are the times in your time zone to commemorate the exact moments the Titanic struck the iceberg and sank.

LIGHTOLLER VERSION – TITANIC STRIKES ICEBERG at 10:07 PM EST ON APRIL 14, 1912 (11:40 pm shipboard time)

MODERN DAY TIMES
EDT (EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME) 11:07 PM (APR 14)
CDT (CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME) 10:07 PM (APR 14)
MDT (MOUNTAIN DAYLIGHT TIME) 9:07 PM (APR 14)
PDT (PACIFIC DAYLIGHT TIME) 8:07 PM (APR 14)
AKDT (ALASKA DAYLIGHT TIME) 7:07 PM (APR 14)
HST (HAWAII STANDARD TIME) 5:07 PM (APR 14)
MST (ARIZONA STANDARD TIME) 8:07 PM (APR 14)

LIGHTOLLER VERSION – TITANIC SINKS at 12:47 AM EST ON APRIL 15, 1912 (2:20 am shipboard time)

MODERN DAY TIMES
EDT (EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME) 1:47 AM (APR 15)
CDT (CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME) 12:47 AM (APR 15)
MDT (MOUNTAIN DAYLIGHT TIME) 11:47 PM (APR 14)
PDT (PACIFIC DAYLIGHT TIME) 10:47 PM (APR 14)
AKDT (ALASKA DAYLIGHT TIME) 9:47 PM (APR 14)
HST (HAWAII STANDARD TIME) 7:47 PM (APR 14)
MST (ARIZONA STANDARD TIME) 10:47 PM (APR 14)

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LORD MERSEY VERSION – TITANIC STRIKES ICEBERG at 9:50 PM EST ON APRIL 14, 1912 (11:40 pm shipboard time)

MODERN DAY TIMES
EDT (EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME) 10:50 PM (APR 14)
CDT (CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME) 9:50 PM (APR 14)
MDT (MOUNTAIN DAYLIGHT TIME) 8:50 PM (APR 14)
PDT (PACIFIC DAYLIGHT TIME) 7:50 PM (APR 14)
AKDT (ALASKA DAYLIGHT TIME) 6:50 PM (APR 14)
HST (HAWAII STANDARD TIME) 4:50 PM (APR 14)
MST (ARIZONA – STANDARD TIME) 7:50 PM (APR 14)

LORD MERSEY VERSION – TITANIC SINKS at 12:30 AM EST ON APRIL 15, 1912 (2:20 am shipboard time)

MODERN DAY TIMES
EDT (EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME) 1:30 AM (APR 15)
CDT (CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME) 12:30 AM (APR 15)
MDT (MOUNTAIN DAYLIGHT TIME) 11:30 PM (APR 14)
PDT (PACIFIC DAYLIGHT TIME) 10:30 PM (APR 14)
AKDT (ALASKA DAYLIGHT TIME) 9:30 PM (APR 14)
HST (HAWAII STANDARD TIME) 7:30 PM (APR 14)
MST (ARIZONA STANDARD TIME) 10:30 PM (APR 14)

outreach@awesometalks.com

Out of Hiding – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays

May 10, 2011: Barry Cauchon

Last year on May 10th, 2010 Angela Smythe presented a paper here called Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays . It presented a very plausible case that several well-known photographs contained images of John Wilkes Booth. One year later, Angela has completed her work and followed up with this supplement “Out of Hiding – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays”. Here is Angela’s summary of the piece along with the posting I featured here under my feature State Your Case #3 last year.

Enjoy.

Barry

Subject: “Out of Hiding – John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays”

Author: Angela Smythe (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

In Asia Booth Clarke’s The Unlocked Book: A Memoir of John Wilkes Booth by his Sister, Asia wrote, “[h]e 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.”

Does Asia’s picture still exist?

“Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays” (“Hiding”) released on May 10, 2010, sought to determine if several ambrotypes of the Richmond Grays, a pre-Civil War Virginia militia group, taken during the John Brown deployment, might contain John Wilkes Booth and if one of them could be the picture which Asia saw.

“Hiding” examined five pictures and determined that one individual in three particular pictures (original media ambrotype, designated in “Hiding” as RG#1, RG#2 and RG#3), could be Asia’s picture. “Hiding” compared these ambrotypes with known images of Booth and documented Booth’s presence with the Richmond Grays at Charles Town during the John Brown militia deployment in 1859. “Hiding” concluded by suggesting the need for additional research into these pictures and facts pertaining to John Wilkes Booth’s participation in this deployment as a means of confirming his possible inclusion in these pictures.

This supplement continues where “Hiding” left off. It provides additional and newly discovered documentation on RG#1, RG#2 and RG#3, lending even further support to the theory proposed in “Hiding” that John Wilkes Booth could be present in these pictures, and that one of them could be the very one which his sister Asia saw and wrote about in her manuscript.

The results originally presented in “Hiding”, expanded upon by those now presented in this supplement, indeed suggest that after 150 years, the possibility of John Wilkes Booth being hidden amongst these Richmond Grays, is now finally “Out of Hiding”…

Link for “Out of Hiding” .
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 May 10, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Subject: Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays
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Author: Angela Smythe (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
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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 Hiding_In_Plain_Sight . 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.
.
INTRODUCTION BY ANGELA

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).

Hiding_In_Plain_Sight 

———————-

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.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

Published in: on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at '12:01 am'  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

An Awesometalk With RANDAL BERRY, author and webmaster of www.lincoln-assassination.com

February 10, 2011: Barry Cauchon

Randal Berry, Lincoln assassination expert, researcher, webmaster and now author, points to an audio book version of Mike Kauffman's American Brutus.

CLICK TO LISTEN TO INTERVIEW: An Awesometalk With Randal Berry 3-Feb-2011
 
I’d like to introduce you to Randal Berry. He is not only a friend of mine but also an extremely knowledgable man on the subject of the Lincoln Assassination.

On February 03, 2011, I recorded a great interview with Randal. In it we discuss his “Lincoln-Assassination” website and his first published booklet. The booklet called “Shall We Gather At The River” is an edited and annotated work originally written by Richard M. Smoot, a character little known to the general public, but who was a willing participant in the Lincoln assassination story.

In part one of the interview Randal and I talk about his website www.lincoln-assassination.com.

Many people who are fascinated by the Lincoln assassination do not realize how truly vast the subject is. There are hundreds of characters involved, numerous locations referenced, the North, the South, the Union, the Confederacy, plots, schemes, life and death, heroes and villains, scapegoats and turncoats. To educate yourself in this subject could literally take years. Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to a place where many of the seasoned experts on the subject visited often and share their years of experience and research! Well, Randal Berry has created such a place. It is his website at www.lincoln-assassination.com. Authors, researchers, experts, students and just everyday people interested in learning more about the subject, regularly visit here and exchange information. Articles, book reviews, references and other great features are all there. However, it is the Discussion Board which many people favor. It is a wonderful part of Randal’s site where you can communicate one-on-one with top Lincoln assassination experts. For the newcomer, it may seem a little intimidating, but rest assured, these experts are excited to share their knowledge with you and help educate you in the details beyond the ‘big picture’.

In part two, we talk about Randal’s Richard Smoot booklet, “Shall We Gather At The River”.

Smoot was a Confederate sympathizer who sold his boat to members of John Wilkes Booth’s conspiracy team when they planned to kidnap President Lincoln in early 1865. The boat would have been used to transport President Lincoln across the Potomac River into Virginia, in one of the first legs of a journey to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Their plan was to hold Lincoln hostage and exchange him for freeing imprisoned Confederate soldiers held in Federal prisons.

The booklet will be available for purchase on February 17, 2011 from two locations: Price is $16.50 + $3.00 shipping/handling from either of the following two locations.

1. Randal’s website, under the Classified / Want Ads section. Send check or money order to:

Randal Berry
P.O. Box 191866
Little Rock, AR 72219
http://www.lincoln-assassination.com/bboard/index.php?topic=925.0

2. Surratt House Museum Gift Shop

Purchases may be made by mail or phone. Send check or money order payable to “Surratt House Gift Shop” to the SURRATT HOUSE MUSEUM, 9118 Brandywine Road, Clinton MD 20735. Phone orders with VISA or MasterCard may be made by calling (301) 868-1121. Maryland residents must add 6% sales tax. Postage is $3 for the first book ordered and $1 for each additional book in the same order unless otherwise specified in the Mail Order List. All proceeds benefit the museum.
———————————

I hope you enjoy our chat. I encourage you to visit www.lincoln-assassination.com to learn more about the Lincoln assassination from the ‘best of the best’.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

An Awesometalk With STEVEN G. MILLER, expert on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth

August 01, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Steven G. Miller, expert on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth

An Awesometalk With Steven G. Miller

Duration: 42:28

Steven G. Miller knows more about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and the men who participated in it than most people in the world. He has been researching the subject for thirty years. However, if you try to call him an expert in the subject he frowns upon the title. There is just too much more to learn so an expert, he says, he is not!

Despite Steven’s objections, many of us believe that he is an expert and the best person to talk to regarding the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and what really happened in his final hours.

Steven is a gifted researcher, writer and historian. He has written numerous articles for magazines and periodicals and has one unpublished book about the eyewitness accounts taken from the Garrett farm the night John Wilkes Booth was captured and killed..

I’ve known Steve for about two years and he always has something amazing to share. He’s also a pretty humorous guy with a really dry wit.

Steve will be speaking for the sixth time at the Surratt Society Assassination Conference in Clinton, MD next March 19, 2011. For more details, go to the Surratt Society website at: www.surratt.org.

Enjoy.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

A Little Touch of History hits 400,000

July 19, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Barry celebrates the 400,000th hit to his blog "A Little Touch of History".

Hi all: On February 16, 2010, I posted a big  thank you to all my supporters for A Little Touch of History as it had just reached 300,000 visitors. Well, here we are 5 months later and now this little blog has topped the 400,000 mark. Awesome! I can’t thank you all enough. I am truly proud to have been able to bring you this blog over the past 2 years and 2 months. And the tremendous encouragement from my friends, colleagues, readers and supporters has been nothing short of outstanding. I will always be grateful.

As A Little Touch of History moves towards its next big milestone (the 500,000 mark) I am thinking about what features you would like to see here. So please drop me a note and tell me what you like, what you don’t like and suggestions on what you’d like to see. Maybe something local, or someone who has a connection to history. You never know who has an interesting story to tell.

Traditionally, I reduce the number of features and articles I post during the summer as schools are out and my readership is lower. This gives me a chance to catch up on my own research so that I can present it to you during the rest of the year. 

But as a bonus for my dedicated summertime followers, I have a SUPER DELUXE SUMMER SPECIAL to help celebrate A Little Touch of History‘s 400,000 hits, I am announcing that I will be posting a couple of brand new interviews in the few weeks.

The first was recorded on July 17 with Steven G. Miller. Steven is considered to be one of the most knowledgable experts on Boston Corbett & the men of 16th NY Cavalry (the men who tracked down and captured/killed John Wilkes Booth). The piece is just going into editing but I suspect that the final version will be published in less than two weeks from now.

The other interview is currently being scheduled for recording with Cynthia StormCaller, the curator of the Drummer Boy Civil War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia. Cynthia will walk us through the museum’s collection. If you plan on being in the Andersonville, Georgia area later this summer or fall, this will be a good primer for visiting the museum. I am hopeful that this interview will be completed and published by early August at latest.

And just a reminder for those of you who are going to be in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area this weekend. On Saturday, July 24, 2010 “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” documentary will premiere at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library from 6-9 pm. It’s open to the public with only a small donation requested. For more info, go to their blog and website at:

http://theangelmovie.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=14&Itemid=74

Not long ago I interviewed the director, Clint Ross. He and historian Michael Aubrecht, have created this documentary to tell the uplifting story of Confederate soldier Richard Kirkland, who at personal risk to his own life, stepped into the open battlefield at Fredericksburg to give aid to fallen wounded Union soldiers. It’s a great story of humanity. To hear the interview, go to the following link:

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/an-awesometalk-with-clint-ross-director-of-the-documentary-the-angel-of-maryes-heights/

Again, thank you all for your continued support and let me know what you’d like to see in the upcoming months.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

————————————————————————

July 20, 2010: I just received this great email from Ed Isaacs and his wife Mary Beth. Two weeks ago, they sent me an identical bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label scotch to celebrate the 400,000th hit. It took a little longer than we expected to reach this plateau, but it was well worth it. Cheers to both of you my good friends! Barry

CONGRATULATIONS, BARRY 

400,022 + HITS TODAY (July 19, 2010)

                             

CHEERS………….

