Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
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Eyewitness to History: A Cavalryman's Account of the Chase and Capture of John Wilkes Booth
On April 24, 1865, the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, a detachment of 26 men under the command of Lieutenant Edward. P. Doherty, was sent from Washington in pursuit of John Wilkes Booth. One of the troop's members was Private John W. Millington. Millington, who for many years lived in Portland, Oregon, wrote an account of his part in the capture of John Wilkes Booth. He gave his notes to a professor at Benson Tech. The professor's name was C. Louis Barzee. These notes were published in the Portland Journal newspaper by reporter Fred Lockley in three separate installments in early February, 1937. The text of Millington's published notes is as follows:


"On the morning of April 15, 1865, I was on guard, when news came that President Lincoln had been shot at Ford's theater." wrote Millington. "We were ordered to form part of a cordon to prevent the assassin from escaping. Our company was deployed through the brush. It was a chilly day and a cold rain was falling. A few days later we were ordered to Washington, where we served as an escort at Lincoln's funeral. We were held in Washington, quartered in the J street barracks. On April 24 I returned from a patrol and put my horse into the stable, leaving him saddled, and fed him and went to the barracks to get something to eat. Before I had finished eating, "boots and saddles" was sounded and there was a rush to the stables. We were ordered to fall in as fast as we led out, disregarding company formation.

As my horse was already saddled, I slipped on his bridle, led him out of the stable and mounted. I was next on the left of the sergeant. We were ordered to count off in fours. We went to Pennsylvania avenue and out 14th street about opposite the old Willard hotel. We halted just in front of the office of Colonel Baker, chief of government detectives and scouts. Our lieutenant, Dougherty, reported, and in a few moments he and two detectives, Lieutenants Conger and Baker, came out and mounted, and the order to march was given. We rode to the wharf of the navy yard, on the east branch of the Potomac, or the Anacostia River, where we took the steamer John S. Ide and started down the Potomac.

Lieutenant Dougherty showed us a photograph of Booth and told us he had crossed the Potomac near Port Tobacco." "We arrived at Acquia Creek and went ashore about 10 o'clock that night. We started scouting through the country, searching all houses and buildings, routing out the inmates and making a thorough search. Next morning early we met some men who had been fishing. They said that a closed hack had passed a few days before, with two men in it. A Confederate captain was in charge, who warned them not to come near. They thought one of the men in the carriage resembled the photograph that we showed them of Booth. We were then on the road to the Rappahannock, toward Fort Conway, where we arrived about 2 0'clock. We had not eaten since leaving Washington, so we were told to fall out and rustle some rations." "When I returned, with four comrades, we saw some of our company crossing the river in a scow about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. This ferryboat could hold 10 men with horses, at a trip. In our turn we crossed the river. Mr. Rowlen, owner of the ferry, said he had ferried a carriage a few days previously, and that Captain Jett, formerly of Mosby's command, was in charge. He believed we would be apt to find him near Bowling Green, about 15 miles from Port Royal, and he volunteered to guide us. Our command was across the river by 4pm and we started. We had traveled about three miles and were approaching the Garrett farm, when we met a man on horseback, who turned and fled. Some of our men pursued, but he escaped in the young pines and as it was nearly dusk he escaped." "We arrived at Bowling Green at 11 o'clock that night. We left our horses, with every fourth man counted out to hold the horses. We surrounded the hotel, where we captured Captain Jett. At first he refused to tell us where he had left the two men, but after some forcible persuasion he agreed to show us. He said he didn't know who they were, except that the were Confederate soldiers who had got into trouble in Maryland and wanted to hide out until the trouble had blown over.

