April 29, 1865
HDQRS. DETACHMENT SIXTEENTH NEW YORK CAVALRY, Washington, D.C., April 29, 1865.
Lieut. Col. J. H. TAYLOR, Asst. Adjt. Gets. and Chief of Staff, Dept. of Washington.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that on Monday, April 24, 1865, I received the following order:
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF WASHINGTON, TWENTY-SECOND ARMY CORPS, April 24, 1865.
COMMANDING OFFICER DETACHMENT SIXTEENTH NEW YORK CAVALRY:
SIR: The major-general commanding directs that you detail twenty-five men, well mounted, to be commanded by a reliable and discreet commissioned officer, to report at once to Col. L. C. Baker, Special Agent, War Department, 217 Pennsylvania avenue, opposite Willard’s Hotel. Report your action.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. R. SEWALL,
Lieutenant and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS DETACHMENT SIXTEENTH NEW YORK CAVALRY, Washington, D.C., April 24, 1865.
Lieut. E. P. DOHERTY, Sixteenth New York Cavalry:
SIR: You are hereby detailed for the duty specified in the preceding order, and will report immediately to Col. L. C. Baker for instructions.
J. SCHNEIDER, Captain, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, Commanding Detachment.
In pursuance to the foregoing orders I reported to Colonel Baker, at the time and place specified, and received the following information and instructions. He informed me that he had reliable information that the assassin Booth and his accomplice were somewhere between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. He gave me several photographs of Booth and introduced me to Mr. Conger and Mr. Baker, and said they would accompany me. He directed me to scour the section of the country indicated thoroughly, to make my own disposition of the men in my command, to forage upon the country, giving receipts for what was taken from loyal parties, and to land at or near Belie Plain at all hazards, to swim my horses ashore if I could not and otherwise, and return when I thought proper. I embarked upon the steamer John S. Ide, at Sixth-street wharf, this vessel having been plated at my disposal by the following order:
ASSISTANT QUARTERMASTER’S OFFICE, RIVER TRANSPORTATION, Sixth-Street Wharf, Washington, D.C., April 24, 1865.
CAPTAIN OF STEAMER JOHN S. IDE:
SIR: Having received on board twenty-five men and horses, proceed down the river, subject to the orders of the officer in charge; having performed the duties required of you, return to this city and report to me.
E. S. ALLEN, Captain and Assistant Quartermaster.
I then proceeded down the river to Belle Plain, and having landed my force I issued the following order to the captain commanding the vessel:
HEADQUARTERS DETACHMENT SIXTEENTH NEW YORK CAVALRY, Off Belle Plain, Va., April 24, 1865.
Capt. H. WILSON, Commanding Steamer John S. Ide:
CAPTAIN: You will please moor off, after landing my command, to a place of safe anchorage, not to exceed one mile from this place, and there await further orders. Should you not receive a dispatch from me before the 26th instant at 6 p.m. return to Washington. Should you see any of the enemy’s force report the fact to the gunboat. Forage will remain on board your boat.
E. P. DOHERTY,
First Lieutenant, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, Commanding Detachment.
I then proceeded in the direction of Fredericksburg, and after advancing about three miles I turned southwest and struck the Rappahannock River about twelve miles above Port Conway, 6 a.m. There I met two fishermen, who informed me of a member of surgeons living in the vicinity, and having previously learned the fact that Booth was crippled I deemed it proper to visit the different surgeons and search their premises, making such inquiries and examinations as were thought necessary; this being accomplished, and, finding no traces of the assassin or his accomplice, Mr. Conger requested me to furnish him four men and a corporal, which I did, and he moved down the Rappahannock, following its course. I then marched with the remainder of my command, making a detour of some fifteen miles by the way of King George Court-House, forming a junction with Mr. Conger at Conway’s Ferry at 2 p.m. April 25,1865.