I’ll Drink to That!!!

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.
.
INTRODUCTION BY ANGELA

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).

LINK TO STATE YOUR CASE (No. 3)

———————-

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.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

MAY (2012) BIRTHDAYS FOR LINCOLN’S FRIENDS & FOES

AS OF MAY 2012

Here are some May birthdays for Lincoln’s friends and foes. And perhaps a few who lived before, during or just after his time.

Mary Surratt – Lincoln conspirator. Born in May (or June), 1823. Age 189.

julia-tyler Julia  Gardiner Tyler, 2nd wife of President John Tyler and 1st lady of the United States (1844-45). Born May 4, 1820. Age 192.

marx-bio Karl Marx,  Communist philosopher. Born May 5, 1818. Age 194.

julia_ward_howe_2 Julia Ward Howe, writer of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ which was first published 1862. Born May 27, 1819. Age 193.

tchaikovsky Peter Il’yich Tchaikovsky, Russian Composer. Born May 7, 1840. Age 172.

john-brown-1-sized John Brown, abolitionist who led attack on Harper’s Ferry. Hanged in 1859. Born May, 9, 1800. Age 212.

picture-584 John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. He witnessed John Browns hanging in 1859. Born May 10, 1838. Age 174.

250px-florence_nightingale_1920_reproduction Florence Nightingale, Italian nurse. May 12, 1820. Age 192.

picture-569 William Henry Seward, Secretary of State (1861-69). Born May 16, 1801. Age 211.

emerson12_cr Ralph Waldo Emerson, US writer. Born May 25, 1803. Age 209.

billhickok1867-2-500 James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, American cowboy and scout. Born May 27, 1837. Age 175.

134-195_amexp-walt_whitman-web Walt Whitman, US Poet. Born May 31, 1819. Age 193.

Happy birthday ladies and gentlemen.

Also, I want to wish my daughter Madeleine a very Happy Birthday. Born May 15, 1992. Age 20. Love you kiddo!

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

NOTE: If you notice any errors (or mistakes in the age calculations) blame me, laugh, and then feel free to comment with the correct information.

STATE YOUR CASE (No. 2): How did John Wilkes Booth Break his Leg?

April 26, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Subject: How did John Wilkes Booth Break his Leg?

Author: Mr. John Elliott

Proposition: The story of John Wilkes Booth and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is known to most Americans. However, there is one aspect of the story that is not as clear cut as some might believe. How did John Wilkes Booth break his leg (fibula bone) during his escape from Ford’s Theatre after shooting President Lincoln? Some of the most respected Lincoln assassination researchers and authors sit on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to this question.

The more common belief is that Booth broke his leg after jumping from the Lincolns’ box and landing awkwardly on the stage below. However, a second theory, which is not new, is that Booth’s injury occurred in a horse accident sometime during his escape that night. According to this theory, Booth’s horse fell on him.

John Elliott, Lincoln assassination researcher, will present his reasons why he believes that the latter theory, the horse accident, is the correct one.

Please review Mr. Elliott’s material by clicking on the RED link below. When finished, please offer your critique in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Note: If you are on the main page of the blog, the comment section is not there. Click on the headline for this posting and it will take you to that page where the comment section is.

———————-

ANALYSIS: How Did Booth Break His Leg (John Elliott)

———————-

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.

Best

Barry

 

Published in: on Sunday, April 25, 2010 at '8:40 am'  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

UPCOMING POSTINGS FOR ‘A LITTLE TOUCH OF HISTORY’

April 25, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Here is my proposed schedule for the next few weeks on “A Little Touch of History”.  Enjoy.

  • April 26 to 30STATE YOUR CASE (No. 2) – John Elliott: “When did Booth break his leg”?
  • May 1 — May birthdays for Lincoln Friends and Foes
  • May 2 to 8AN AWESOMETALK WITH Betty Ownsbey, author “Alias Paine”, the Lewis Powell biography 
  • May 9 — Open
  • May 10 to 14STATE YOUR CASE (No. 3) – Angela Smythe “Has He Been Hiding in Plain Sight? John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays”
  • May 15 — Open
  • May 16 to 22AN AWESOMETALK WITH G.C. Rivera, the Unique and Surprising Mr. P.

Note: Schedule may change without notice.

On a separate note, I had planned to interview Gloria Swift, the museum curator at Ford’s Theatre. However, Laurie Verge has informed me that Gloria has now taken a position with Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia. I met Gloria back in March and she is a wonderful person. I truly wish her well in her new posting at Fort Pulaski.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

DECEMBER (2012) BIRTHDAYS FOR LINCOLN FRIENDS & FOES

AS OF DECEMBER 2012

Here are some December birthdays for Lincoln’s friends and foes. And perhaps a few contemporaries who lived during his time but whom he may not have been personally acquainted with.

  George B. McLellan – Major General (Union). Born December 3, 1826. Age 186.

  George Armstrong Custer – Major General (Union) & Indian fighter. Born December 5, 1839. Age 174.

  Henry Wells – Founder of the American Express Co. and Wells, Fargo & Company. Born December 12, 1805. Age 207.

  Mary Todd Lincoln – Wife of President Abraham Lincoln. Born December 13, 1818. Age 194.

general-hartranft-2-tex  Brevet Major General John Hartranft – Read the Order of Execution on the scaffold to the four condemned Lincoln conspirators. He later became Governor of Pennsylvania from 1872 to 1879. Born December 16, 1830. Age 182.

  Edwin M. Stanton – Secretary of War (1861-1865). Born December 19, 1814. Age 198. 

  Dr. Samuel A. Mudd – One of eight Lincoln conspirators put on trial for Lincoln’s assassination. Dr. Mudd set John Wilkes Booth broken leg while on the run. Born December 20, 1833. Age 179.

  Christopher “Kit” Carson –  American frontiersman. Born December 24, 1809. Age 203.

Happy birthday lady & gentlemen!

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

THE WASHINGTON D.C. ARSENAL PENITENTIARY (Part 2 of 3)

August 4, 2009: Barry Cauchon.

John Elliott has completed his 2nd of 3 parts on the Washington D.C. Arsenal Penitentiary. This segment covers the period from 1865 to 1869 and discusses the trial, the executions, the aftermath and fate of the penitentiary.

Excellent job John.

Enjoy.

Barry

———————————————– 

THE WASHINGTON D.C. ARSENAL PENITENTIARY (Part 2 of 3)

A History of the Prison Where the Conspirators of the Lincoln Assassination Were Tried and Hanged

Part 2: The Trial and Execution Period (1865-1869)   

One of the hoods worn by the Lincoln Conspirators

One of the hoods worn by the Lincoln Conspirators

Secretary of War Stanton

Secretary of War Stanton

Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the failed attempt to cripple the Union government, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton vowed to capture and punish those who carried out the heinous attacks.  It was widely believed that such a strike against the North was a calculated, military tactic by Jefferson Davis and the South to re-ignite the war against the Union.

Stanton initiated the aggressive pursuit of those involved in the conspiracy and ordered the arrest of hundreds of suspects and witnesses.  The investigation quickly led to the apprehension of several people with direct involvement in the plot. Six of these suspects: Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Ned Spangler, Mike O’Laughlen and Sam Arnold were captured and subsequently confined to Union Navy ships while the majority of the general detainees were held in the Old Capitol Prison and Carroll Annex.  Dr. Mudd and Mary Ann Surratt were held in the Old Capitol Prison but were considered prime suspects.

 

The Old Capitol Prison

The Old Capitol Prison

Union Navy Ship U.S.S. Saugus

Union Navy Ship U.S.S. Saugus...one of the monitor class ships that imprisoned some of the conspirator suspects.

In order to group the criminal defendants in one place and separate them from the rest of the detainees, Major Thomas Eckert suggested to Secretary Stanton that the old Arsenal Penitentiary be re-activated.  Major Eckert was the Telegraph Superintendent of the War Department and a trusted friend of President Lincoln. He was one of the many people who had declined the President’s invitation to attend the play “Our American Cousin” that tragic evening.

Major Thomas T. Eckert

Major Thomas T. Eckert

The Penitentiary had not been in use as a prison for three years.   Surrounded by water on three sides, it was considered to be one of the most secure and heavily guarded places in Washington D.C. 

Distant view of the D.C. Arsenal

Distant view of the Washington D.C. Arsenal

It had plenty of cells to accommodate the prisoners and even had a large enough room (on the 3rd floor of the former Deputy Warden’s quarters) to host the trial.  Security was extremely important because it was thought that the Southern forces may try to break the prisoners free or that northern loyalists may try to exact revenge on the conspirators.

On April 28th, 1865 Secretary Stanton ordered the commanding officer of the Arsenal to prepare the prison building for its new inmates.  Prison cells in the female ward (these cells were twice as large as the men’s cells) were cleared and inspected.  Shuck mattresses were delivered to the cells and nails were taken out of the walls to ensure that the prisoners would not harm themselves or possibly others.

General John F. Hartranft

General John F. Hartranft

Andrew Johnson appointed 34 year old General John F. Hartranft to take command of the Arsenal Penitentiary.  He would serve as the provost marshal and military governor of the prison and would be responsible for the defense of the Arsenal as well as the supervision of every aspect of the prisoners’ daily lives.  He would make sure they were fed and cleaned and that no one would communicate with them unless authorized by written orders of Secretary of War Stanton.

Rules of the Prison

By May 4th, all eight of the suspects would be imprisoned at the Arsenal.  Gen. Hartranft was issued a list of rules to guide his governance. Four of the twenty-eight rules of governance were as follows:

1. The keys of the Military Prison will be kept by the Military Governor who will make a personal inspection of each prisoner at least twice every twenty four hours.

The first inspections began at 7 am and the second would usually occur at 8 pm.

2. A medical officer will be assigned to make a medical inspection daily with the Governor twice in twenty four hours.  The inspection will be made in the presence of the Governor and at the times he makes his inspections.

The two medical examinations may seem excessive until you examine the following rule –

3. No prisoner will be allowed to escape alive or to defeat the ends of justice by self destruction.

Dr. George L. Porter

Dr. George L. Porter

Dr. George L. Porter, the appointed army physician of the Arsenal, accompanied Gen. Hartranft and conducted physical examinations of each prisoner.  He was permitted only to ask or answer medical questions from the inmates.  No other communication was allowed.

Dr. Porter also holds the distinction as being one of the few people who saw John Wilkes Booth buried in the storage room of the Penitentiary on April 27th, 1865.

4. The prisoners are to be supplied with nothing but necessary food and water during their imprisonment unless by special order….and the Military Governor will be responsible for preventing any knives, spoons or other articles from going into the possession of any prisoner, wherewith he may attempt to escape or take his own life or injure his person.

The prisoners’ meals usually consisted of coffee or tea, bread and salted meat.  After finishing their meal, the bowl in which their beverage was served was removed.  No other items would be brought in to the cell.

 

The Courtroom Layout

Special modifications were made to the building in order to have the trial on the third floor.  The courtroom was located in the northeast corner of the prison.  According to various sources, the courtroom measured 40 feet by 27 feet in size. Michael Kauffman details the courtroom layout and modifications in “Fort McNair and the Lincoln Conspirators”:

A door  was cut through the wall between the courtroom and the women’s cells, where all of the prisoners were kept. This would allow the accused to reach the courtroom without having to pass through the public areas of the building’s lower floors. The courtroom itself was whitewashed and a raised platform with a wooden railing was constructed for the prisoners to sit on while the court was in session. Flat bars were placed over the windows and gas lighting was introduced into the room.

Courtroom Layout in the Arsenal Penitentiary

Courtroom Layout in the Arsenal Penitentiary

A staircase ran along the east wall and led to a doorway in the northeast corner of the room.  The courtroom had  two windows that faced north and two to the east.  The prisoners were kept in the same seating arrangements throughout the trial. Samuel Arnold was the closest defendant to a window and would often be seen staring out into the freedom of the Washington D.C. skies. Two doors on the south side of the wall led to adjacent rooms. The rooms were supplied with beds and chairs for witnesses, members of the legal teams and military commission.

