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Civil War Trust

Capture & Death of John Wilkes Booth

April 26, 1865

Port Royal, Virginia

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John Wilkes Booth is dragged from a burning barn after being mortally wounded. ()

On the run for nearly two weeks following his assassination of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and one of his several co-conspirators David Herold were discovered hiding in the tobacco barn of Richard H. Garrett just south of Front Royal, Virginia. A detachment of the 16th New York Cavalry quickly surrounded the barn in which Booth and Herold were hiding. Though Herold acquiesced to the Union cavalrymen’s demands to surrender, Booth refused, saying “I prefer to come out and fight.” In an effort to draw out the actor turned assassin, Federal troops set the Garret barn ablaze and waited nervously for Booth to either attempt to flee, or succumb to the choking smoke. As he scurried about the barn, a sergeant from the cavalry detachment raised his rifle and shot Booth through a crack in the exterior walls of the barn, rendering him paralyzed. Booth was quickly dragged from the burning structure onto the front steps of the Garret farmhouse, where he lingered consciously for three hours. In his last moments, the assassin Booth reportedly whispered, "Tell my mother I died for my country", and asking that his hands be raised to his face so he could see them, Booth uttered his last words, "Useless, useless," and died as dawn was breaking.


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