"The ferryman at the Rappahannock told us that Captain Jett of Mosby's command had crossed with two men in a closed carriage a few days before. Our company arrived at Bowling Green about 11 o'clock that night. We surrounded the hotel and captured Jett, who, after forcible persuasion, agreed to guide us to where the two men were. He said they were Confederate soldiers hiding out on account of some trouble they had got into. He led us back on the road by which we had come, to within about three miles of Port Royal. He pointed out a house some distance from the road. We opened the gate carefully and, after surrounding the house, knocked at the door. Garrett came to the door. Asked where the two men were, he said "I know nothing about any men being here." Our officer said to a trooper, "Untie your picket rope. We'll hang the old man and see if it will refresh his memory." "A young man ran from the direction of an outbuilding and asked, "What do you men want? "Our officer said, "We want the two men who are stopping here and at once." He said, "They're in the barn." Part of our company was detailed to surround the barn and part to surround the house. I was with the party sent to the barn. Our lieutenant. who heard some whispering in the barn, called, " Come out at once." One of the men inside the barn asked, "Who are you?" Our officer said, "It doesn't make any difference who we are, but we know who you are. You had better come out at once." "The man in the barn who had done the talking was the man we were after - Booth. He refused to come out. He said, "If you will withdraw your men 30 rods, I will come out and we'll shoot it out." We could hear Booth accusing the man who was with him, David E. Harold, of being a coward. Harold was willing to surrender and Booth said, "You're a coward to desert me." Finally, Booth called out and said, "Harold will surrender, but I will not." Our captain said, "Tell Harold to pass out his arms and come out." Booth said, "Harold has no arms. They belong to me." "Our officer told Harold to come to the door. He came and as he opened the door Lieutenant Dougherty grabbed him and pulled him out. With a picket rope he tied him to a locust tree, called me and told me to guard him. I said to Harold, "Who was in the barn with you? Was it Booth?" He said, "Yes, Booth is in the barn." and he added, "Booth told me, when he asked me to help him, that he was going to kidnap Lincoln: he didn't tell me he was going to kill him." I said, "When you learned that Booth had killed Lincoln, why did you help him to escape?" Harold said, "Booth threatened to kill me if I didn't help him get away. Booth came out of the rear of the theatre immediately after shooting Lincoln and we went to Dr. Mudd's home. After Dr. Mudd had set Booth's leg we went to Port Tobacco and hid that day. That night we got a fisherman to take us over the river into Virginia. It was so rough that the fisherman said it was unsafe, but Booth told him we had to cross at once and he would kill him if he didn't take us." "Once more the officer summoned Booth to surrender. Booth responded, "I'll fight you single handed, but I'll never surrender." Detective Conger went to the opposite side of the barn and lit some loose straw under the sill. I heard a shot and a moment later saw the door was open. Booth had been shot through the neck. They brought him out, carried him to the Garrett house and put him on the porch. A soldier was sent to Port Royal for a doctor, who arrived about daylight. Meanwhile, the barn had burned down and some of the men were hunting in the ruins for relics. They found two revolvers and one of our boys got Booth's carbine. The revolvers were spoiled by the fire. Booth lived about three hours. He was wrapped in a government blanket, his body was placed in a old wagon and a Negro drove the rig to Acquia Creek, which we reached at dusk."


"Booth's body, wrapped in a government blanket, was placed in a wagon, which was driven by a Negro," Millington wrote. "When Booth was carried from the barn to the porch he was unconscious, but presently came to, and when a doctor who had been called tried to give him some medicine, he shook his head and said it was useless. Booth then added, "Tell my mother that what I did I did for the good of the country." "The two Garrett boys had returned home shortly before we got there. They had been with Mosby's command. One of them had a young wife and there was a tearful scene when our officer told the boys they would have to go to Washington with us. Captain Jett was allowed to escape. I understood at the time that if he guided us to Booth and Harold he would not be held." "When we arrived at Acquia Creek we went aboard a vessel. I was ordered to stay in the cabin and guard Harold. Another trooper was stationed outside the door. Harold was soon sound asleep on the floor. When I was relieved, I was cold, as I had no overcoat, so I went below and lay down near the boiler and slept until we arrived near one of the monitors at Washington. After we were made fast, the lieutenant ordered me to help carry Booth's body aboard the monitor. We laid his body on the deck. I was tired and hungry and much more interested in getting to barracks for a good meal and a good sleep than knowing what was to become of Harold and Booth's body. I stabled my horse and went at once to my bunk. When I awoke, about 10 o'clock, the papers had long articles about the killing of Booth and the capture of Harold."