 The platform that was built for the prisoners stretched along the west wall and led to a doorway that opened to the cell block.  Thirteen chairs were placed on the platform to accommodate seven prisoners and the six guards that sat alternately between them.

Courtroom Sketch

Courtroom Sketch

Mary Surratt and her counsel had their own table that was situated near the platform.  This special arrangement may have been due to the fact that she was having health issues and fell ill during the trial.  It was thought that her condition might improve if she was given more room to breathe.

General Hartranft wrote in his journal that “Mrs. Surratt became so ill that it was necessary to remove her from the courtroom”.  At one point, she was permitted to sit in one of the adjoining rooms in order to avoid the sweltering heat and uncomfortable conditions of the crowded trial room.

In the north side of the courtroom stood a large table for the members of the commission, and on the south side was an equally large table for spectators and reporters.  Between them was the witness stand, where the witnesses faced the commission to give their testimony. Smaller tables were provided for counsel and evidence.

image_b_2_7271  3-727

image_a_2_7273  image_b_3_727

Strict security measures were put in to place during the trial.  A different guard would be used to escort the heavily shackled and hooded prisoners to the courtroom each day. In order to preclude the conspirators from talking with each other, they were forced to wear canvas hoods on their way to the courtroom and in their cells — all except for Dr. Mudd and Mary Surratt.  They were never forced to wear hoods.

General Hartranft also saw to it that the inmates were never allowed to occupy adjacent cells. In order to prevent messages from being tapped out to each other through the walls, every other cell was left empty. Additionally, the prison guard detail was changed out on a daily basis to make sure that no single guard would guard the same prisoner more than once.

General Hartranft respectfully and dutifully fulfilled his obligations as Military Governor of the Arsenal.  This was not an assignment that he took with much enthusiasm.  Even his wife tried to talk him out of becoming known as a “hangman”.  Difficult as it was, General Hartranft could take pride that he was selected due to his outstanding achievements and excellent record as an obedient soldier.  Only the best officer could be counted on to take this role.

During the trial period, Gen. Hartranft showed compassion towards the prisoners’ well-being on separate occasions.  In June, he requested of his commanding officer that five of the six inmates who wore the canvas hoods, be allowed to take them off.  The only exception was Lewis Powell.  The hood didn’t seem to bother him as much as the others.

From Gen. Hartranft’s journal:

“The prisoners are suffering very much from their padded hoods, and I would respectfully request that they be removed from all the prisoners except 195 (Powell). This prisoner does not suffer as much as the others and there may be some necessity for his wearing it, but I do not think there is for any others.”

During that same month of June, Gen. Hartranft requested and was approved to remove the ball and chain attached to the limbs of prisoners Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt.  Powell had been observed by a Sentinel on duty, trying to place a weighted ball against his head in attempt to do damage to himself.

Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock

Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock

General Hartranft also saw to it that other requests were granted to the prisoners.  He made sure that they received chewing tobacco, writing paper and ink, clothing (including underclothing) and various food items.  All of these requests were granted at the permission of his commanding officer General Winfield Scott Hancock.

On July 7th, 1865, General Hartranft completed his duties by seeing to it that the Orders of Execution of four of the prisoners were carried out.  The four remaining prisoners (Mudd, Arnold, Spangler and O’Laughlen) would later be transferred to the Island of Dry Tortugas to serve their sentences. The bodies of the hanged conspirators were placed in pine boxes and buried in shallow graves next to the gallows.  In November of that same year, the body of Henry Wirz (tried by a military commission and executed at the Old Capitol Prison grounds) would join them. They would remain buried there for the next two years.

In September of 1867, John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators would be reunited. Secretary of War Stanton ordered that the Arsenal Penitentiary be demolished except for the eastern and western ends of the building.  The ends of the building were to be spared and converted to Officer’s quarters.  As a result of the new construction work, all of the conspirators’ bodies would be exhumed and moved to another building on the Arsenal grounds known as Warehouse 1.  A trench that measured eight by eighteen feet and six feet deep was dug for the bodies.  The bodies were examined and then placed in the trench in the following order (east to west): Booth, Surratt, Powell, Herold, Atzerodt and Wirz.

In February of 1869, Andrew Johnson ordered that the bodies be released to their families.  This final act closed the chapter on the Arsenal Penitentiary’s role in President Lincoln’s Assassination.

End of Part 2 of 3

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Sources:

Surratt Society: Laurie Verge and Joan Chaconas

Michael Kauffman: FortLesley McNair and the Lincoln Conspirators

Michael Kauffman: American Brutus

David K. Sullivan: Behind Prison Walls: The Operation of the District Penitentiary, 1831-1862

Phyllis I. McClellan: Silent Sentinel on the Potomac

Edward Steers Jr., and Harold Holzer: The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators – The Confinement and Execution, As Recorded In The Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft

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Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

“An Awesometalk With” Nikaela Zimmerman, Kansas State Historical Society; owners of the Lincoln conspirators gallows crossbeam

June 24, 2009: Barry Cauchon 

nzimmerman

Nikaela Zimmerman, Assistant Registrar/Conservation Technician for the Kansas State Historical Society

Earlier this month, John Elliott, my friend and research partner on Fort McNair and the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary, sent me a photo of an artifact in the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS). It is a portion of the gallows crossbeam that was used to hang the four Lincoln conspirators. I contacted Nikaela Zimmerman, Assistant Registrar / Conservation Technician at the KSHS and she graciously consented to an interview about the crossbeam, the exhibition it is currently displayed in and the Kansas State Historical Society’s role in preserving Kansas history.  Note: The photos of the Gallows Crossbeam and the Bloodstained Playbill from Ford’s Theatre are courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society.

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B. Hi Nikaela. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. The first thing I’d like to ask you concerns the Kansas State Historical Society. Can you tell us a little bit about the society and the role it plays in Kansas?

N.  The Kansas State Historical Society as a whole was founded in 1875. So we’ve been around almost as long as Kansas has been a state. Kansas became a state in 1861. We were founded by a group of Kansas editors and publishers. And we didn’t become a trustee of the state so we weren’t officially the state historical agency until 1879. We are the official repository and guardian of materials related to the history of the state of Kansas. 

B. Is the collection housed at the Kansas Museum of History?

N. It is! When the society first started out, it wasn’t broken down into divisions. It was all one umbrella. Now we’re broken into several different divisions. Within the Kansas State Historical Society the Kansas Museum of History is one of those divisions. The Library and Archives is another division. And we also have an Education division, a Cultural Resources division which includes Archaeology. And then we have sixteen historic sites throughout the state that are under another division. So we’re all part of one whole. We all serve the same purpose of preserving Kansas history. So we all do slightly different things.

B. Not knowing exactly how the system works, can you tell me how many museums are under the umbrella of the Kansas State Historical Society?

N. For the state of Kansas, we’re it. We are the official history museum. Basically, every county in the state has its own small historical society and they’re independent of us. Now, throughout the state, our historic sites are part of us and we manage them. We have a person there who works for the state who manages that site and the artifacts that are kept at that site. But for the most part, it’s us.

B. The reason I originally came across your website was because you have an exhibition on right now called Lincoln in Kansas which has a number of artifacts that relate to the blog that I write and am involved with. Would you tell us a little bit about that exhibit?

N. Sure. Since 2009 is the bi-centennial of Lincoln’s birth there are many museums in the United States that are doing exhibits related to him. It might sound a little odd that Kansas would have a Lincoln exhibit but Lincoln did visit Kansas in 1859. So the exhibit focuses on that and the other connections that Lincoln had with our state. At the time of his visit to Kansas, the territory was in the midst of a bloody battle to be entered into the Union as a free state. Lincoln was a rising political star. In the previous year he had just done the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The visit to Kansas was beneficial to both the territory and to Lincoln. People in Kansas thought that if they had Lincoln on the side of the Free-Staters it would increase their chances of getting into the Union as a slave-free state. And it benefited Lincoln because he was testing the political waters leading up to the 1860 Presidential elections. And it was a great opportunity for him to build some contacts in this part of the country and in a new area; not only for his campaign but for his law career. So while he was here he visited several cities in northeast Kansas like Atchison, Leavenworth, Troy and Elwood. In each city he gave a speech. He used that opportunity to practice and perfect a speech that he would deliver later at Cooper Union in New York. And many historians as you probably know cite that speech as one that turned around his presidential campaign. So that’s a large part of the exhibit, focusing on his visit to Kansas and what he did while he was here.

B. What artifacts are in the exhibit that relate to Lincoln’s visit?

N. There aren’t too many left. The sites where Lincoln spoke…most of them are gone now, so only pictures of them remain.

There’s a plaque which marks the building where Lincoln spoke in Leavenworth. It was the Planters House Hotel and there was a plaque on the building before it was razed. So we’ve got that.

Lincoln was possibly distantly related as a cousin to a man in Kansas named Mark Delahay who became a judge later on. So there are a few artifacts relating to the Delahay’s.

There is a pot (laughing)…this is crazy! There is a pot lid that may have belonged to Lincoln’s mother and then she gave it to another family member and it was passed down through the line and ended up in Kansas. So these are a collection of strange, random things in that section of the exhibit just because it’s a difficult period to collect from since the territorial period was 1) so long ago and 2) things that they had were so expendable.

B. In all the museums I’ve worked in and visited in my career, it’s those kinds of artifacts that I love most; the unique ones with the strange stories attached to them.

However, two of the artifacts that we spoke about earlier this week are not related to Lincoln’s visit to Kansas but rather to his assassination and the conspirators involved. And it was through connections in Kansas that these artifacts came to be in the KSHS’ historical collection. Can you tell us about these artifacts and how they ended up in Kansas?

N. The two artifacts you are talking about are; one is a gallows crossbeam and the other is a fragment of a playbill.

The gallows crossbeam came from the gallows on which the Lincoln conspirators were hanged in 1865. Again, it seems a little strange that such a piece would end up in the state of Kansas. What possible connection could there be?

A section of the gallows crossbeam taken from the scaffold used to hang the condemned Lincoln conspirators on July 7, 1865.

A section of the gallows crossbeam taken from the scaffold used to hang the condemned Lincoln conspirators on July 7, 1865.

We’ve had the piece of the gallows in our collection since 1885. It’s one of our older artifacts. At the time it was collected our secretary was named Franklin G. Adams and he strongly believed that history should be collected while people who experienced it were still alive. So he was going out trying to find things, especially related to the Civil War, that could illustrate what happened. And he could still talk to the people that experienced it and have a good oral history, a good record of what those people experienced.

He found out from a colleague in Washington D.C. that the gallows used to hang the Lincoln conspirators was being stored in pieces at the Washington Barracks. And so he wasted no time in contacted a man named Lieutenant Sebree Smith who was at the Washington Quartermaster’s Office and asked him if might be willing to send a piece of the gallows to the historical society for the collections. And as luck would have it Lieutenant Smith had been stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for a period of time. He considered himself a Kansan and he happily agreed to send as much of the crossbeam as the historical society wanted. So at the time he shipped out the piece of the gallows that we have in our collection he also acquired a sworn statement from a man named George Tatsbaugh, who stated that he worked as a storekeeper at the Washington Arsenal from 1865 to 1881 and he witnessed the “top beam of the ‘Surratt Scaffold’ [as it’s sometimes called] was buried in 1865 under a large pile of timbers to secure it from curiosity seekers”. He went on to say that he did recognize the piece being sent to Kansas as the top beam from the gallows. And we’ve had it in our collection ever since.

B. One thing that I noticed when I read your brief on it was that the piece was made out of pine. And that surprised me. I didn’t know that about the scaffold. And my next question dealt with what part of the crossbeam did this section come from.

N. There was a little correspondence between Adams and Smith about which section of the crossbeam it was. Because when Smith sent the original letter to Adams saying “Yes, we have this” he indicated that the crossbeam had two mortise points in the middle. And Adams had looked at the pictures that Alexander Gardner had taken. He had also seen the drawings from Harper’s Weekly and he could not understand because in those depictions there was only one support beam in the center so why would there be two mortise holes? So he sent back a letter and Sebree Smith cleared it up by saying “Whoops, I was wrong. Looking at it again there was only one”! And if you look at the piece we have there’s one mortise.

