Abraham Lincoln Was a Fan of John Wilkes Booth

Although John Wilkes Booth is now known as the infamous assassin who brutally murdered Abraham Lincoln in 1865, during his lifetime Booth was known as a famous and handsome stage actor that even Lincoln himself enjoyed watching perform at Ford’s Theater.

Lincoln watched Booth perform in numerous plays, including one called the Marble Heart at Ford’s Theater on November 9, 1863. The Washington Chronicle called it a “beautiful emotional play” and Booth earned rave reviews for his role in the production.


John Wilkes Booth photographed by Alexander Gardner in 1863

According to the book “Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln And The Soldiers’ Home,” Lincoln enjoyed Booth’s performance so much he sent a note backstage inviting him to the White House so they could meet. Booth, a rebel sympathizer and Confederate spy, evaded the president’s invitation. Booth didn’t give Lincoln a specific reason why he couldn’t visit but he later told his friends “I would rather have the applause of a Negro to that of the president!”

According to the book “Inside Lincoln’s White House,” the actor Frank Mordaunt later corroborated this story:

“Lincoln was an admirer of the man who assassinated him. I know that, for he said to me one day that there was a young actor over in Ford’s Theater whom he desired to meet, but that the actor had on one pretext or another avoided any invitations to visit the White House. That actor was John Wilkes Booth.”

Booth successfully avoided visiting the White House and never actually encountered Lincoln until he shot him at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. Since Lincoln was shot from behind and lost consciousness almost immediately, it is unlikely he ever knew that his killer was the same actor he had admired so much.

Shapell Manuscript Foundation: Lincoln’s Family Physician Describes the President’s Final Hours: http://www.shapell.org/manuscript.aspx?285238#.T_4xFpHhfpw
“Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay”; Michael Burlingame, John R. Turner Ettlinger; 1997
“Protecting President Lincoln: The Security Effort, the Thwarted Plots and the Disaster at Ford’s Theater”; Frederick Hatch; 2011
“Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln And The Soldiers’ Home”; Matthew Pinsker; 2003

Female Soldiers at the Battle of Antietam

A total of eight women, disguised as male soldiers, fought in the historic Battle of Antietam in September of 1862. The battle was a decisive one for the Union, as its victory spurred Abraham Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in Union-occupied areas of seceded states and laid the groundwork for the passage of the 13th amendment.

According to the book “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War,” seven of these women at Antietam were Union soldiers and one was a Confederate.


Sarah Edmonds

Several, although not all, of the female Union soldiers who participated in the battle have been identified but the sole female Confederate’s identity remains a mystery due to the Confederate’s notorious lack of record-keeping. These female Union soldiers included Sarah Emma Edmonds of the 2nd Michigan Infantry, Catherine Davidson of the 28th Ohio Infantry, Mary Galloway, an unidentified pregnant woman from New Jersey who was in her second trimester at the time of the battle, Rebecca Peterman of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, Ida Remington as well as another unidentified woman.

Most of these women survived the battle, although many were wounded. The unidentified pregnant woman received an unknown type of wound during the battle but she quickly recovered and later went on to fight at Fredericksburg. Rebecca Peterman, Ida Remington and the Confederate woman fought in the early and deadly phase of the battle commonly referred to as The Cornfield. Peterman and Remington escaped unharmed but the Confederate woman was killed.


Dead Confederate artillerymen photographed by Alexander Gardner in front of Dunker Church

Mary Galloway was shot in the neck and lay wounded in a ravine for nearly thirty-six hours before she was discovered and carried to a field hospital. According to the book “Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War,” Clara Barton, the famous “Angel of the Battlefield,” treated Mary Galloway for her wounds after a male surgeon discovered her in the hospital refusing treatment from the male doctors. Galloway finally allowed the male surgeon to operate on her and remove the bullet that had entered her neck and embedded itself under the skin of her shoulder. She survived and made a full recovery.

Catherine Davidson also survived the battle but received a serious wound when she was shot in the right arm. According to the book “Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom,” Davidson was carried to an ambulance by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin. Thinking she was dying, she gave Curtin her ring to thank him for carrying her. Davidson survived but her arm was amputated halfway between the shoulder and elbow:

“Later, Davidson, dressed now as a woman, met Curtin and told the surprised governor who she was. Curtin, who had worn the ring since that day at Antietam, offered it back to her, but Davidson refused, saying, ‘The finger that used to wear that ring will never wear it again. The hand is dead but the soldier lives on.’”

These female soldiers at Antietam were just a handful of the estimated 400 women who fought in the Civil War and took part in some of the most historic battles such as the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.

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“They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War”; DeAnne Blanton, Lauren M. Cook; 2002
“Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War”; Stephen B. Oates; 1995
“A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom”; Jim Murphy; 2009

Female Soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg

Despite the fact that women were not allowed to join the military during the Civil War, hundreds of women fought as secret soldiers during the war and at least seven of these women fought in the historic Battle of Gettysburg.

According to the book “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War,” about five women fought at Gettysburg: two Union soldiers and three Confederates. Another book, “Women in the Civil War” indicates two additional women fought on the side of the Confederacy at the battle.

One of the female Union soldiers was a woman from New York later identified as Mary Siezgle, but the other was a young teenage girl who still remains unidentified to this day. Both women survived the bloody battle, although the young teenage girl received minor wounds during the fighting.

The three female Confederate soldiers mentioned in “They Fought Like Demons”, who also remain unidentified due to the Confederate’s poor record-keeping, were not as lucky. One of the women was shot in the leg and captured. She was sent to the military hospital in Chester, Pennsylvania where doctors amputated her leg. A Union soldier recuperating in the hospital at the same time as the battle_of_gettysburg_illustrationyoung woman, Thomas Reed, wrote to his parents about her in August of 1863:

I must tell you that we have a female Secesh here. She was wounded at Gettysburg but our doctors soon found her out. They say she is very good looking but the poor girl has lost a leg. It is a great pity she did not stay at home with her mother but she gets good care and kind treatment.”

The other two female Confederate soldiers mentioned in “They Fought Like Demons” did not make it off the battlefield alive. They were both mortally wounded during the infamous Pickett’s Charge. One of the women died while storming a stone wall along Cemetery Ridge and the other died on the field. A male Union soldier guarding Emmitsburg Road that evening heard one of the women’s cries of agony as she lay dying on the battlefield and described it as the most awful sound he had ever heard. Their bodies were later discovered by a Union burial detail, as the Confederates had retreated and left their dead and wounded behind.

According to “Women in the Civil War,” two Confederate women soldiers, cousins Mary and Mollie Bell, who served under General Jubal A. Early, did survive the battle of Gettysburg as well as the battle of Chancellorsville and the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse  until their true identities were discovered in 1864 and they were sent to the Confederate prison, Castle Thunder.

“Women in the Civil War”; Larry G. Eggleston; 2003
Manassas Patch; Civil War Women Step Outside Society’s Norms; May Ewald Durkovic:http://manassas.patch.com/articles/civil-war-women-step-outside-societys-norms
“She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War”; Bonnie Tsui
“They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War”; DeAnne Blanton, Lauren M. Cook