Saturday, October 24, 2020

Did John Wilkes Booth Escape Justice?

In some respects, the demise of John Wilkes Booth makes a great Halloween story, having enough discrepancies for a spooky tale from the crypt. But these ambiguities also create enough doubts to make his death at Garrett's farm an article of faith - a religious dogma - no matter to which sect one subscribes.

Establishment historians will roll their eyes and move on at the idea that Booth's body was misidentified, or that he escaped. But we are not so dismissive of the evidence and its dearth surrounding the alleged death of Wilkes Booth on April 26, 1865. We believe that reasonable arguments can be made for either case - that he died or escaped - that it is a true postmodern moment.

Perhaps the best summary of the situation was made over a century ago by an army officer writing on the subject
In the early 1900s, John Shumaker, the army’s General Counsel to the Department of the Army wrote: “The evidence put forth by the government to support the conclusion that the body was that of John Wilkes Booth was so insubstantial that it would not stand up in a court of law.”
And yet, one would not bet the farm that Booth did not die at Garrett's farm. There are powerful currents on both sides of the debate supporting either conclusion.

We will enumerate some of the issues which we believe the army's General Counsel might have had in mind when he made his intriguing statement.


One of the more baffling aspects of Booth's alleged death is that the ordinary means used to identify deceased persons was not employed in the case of the famous actor. Booth's family, both through blood and profession, was quite broad and deep. These people were near by - even on the Montauk. If Booth were indeed involved in a conspiracy with all of the prisoners held on the ship, why not ask them to identify? If they were not trusted, then why not call in people from Ford's theater or his next of kin? Was that too risky? 

Why else would Stanton refuse to allow the normal course of events to seek their ends? Would not that have proven more persuasive and squashed any doubts?

Instead of next of kin and close friends, Stanton sent a cadre of military officers - colonels and generals - to identify the body, many of the former of whom who would be judges of the military tribunal trying the case of Lincoln's assassins. This tactic smacks of jury tampering - but then again the judgments of the tribunal were a foregone conclusion.

The piece of evidence which could have laid to rest any doubts about the corpse was either hidden or destroyed by Stanton, namely the picture taken by Alexander Gardner at the autopsy which was the one and only picture taken of the body on the Montauk.

The bottom line is that no evidence of probative value was produced from this affair which could satisfy the legal doubts which the army's General Counsel raised during the early 20th century.

There were contradictory identifications made of the body. Certainly Stanton's generals gave the secretary what he wanted, but others were not quite so compliant. Nearly everyone is familiar with Dr May's non-denial denial of the body. Although he affirmed that it was Booth, he said that it looked nothing like him, nor did the surgical scar he left on Booth a couple of years earlier look like the one he made. Though he initial denied the identity of Booth, he subsequently changed his mind - perhaps with "friendly persuasion."

On the other hand, Booth's dentist confirmed that the corpse was that of Booth's which could be persuasive except for the fact that we now know, and the US Congress investigating the matter in 1867 confirmed, that piles and piles of perjured and paid testimony were used in the crooked trial.

Many witnesses were threatened with death if they did not provide the desired testimony.

Several witnesses claimed that the body had reddish hair, yet nearly everyone affirms that Booth had jet black hair with a tendency to curl. How does one explain it? Did booth use hair coloring at Dr Mudd's house as he shaved his mustache? If so, could anyone corroborate that hypothesis?

The Un-missing Boot

When President Johnson allowed the return of the hanged bodies to their respective families in 1869, Booth's was brought to a funeral home for examination. Oddly enough, he had on two boots, whereas the Surgeon General Barnes reported that one of his legs was in splints. Did the two Bakers go to the trouble to get the missing boot from the War Department's evidence cache to put on Booth's missing boot when it buried him on April 27 even though it was also somehow used at trial to show that Dr Mudd set the fractured bone?

Wouldn't the makeshift splint have been splendid evidence against Mudd? Or would it have been good evidence for the defense?

One person present at the funeral parlor pulled off one of Booth's boots from his foot only to find that the foot and leg remained in the boot. But that is not the odd part. Did the court, which had no compunction about hanging an innocent woman, have concern that that Booth's dead body was without a boot, and that it should be returned to him? Did Booth, having the most difficulty getting enough food and water on the run, stumble upon a spare boot to put on his broken leg or foot? As you do when you have a broken leg in a splint.