B. But at this point you do not know if you have the center piece or one of the ends?

N. Right. It came from somewhere along the top crossbeam.

B. It can only be one of three locations by the looks of it (laughing).

That’s exciting. It’s a very interesting piece.

N. We are very excited to have it. It’s pretty cool.

B. It’s on display right now in the Lincoln in Kansas exhibit. Is this, and the other artifact that we are going to talk about in a minute, normally on display?

N. No. Unfortunately, they are not normally on display. They are kind of special things that we pull out for exhibits like this. And just for safekeeping they are usually kept in storage. At all times, 24/7, you can go onto our website and see images of them and read the provenance. Both of them can be found in the “Cool Things” section of our website.

B. If my readers have not been to your website, it’s definitely worth a visit. Go to www.kshs.org. To find Cool Things, click Collections and you will find the link there.

The second artifact is related directly to the assassination and it came from Ford’s Theatre. It’s a small corner of a playbill from the performance of Our American Cousin on April 14, 1865. It looks like a small tear or cut corner of the playbill. What are your thoughts on this Nikaela and the story behind the artifact?

A corner of a bloodstained playbill taken from Ford's Theatre on the night of Lincoln's assassination, April 14, 1865.

A portion of a bloodstained playbill taken from Ford's Theatre on the night of Lincoln's assassination, April 14, 1865. The blood is Abraham Lincoln's.

N. It looks like the piece was cut. I have a feeling that the man who owned it cut it into pieces and maybe kept some of it and maybe divvied it up amongst other people who were interested because it’s a very clean cut.

The man who donated it was named Dr. Thomas D. Bancroft. And he was very active in Kansas during the territorial period. He was part of the Free State movement in Kansas. He fought with James Lane and John Brown against guerrilla fighters from Missouri which are two names that are heavily associated with the abolitionist movement. And he was also part of the frontier guard who protected the White House under the leadership of James Lane during the first days of the Civil War. So during that time the frontier guard was quartered in the east room. He may have met Lincoln during that period. He was also present at Lincoln’s 1st Inaugural. So there’s a possibility that he somehow knew, or at least met, Lincoln. 

Most importantly though, Bancroft attended the play in Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot.  He was among the men who stood at the head of the stairs to keep the crowd back as Lincoln was carried from the theater.  As Lincoln passed the men, drops of blood fell to the floor near where Bancroft was standing.  Once Lincoln was carried from the theater, Bancroft went back and he wiped up the spots with his program. And he kept it in his possession until donating it to the historical society in 1901.

So it’s also another, slightly disturbing, but very interesting artifact.

B. Absolutely. And again it’s good to hear the connection to Kansas because people would not normally think of the state of Kansas as being the keeper of artifacts from that period in our country’s history.

So I’m glad I came across you folks.

N. It’s interesting when you go through the exhibit to see how many connections there were between Lincoln himself or Lincoln and the assassination that appear in Kansas. Like John Wilkes Booth once performed Hamlet at the Union Theatre in Leavenworth which is ironic because then, Lincoln spoke there. Boston Corbett, who was the man responsible for shooting John Wilkes Booth in the manhunt afterwards. He became the Sergeant at Arms in the Kansas House of Representatives and was later sent to Topeka State Hospital after pulling his gun and threatening to use it in the Kansas House. He escaped from the State Hospital and then disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to him. The woman who wrote to Lincoln as a child and told him he should grow a beard later move to Kansas, to Delphos, Kansas and she’s buried there. And another woman named Vinnie Ream was a young sculptress from Kansas. As a teenager she moved to Washington DC and sculpted a bust of the President when she was sixteen. And then when she was eighteen she received a commission for a Lincoln statue that went into the US Capital. And Lincoln’s last sitting with her in her studio was April 14, 1865. And he left from there to go to Ford’s Theatre. So there are a lot of interesting connections.

B. Amazing stuff! 

N. Yeah. It’s so much fun.  

B. It sounds like you are a fan of that period. 

N. I am. I think Lincoln is very interesting. It’s fun that we have this exhibit up and it’s fun that we get to study a little more in depth about his connections to Kansas.

B. The exhibit is at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas. How long does the exhibit run until?

N. The Lincoln exhibit will be open until July 26, 2009.

As well, we are also in the process of raising funds to try to preserve some of our Lincoln artifacts. We have a banner that was used at one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We have a silk umbrella that was used to shield Lincoln from a snow storm in Utica, New York. And we have a dress that was worn at Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural ball. Those things are all in need of conservation and treatment. But it’s so expensive to do that, we have to have a grant and we have to have matching funds. So we are having a “Lincolns for Lincoln” campaign and if anyone would like to donate to help us get those artifacts preserved they can do so on our website.

B. If anyone is interested in donating to help this worthy cause, I’ve posted the information below.

Nikaela, this has been great. Let me ask you one last question before we end our conversation. Do you have any other things planned for the Kansas History Museum in the future?

N. Right now we are working on our permanent gallery. We’ve been in our building for 25 years and it’s kind of time for an update. So we’ve been taking it kind of a piece at a time and this summer we are working on a section about Explorers. But we’ve also recently upgraded our Trails section and a section on Bleeding Kansas, the period leading up to statehood and the Civil War. So, they are very interesting and much prettier to look at now than they were before. And we have an exhibit about the importance of the automobile in Kansas that should be opening with any luck after the first of next year.

B. Do you have anything opening for the latter part of the summer after Lincoln in Kansas ends?

N. Unfortunately when Lincoln goes down we are going to take a bit of a break because of the economy. So our main thing this summer is that we do a film festival each summer that’s outside on the lawn and we project up onto the wall of the building. This year we are exploring the Hollywood version of history and museum work. It’s always a lot of fun and people get a kick out of sitting outside to watch a movie even when it’s 110 in Kansas in July.

B. Nikaela. Thank you very much. It’s been wonderful talking to you and I look forward to catching up with you and the Kansas State Historical Society in the near future.

N. Thank you.

DONATIONS: If people wish to donate to the “Lincolns for Lincoln” fund they can go to the following URL: http://store.kshs.org/store//product.php?productid=17705&cat=413&page=1.  There is a drop down menu where they can designate where they wish their money to go, and they should select “preservation of collections”.  Since the exhibit went up at the end of January, we’ve raised over $1000 towards the conservation of the Lincoln artifacts.  Most of that has been through coins in a donation box.  People love Lincoln!

END 

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

“An Awesometalk With” Andrew Jampoler, author of “The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows”

April 24, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Author Andrew Jampoler

Author Andrew Jampoler

Andrew C. A. Jampoler is a retired US Navy Captain who, amongst his many achievements, served in Vietnam, worked at the Pentagon, commanded a land-based maritime patrol aircraft squadron and a naval air station. He also flew Lockheed P-3 airplanes in search of Soviet submarines during the 1970s and 80s. After retiring from the Navy, he worked in the international aerospace industry and then moved on to become a full-time writer.

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Andy, the author of three books: The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows (2008); Sailors in the Holy Land: The 1848 American Expedition to the Dead Sea and the Search for Sodom and Gomorrah (2005) and the award-winning Adak: The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 (2003). The latter was voted “Book of the Year” by the US Naval Institute Press in 2003.

Andy is a true storyteller, walking me through each of his three books as well as his current project Horrible Shipwreck (working title) which tells the tale of the wreck of the female convict ship Amphitrite in 1833.

He is a fascinating man with fascinating stories to share. I am very happy to bring you my interview with Andy Jampoler and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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B. It’s nice to speak with you Andy. I wanted to tell you that I’ve enjoyed our emails back and forth this week. Please let me welcome you to A Little Touch of History.

A. Hello Barry. It’s good to be here.
I was really dazzled by your site. It fascinated me. If you get a chance to read “The Last Lincoln Conspirator” you’ll see that one of the Gardner photographs is one of the illustrations in the book. Because they are such high quality, I zoomed in on the gallows. And I remember when I saw those at the Library of Congress I was just horrified by them. So when I saw your study it fascinated me. You’ve gone very far with those extraordinary photographs and I was very interested in what you’ve done.

B. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. It was a labor of love. I was very curious. After you’ve looked at the same photographs for hundreds of times, you want to look beyond the main images. And it was very interesting what I started to find within those pictures. I’m still studying the Rooftop View which I find to be the most intriguing of all the photographs because it has so much to see, especially beyond the prison rooftop overlooking the Washington DC cityscape of 1865.
You can clearly see the incomplete Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Institute. So now I’ve started to get my bearings because I’ve just discovered the US Treasury Building and, if I’m seeing it right, I think I can identify the White House as well. It’s been a lot of fun going through this process.

A. Well if that’s true you will have seen half of the principal buildings in the city of Washington. There weren’t that many and you’ve just mentioned about half of them.

B. The Library of Congress and the National Archives are terrific repositories for photographs, maps, documents and the like. Do you use both of those resources when writing your books?

A. I do…and I draw on them very heavily and they are enormously cooperative. The people at the National Archives are very welcoming and the material they have is extraordinary. If you have to use microfilm that is a little hard on the eyes frankly!

B. (laughing)

A. But they are very helpful. Their resources are stunning. And they, and the Library of Congress, compete to be cooperative. I’ve marveled at how helpful they are systematically.

All they get in exchange for their wonderful help is honorable mention in the front of the book. And what I’ve done in the last two books is… they have a speakers program at both places. In exchange for their cooperation I’ve participated in giving talks at both the National Archives and Library of Congress in compensation for their assistance. It gives me the opportunity to tell people how grateful I am for their help. I think both are great national treasures and it surprises me how helpful they can be.

B. You’ve written three books to date and are currently working on your fourth one right now. How is that going?

A. I’m approaching half way. It’s due at the publisher next summer which is to say, something like 15 months. I’ll be on time. Things are pretty much on schedule. I have a trip this summer to do some research that I cannot do here.

B. What is the subject of this book?

A. The working title is Horrible Shipwreck and it’s the story of a female convict ship in 1833. For the moment, it’s my consuming passion.

In late August, 1833 the convict transport Amphitrite sailed from Woolwich just east of London heading for New South Wales, heading for the convict colony in Australia. I begin the story by explaining the story to American readers the reason there was a convict colony in Australia. It goes back to the American Revolution. Until the Revolution convicted felons from Britain were shipped to the American colonies. As children, we learned that the colonies were full of what were called indentured servants. In fact for the most part these people were felons who were sent to the United States, pardoned as part of the process, but then sold into indentured service by the ship masters who had delivered them here. So it was an ideal solution for the British justice system. They got rid of their felons at no expense. They had no requirement to build a prison system which was something they weren’t interested in doing. There was no requirement even to pay for transportation. Well, when the Revolutionary War started, that outlet closed up. And suddenly Great Britain had no place to send their convicted criminals. And these people were convicted of all sorts of things. Small things, large things…mostly theft and robbery. But there was a desperate moment there in the late 1770’s when people tried to figure out “Well, what are we going to do with this tide of felons that are going to wash over society and overwhelm us if we can’t get rid of them anymore?” There was a great hunt started for a suitable convict colony. A number of efforts were made to find such places, for instance the West African coast and elsewhere. Quite rightly, and quickly, they concluded that that would be nothing but a death sentence. There was no place in West Africa where these people would survive.

B. Okay.

A. Then somebody remembered Cook’s expedition to Australia. And very quickly, without any further research, the decision was made in 1778 to launch the first fleet carrying about 1100 male and female convicts to start a new prison colony in Australia, in New South Wales at the time.

B. Andy, I’ve heard the stories of the criminal beginnings in Australia. At the time that this convict fleet sailed was Australia already colonized?

A. No. This is how it began. The program continued for many decades. Ultimately some 160,000 convicts from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales were shipped to Australia of which 20% to 25% were women. All along there was the intention that this would become a self-sustaining colony. Once again, Great Britain didn’t want to pay for this. In the case of Australia they had to pay for transportation. They had substantial upfront costs because there was no settled community into which these convicts could be integrated. So it began that way.

B. I see.

A. Well by 1833 they had been sending convicts to Australia for nearly 50 years and there had been no shipwreck. Not until the Amphitrite sails has any vessel been lost, although there have been a number of deaths from disease and other causes. There has been no vessel lost and no substantial loss of life other than some horrific fatalities aboard the second fleet due to maltreatment and things of that sort.

