Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Documentary Review: The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth (2007)

John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln April 14, 1965 as part of a plot to kill three prominent men, the President, The Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Vice-President Andrew Johnson.  In the case of Johnson, his attacker, George Atzerodt chickened out.  Lewis Powell was to kill Seward, and he invaded his home and, after his gun failed, made a vicious attempt by stabbing him repeatedly around the face and upper body.  Only a device he was wearing for a previously broken jaw prevented his jugular from being cut.  (Both these men would later be hung for their involvement.)  A third involved party (who was also later hung) was David Herold, who would travel with Booth in his escape, and assist Booth in his efforts.
Booth would not be caught for 12 days.  During this time he would keep a journal (although many pages are missing) as he avoided detection. 
Booth broke the fibula in his leg while when he jumped form the presidential booth to the stage after killing Lincoln.  He needed medical attention, and received this from Dr. Mudd.  They mostly stayed in the swamps, but had days of staying in houses.  Their goal was to cross the Potomac into Virginia.  Most of the search would take place in Booth's are of origin, Maryland, to the north. 
They tried to cross the river by night.  However they were disoriented, and ended up back on the Maryland side.  They were successful with the second crossing, and stayed with the the home of Richard H. Garrett, threatening him by gun point, and saying they were soldiers returning home.  The second night they were suspicious as they avoided the soldiers, so were asked to stay in the barn.  Garret's son locked them in, worrying they might steal their horses. 
Igt was here where the pursuers would find them early in the morning.  Herold would surrender, but Booth wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.  The federals set fire to the barn, and as Booth prepared to fire his weapon, he was shot in the neck by Sergeant Boston Corbett.  He was paralyzed, and would die about three hours later.
Booth had hoped to make himself a hero.  Instead he felt the wrath of the country as he followed the papers and heard form others.  He also learned of the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston, the last remaining Confederate force.  He was on the wrong side of the war.
The above mentioned people where hanged July 7, 1865 along with Mary Surratt, who provided a place at her boarding house for the men to plan their deed.  Others were convicted of conspiracy, including Dr. Mudd, and were sent to prison, but later pardoned by President Johnson in 1869.
Mysteries left of this event, did the get everyone involved?  They could not find evidence to charge President Jefferson Davis with conspiracy.  Did the missing pages of Booth's diary implicate others?

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