And speaking of broken limbs, why are there varying testimonies concerning which limb was injured? Surgeon General Barnes reported the left ankle having the fracture, while doctors Mudd and May averred that it was the right leg. Why should something so cut and dry have such contradictions?


Judge Bingham made much of the fact that two carbines alleged to have been hidden at the Surratt tavern in Surrattsville, but picked up by Booth and Herold, were a match. It seems unlikely to me that Booth, with a broken leg, would have had the strength or balance to manage a carbine. Even more significantly, he didn't need the added weight to hinder his escape. In other words, speed was of the essence - not fighting his way out of a barn to hell.

Nevertheless, Bingham made much of the fact that the carbine recovered at Garrett's farm was indeed a match with one found at the tavern. Yet there are many explanations, including planted evidence of which there was much.

Modern Science

While all legal measures have been smashed to exhume the body for DNA analysis, another bit of modern technology has been used to identify Booth against an alleged photograph of him taken years after the assassination while allegedly using the pseudonym of David George.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, covering this development using facial recognition software, reported of the lead investigator
“I was absolutely shocked,” said Romany, host of the segment scheduled to air on the Discovery Channel at 10 p.m. Wednesday. “It changed my perspective on American history. For the first time, I thought this could be true. John Wilkes Booth could have gotten away."
While the test is not definitive, the match between the two men exceeded the minimum threshold used by the New York City Police Department to consider someone a credible identified.

The puzzle of Booth's demise will be settled conclusively, but the government authorities did not cooperate in leaving us evidence encumbered with dearth and chain of custody issues. What was Stanton and his Military Tribunal hiding?

Post Script: I came across a very interesting newspaper clipping published by the Globe-Democrat, apparently the Saint Louis newspaper, circa 1910 with a dateline from Caldwell, Texas, telling the story of Booth's demise. The interviewee, William Henry Garrett was the son of Richard Henry Garrett, the former of whom stated that Booth died as he held the actor's head on his knee. His aunt Lucinda Holloway cut a lock of hair from Booth's head which a few years later sparked an interesting relationship with Edwin Booth and William's brother Richard Baynham Garrett. The Shakespearean actor was a generous benefactor to Baynham as he studied for the ministry, giving him a lavish 500 dollar book collection, among other gifts of support.

The sum and substance of William's story seems genuine, and might conclusively settle the case of Booth's death - if not for the problem of the facial recognition software mentioned above. But given that the software is not 100% definitive, there is room for error favoring Garrett's story.

On the other hand, Edwin's keen interest in the lock of hair and other details surrounding his brother's death suggest that Booth indeed died at Garrett's farm. For what other reason would Edwin show so much interest?

Edward Colimore,  Did John Wilkes Booth get away with murdering President Abraham Lincoln?, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 15, 2019, (accessed:, 10/24/2020)

tmh10, The Lincoln Assassination New Information-New Meaning (reader comments), Civil War Talk, January 7, 2013, (accessed:, 10/24/2020)

Copyright 2020 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Booth on the Montauk

Stories about John Wilkes Booth's assassination and whereabouts thereafter have considerable variety, but an astounding recent find puts some stability and details around the arrival of Booth's corpse aboard the USS Montauk.

Booth was allegedly captured and killed on April 26, 1865 at Garrett's farm in Northern Virginia. His body was carried away in sewn blankets eventually landing on the Montauk. However, the diaries of Henry Washington Landes provide rare details not provided in the history books.

Landes was originally a soldier in the 129th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C who later became a marine stationed aboard the Montauk where he served as guard for the accused assassins of Abraham Lincoln. His kept a regular diary which contains many fascinating entries, especially during the aftermath of the assassination in late April.

The marine records in his diary on April 27
27 - I was on post from twelve to two. Booth and his partner came on the boat at 1/4 before two [AM], dead. Arrived on the steamboat Burnside. No inspection. Stood guard over him from 6 to 8. Over the partner from 12 to 2. At 2 they took Booth's head off...

We find that early in the morning of April 27, at 1:45 AM, Booth and his partner, David Herold, are brought aboard the Montauk having been couriered by the steamboat Burnside. At 2 PM, later that same day, the autopsy is performed which results in the decapitation of Booth.