But Amphitrite sails from Woolrich and less than a week later she’s caught in a terrific channel storm along with hundreds of other vessels and is run aground outside the city of Boulogne-sur-Mer, the French channel coast. And in the course of roughly the next ten hours the ship is caught on the sands, she’s run aground deliberately but she’s caught on the sands and beaten to pieces by the storm surge, in plain sight of the city. Several efforts are made to alert the crew to what’s going to happen to them if they stay there and don’t leave the ship. Depending on what source you believe for a variety of reasons, the captain, the crew and his convicts are not permitted to leave and all but three die, all but three drown Saturday night, August 31, 1833. And when Sunday comes, the good citizens of Boulogne, about 6,000 of who are British expatriates, discover to their horror that bodies are washing up on the beach in dozens.

My book is the story of the ship, the shipwreck, the public outcry after the investigation the admiralty conducts, and what happened and why. And of course the fact that it’s women and children who were the largest numbers among the dead I think just kind of makes it more poignant and frankly a more marketable story for an American audience.

B. Absolutely. When you first mentioned it to me, I felt it was a story that will be quite appealing.

A. The early vessels that went to the convict colonies had both men and women aboard. That very quickly turned out to be impossible and unworkable. And consequently early on what happens is that all-female transports become the model. There is some financial advantage. They don’t have to put guards on them. The male transports are carrying security detachments because everybody’s afraid of mutiny. The female transports, the people conclude quite rightly, that there isn’t the threat of the ship being taken over by these women, so they are able to put more convicts aboard any given size vessel. So that continues until 1833 when the first of them, Amphitrite goes down in this horrific, highly public accident. All of this happens in clear sight of the beach front of the city of Boulogne right in front of the principal hotel in the city, which happens to be owned by a Brit.

Anyway, that story is due to the publisher next summer and I think it’s an interesting one.

B. Were there good resources available to you considering it was such a public tragedy?

A. The resources are quite good in some areas and I’m still exploring other areas. All the legal documents that resulted in the convictions of these women at trial are very complete. The court system in England, Ireland and Scotland ran much as it does today, on paper. And all of those papers are available so it’s possible to understand in great detail what these individual women were accused off, what they were convicted of, what they were sentenced to, and where and when. So the records there are quite good. The records about the ship are quite good too. There are several principal characters. The captain of the ship, there are some good records about him. I found his will for example which tells me about his family and his property and one thing or another. The surgeon superintendant aboard, the man who is actually in charge of the convicts, he is turning out to be the most difficult to research. And it’s one reason why I’m going to go to Edinburgh because he was a Scot and I think I’m going to have to press harder on some things there. I have an acquaintance in Scotland doing some research for me but I need more on a Dr. James Forrester and his wife. She was accused of being the reason why no boat was launched from the ship to take people ashore, because it is alleged that she refused to ride with common prostitutes in a boat.

The admiralty investigation was conducted by a Navy Captain named Henry Chads, about whom the documentation is very complete. His investigation is very well documented. And there was a woman on the beach, a Brit, Sarah Taylor Austin who played a very important role in the efforts to save the lives of these people. She’s an enormously colorful figure married to a well known failed British lawyer living in France at the time. And the biographical data on her is both fascinating and very good. And there were two Frenchmen who tried very hard to alert the crew to what was happening and to make sure they understood their danger. But the biographical information on them is adequate.

The newspaper coverage in English language papers and French language papers is very good. And especially the coverage stimulated by a British reporter named John Wilks Jr. who is the guy who essentially stirred up the public excitement by his reporting in the Times of London and in the London Standard. He’s an enormously colorful character. He was living in France because he had been ridden out of England as a result of a whole bunch of stock frauds that he traded.

B. (laughing).

A. And all that is very well documented too. So the answer is…the source material is certainly available to do a good job. And it’s my job to take that source material and do the best job that it’s possible to do.

B. I may have missed it but did the accident occur at night?

A. It occurred in late afternoon. During the course of the afternoon the captain found himself….in aviation you say, kind of “out of altitude and ideas and air speed all at the same time”. He had the same problem. He’s being driven on the French coast by a wind out of the northeast. His ship will not go into the wind such that he cannot get away from shore. So he makes the deliberate decision about mid-afternoon to drive her up onto a sandbar to anchor there. He then assumes that the tide will come in, the storm will abate, it will lift him up and he will be able to continue his voyage. What he doesn’t understand, and what the French fisherman at the port do understand, is that as the tide comes in, it will bring with it all the sand that washes around. And that he will be fixed on that bar as the water rises around him. And that the narrow channel that he’s in, he’s in the Pas de Calais, the Dover Strait, that focuses the wind, it focuses the waves and that essentially once he is on that bar his ship will be beaten apart as the tide comes in. They try to alert him to this. For whatever reason he discounts it and it’s exactly what happens. Over the course of the evening, let’s say between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am, Amphitrite is beaten apart and that is when the bodies start washing in.

B. So the captain initially beached his ship!

A. Yes. Exactly! He deliberately took her ashore and that’s not unheard of in those days.

B. So with was his knowledge base at the time, it was the thing to do?

A. Yeah, well he didn’t have any alternatives. He was being pushed ashore and the question was, was he going to manage it or was he just going to be driven sideways somewhere and broach and rollover and that would be the end of it.

B. I see. But the locals who knew the area knew that that was not the place to do it.

A. Two of them, one in a boat and one, incredibly, swimming, went out to his ship to tell him exactly what was happening. And depending on whose story you believe he rejected the advice, or ignored it or had such confidence in what he was doing that he just figured that he would ride it out.

B. How incredible…

A. In fact what they told him is exactly what happened. The next morning his ship was in 10 or 12 great big pieces washed up on the beach. As I recall sixty-three bodies were found, his was not among them. They never found his body.

B. Did anyone survive?

A. Three of the crew members were the only survivors. The bosun and a couple of the youngsters on the crew were the only survivors. Everybody else, 133 drowned in the storm.

B. Were the women chained or in cells?

A. No, they were not restrained. Originally, as the scenario unfolded, they were put below in the prison space in the hold. But during the course of the storm, either the deck split, the poop broke up or the hatches burst because at the end, the women were out on the deck and washed over the side and drowned.

B. This is going to be a great book. It’s a story that, as I hear you tell it to me, I’m quite fascinated by. I know you said you have a deadline next year but what is the release date?

A. Well, it’s the same publisher and they typically take between ten and twelve months to go from when you deliver the manuscript to when the bound book comes out of the printer. And they really move pretty fast. That’s good time for the process that the manuscript goes through. My guess is that it will be in spring 2011; maybe late spring 2011; early summer…something like that. It often depends on the publisher. They publish about 70 to 80 books a year. It kind of depends on where in their schedule they’re going to put it.

B. That is one book I really look forward to reading Andy. Let’s move on to your most recent release, your third book which came out just last October 2008.

the-last-lincoln-conspirator1

 

A. That’s the one we met over, so to speak, and is called “The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows”. When I was researching my second book Sailors in the Holy Land” I read in the biography of the American consul in Malta that in 1866 he attempted to arrest one of Lincoln’s conspirators passing through Valletta.

B. Really! (laughing).

A. And I said to myself “Now that’s crazy. How could that possibly happen?”
And I put that idea aside until I finished “Sailors in the Holy Land’. Then I came back to it to try to find out who was this Lincoln conspirator passing through Valletta in 1866. And it turns out it was true. It was young John Surratt, son of Mary Surratt, the woman who you know better than most, who was hanged for her part in the conspiracy. John’s story is the story of the last Lincoln conspirator. The title focuses on the fact that he was the last to be arrested, the last to be tried and last, by many decades, to die. He lived until 1916. He died in the arms of his family, his wife Mary Victorine Hunter, the second cousin to Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote the words to the American national anthem, and his children.
So it’s the story of Surratt’s flight through Canada, through England, across France to Italy where he joined the Papal Zouaves, the army of Pope Pius IX where he hid out for eleven months. He was discovered there and arrested. He escaped arrest, that’s the story anyway. The reality is he was freed by his jailors. Fled overland to Naples and got on a ship. Passed through Malta and here’s where William Winthrop tried to arrest him and got all the way to Alexandria, Egypt before he was caught.
In Alexandria, he was caught, jailed and a navy vessel was sent to pick him up. On November 26, 1866 United States Ship Swatara sails for Washington with Surratt in chains in the corner of the Captain’s cabin. He will spend six weeks chained while being brought back for trial. The book takes him through his trial, through the subsequent legal proceedings in ‘67 and ‘68. He is quite astonishingly freed in 1868 and after unsuccessful careers successively as a teacher and public speaker; he ends up being an auditor for a steam ship line in Baltimore called the Old Bay Line operating steam vessels from Baltimore to Richmond and Baltimore to Norfolk. He will spend more than 50 years as the auditor for that company dying just a few years before WWI begins.

It’s another one of these odd things that not many people know about and when they hear about it they tend to be disbelieving…the idea that he did all these things all by himself in his 20s. He spent a year in the Pope’s army. He was arrested in Egypt of all places.

B. Andy, Who actually arrested John Surratt? During those days, I’m not quite sure what the protocol was and whether or not they issued an international warrant for him.

A. Well, it’s better than that. Surratt as he traveled through Canada and Britain and Malta was under the protection of British law. And it was very unlikely that he would have been arrested and extradited by the Brits. But when he arrived in Egypt he no longer had that protection. Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire. And the Ottoman Empire and the United States, several decades before, signed a treaty that provided that American citizens in the Ottoman Empire were subject to American law as executed by American diplomatic officials in the country. So when he stepped off the ship in Alexandria, he was met by the American Consul in Alexandria, Charles Hale, who simply arrested him. Hale asked that the Egyptians jail him until he could be extradited; he could be shipped back to Washington. He put him in an Egyptian jail for three weeks which must have been a real experience in 1866. And then when Swatara showed up the day after Christmas ’66 they loaded him on board and shipped him out. So he had unwittingly exposed himself to American law.

B. Now I have read one of Surratt’s published speeches from when he was doing his public speaking tour discussing his version of the events that transpired around the time of the Lincoln kidnapping plot and subsequent assassination. He must have been a good speaker because he comes off as being very ‘believable’ regarding what he told his audience about his involvement, which he claimed was fairly minimal. And yet what I find interesting is that historians generally believe that John Surratt was John Wilkes Booth right-hand man. What are your thoughts on this?

A. Well this is a complicated question. The prosecution at his trial tried to make the case that he was in Washington on Easter weekend, 1865 and participated directly in the assassination of the President. Surratt’s defense was the he was in Elmira, New York that weekend casing the Union prison holding Confederate prisoners of war in preparation for a possible prison break. And during the course of the trial, there were witnesses swearing to both sides of that. But the jury who heard that voted 8 to 4 to acquit him. The prosecution did a very bad job presenting their case. The defense did a good job presenting their case. And the New York Times finally concluded that regardless of where the members of the jury came from, and there were seven Southerners and five from the North on the jury, regardless of where you came from you could not have concluded that the prosecution had made a persuasive case. And in fact they didn’t. I personally, for what that’s worth, don’t think Surratt was in Washington. He clearly was Booth’s right hand man. He was his chief recruiter. But he was not in Washington, not in Maryland after the last day of March. I think that Booth’s decision making coalesced, came together, during the first two weeks of April. Remember they had that failed kidnapping plot in the middle of March.

B. Yes.

A. At the end of March Surratt goes to Richmond as a courier and he will spend all of April on a courier mission. And he will not be in Washington when the assassination of the President happens, when the assault on the Secretary of State happens, when the bungled plot to kill the Vice President happens and when the planned attempt on General Grant’s life never transpires because Grant takes a train out of town that day. And he’s nowhere to be seen.

I think in that fact Surratt was deeply involved with Booth’s plotting with respect to the kidnapping. I think the case has never been proven that he was aware of Booth’s assassination intentions. And I think it is more probable than not, that he was, in fact, in Elmira, NY when the assassination happened. I would even go farther than that. I would probably say that he was in fact there. I found that witnesses that identified him as being there very persuasive and at least half the prosecution witnesses that said he was in Washington were clearly lying for whatever reason.

