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.
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.
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.
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”:
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:
William Quantrill was the leader of a violent group of Confederate guerrillas, known as Quantrill’s Raiders, whose members included brothers Frank and Jesse James.
After Quantrill was shot and paralyzed during a skirmish with Union soldiers in Louisville, Kentucky in May of 1865 and died a month later on June 6th, his body was buried in Louisville’s St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery.
Years later, in 1887, Quantrill’s mother and his childhood friend, William W. Scott, visited his grave with the intention to dig him up and bring his body to his hometown of Dover, Ohio. After Scott started digging, he discovered Quantrill’s bones had mostly disintegrated and only a few large bones and his skull remained. His mother identified the remains from a chipped tooth he had since childhood.
Civil War food was very different from the types of food we eat today. Due to war-time food shortages and a lack of both refrigeration and large-scale food processing, most meals were simple, easy to prepare dishes made from basic ingredients that could be grown in a garden or purchased and stored easily.
Food rations in the military were delivered to Union soldiers by volunteers in the United States Sanitary Commission. The purpose of the commission was to ensure that soldiers were fed healthy and nutritional meals to prevent malnutrition and food poisoning. Since the focus was on health and nutrition, not culinary delight, and there were around 2 million soldiers to feed, the food tended to be bland, basic and simple. Each soldier’s daily rations included:
James Russell Lowell was an abolitionist and poet from Cambridge, Massachusetts who served as the first editor of the Atlantic Monthly magazine from 1857 to 1861.
In October of 1860, Lowell wrote a long article titled “The Election in November,” in which he endorsed Abraham Lincoln for President of the United States, praising Lincoln’s opposition to slavery and eerily predicting that the election would be a “turning-point in our history.”
The following is the full text of Lowell’s endorsement of Lincoln:
“The Election in November
By James Russell Lowell
While all of us have been watching, with that admiring sympathy which never fails to wait on courage and magnanimity, the career of the new Timoleon in Sicily,—while we have been reckoning, with an interest scarcely less than in some affair of personal concern, the chances and changes that bear with furtherance or hindrance upon the fortune of united Italy, we are approaching, with a quietness and composure which more than anything else mark the essential difference between our own form of democracy and any other yet known in history, a crisis in our domestic policy more momentous than any that has arisen since we became a nation. Indeed, considering the vital consequences for good or evil that will follow from the popular decision in November, we might be tempted to regard the remarkable moderation which has thus far characterized the Presidential canvass as a guilty indifference to the duty implied in the privilege of suffrage, or a stolid unconsciousness of the result which may depend upon its exercise in this particular election, did we not believe that it arose chiefly from the general persuasion that the success of the Republican party was a foregone conclusion.
Benjamin Butler was a Massachusetts Senator who served as a Union General during the Civil War.
Despite the fact that he was a Democrat and a Northerner, during the 1860 National Democratic Convention in Charleston, Butler voted 57 times in favor of nominating Jefferson Davis as the Democratic presidential candidate.
Much to the dismay of his colleagues, Butler declared himself a friend of southern rights and reasoned that only a Southern moderate could keep the Democratic party from splitting.
Illustration of Benjamin Butler published in Harper’s Weekly on June 1, 1861
Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a slave who later became a spy for the Union army during the Civil War.
Born as Mary Elizabeth Richards, sometime around the year 1839, she was a slave of John Van Lew of Virginia. After John Van Lew died in 1843, or 1851 (sources differ on the exact date), Elizabeth Van Lew and her daughter, also named Elizabeth, freed all of the family’s slaves, despite the fact that John Van Lew’s will didn’t allow it, according to a New York Times article:
“Mary’s freedom was likely de facto, not de jure, at least until after the war: both Virginia state law and stipulations in her husband’s will impeded Mrs. Van Lew from legally manumitting any of her family slaves.”