Millington was born at Chestertown, N.Y., and enlisted in Company E, 93rd New York volunteer infantry, on December 3, 1861, when 18 years old. He was in the Peninsular campaign, but in April, 1862, took typhoid, was sent to a New York hospital and furloughed home. He returned to his regiment in Virginia, but on the march from Antietam toward Fredericksburg he once more became sick and was sent to the hospital at Warrenton, and thence to Trinity Church hospital, at C and 3rd streets, Washington, D.C. Later, he was sent to Philadelphia and to a convalescent camp near Alexandria, Va. He was discharged on account of disability on February 27, 1863. Recovering, he reenlisted on July 21, 1863, in Company H, 16th New York cavalry at Plattsburg, N.Y. For a while this regiment was attached to Sheridan's command. In the winter of 1864-65 they were camped at Vienna, Va.

Millington passed away in 1914. On November 11, 1914, the Portland Telegram carried his obituary. It read:

John W. Millington, a Civil War veteran and one of two Portland residents who took part in the running down of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin, died this morning at the home of his son, Joseph E. Millington, ??? Sumner street, after an illness of three years of cancer. He was 70 years old. Millington and Emery Parady, of 4217 East Sixty third street, were members of Company H, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, when Booth, on the night of April 14, 1865, shot President Lincoln in Ford's Theatre. They were ordered, with the rest of the company, to Washington, as military escort at the funeral. Ten days later this company was sent for and placed at the service of the Washington chief of detectives. They boarded the steamer John S. Ide that afternoon and went down the Potomac River, leaving the boat that night about 10 o'clock at Acquia Creek. Their hunt for Booth was continued all that night and the next day went in the direction of Port Royal. It was learned that a Confederate officer named Captain Jett had been seen with a soldier supposed to be wounded. They were reported to be heading for Bowling Green and a hunt was made for them there, as Jett had a sweet heart living in town. Jett was discovered hidden in a hotel and by threats was induced to lead the party to a farmhouse near there where he had left Booth. Arriving there, the occupants of the house denied any knowledge of Booth's presence, but the house and barn were surrounded. A Confederate soldier came from the barn, acknowledging that Booth was concealed there with David Harold, a Confederate officer. The party talked to Booth, who refused to surrender and asked that he be given a chance to fight his pursuers one at a time. This was denied and he requested that Harold be allowed to leave the barn, refusing to surrender himself. This was granted and soon afterward the building was set on fire. In the light Sergeant Boston Corbett, getting a good glimpse of Booth, fired through the cracks and shot him through the neck in almost the same spot in which the martyred President was fatally wounded. Mr. Millington is survived by a widow, Mary Millington and three sons, John W. Millington, of this city; George K. Millington, of Sellwood, and James W. Millington. of Vancouver, Wash. With Mrs. Millington he came to Portland 12 years ago. Mr. Millington was born in New York. Funeral services will be held at Holman's Undertaking Parlors Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock, with interment in the Grand Army Regional Cemetery. Rev. Mr. Nichols will conduct the services.
Credits: I would like to thank Dave Millington, great-great grandson of John W. Millington, for the material contained on this page. Dave's effort at copying from photocopies of very old newspapers is greatly appreciated. Without his help, this page could not have been created. The sketch of the scene at Garrett's barn at the top of the page was in the May 13, 1865, edition of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.
Sic Semper Tyrannis - Why John Wilkes Booth Shot Abraham Lincoln

In a new, provocative study comprising three essays, historian William L. Richter delves into the psyche of Booth and finds him far from insane. Beginning with a modern, less adulating interpretation of President Abraham Lincoln, Richter is the first scholar to examine Booth's few known, often unfinished speeches and essays to draw a realistic mind-picture of the man who so intensely believed in common American polital theories of his day, and acted violently to carry them out during the time of America's greatest war. For more information please CLICK HERE.

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