B. Was there a reason why the prosecution decided to take that approach?

A. Poor judgment!

B. I guess (laughing)!

A. I think the prosecutor Carrington, the District Attorney, was just not a very smart man. He had the assistance of three other attorneys. The principal one was as civilian, Edwards Pierrepont, a New York attorney. And I think Pierrepont was a grandstanding, publicity hungry, a status conscious sort of guy who did just a very bad job putting the case together. Despite that fact, the judge George Fischer clearly believed in Surratt’s guilt and conducted the trial in such a way to make the prosecution’s case easier to present. He was so biased that even the newspapers were commenting on it. His charge to the jury for instance, at the end of that first trial, was outrageous.

 

 

 

Prosecutor Edwards Pierrepont

Prosecutor Edwards Pierrepont

B. I guess that’s a good point. Were there not two trials of John Surratt?

A. No. There was one trial. The subsequent legal proceeding never went to trial. There were three indictments altogether. The first one went to trial. The second one the grand jury signed and sent forward. The third one the grand jury refused to sign. But there were a year’s worth of legal proceedings that did not rise to the level of a trial under a new judge, Andrew Wiley. And it was the last of those proceedings at which Wiley dismissed the proceeding and set Surratt free.
And that’s the story of the last Lincoln conspirator. Kind of a neat story, I guess as much as anything, because people have never focused on young John Surratt and his epic escape. There’s a mid-western newspaper at the time that said “Compared to Surratt’s escape, John Wilkes Booth’s twelve days was just a highway man’s ride”!

B. (laughing)

A. Well, I mean that’s silly because Booth was just the giant figure of all this. But in fact, he was only on the road for twelve days and Surratt almost for two years (chuckling).

B. What was your second book about Andy?

A. The second book was called “Sailors in the Holy Land”. And it is the true story of the American Expedition to the Dead Sea in 1848. Another one of these odd bits of history when you say to yourself “Well why would the US Navy have any interest at all in the Dead Sea in the middle of the 19th century”?

sailors-in-the-holy-land1

B. It is a question mark (chuckling).

A. When I first heard about it I didn’t believe that. So drawing on my navy experience I said “Of all the salt water on the earth that is the least likely place for the US Navy to operate” but I was wrong! In fact, the spring and early summer of 1848 there were sailors in uniform under the American flag, under arms exploring the River Jordan and the Dead Sea and quite unexpectedly all but one of them returned alive. It was a great success. It ended up answering some interesting scientific questions about the peculiar body of water. Everybody knew there were some odd things about the Dead Sea they just weren’t quite sure why and it was all caught up in Old Testament and religious imagery and everything else. But that book came out of a lot of reading I did and when I came across Mark Kurlanski’s book called ‘Salt’ a paragraph that said something about the navy’s expedition in the Dead Sea. I said to myself “Well, when I get time I’m going to look into that ‘because I don’t believe it”.

B. It’s funny how just one word, or phrase, will trigger you to start looking into something.

A. That’s not the story of the first book. “Adak”, the story of the ditching Alfa Foxtrot 586” off the Siberian coast in 1978, that’s a story I kind of grew up with. None of us who flew that airplane believed that you could survive putting it down in open water under the conditions that Jerry Grigsby did and live through it.

B. I guess we should give a quick summary of what your history was which related to this flight. You were a flyer in the US Navy?

A. I was. I got in the Navy right out of school in 1962. I started flight training immediately. Got my wings the day President Kennedy was assassinated in ’63. On that same day, he was in Dallas shot by Oswald, I was at Corpus Christi listening to all that on the radio at the Navy Exchange at Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas.

B. No kidding. Wow. You heard that live!

A. Oh yeah.I went to my first squadron. It was a P-3 squadron of Lockheed Turbo Props that the Navy used and was just buying. They were brand new airplanes for ocean surveillance, maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare. I flew that airplane in three squadrons, on the East coast, the West coast and most places where there is salt water. There are places in the South Pacific and South Atlantic I didn’t get because the Soviets didn’t send their submarines there.

Lockheed P-3 "Orian"

Lockheed P-3 often called the Orion

B. Was there a reason it had to be salt water?

A. Well we were looking for submarines.

B. Oh I see.

A. Anywhere there was salt water that the Soviet Navy operated submarines in, the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. All those places we spent a fair amount of time working over making sure we knew where they were and what they were up to.

B. That was a pretty volatile time right around then too!

A. Well, it was an exciting time. The Soviets were building what was demonstrably the world’s biggest submarine fleet. Certainly the most threatening aspect of their naval force was that fleet. And we were working very hard, along with the Royal Navy and other friends and allies, to understand what they were doing, where they were doing it and how well they were doing what they tried to do.

I was fortunate that the ‘70s and ‘80s, we were very, very good at what we did. It was the golden age of air anti-sub warfare and I had a lot of fun with it. My last squadron was one which I commanded from California in Moffett Field in ’76 to ’78 and then returned to Moffett Field to command the air station in the early 1980s. In ’86 I retired. I tell people that I spent the next 15 years learning to be a capitalist. And it’s true. In the naval service you’re not dealing with making the payroll or selling the product or any of that. So for the next something years I did. And that worked out well enough that about ten years ago it became possible for me to write full time.

B. I understand that you worked in the Pentagon as well. When did that occur?

A. I worked in the Pentagon a number of times. It got to the point that I was going back and forth from the squadron to the Pentagon. At first I was on the staff of Chief of Naval Operations, both on his staff and personal staff. I next ended up on the staff of the Secretary of Defense, on his personal staff. And the last job was, again on the Navy staff in the Plans, Policy and Operations Office of the Navy Staff in the mid ‘80s. I may be one of the few people who enjoyed every assignment I had in the Pentagon. It’s traditional that people complain about it. I found it enormously interesting. I thought that the people I worked with were smart, dedicated and trying to do a good job and I thought it was a useful thing to do.

B. I want to get back to your first book, but mentioning the Pentagon, 9/11 comes to mind and I want to know what your feelings are on that and if you knew some folks in there.

A. No, that was far enough away from me. I’d worked in those offices. I knew the geography. I have a pretty good idea what it would have been like inside of that building at the time. By the time that happened, the people who were inside were a generation behind me. My sympathy, my horror and my unhappiness was generic rather than specific.

B. What years were you in the Pentagon?

A. The first Pentagon assignment was ’70 to about ’74 doing different jobs. I was back there during most of the Carter administration through the late ‘70s, early 80’s working for Secretary Brown. I was back there again ’85 and ’86 on the Navy Staff. Altogether about nine years or so! Seems like a long time in one building. But there were four different jobs, very different people and all of them I thought were worth doing.
Beyond that, I spent a year in Vietnam and a bunch of time flying airplanes. I did some time at school and some graduate work for a couple of years.

B. Were you in Washington in ’83 or had you already gone to California at that time?

A. No, I think I was already in California. I was at Moffett Field then for Moffett Field’s 50th Anniversary. The air station was built as a WPA project during the depression and its 50th anniversary we celebrated in ’83 with a spectacular 3-day weekend and air show and carried on vitally. So I remember that date pretty clearly. I still have two bottles of wine in the house with labels from Mirasou Vineyards celebrating Moffett Fields 50th anniversary. My guess is that stuff would just taste awful.

B. There’s probably some serious vinegar in there (laughing).

A. I think it could peel paint (laughing).

B. (laughing)

A. But the bottles are beautiful and it’s a nice memory.

B. That’s terrific. What was the plane that you flew that related to the Adak story?

 

adak1

A. It was the same airplane, the Lockheed P-3. It’s really called the Orion. It was a four engine, land based turboprop, 127,000 lbs when we started and ended up being about 132,000 pound airplane with four turboprop engines altogether about 17,000 horsepower. Just a great airplane! Full of expensive equipment and normally carrying a crew of between ten and twelve.

B. Now you had mentioned before that this plane was not meant to float.

A. Yeah, think for a moment. This is not a seaplane. This was originally an airliner. It’s designed for pressurized cruising at altitude. It doesn’t have a keel; it doesn’t have any of the kinds of things that make a seaplane into a seaplane. And it’s what makes the landing of the US Air aircraft in the Hudson River so stunning. The idea that he could that and survive it and get everybody out…I mean that’s an authentic miracle.

B. I understand. Wow.

A. For the same reason when Lieutenant Commander Jerry Grigsby in end of October, ’78 put his airplane down into the open Pacific in thirty foot seas, the idea that it would hold together at all, long enough for people to get out of it, is just amazing. It took extraordinary skill and frankly a fair amount of good luck too.

B. How long was that plane in the water?

A. It sank in about two minutes. The survivors’ stories vary between two to four minutes. Your sense of time is really skewed under those kinds of stresses. But they hit the water, broke up just behind the cockpit and just in front of the tail and sank very quickly. Before it went down, 14 of the 15 men aboard had time to get out. And 13 out of those 14 managed to get into a raft. Tragically, the pilot Jerry Grigsby did not. He got into the water, he was swimming towards the raft but he was never able to catch it. Under the wind and the waves at the time there was nothing the guys in the raft could do. And Jerry drifted off to sea and he was lost at sea.

B. This was a storm that took the plane down?

A. That part of the North Pacific around the Aleutians has some of the nastiest flying weather or for that matter steaming weather in the world. It’s very very tough because that very cold dry air comes off of Siberia and hits the relatively warm moist air of the Bering Sea and it just spins up storms that are just ferocious. Those storms come tracking down through the Gulf of Alaska and tear up the North Pacific and Jerry had the misfortune of being operating right on edge of that such that when he went to put Alfa Foxtrot 586 down in the water he was facing 25-30 foot seas.

B. Now he put it down for what reasons?

A. He had a problem with the No. 1 propeller. It translated itself into four separate engine fires. The first two engine fires he could put out. The aircraft has fire extinguisher systems that will put out two fires on any one side. The third fire blew out. When the fourth one flared up, he realized that he was out of options, a little bit like the captain of Amphitrite. He’d run out of options and had to do something decisive and what Jerry did was, before the wing burned off and killed them all, he put the plane into the water. And everything flowed from there.

B. Did this happen right when the storm hit?

A. No. There had been a storm out there the whole time. They were going out from Adak for a flight that was scheduled to be 9 hours. That weather was there and stayed in the Aleutians for the next couple of days. As a matter a fact while the search and rescue flights were being flown looking for them the weather moved down the Aleutian chain, from west to east, and progressively closed the Air Force base and the Navy bases and things like that, tremendously complicating the conduct of the search and rescue missions.

B. Although Jerry Grigsby didn’t make it, how many men were in the life raft at this point?

A. There are now thirteen in the raft at about two or three o’clock Thursday afternoon. Thirteen of them have made it into two rafts. There are nine guys in a seven-man raft and four men in a twelve-man raft.

B. Are they lashed together?

A. The rafts blow apart. After just a few minutes they blow a couple of miles apart and they don’t see each other. Over the course of the next twelve hours three of the young men in the nine-man raft die of exposure. And it’s pretty clear that the rest of them had just a few hours to live. Meanwhile, there is a frantic effort to rescue them. And that effort includes an appeal from Washington to Moscow for assistance because there are no American flag vessels or US Navy ships in the North Pacific around them. It turns out there is a Soviet fishing trawler, the Mys SInyavin. Mys SInyavin is directed by the Soviet Fisheries Ministry to turn around and sail to the wreck site. And she is led to the rafts by a US Coast Guard airplane that has been flying on top of the rafts.

B. Oh, so they know where they are?

A. They know exactly where they were. They just can’t get them out of the water. And the water is going to kill them. The nearest Coast Guard cutter is 2-1/2 days away. It’s a Coast Guard cutter, also out of Adak, Alaska, Hamilton class cutter, and she’s not going to get there until Saturday morning. This is now Thursday night. So the Mys SInyavin turns around, heads back to the wreck site and manages in the middle of the night to collect the ten living men, who are hours from death at most, and the three bodies. They will spend a week in the Soviet Union in two hospitals, one in Kamchatka, the Kamchatka Peninsula and one on the Soviet mainland. And then quite remarkably and quite surprisingly they are released. And they are home Saturday, nine days after they hit the water with the three bodies of the young crewmembers who died. So the story is about a ten day story. What makes it exciting is that the sources on that were very very good. I have in fact, among other things, the tape recordings of the emergency radio transmissions between the aircraft and the ground in 1978. And when you listen to them it is breathtaking. One of the young crewmembers, the tactical coordinator, is talking to Elmendorf radio and at 200 feet above the water, he is telling Elmendorf that, okay, they are going in. They’ve stretched this out as long as they can. He’s sitting at a window. His station has a window. He’s sitting above the water, looking at these horrific waves, the horrific wind, telling them that they have 15 of them aboard, that they’ve got life rafts, that they’re all wearing survival suits. And his voice is so calm and so collected that he sounds like a sports announcer watching a ballgame. You would think that there would be something in his voice that would tell you he thinks he was going die because he had every reason to believe he was. And it’s not. The kid’s just out of college. It’s just an extraordinary demonstration of professionalism and coolness that, every time I hear that transmission, and I’ve probably heard it 150 times, I marvel at it.

