• Lincoln Conspirator David E. Herold Lied About Helping John Wilkes Booth Escape

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    DAVID E. HEROLD, 22, was one of the conspirators who was found guilty and hanged for being involved in President Lincoln’s assassination.  Herold’s attorney tried to portray Herold as simple minded and being misled by Booth into participating in the plot. Boot and his group had hatched an elaborate plan to assassinate members of the cabinet as well as the President in order to take down the government. Herold accompanied Lewis Powell, another conspirator, to the home of William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State. As Powell carried out his attack, Herold, frightened by the shouts from within the Seward home, fled.  Herold caught up with Booth and the two fled, ending up at Dr. Samuel Mudd’s home.  Mudd had agreed to help Booth, including in the original plan, which was to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage.  Mudd discovered that Booth’s leg had been broken when he jumped from the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater to the stage. He set Booth’s leg and put him to bed, later sending him on his way with instructions on how to avoid being discovered by Union soldiers. Herold and Booth eventually arrived at the home of Richard Garrett near Bowling Green, VA, where Union soldiers caught up with them. The two were holed up in a tobacco barn. Unsuccessful at getting Booth to surrender, they fired a shot striking Booth, which proved fatal.  Herold surrendered.  Eight defendants were found guilty by military tribunal. Herold, Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt were hanged on July 7.


    Offering the “Voluntary Statement of David E. Herold. 27th day of April, 1865. On board the monitor ‘Montauk.’” Beautifully typewritten and nicely bound, 19 pp, 8 x 11 ½, the testimony was made before the Honorable John A. Bingham, Special Judge Advocate as the investigation was handled by the War Department.  We don’t find any other copies of Herold’s testimony in this format. Herold’s testimony, which scholars believe was a mixture of truth and fiction, takes the reader through significant events of his travels with Booth when Booth was on the run.


    The first part of the testimony includes questions trying to ascertain Herold’s relationship with Booth. Herold admitted to having met Booth and visiting him in his hotel. He also admits to having met George Atzerodt, another conspirator. He denies that there was any discussion about Lincoln and he attempts to mislead the Judge Advocate about his closeness to Booth.  In his testimony, Herald provides extensive details of his travels with Booth after the assassination.  He made a number of statements about meeting soldiers from Confederate Mosby’s command.


    “…On Saturday night, I heard that Lincoln was shot by a man named Booth. On that night, I came to Bryantown [MD] and was coming home. I met him at the cross roads and, said I, ‘The President is killed, and either you or your brother did it.’  Says he, ‘No, sir, I have not done it.’ I then noticed that he had pistols and a knife on. I said, ‘What are you armed so for?’ That was on Saturday. [Lincoln was shot on Friday.] His leg had been set & was all tied up.”


    Herold then claims that he parted with Booth.  The judge asked Herold if anyone else was with them. “…We were alone…He [Booth] says, ‘Come, let’s take a ride down the road.’  I went to a free darkey’s and bought some bread and milk…I don’t know the darkey’s name…He lives below Bryantown…We went slowly; Booth would not ride fast. When I accused him a second time of the murder of the President, he said ‘I did it;’ and said also, ‘If you leave me, there are parties in Washington that will put you through.’”


    The judge then asks how and when Herold first learned of the President’s death. “Who it was told me, I do not know. I do not know the gentleman’s name.”


    Herold claimed that Booth pressured him into remaining in his company, that since he had been seen with Booth, he would be implicated in the assassination.  He said Booth gave the Black man $5 to provide directions “to a gentleman named Thomas. We went to Thomas’s...and asked if we could get a boat across the Potomac. I said, ‘John, I don’t intend to go with you.’ Said he, ‘You have got to go with me. My leg is broken. If you run away, I will shoot you & parties in Washington will implicate you…’  I begged Booth to let me leave him. I told him I must go home, mother didn’t know where I was. He said that I must stay with him, that if I would go to Mexico with him, we would make a fortune…I preferred to go home.”


    Herold made numerous claims that he tried to part from Booth, but Booth pressured him to stay. He said he pleaded with Booth to give him a letter exonerating him from being involved in the plot, but Booth refused. “…We then heard there was a $10,000 reward offered for Booth, and that Secretary Seward and two of his sons had been killed. Booth…only wished that Seward was killed…He said, ‘there were 35 others in Washington, and four that ought to have joined me…’”


    Herold said that a Confederate Captain Jett said to Booth, “‘…As long as you are a Virginian and wounded, I will carry you up the country, where you can stay.’ He carried him to Garrett’s, and left him there. Whether this gentleman knew Booth’s correct name or not, I don’t know.”


    In his testimony, Herold provides details of how and where he met Booth on the night of the assassination.  He said that Booth confessed to him. “He said he walked in the back part of the box with a small Derringer pistol. There was a soldier or officer trying to prevent him from going into the box, & the thought struck him to draw a letter from his pocket and show it to the man...The man let him pass...He advanced toward the President with the letter in one hand and the pistol in the other...”


    Normal expected toning.  A very example of Lincoln assassination memorabilia in superb condition.


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