Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hanging Out

I had a great time last Thursday at the Brown University Bookstore in Providence.  It was really great to hang out there, talk about the book and even do a little signing.

The next morning, I left early for my dad's near DC.  We got up even earlier on Saturday to do a tour that focused on a different type of hanging.  The Surratt Society and some great historians and Civil War enthusiasts organize a bus tour a few times a year that follows the trail of John Wilkes Booth from his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on the evening of April 14th until his capture and death on a tobacco farm outside of Port Royal, Virginia on April 26th.

The President's box at Ford's Theater.  Booth leapt from the railing, twelve feet,
and broke his leg when he landed, but the theatrical Booth still managed to blazon
his bloody dagger and shout "Sic simper tyrannis!" or something very like it.
The John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Tour was a truly amazing experience.  It was long, so it is not for the faint of heart; we started around 7am and were dropped off at 7pm; but during those twelve hours you truly enter into the world of 1865.  Bob Allen and Joan Chaconas guide you through an incredible amount of detail, narrative, personal histories and landscape from an early morning private tour of Ford's Theater to Booth's defiant and fiery end on a spot that was then a tobacco farm but is now a highway median.  They do it with great humor, cheer and authenticity.  Thanks to them, Lindsey, Darwin and everyone else who made it such a great tour.

The Surratt Tavern in Clinton, Maryland, where Booth and an accomplice stopped first that fateful night.  Mary Surratt was the first woman to be executed (by hanging) by the U.S. government.

One of the wonderful interpreters at the Dr. Samuel Mudd House in Waldorf, Maryland.

Dr. Mudd's house-Booth had his broken leg set here before being force to continue his southward odyssey. 

Cleydael in King George County, Virginia.  Booth was turned away here, as he was many places.  The new owners are doing a careful restoration that you can see here on their website!

And the final act...

This was the site of a tobacco farm.  Booth was cornered in a barn where he held off a cavalry unit until finally being shot.  He died from the wound a few hours later.  This is now a median on a highway.
Four conspirators were hanged as a result of the assassination.  Others were imprisoned and a few were pardoned by President Andrew Johnson before he left office in 1869.

To keep with the theme of hanging, we went to Harper's Ferry, the site of John Brown's October 1859 raid on the arsenal there.

Called John Brown's Fort, this was where Brown and his "raiders" holed up before finally being captured by the Marines under Robert E. Lee.

The site of the "Fort" on the edge of picturesque and historic Harper's Ferry

The Charles Town, West Virginia courthouse (still in use) where John Brown was tried.

And finally, the site in Charles Town where John Brown was hanged.  The interpretive panel in the rear of the picture states "Many Northerners viewed Brown as a martyr."
It was quite a whirlwind.  I also managed to jump over to the National Gallery for the Ito Jakuchu exhibit, called Colorful Realm.  EVERYONE should see this exhibit (and we are still on the hanging theme, although pictures get hung, not hanged).  It is a complete set of 18th century oil paintings on silk panels that are absolutely staggering in their detail and beauty.  They are only on loan for the month of April.  At the very least, check out the site, here, and take a look at them.

And finally, back to Providence, where the Taco Camper is back on Parade Street.  Summer must be close!


  1. Taylor, you do know how to tell a good story. Loved this. Hope all is well with you and the C man. Come to PT soon. We miss you.
    Suzi & Henry

  2. Thank you, Suzi!! :) Clovis and I miss you and Henry, too--so good to see you last trip--and I will be making another visit soon enough. Will keep you posted! xoxo (Will be at the Ptown Library on June 14th!)