B. I assume that when you do a book tour you play that tape during your talk. It must be breathtaking for folks who hear that.

A. I play that tape and play a number of sections from it. I begin with that because it’s just so arresting to hear that. And then I explain to people “Okay, this is what you heard. Now let’s listen to it again”. And as I say, every time I go through that I get a lump in my throat. Matt Gibbons is the guy whose voice that is. Matt lives on Half Moon Bay in California now. He works for a technology company called Novellus. You look at Matt today, he looks like…do you know the American cartoon character Elmer Fudd?

B. Yes (laughing).

A. Okay. Matt looks a little like Elmer Fudd. And what you don’t realize looking at Matt is here’s a guy of exquisite courage. I mean just extraordinary courage. And it’s all wrapped up in this quite ordinary body. Interestingly enough, I mentioned to you that Jerry Grigsby died. He was never able to swim to a raft. Two years later, Matt married Jerry’s widow. They live today, happily, more than thirty years later, in California where this is still a big part of their lives, this whole memory.

B. Have you met most or all of the survivors?

A. All of them. With one exception they all cooperated very generously while I was writing the book. One of them was in my squadron for a brief period of time. The navigator was in my squadron before he went to this squadron. And the guy who wrote the Navy investigation for this I knew. The commanding officer of the squadron was a contemporary of mine so I knew him too. So it was a story in the family and it was possible to tell it especially persuasively, especially convincingly because I had flown the airplane most of my life. I’d operated out of that part of Alaska. I had flown off the Soviet coast where they were flying. And I kind of understood a lot of what was going on there although I won’t pretend to you that I have any experienced anything remotely like what they went through which is just an extraordinary event.

B. That’s pretty amazing.

A. It’s a neat story.

B. And you’ve picked four rather amazing stories. I can’t wait to see what’s up your sleeve next, Andy.

A. I haven’t even begun to think about it. I’m deep in Amphitrite and her women. What I try to do is to always be working on a book and in the intervals around the edges of that, I generally write a periodical article each year. There has been one published in Naval History Magazine every year for the last, I don’t know how long. And they’re generally 5000-6000 word features on exciting adventures. The American expedition up the Congo [B. Note: This article was voted Feature of the Year by Naval History magazine in 2006]. The American expedition down the Amazon. Henry Eckford, an American ship designer in the 1830s, who ended up quite improbably running the shipyard for the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul. They’re stories that are odd and they’re interesting and it gives me a chance to take a midway break from working on the book to dip into something else for a couple of weeks and then refresh and revitalize until I get back into it.

B. When you retired from the Navy, what rank were you at?

A. I was a Captain.

B. And you also spent some time in Vietnam?

A. I spent a year in Vietnam on the MACV staff at Ton Son Nhut. My graduate degree was in Southeast Asian Politics. I’m a graduate of the School of International Affairs, because I expected to go to Vietnam, I concentrated on Southeast Asia.

So when I finished the degree program, as expected I ended up going to Vietnam and I spent a year in Psychological Operations. It was our mission to persuade the members of the North Vietnamese Army in the Republic of Vietnam to surrender and to persuade the members of the Viet Cong to rally to the government. And you can tell by the way the war came out how successful I was in that. Which is to say, not at all!

B. (laughing)

A. And I spent many years reflecting on that failure. And I finally concluded that you can’t get people to quit if they think they’re winning. And there is no reason why they thought that they weren’t winning, because they were. It was clear to them, and consequently all our persuasion, all our dropping of leaflets on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, all our propaganda broadcasts, one thing and another we were doing. We were just going through the motions. We were having no effect whatsoever.

B. At the time, did you know that?

A. At the time, I suspected it but I didn’t know it, and I wasn’t going to quit trying. As you can tell, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. And it was very ill conceived, the effort we made. And we used to drop 12 or 13 million propaganda leaflets at a time. There must be parts of Laos today that you can still walk hip deep through propaganda leaflets assuming that they haven’t disintegrated into paper mache. And that effort was just silliness.

B. But at the time, it seemed to make sense (laughing)!

A. Well (laughing) Lord knows we were trying! One of the things we tried to do is we decided that people were not picking up leaflets because they’d get in trouble if they did.

B. Oh, okay.

A. So people said, “What would they pick up. They’d pick up money, wouldn’t they”? So there was a program where one side of the leaflet was printed with money. Printed as if it were a piaster or a North Vietnamese dong or something. So then we realized “Hey, that’s really dangerous”! You start that stuff then you encourage people to counterfeit your money and now all kinds of stuff unravel. So, we went from that to the idea of “Why don’t we print propaganda on tobacco leaves!”, because all these guys will pick up tobacco to make cigarettes to smoke. But you start trying to feed tobacco leaves through high speed printing presses…

B. (laughing loudly).

A. I want to tell you the mess you can make is just stupefying! Modern equipment or what was modern then, can’t handle something like that. So there are a lot of things we did that, that when I look back on, I say to myself “Gee that was silly!” But there are more important criticisms than what I’m saying.

B. These are the stories that the general public never hears (laughing). I don’t think they’re stories out of school. They’re just things that happened.

A. We set up a propaganda radio station in the Highlands of Pleiku and people started saying “Hey, wait a minute. Who’s going to hear this? There aren’t enough radios around.” So the decision was “Alright, let’s buy some really cheap radios, fix tuned to this station and just air drop them.” And then there was decision made that said “Okay, we have to make sure that there is no way that these radios can be traced back to us.” So a some expense, we had a bunch of radios made (little things about the size of a pack of cigarettes), we had a bunch of these things made and paid quite a bit of money to make sure that there was no component in the radio that identified its origin. You know, Made in…made here, or made there. And then we started scattering these things up and down Vietnam. Well, unless you believed in the Radio Fairy, there’s only one place these things could have come from…

B. (laughing)

A. …the United States! So the whole concept of dropping these mysterious radios that nobody knew where they came from was silly because everybody knew where they came from.

B. Considering the channel that they were locked in on…

A. There was one player in that part of the world with enough money to do that…

B. & A. (laughing).

A. Anyhow, I’ve had a lot of time to think back on this stuff. It was odd. Very odd. And more than odd it was in many respects, tragic.
I felt very strongly as a young man. One of the parts of the deal was if you were a commissioned officer in regular Navy, if there was a war going on you were honor bound to serve. And on the strength of that I’ve never regretted what I did but I have looked back with a certain amount of bemusement as to just how it all came out.

I hope that gives you a sense of maritime adventures that I’ve been working on and writing up and how it is I got from the rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 to the trials and tribulations of John Harrison Surratt Jr. and finally to what tragically happened to the women aboard the convict transport Amphitrite off the beach of Bologne in 1833.

B. This has been fascinating history and I’m really thrilled that you shared it with us. It has been my pleasure to talk with you and share these great stories with my readers. Andy, thank you so much.

A. I’ve enjoyed meeting you over the ether. I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I appreciate your interest and attention.

B. Thank you.

END

—————————————————————-

I want to thank Andy for this interview and look forward to our continued conversations in the future.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

 

 

 

 

“An Awesometalk With” Ed Isaacs, Owner of Civil War Diary from Soldier Who Guarded the Lincoln Conspirators

April 10, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Ed Isaacs holds the diary of his great great grandfather George E. Dixon.

Life has a way of blessing you when you least expect it. Call it karma, good luck or maybe even a genuine intervention by a higher power. I personally believe that things happen for a reason and so when this story began about two weeks ago, I can say that I was blessed again. A kind and humble gentleman by the name of Ed Isaacs, a retired fire fighter from Norwalk, Connecticut wrote to me saying that he had just come into possession of the diary of his great great grandfather, George E. Dixon. George was a Civil War sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp; the regiment that was assigned to guard, and eventually take part in the executions of several of the Lincoln assassination conspirators in 1865. This was extremely exciting news for me as this is the focus of my current research.

Once Ed shared some of the contents of the diary with me, I knew I was seeing something that was never before on the public record.

The diary is the first known document found to list the names of the guards and their duties guarding the prisoners. It also adds another perspective to the story. It’s a first hand account, documented in the handwriting of the man who was actually there and participated in this famous historic event.

From a researcher’s point of view, George E. Dixon’s diary is a great find. And as you’ll read, Ed Isaacs’ efforts to share this as well as honor the members in his family tree are genuinely uplifting. I am happy and honored to share this story with you on his behalf. Enjoy.

Barry 

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B.Hey Ed. How are you? 

 

E. I’m good and ready to go! 

 

B.(laughing) Alright then, let me start by asking you where you live and what did you do for a living before you were retired?

E. The answer to that is I live in Norwalk, Connecticut. I just recently retired on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th of this year from the Norwalk Fire Department with nearly 32 years on the job.

B.Wow. 

E. Yup. It was a good career. I took good care of my family with that.

B. Let me ask you about two associations that you are affiliated with. You are a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and a member and past president of The Sons of the American Revolution.

E. Yes I am.

B.What are those organizations and how do they serve their members?

E. These are hereditary societies whose missions are to preserve the ideals our forefathers fought for during the Civil War and the American Revolution. I was the past president of The Roger Sherman Branch, Connecticut Society Sons of the American Revolution. I had three ancestors that were in the Revolutionary War and they were Amos Dixon, John Saunders and Samuel Brown Isaacs. And then I became a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and my ancestors there of course were George E. Dixon and Edwin Lorenzo Tuttle who fought in the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and then he reenlisted into the 17th.

B.And the reason we are talking here today is because of your great great grandfather, George E. Dixon.  

 

Sergeant George E. Dixon.

Sergeant George E. Dixon wearing his medals which can be seen later in this article.

 

You contacted me by email back on March 23 and I’d like to read a portion of that note now.

“I recently acquired a diary that was my great-great grandfather’s. His name was George E. Dixon from Poundridge, NY. During the Civil War he was stationed in Washington, D.C. This is what his diary says,  

May 16, 1865: On guard at the old penitentiary over the Booth party conspirators.
I was in the court room during the day while the witness’s were being examined. I saw the bullet that killed the President, also the pistol and two carbines. Booth’s photograph and the boot that was cut open to take it from his broken leg by Dr. Mudd.

 July 7, 1865: On guard at the penitentiary. The execution of Surratt, Payne, Atzerodt + Herold.

 I hope you find this interesting”.

Well Ed (laughing) the first thing that I thought to myself was ‘DAH! Of course I’d find this interesting”. For me, this is great stuff. This is sort of what I specialize in and so I was dying to talk to you and I’m glad that we now have a rapport and are talking more and more about this.

E. And for me it was very interesting because I wasn’t really aware of any of that history. Maybe I mentioned that I have his obituary, “Civil War Veteran Claimed by Death”. Commenting on the execution, of which he was an eyewitness, he says in his diary,

 “The first two, having fainted, were carried to the gallows by the guards: the latter two walked calmly up and put their heads in the nooses.”

So of course, when I eventually got the diary this is what I expected to see. I’ve never seen this line in here yet! So, it could have been hearsay from his wife or a child. But the information I did find was pretty fantastic.

B.So that quote is actually not in the diary from what you can find so far! 

E. I have not found that quote. Nope. 

B.George lived to be quite old. And two things I’ll ask you to explain to everyone are ‘Who was George Dixon’ and ‘what was his history’?

E. George E. Dixon was 90 years old when he passed away. He was a Civil War Veteran who resided in Pound Ridge, New York. He was well known to the people of Stamford. He was the driver for an old mail and passenger stagecoach line for many years. He was born in Pound Ridge on December 2, 1834.

 

George E. Dixon's business card.

George E. Dixon's business card.

He attended the schools of that district. And on April 4, 1859, he married Sarah E. Birdsall, a native of Pound Ridge. After the Civil War broke out, he volunteered for the service of his country, joining the 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery. He was mustered in at Yonkers, and went to a training camp for three months. 