Up to this time we had found no trace of the assassin or his accomplice. I then stopped to feed. It was thought by the detectives that we would not find any traces of the assassins. After feeling, however, I determined to push across the ferry; Mr. Conger, one of the detectives, remained at the house. Mr. Baker, the other detective, accompanied me to the ferry, where I met a negro, who informed me that men answering the description crossed the day before, and that one of them had been into Mr. Roland’s house. Mr. Baker, and myself proceeded to the house of Mr. Roland, and there, after exhibiting the photographs, we concluded that we were on their track. I dispatched three men in a small boat to bring over a scow, which was on other side of the Rappahannock River; I also dispatched one man to inform Mr. Conger that we had track of the assassins, and to come down immediately. Mr. Rollins, at the ferry, informed me that two men were brought there from Mathias Point by a negro, to whom they had paid $15, and wanted to engage him, Rollins, to take them to Orange Court-House; that he refused to go so far, but they engaged him to take them to Bowling Green for $10; that these men showed great anxiety to get across the river, and wished him (Mr. Rollins) to use his small boat, and they would pay him extra; that Herold told him that they were brothers, and that Booth was wounded at Petersburg; that he refused his small boat for the reason he was using it putting out his fishing net; that, at about this time, three Confederate soldiers came up and shook hands with one of them. Herold then came to the house and apologized for not taking the horse and wagon, and said he had met an old schoolmate, and that they were going to ride in “twain.” Mrs. Rollins said the three soldiers were Capt. Willie Jett, Lieutenants Ruggles and Bainbridge; that Captain Jett was courting a young lady by the name of Goldman, whose father kept a hotel at Bowling Green. In the meantime the horses and men were being ferried across as rapidly as possible. At 6 p.m. my whole command was across, and I moved on toward Bowling Green.
On the road, absent three miles from Port Royal, I met a negro on horseback; not, wishing to lose time I rode ahead of the column and directed the negro to turn back and ride beside myself. I learned from him that the party that we were in quest of had all returned except Capt. Willie Jett (rebel). Proceeding along we arrived at a house seven miles from Bowling Green. I learned here that some of Mosby’s men had been along the day before and taken three horses from three Yankee soldiers. Messrs. Conger and Baker entered the house and were informed that the party who had passed there the previous day had all returned except Captain Jett. The house of Mrs. Clark, some four miles distant, was spoken of as a place where some of the party might be. I determined, however, to push on to Bowling Green and secure the said Captain Jett. Arriving within about half a mile of the town I dismounted ten men, who were ordered to accompany Mr. Baker into the town. Mr. Conger, Rollins (the guide), and myself rode ahead and surrounded the house; the dismounted men shortly afterward arrived and surrounded the house and outhouses; this was about 12 o’clock midnight
We knocked about fifteen minutes at each door without receiving and reply; at length a negro appeared on the street who showed the way to the negro house in rear, and on entering I asked a negro where Willie was, meaning Captain Jett; he replied that he was in bed. Conger inquired where the room was, &c. In a few moments Mrs. Goldman opened the door, and we asked for her son; she showed us up stairs, and we found Jett and her son in bed, partly undressed. We took Jett down stairs and informed him our business, telling him that if he did not forthwith inform us where the men were he should suffer; that no parley would be taken, &c. He requested that two of the party withdraw and leave him with one, and he would make a full statement of what he knew of the assassin’s whereabouts. This was granted. Mr. Baker and myself had scarcely left the room when he told Mr. Conger that he would show us the place. On learning this I took him in my own charge. His horse was got out, he was mounted, and we went back to the house of Mr. Garrett, about twelve miles from Bowling Green. I ordered my command to surround the house, and, as a precautionary measure, sent six men in rear of the barn and outbuildings. While I was placing my men around the buildings the detectives knocked at the door, which was opened by the elder Mr. Garrett, who was much excited; he said the men who had been there went to the woods the previous evening. While engaged in conversation the son of Mr. Garrett came in, advising the father to tell where they were. I seized this man by the collar, and pulled him out of the door and down the steps, put my revolver to his head and told him to tell me at once where the two assassins were; he replied, “in the barn.” I said “show me the barn.”
