Thursday, September 18, 2008

13: Another Side to John Wilkes Booth

When I throw out the name John Wlkes Booth what comes to mind? The end of Lincoln’s hopes for a kind Reconstruction, assassin, actor, murderer, Confederate sympathizer, member of the anti-immigration Know Nothing party, located in a barn, died on a porch, and maybe you even know he was thought of as one of the handsomest men in America in the 1860s.

But what about the romantic Booth? Did anyone have his heart?

Someone most certainly did.

1. In 1864, he exchanged photos and letters with 16 year old Isabel Sumner from Boston Massachusetts. He gave Isabel a ring, set with a pearl, which was inscribed "J.W.B. to I.S." When Booth was sick in New York Isabel sent him flowers. It seems the romance was short-lived, and there is no evidence it lasted beyond the summer of 1864.

2. Sometime in late 1864 or early 1865, Booth entered into a serious romance with Lucy Lambert Hale, daughter of John Parker Hale, a Senator with abolitionist leanings from New Hampshire. However, an American Heritage article states that Lucy began receiving anonymous notes from Booth as early as Valentines’ Day, 1862. Lucy had been pursued by several men including Oliver Wendell Holmes. An image of Lucy is seen below.

3. In January,1865, the paths of Ms. Hale and Mr. Booth crossed when they both found themselves residing in the National Hotel in Washington D.C.

4. Ms. Hale and her father were making preparations to move to Spain as the Senator had been attempting to get President Lincoln to appoint him as minister to Spain.

5. By March, Hale and Booth were secretly engaged. They were often seen together in the National Hotel and there were reports of them kissing and touching, The Senator, Lucy’s father, denied any connection between Lucy and Booth when inquiries were made. In fact, many historians report that Senator Hale hoped to unite his daughter in marriage with Robert Todd, President Lincoln’s son.

6. The young lovers’ behavior was quite scandalous since Lucy Hale was the daughter of one of the nation’s best known Senators. A liason was beneficial for Booth because Lucy could give him access to many movers and shakers of the time.

7. Much as been made throughout historical accounts of those days leading up to Lincoln’s assassination including the fact that Booth attended Lincoln’s Second Inaugural on March 4th. What many don’t realize is Booth attended as the invited guest of Lucy Hale. Many historical resources quote Booth’s good friend, Samuel Knapp Chester relating that Booth said of the ceremony, “What an excellent chance I had to kill the President, if I had wished, on inauguration day!” Booth can be seen in the picture below. Find him in the image row….right of center.

8. President Lincoln appointed Senator John P. Hale to the position of American Ambassador to Spain. Hale instantly accepted the position since after 20 years as New Hampshire’s senator he had lost his re-election bid. He also saw how moving to Spain would be just what he needed to seperate Booth and his daughter.

9. Many detailed histories of the events leading up to the assasssination of Lincoln state that Lucy Hale and John Wilkes Booth were seen in conversation at the National Hotel at the same time her father was meeting with the President.

10. It was that very night that President Lincoln attended the performance of “My American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater and Booth carried out his assassination plot.

11. After shooting the President Booth leaped to the stage shouting “Sic semper tyrannis” breaking his leg along the way. Still, Booth is able to get away from the theater unaccosted.

12. When Booth was finally apprehended he had a picture of Lucy Lambert Hale in his chest pocket.

13. …..and what happpened to Lucy? She spent the next five years with her father in Spain and was never questioned regarding her relationship with John Wilkes Booth. She eventually married William Chandler who also served as a New Hampshire Senator.

There is an interesting article regarding Senator Hale by J. Dennis Robinson titled "Hail Hale, the Hype's All Here", and you can learn more about the home of Senator Hale here

You can find other bloggers posting 13 lists here


Anonymous said...

Excellent history lesson! Reminds me a little of the sort Mr. Al does for me.

Denise Patrick said...

Wonderful post. I love learning new stuff about history. I never knew about Booth's personal life.

Happy TT!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I didn't know any of that.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

There's always another side, isn't there? Thanks for the lesson!

jim said...

Yes, but what I would like confirmed is that Lucy and John Booth were both seen together by a female witness (for Ed Spangler's trial) in the front of the Ford Theatre, at the intermission.

This was just before Abe was shot at 10.15 pm, in the third act of 'Our American Cousin' on Good Friday, April 14th. 1865.

The intermission would have been between 9.30 and 10pm, just after John had detailed Ed Spangler the stage-hand, to put his horse in the stable and de-saddle it for the night.

John had been for a ride (having rented a fresh horse from Pumphrey's stable), as he often did in the early evening and kept his horse(s) in the theatre stables. He would then later return to his hotel (the National, where he always lived when staying in Washington).

Ed was 'always a drudge for Booth' according to James Gifford the theatre manager. However Ed was busy with scene shifting and delegated this task to young Joseph Burroughs the stable boy, colloquially known as 'Peanut John' because he would also sell peanuts to the punters.

If this meeting, time and place with Lucy could ever be confirmed then it is likely that John had arranged to meet her there, after his horse ride, returning to the theatre at about 9.30 to 9.45pm according to Spangler.

This in turn would strongly suggest that John could never have been planning to carry out the deed of assassination, less than half an hour after arranging to meet Lucy.

If this was the case then John just might have left the theatre with Lucy at the intermission before Abe was shot; as the government already had information that Booth was planning to kidnap the President.

But John had already been advised that his plan had been compromised in a letter from Samuel Arnold, another conspirator. He had thus reneged on his kidnap plan because he had sold his horse and buggy.

Ed Spangler had sold them for him on the previous Monday(10th April)according to Gifford, who received the money and the dated receipt; proving that Ed had sold them at a private auction for 260 dollars, the very amount John had requested. (All this came up in the trial).

Booth had always planned to use a horse and buggy to kidnap the President, as they had tried it this way once before with John Surratt. (Since you can't make a possible novice ride a horse at any kind of speed, unless you tied him on and force led the horse causing a long delay, in tying him on. Two on one horse would also be un-realistic, except in the movies).

However after leaving the theatre, John never went back to his hotel but disappeared in Washington somewhere and eventually escaped to somewhere else.

A short time after this, Lucy's father John Parker Hale (whose statue in Washington states he was a leading Abolitionist and had won a bill that stopped the flogging of navy men but also their rum ration)was posted to Spain to be Minister for Spain (Ambassador) for 5 years. And Lucy went with him.

If all of this was the possible case (hinging on John's meeting with Lucy at the theatre), then where did John Booth really disappear to and with whom?

jim said...

date of above : 8 Jan 2010

Unknown said...

The grand-daughter, several times removed, of John Wilkes Booth lives in Barberton, OH.

She is selling-off.a treasure trove of never-before-seen memorabilia from America's most important murder.
The profits of which will be donated to assorted charities.

This will be a private, on-line auction. Your credentials as a collector will be required.