B.[NOTE: At this point in the interview I interrupted Ed with another question and we never got back to George E. Dixon’s history, so here is the rest of it before we pick up the interview again].

His military service states:

 He enlisted as a Private in the 172nd Infantry Regiment New York on September 6, 1862, at the age of 27. He was transferred into Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on December 4, 1862. He was transferred on January 26, 1864 from Company M to Company A. He was wounded on June 20, 1864 at Petersburg, Virginia. He was transferred to Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on January 19, 1865 and then transferred to Company C, 14th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps January 19, 1865. On July 7, 1865, he was appointed Sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment of Veteran Reserve Corps to rank as such from the 1st day of July 1865. During the war, he was twice wounded in action and fought in the following battles: Manassas Gap, Mire Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Harris House, North Anna River, Totopopomoy, Cold Harbor, and Bethesda Church. In this last battle, he was wounded when the handle of a musket was shot off and later, at Petersburg, he was shot in the right arm. He was honorably discharge July 31, 1865. Just prior to his discharge, he was present to witness first hand, a chronicle of American History. During his final service in Washington, DC, he served as sergeant of the guard at the penitentiary in Washington where the persons implicated in the death of President Abraham Lincoln were kept and later was in charge of the guards at the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, George Atzerodt, and David Herold, who were involved in the assassination plot.

 Following the war, he returned to Pound Ridge where in 1868, he was given a contract of carrying mail between Stamford and Pound Ridge; a position which he held for 22 years. At first, he only carried the mail three times a week but, later, the number of trips was increased to six. When the rural routes were instituted, he continued carrying freight and passengers until 1916.

Ninety-year old George E. Dixon died on March 16, 1925; just 19 days shy of his 66th wedding anniversary (April 4, 1925). He was one of the oldest members of the Charles A. Hobbie Post #23 of the Grand Army of the Republic located in Stamford. At the time of his death, he was survived by four children – Charles L. of New York City, Mrs. Ada Isaacs of New Canaan, Myron A. of Stamford, and Wilbur of New Canaan: his wife, Sarah E., and 14 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

——————————————– 

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

B. You sent me two pictures of George, one of him and his wife and the other being a family portrait. I guess these are both from their 65th wedding anniversary on April 4, 1924. Is that correct?

[Note: Just last Saturday, April 4, 2009 would have marked George and Sarah’s 150th wedding anniversary].

E. That’s correct. At their home which we referred to as “Charter Oak Place”. 

B.In the family photo, is there somebody there that you are directly related too? 

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

E. The young couple right behind Sarah and George were my grandparents. The young gentleman is Clarence Isaacs and his wife Muriel. It is very sad how things go because that picture was taken in April, 1924 and my father had just been born in February of that year. My grandmother, Muriel  died the following year at only 21 years old. My grandfather Clarence died at 30 years old in 1927. So they didn’t have a great long life, yet Clarence’s mother Ada, who’s standing right next to him, lived to 96 years old. That’s Ada Dixon Isaacs, my great grandmother.  

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

 

B.Well…I’d love to say that …

E. …you don’t know what tree you’re going to be in. Right!

B.Exactly (laughing).

E. Yup.

B.When did you first get interested in your great great grandfather? I know you have some items of his as well as his diary.

E. Well first, the items that I have, I didn’t have to worry about collecting, outside of the diary, because the items were already here. My father was a great collector. In my family, we save everything. I’vegot a bible from Samuel Brown Isaacs who was in the Revolutionary War and I’ve got a powder horn from Amos Dixon.

But the question is always asked “When did I get interested in it”? Like a lot of people would say “When your parent dies”. My dad was very interested in our family history. And of course when I lost him in 1990, I’d always remember as a young kid when I was 10, 12, 14 years old, the many weekends we would spend going to a cemetery, a library, a town hall or somewhere always looking for facts on family. And that’s what we did. And of course as I came up on sixteen years old, I’m looking at my watch saying “Dad, I got a date. I gotta get out of here”. I didn’t show as much interest then. But when I lost him it became one of the most important things in my life. Honoring my ancestors is honoring my father, Howard R. Isaacs.

 My family has a lot of history in this area.  Ralph Isaacs and Mary Rumsey Isaacs settled in Norwalk in 1725.  My family has not moved more than 20 miles in 284 years.

B.What are some of the items that you obtained from your father?

E. I have George E. Dixon’s certificate promoting him to Sergeant. I’ve got his pension paper. I’ve got original news articles about George and Sarah’s 65th wedding anniversary and of course the article on his death. I’ve got many photos including George with family members in front of his home “Charter Oak Place”. I’ve got a medal given to him for serving in the 6th Regt. New York Heavy Artillery, Army of the Potomac and his GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] medal. And now I have his diary!

 

 

George Dixon's Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

George Dixon's New York Volunteers Heavy Artillery Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

 

B.Well, let’s talk about the diary then (laughing)!

When you contacted me on March 23 you had only just received it a few days before on March 18, so you haven’t had it that long.

E. When it arrived at my house in the envelope I did not open it. I needed to relax in anticipation of what I would discover. I just put it downstairs in a safe place until Sunday the 22nd and that was the first time I opened it. I was just so relieved.

B.How long have you known of its existence?

E. I didn’t know if it still existed. All I had was just a copy of his obituary that said “…in his diary” and that one quote that I haven’t been able to find. But I didn’t know where that diary could be. So really, the story of how I got it is very interesting.

B.I’m sure. Can you tell us?

E. Before I retired, I was looking at family members’ histories and went on Ancestory.com. I started loading the names of different family members that I had, on it. I looked at photographs of George and Sarah and the extended family. One of my parents had put the names of the different family members on the back of the photos. So I just started looking at the different names and I found one, that was Floyd E. Dixon. I put Floyd E. Dixon into my family tree just looking to see who else would be searching for this particular Dixon and I found one that matched exactly. And then of course, I made a phone call to Maine to Pamila Dixon Tift and said, “Hi, I’m your cousin”. I started sending her a lot of information about our great great grandfather.  When I sent her a copy of George’s obituary talking about his diary, she called me back and said she had that diary.

B.(laughing).

E. Needless to say, I nearly fell out of my chair here. But I had to keep my wits about me. Through many emails and conversations over the next week or so I let her know that since I had everything else of his, and I’m only minutes from Pound Ridge where he lived; and I visited the home where he lived many times… that the diary needed to be here. I was very fortunate that she agreed with me.  

If anything else was interesting, she told me that she put it in the mail on March 16th and just by coincidence, I looked at his obituary again that night and noticed that March 16, 1925 was when he died. So everything has a meaning.

 

 

The Dixon gravestone.

The resting place of George E. Dixon, Sarah Dixon and Ada Isaacs.

B.Yeah for sure! What an amazing story. It sounds like coincidence but perhaps it’s not. It goes deeper than that and was meant to be in your hands.

E. That’s exactly right.

B.When you first opened the diary did you focus on any one page after you looked through it?

E. The main one for me was of course the page we just talked about where he was an eyewitness in the courtroom when the witnesses were being examined. That one, and the other page that’s seems to be the one getting us all really excited, page 27, with the names of the guards and executioners. I didn’t have a clue what anything on this page meant, so I contacted you.

 

 

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

  

B.At first, when you sent me a photo of the page, we were debating whether the list of names was of guards or prisoners. Well it turned out that it was a list of guards from the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp.

 

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

 

But the names that really jumped out at me were the four at the bottom of the page [#15, 16, 17 & 18]. And those were the names of the four guards that stood under the scaffold and who were responsible for knocking the props out, or springing the traps.

 

Although spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are

Although some of the names are spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are in Dixon's list: William Coxshall, Joseph Haslett, George F. Taylor and Daniel F. Shoupe (Shoup).

[Ed later pointed out that on this same page George notes this very fact when he writes “The last four numbers were executioners. Sergt. G. E. Dixon, Co. C, 14th Reg”.]

  

 

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

I guess as we’ve talked a little bit further it sounded like George, at the time being a Sergeant, perhaps was in charge of scheduling some of his men to guard the prisoners, hence his list of guards names.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E. These names didn’t mean anything to me because even though I have my family here that I honor very much, I didn’t follow the history as much as I should. But now I’ve started looking into it more. As you know I’ve bought the book “American Brutus” by Michael Kauffman and I have just bought “The Trial” by Ed Steers Jr. That’s just about twice as many books as I’ve probably ever read in my life.

B.(laughing) Well the two authors you mentioned are both excellent in this field. The field of the assassination.

E. Oh yes. It’s very exciting.

B.On your behalf, I did approach some of these gentlemen who I correspond with and respect highly. And right off the bat we had a really good response from Michael Kauffman. I think his first response to me, before I passed it on to you, was “WOW”! So it really meant something to him as it related to his own research. I know that he is now working with you to further discover what other information is to be found in that list as well as in the other pages of the diary.

Michael is definitely excited about the project. I have had responses from other Lincoln experts. Some are quite busy right now. But eventually these folks will get back to you as their schedules free up.

E. I know for sure that this has to be exciting for some of them just like when you contacted me. If someone is going to give you his cell phone number you know that they are interested. To get the home phone number from Michael Kauffman or to hear from Laurie Verge, I mean that is very exciting and I’m very honored for George E. Dixon. I really am!

B.Laurie Verge is the Director of the Surratt House Museum and Surratt Society. She is quite interested in collecting whatever information she can on George, putting it into their files, so any future researchers have an opportunity to explore him and see how his life relates to perhaps the research that they are doing. It’s an exciting time, Ed!

E. It really is. When I retired on March 17, officially after the 18th, I wondered what I was going to do other than feet hitting the floor in the morning and going to get a cup of coffee. I’m still not that old but I plan on doing something down the road. But to have this happen, there isn’t a day right now where I don’t have something to do. I’m doing a newspaper interview tomorrow in George’s hometown of Pound Ridge at 10:00 o’clock. It’s all about honoring George and it’s a great thing. I’m really enjoying it.

B.Do you have children Ed?

E. I have a 19-1/2 year old daughter Emily and my son will be 18 in June and that is Christopher.

B.Do they find interest in this or are they sort of like how you were back when? They have their own life right now!

E. Just like me! (laughing).

B.(Laughing)

E. My wife is very good with this. She understands that not everyone is into this when you are a teenager. But everything is going to be put away safely and catalogued somehow so they’ll have things to look at and be proud of when they do show interest. My son is also a member of The Sons of the American Revolution. And in December of this past year I got my daughter into The Daughters of the American Revolution. So they are good to go. It is just a matter of what they want to do with their lives and their time. But they are good to go.

B.What’s your hope for yourself now that you are retired?

E. Now that I have the Dixon diary, I can see my first book. I can see myself going on some talking tours. Maybe do some schools. It would be very interesting once I figure out everything. It’s nice to say that you’ve got something but you want to make sure that you know what you are talking about. If I can put something together, I would enjoy it. I really would. It’s a nice thing and so many people are interested in the Civil War and of course the assassination of Lincoln. It’s a lot to go over. It really is a lot. 

B.Well it’s a great part of our history and the Dixon clan has been a part of it for decades, for centuries. And you must carry on the tradition.

E. Exactly. There you go.

B.Well Ed, this has been great. And you and I will obviously be talking well beyond this interview. I think there is a lot more to look into and as we start to pick it apart and figure out which way to go, I’m glad you’re taking me for the ride.

E. I feel I’m honored to have you ask me these questions. I’m very excited. And as I’m sitting here looking at my computer now I see this picture of Harold Holzer, the eminent Lincoln scholar and Civil War expert. And thinking that you’re interviewing me, and you’ve interviewed him and some of these other guests, I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.

B.(laughing).

E. I’m floating on a cloud right now.

B.I have to thank Harold because he was my first interview. He actually contacted me when I was searching out some information for another gentleman who had written me. He is a gracious man and always very generous with his time, and I will always be grateful to him for that. 

E. You have a great website. And of course as you already know, the short article that you put on there about me yesterday, I’ve already sent out to many of my friends (laughing).

B.Ah yes…the TEASER!!! (laughing).

E. You’ve got a lot more followers now, I tell you!

B.Thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Ed.

E. Again, I’m just very excited and very honored.

B.You’re a good man Ed and I’ve enjoyed learning about you, your family and George E. Dixon. Thanks again.

E. Thank you.

END

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com