There was a substantial amount of eyewitness testimony that the man who was killed at Garrett’s farm was not John Wilkes Booth. But if it wasn’t, where was Booth? And who was the man with red hair who was shot and killed?
Fast forward twelve years to 1877. In a little place called Granbury, Texas, a man named John St. Helen lay dying. He summoned Finis Bates, his attorney, and confessed that he was not John St. Helen. “My name is John Wilkes Booth.”
On April 24, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold arrived at the tobacco farm of Richard H. Garrett. They had been on the run for nine days. Booth lied to Garrett, claiming to be a wounded Confederate soldier, and the farmer agreed to let the men stay in his tobacco barn. The men were nervous, knowing the countryside was swarming with people looking for them.
The government was offering a $100,000 reward for the conspirators’ capture, which is the equivalent of $1.6 million in 2020. The biggest price was on Booth’s head, for $50,000.
Explicit warnings on the Wanted posters stated that anyone assisting the fugitives in any way would be treated as accomplices, who would be subject to a trial by a military commission and the death penalty.
John Wilkes Booth knew the shot he fired at Abraham Lincoln was fatal. He had a simple plan for his getaway. He ordered a stagehand to hold his horse at the side door and he fled Washington D.C. as fast as he could go.
Booth, meanwhile, had made good time getting out of town. He crossed the Navy Yard Bridge into Maryland, and met one of his co-conspirators, 21-year-old David Herold.