Booth's corpse was not to remain long on the Montauk. Landes continues:
Full of visitors, officers and citizens. Warm day and full of excitement. Took him away at two o'clock. His partner picture taken in the afternoon
After the 2 PM autopsy, Herold's picture is taken, no doubt a reference to Alexander Gardner's glamour shots of the prisoners. However, based upon the sequence of events Landes mentions, Booth was immediately removed from the ship, at 2 PM on April 28, but Landes does not tell us his destination.

There is room for interpretive doubt concerning the time of day when Booth was carried away - ie, was it 2 AM or 2 PM? After all, how could one behead Booth while at the same time removing him from the ship? Therefore, wouldn't there have to be a lapse of time to keep chronological concordance with these vents? My view is that Landes was compressing time and action, viewing the autopsy and Booth's removal as a singularity - ie beginning at 2 PM he was beheaded and then removed from the ship immediately thereafter.

This actually makes more sense than interpreting 2 o'clock as 2 AM since one would not want to keep a decapitated composing corpse on board with a ship crew and prisoners, risking the many health hazards which that scenario holds. At that point, Booth had been dead since around 6-7 AM April 26. Thus approximately 20 hours after dying, Booth is on the Montauk.

At 32 hours past death, Booth is offloaded from the Montauk, and sent to parts unknown.

We conclude, then, that Booth was on the Montauk for approximately 12-13 hours - from 1:45 AM to some time after 2 PM on April 27.

In a letter to his sister on the 28th, Landes writes
He had his leg broken, I seen it. He had paste board around it. No beard and his forehead shaved.

The broken leg strongly, though not definitively, supports the contention that the corpse in custody was John Wilkes Booth. 

However, we have no idea that Landes actually knew what Booth looked like. Although photography was fast developing in 1865, pictures of people were still not common place. Reviewing a couple of the prominent newspapers of the time, such as the New York Herald, and Washington newspaper, there isn't a picture in sight. In other words, public recognition of famous and infamous people is not what it is today.

In any event, this powerful testimony will help keep in check any speculative conjecture about Booth's brief stay on the USS Montauk.


ed., [Diary of Henry Landes], Nate D Sanders, 1865, (accessed:, 10/14/2020)
Copyright 2020 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Lady of the Montauk

Many popular stories retelling the assassination and identification of John Wilkes Booth in April 1865 include a vignette of a mysterious woman boarding the ship holding the assassin's body in order weep over and grieve the actor's death. We place this incident in the doubtful things folder.

Usually the story has a veiled woman dressed in black boarding the USS Montauk accompanied by prominent dignitaries. When seeing the body of Booth, she throws herself upon him to weep her loss. She unsuccessfully attempts to snip a lock of Booth's jet black hair as the officers aboard the ship have strict orders to prevent any molestation of the body.

An example of this genre comes from Steven Hager
Before Hale departed for Spain, however, Booth’s body was brought back to Washington. A mysterious veiled woman came to view the corpse, threw herself upon it in tears, and snipped a lock of hair as a keepsake. (Apparently, this was popular at the time as Mary Todd Lincoln did the same thing after Lincoln died.) The lock was confiscated and destroyed as Stanton had strict orders against releasing any body parts. It’s now assumed that woman with the scissors was [Lucy] Hale.

Unfortunately, Hager, like most others, fails to cite any references for this incident. It might be true, and then again it might not be. There is a paucity of evidence to corroborate it.

For evidence, rigorous historians like contemporary first hand witnesses, which for many events is quite rare. Fortunately in this instance, we can trace a version of this story to Lafayette Baker who wrote of it in his memoirs, History of the United States Secret Service, published in 1867.

Baker wrote as follows on pages 507-8

I had not had my clothes off for nearly two weeks, and was granted leave of absence from the vessel, on whose deck was lying the corpse of the assassin, covered with two blankets sewed together like a sack, completely concealing it. Upon my return, I was greatly surprised and indignant, to find persons of high position, and some of secession proclivities, around the dead body, the coarse shroud parted at the seam, and a lady at that moment cutting off a lock of the black, curled, and beautiful hair. I seized the fair hands, and, after a refusal to give me the relic, forcibly took it and then cleared the deck, to the amazement and displeasure of some of the party. 

