Boston Corbett on John Wilkes Booth’s Death

Boston Corbett was the sergeant who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth on April 26, 1865 in Port Royal, Va.

Corbett, whose real name was Thomas P. Corbett, was a London immigrant and a deeply religious man who changed his first name to “Boston” after experiencing a religious conversion at a church revival in Boston.

Corbett later joined the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War and eventually became a sergeant in the 16th New York Cavalry. On April 24th, Corbett was one of the selected cavalrymen from his unit sent to hunt down John Wilkes Booth, who was still at large.

Continue reading

Captain Sidney Clarke’s Firsthand Account of the Lawrence Massacre

On August 21, 1863, a rebel guerrilla group called Quantrill’s Raiders, led by William Quantrill, raided the pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas. The raiders killed close to 200 men and boys and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from residents and businesses in the town.

It is believed the group targeted the town not only because of its pro-Union stance but because it also served as a center for militia and vigilante groups such as Jayhawkers and Redlegs, who were know for attacking farms and plantations in Missouri’s pro-slavery counties. According to the book “William Quantrill: His Life and Times,” Quantrill himself admitted he raided Lawrence to “plunder, and destroy the town in retaliation for Osceola” (a Union attack on Osceola, Mo in September of 1861.) Quantrill’s Raiders were never caught or punished for their actions in Lawrence and later went on to commit similar atrocities, with the help of Jesse James, at Centralia, Mo in 1864.

Continue reading

Captain Sally Louisa Tompkins: Nurse and Officer in the Confederate Army

Sally Louisa Tompkins was a Civil War nurse and the only officially commissioned female officer in the Confederate Army.

Born on November 9, 1833 into a wealthy Virginia family, Tompkins was the daughter of Colonel Christopher Tompkins and Maria Patterson and grew up on the family’s plantation in Poplar Grove, Mathews County. After Colonel Tompkins passed away, shortly before the outbreak of the war, Sally relocated to Richmond.

Following the first Battle of Bull Run, the Confederate government asked the citizens of Richmond to help nurse wounded soldiers. This prompted Tompkins to ask her friend, Judge John Robertson, who had recently moved out of Richmond to the countryside, if he would donate his three-story home near the corner of Third and Main Streets to the cause. He agreed and Tompkins turned the home into a 22 bed infirmary for wounded soldiers.

Continue reading

The Disappearance of Sarah Slater: Confederate Spy and Lincoln Conspirator

Sarah Gilbert Slater was a mysterious Confederate spy who worked with both John Wilkes Booth and John Surratt prior to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln but disappeared shortly after without a trace.

Federal investigators began pursuing Sarah Slater after she was mentioned in a number of testimonials during the 1865 Lincoln conspiracy trial and the 1867 trial of John Surratt. Since her true identity was unknown at the time, those who encountered her often identified her merely as “the french woman” or “the lady in the veil” or sometimes mistook her for other women, according to the book “Hidden Heroines of the Civil War”:

Continue reading

Edwin Booth Voted for Abraham Lincoln

Despite his connection to his Confederate-sympathizing brother, John Wilkes Booth, stage actor Edwin Booth voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1864. John Wilkes Booth was reportedly deeply disappointed by his brother’s vote and lectured him for supporting Lincoln.

Although Edwin was 31 years old at the time of the election, it was his first time voting and he experienced a new found pride in doing his patriotic duty, according to a letter he wrote to his friend Emma F. Cary in November of that year:

“I voted (for Lincoln) t’ other day – the first vote I ever cast; and I suppose I am now an American citizen all over, as I have ever been in my heart.”

Surprisingly, the entire Booth family, including Booth’s parents Junius and Mary, were Union sympathizers and abolitionists. John Wilkes Booth was the only member of the family who sided with the Confederacy, which caused tension between the two brothers, according to a letter Edwin wrote to Nahum Capen in 1881:

Continue reading