Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Lincoln Conspirators - David Herold

Due to the response I have had over my Lincoln assassination stories, I thought I would take a moment and focus on one of the conspirators and relate their stories. I will tell this persons story as I remember it and not rely on any one article or book. A person will find that depending on which account you read the facts will differ somewhat. However, the story is always about the same sans details. The focus of this installment is David Herold.

David Herold was a pharmacists clerk in Washington who managed to befriend John Wilkes Booth during the kidnap phase. I can't remember exactly how Booth and Herold met. They may have become familiar with each other due to the fact that Booth was able to smuggle medicine through the lines to the South during the war. Booth being an actor actually traveled to and from Richmond regularly for shows. It seemed that professional tradesmen were able to go to and from the lines with regularity.

Herold was in the group of conspirators during the illfated kidnap plot. Herold would be basically called upon to do "gopher" work. He was considered "slow" and not used very much other than to deliver medicines from the pharmacy. After the Lincoln kidnap plot was abandoned after the futile attempt was made ( more on that in a future post ), most of the conspirators disbanded. Herold was one of them that remained close. Booth at this time disgarded the kidnap plan and decided that he and the others that remained would attempt to assassinate members of Lincoln's cabinet. Herold was useless as a murderer. However, he was assigned to accompany Lewis Paine to the household of Secretary of State William Seward. On the night of April 14th, Herold led Paine to the Seward household. He waited outside and within moments heard the screams from the house as Paine began his attempted killing spree. Certain that Paine was killing everyone in the house ( in fact, no one died but several were seriously injured including Secretary Seward ), Herold tied Paine's horse to a tree and left the scene. Had Paine left with Herold, there might have been a good chance that Paine might have escaped and never been caught. Herold met up with Booth in southern Maryland and they continued south. Booth, of course, had injured his leg jumping from the Presidential Box at Ford's Theater. They decided that they would seek out medical attention. The duo went to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, a known Confederate sympathizer in the area. Mudd set Booth's leg and the duo remained with the Mudd family for a few days. Booth and Herold continued their journey by living in the underbrush until they made it into Virginia. Near present day Bowling Green, Va, the two spent the night in the tobacco barn of a man named Garrett. This was where Federal cavalry caught up with the pair. Surrounding the barn, Herold gave up and Booth was shot by Sgt. Boston Corbett as the barn was set on fire. Booth later died on the Garrett front porch. Herold and the body of Booth were returned to Washington.

The photograph of Herold was taken on board the monitor USS Saugus, I believe. It might have been on the USS Montauk. The body of Booth underwent an autopsy very near where this photo was taken. Herold was imprisoned with the rest of the conspirators at the Arensal Pententitary in Washington. He was put on trial with the other conspirators. There was no nope of acquittal for Herold. He was found with the assassin trying to escape. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Herold did not seem to understand what was happening when his death sentence was read to him. He was visited by this mother and seven sisters on the day of the execution. It was said that their crying wails were heard all over the prison. Herold was led to the gallows along with Paine and the others. Terrified, Herold shook violently while he was being bound. He had no last words. After the trap was sprung, Herold did not die immediately, instead suffering massive convulsions while hanging. There is somewhat of a dispute on whether or not Paine or Herold survived the longest. Most accounts say Paine. Herold's body is the one that has the tan or gray pants on with his head leaning back toward the sky. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington.

Another bit of trivia concerning David Herold. In the 70's, a movie was made called The Lincoln Conspiracy. This movie had the premise that Booth escaped and the Federal cavalry caught Herold while shooting another person who looked like Booth. Rather than admit their mistake, the goverment let Herold hang and did not persue the "real" Booth. The actor who played Herold was none other than Fred "Gopher" Grandy from The Love Boat and later Congressman from Iowa!!!

Post a Comment

<< Home