We started on the run for the barn, I holding him by the collar, calling on my men to follow me and surround more closely the building I should indicate. In the meantime another of the Garrett sons appeared, who was seized by one of the detectives and ordered to get a candle. He immediately procured a candle. On arriving at the barn I left the Garrett I had in charge with some of my men, and posted my men around the barn. This accomplished, I returned to the front of the barn, and found Garrett coming out of the barn; it appears that he had been sent in there during my absence to summon Booth to surrender. This I disapproved, as there were soldiers enough there to perform such duty. Booth, however, refused to surrender. The detectives were in favor of firing the barn, which I opposed, declaring my intention to wait until daylight and I would send my men through the four different doors and overpower the assassin, but after consultation the project of burning the building was abandoned for the time being. In the meantime considerable conversation took place concerning the surrender of Booth between Mr. Baker, myself, and the assassin. Sergt. Boston Corbett, Company L, Sixteenth New York Cavalry asked permission to enter the barn alone, which I refused. Booth all this time was very defiant and refused to surrender. At one time he said if we would draw up in line fifty paces off he would come out, adding that he was lame and had only one leg. This, however, I refused. Booth up to this time had denied there was anyone in the barn besides himself. Considerable conversation now took place between myself, Booth, and the detectives. We threatened to burn the barn if he did not surrender; at one time gave him ten minutes to make up his mind. Finally, Booth said, “Oh; Captain, there is a man here who wants to surrender awful bad:” I answered, and I think Mr. Baker did at the same time, “Hand out your arms.” Herold replied, “I have none.” Baker said, “We know exactly what you have got.” Booth replied, “I own all the arms, and intend to use them on you gentlemen.” After some little parley I said, “Let him out.” Some one objected. I ordered Garrett, the younger son, who had the key, to unlock the barn, which he did. I partially opened the door, and told Herold to put out his hand, which he did. I then told him to put [out] his other hand. I took hold of both his wrists and pulled him out of the barn. Almost simultaneous with my taking Herold out of the barn the hay in the rear of the barn was ignited by Mr. Conger, and the barn fired.
Sergt. Boston Corbett, Company L, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, shot the assassin Booth, wounding him in the neck. I entered the barn as soon as the shot was fired, dragging Herold with me, and found that Booth had fallen on his back. Messrs. Conger and Baker, with some of my men, entered the barn and took hold of Booth. I proceeded with Herold to find a rope to secure him, there being no irons for that purpose. The assassin Booth lived about two hours. In the meantime a doctor was procured, who remained with Booth till he died. I procured a wagon, sewed up the body in a blanket myself, and placed it in the wagon. I then proceeded to Port Royal, where we arrived at 9 a.m. April 26, 1865, and crossed the river in a scow. While crossing my command Mr. Baker, without authority, moved off with the body of the assassin, taking with him the two men who had been previously detailed as a guard to the body, also one of the prisoners (Captain Jett, rebel).
I was some time crossing my command, and experienced some difficulty in bringing Herold and the two Garretts along, having only one horse to mount the three; thus delay was occasioned. After proceeding some distance I procured an additional horse. Fearing some accident might happen to the body of the assassin and the prisoner Jett, whom Mr. Baker had taken with him. I dispatched an orderly to tell Mr. Baker to halt. The orderly rode over four miles at full speed, when, overtaking Mr. Baker, he told him to halt until the column came up. This Mr. Baker, however, did not do, but continued on missing me and the road. I arrived at Belle Plain at 6 p.m., and found the corpse had not yet arrived. I felt great anxiety, and was about to apply to Major Bosworth, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, who was at Belle Plain with his command, for a detachment of men to go in search of the body, when Mr. Baker arrived. I immediately asked him where the prisoner, Captain Jett, was. He replied, “he did not know; he had escaped.” After a short delay the body of the assassin Booth was placed on board the steamer John S. Ide, and we proceeded to Washington, where I delivered over the body of Booth, Herold, and the two Garretts to Col. L. C. Baker, at 3 a.m. the 27th day of April, 1865.
The command consisted of twenty-six enlisted men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, and myself, the two gentlemen, Messrs. Conger and Baker, sent by Colonel Baker, making a total in all of twenty-nine men. I would say that great credit is due to all concerned for the fortitude and eagerness they displayed in pursuing and arresting the murderers. For nearly sixty hours hardly an eye was closed or a horse dismounted until the errand was accomplished. I would call the attention of the commanding general to the efficiency of Sergt. Boston Corbett, Company L, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, who was untiring in his efforts to bring the murderers to justice. His soldierly qualifications have been tested before this occasion, and, in my judgment, are second to none in the service. Mr. Rollins, at Port Conway, is also worthy of notice for his willingness to impart all the information he possessed. In conclusion I beg to state that it has afforded my command and myself inexpressible pleasure to be the humble instruments of capturing the foul assassins who caused the death of our beloved President and plunged the nation in mourning.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
EDWARD P. DOHERTY,
First Lieut., Sixteenth New York Cavalry, Comdg. Detachment.