The story of one of the darkest events in the American history is now gaining popularity as a new history trail memorializes the key events that took place after John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.
The State of Maryland in conjunction with other tourism development organizations is promoting a 90-mile historic driving tour that takes drivers on the path that Booth took as he attempted to escape after assassinating President Lincoln.
The trail begins at Washington's Ford’s Theatre, where the assassination took place, snakes through rural Maryland and ends in Virginia at the location of where the barn stood where Booth was eventually cornered and killed.
Booth's route is part of a larger Maryland Civil War Trail guide system. The Booth trail includes 15 stops, each marked with at the minimum a roadside marker that tells the story of what occurred at the site as Booth desperately tried to make his way south toward sympathizers who might harbor him and lead him to freedom. Many of the sites still have structures and exhibits available for public viewing.
The initial stop of the trail is the infamous Ford's Theatre, which is located in downtown Washington, DC. Today, performances are still held at Ford’s Theatre that tell the story of what happened on that dreadful day in 1865. Visitors can also gaze upon the box that Lincoln sat when he was assassinated; a large American flag denotes his box.
Visiting Ford’s Theatre gives you a better understanding of everything you may have read or heard about the assassination - where Lincoln was sitting, how Booth could enter the rear of the box unnoticed; and finally, how Booth could jump from the box and onto the stage to begin his escape.
If you are going to see a performance at the theater, arrive early, even though the theater seats 1700, performances do sometimes sell out. Underneath the theater, there is also a small museum that is definitely worth visiting. Actual weapons from Booth, the coat worn by Lincoln and many other artifacts are on display.
Directly across the street from Ford's Theatre, and the second stop on the trail, is the Peterson Boarding House, the place where Lincoln died after being shot. It is open to the public as well.
From there, it is on to Maryland, and the Surratt House & Museum. Mary E. Surratt's tavern and home was where the conspirators met to plan the assassination of Lincoln and where Booth first stopped after he had killed Lincoln. Surratt became the first woman executed by the federal government for her role in the assassination.
Next stop is the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum, where Booth had his broken leg attended to by Dr. Mudd. Booth had injured his leg when he jumped from Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater onto the stage immediately after the assassination. Mudd, who had previously met Booth, maintained during his trial that he was not aware that he was working on Booth’s leg when two strangers called on Mudd's home in the middle of the evening seeking medical assistance just days after the assassination of Lincoln. (According to Mudd, Booth was wearing a disguise when he visited Mudd.) While Surratt paid for her support for Booth with her life, Mudd barely escaped a death sentence and instead received a lengthy prison sentence for his assistance to Booth.
Located on a beautiful piece of land in the Maryland countryside, the Mudd House includes a museum and gift shop. The house includes many pieces of original furniture from Dr. Mudd, some of his personal belongings and items that Dr. Mudd made while he was serving prison time.
The culmination of the trail is at Garrett’s Farm, which is in Virginia. The site is designated by a roadside marker. Booth was shot and pulled from a burning barn at the farm and died shortly thereafter. The barn is long gone so all that is at the site is a roadside marker.
Other stops on the Trail include Port Royal, the Star Hotel and more. For more information on the John Wilkes Booth Trail visit www.visitmaryland.org