There are a number of points to observe concerning this narrative. I don't really believe that he had not had a change of clothes in two weeks, nor do I believe that the brigadier general required the granting of a leave of absence, but these are minor points which I shall let pass.

What is more interesting is that no date or time is provided for this incident, something I would expect of a "history." Even more arresting is that this heavily guarded ship would have allowed just anyone to access the body, even persons of "high position," especially considering that among them were those favorable to the secessionists who were the object of Lincoln's and Stanton's vengeance for four bloody years.

After all, it was Stanton's stated goal to prevent the body from becoming an icon or rallying point for Southerners. Note that it required his and the Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles' authorizations to view the body, as we quote from the Navy Medicine article referenced below:
'You will permit Surgeon General Barnes and his assistant, accompanied by Judge Advocate Genl Holt, Hon Jolin A. Bingham,· Special Judge Advocate, Major Eckert, Wm G. Moore, clerk of the War Department, Col. L.C. Baker, Lieut. Baker, Lieut. Col. Conger, Chase Dawson, J.L. Smithh, Gardiner [sic) (photographer) + assistant, to go on board the Montauk, and see the body of John Wilkes Booth.'
Even more astounding is that Stanton authorized Baker's boarding of the ship. Please note that these men were very high ranking officers who still required the Secretary of War and Secretary of Navy to enter the ship to see the cadaver. How then would others, of their own accord, board the ship at their wills and leisures?

So if Baker required authorization, how was anyone else going to board?

Baker does not identify the "persons of high position" which is something he would have surely known, for we are dealing with the first J Edgar Hoover. Baker was the spy par excellence, keeping vast files on people high and low. Stanton had a very sophisticated spy network operating North and South. There is no way that Baker would not have known the identity of these men and woman.

For now, I only feel comfortable assuming that the aforementioned men boarded the ship - without female accompaniment. And yet there is a loophole to his assumption as we note below.

More tellingly, Baker fails to identify the star of the gathering, the woman. He does not describe her adorned in black or a veil as others do; nor does he mention her sobbing or throwing herself on Booth's body. Of course he may have missed all of that drama, having walked in on the last act - on the open deck where the body was guarded.

Prior to the excerpt we quote, Baker describes Stanton's strict orders concerning the care and guarding of the body. No one, even of high rank, would dare to board the floating prison, unannounced, for a viewing of the body of Booth. With Stanton's mindset, they would have been arrested. This story is the height of absurdity, which is why I reject it as nothing more than Baker's vivid imagination.

That takes us to the point of Baker's character. He was not known as someone who indulged in the truth. Don Thomas wrote of the disgraced spy thusly:
Lafayette Baker was a man without scruples, a notorious liar, and had no loyalty to anything other than money and himself. 

Then there is this gem from the House Minority written in 1867 about Baker

 “Although examined on oath, time and again, and on various occasions, it is doubtful whether he [Baker] has in any one thing told the truth even by accident,”

It is foolhardy to put any stock in anything Baker wrote in his memoirs. As such, I find it difficult to believe that this incident happened at all, especially given the dearth of any other accounts to corroborate it. Should they materialize, I might modify my opinion.

We now arrive at the timelines to see if Baker's story makes sense. From a previous Chronicle, we discovered that Booth's body arrived on the Montauk at 1:45 AM April 27, 1865. You may recall that US Marine Henry Landes documented it in his diary, and stood guard over the body:
No inspection. Stood guard over him [Booth] from 6 to 8. Over the partner [David Herold] from 12 to 2.
There is no other entry describing a cadre of secessionist sympathizers though he later notes a gaggle of visitors as "Full of visitors, officers and citizens." A female visitor would surely have caught his attention.

The window of opportunity to see Booth's corpse prior to the autopsy and decapitation was quite small. The Surgeon General begins his autopsy before noon. Quoting from the same Navy Medicine article
Shortly before noon, Joseph K. Barnes, Surgeon General of the Army, had come on board -and without informing any officers who he was, or seeming to pay the slightest respect to Military etiquette ... walks up to the corpse and commences to cut adrift the wrappings.
So the only window of opportunity for Baker's alleged event was after sunrise and before noon. That means that an impromptu embassy of people would have had to assemble in record time, including the woman, because someone woke them in the wee dark hours of the morning, before telephones, to tell them that Booth's corpse had arrived, and rush over to the Montauk to view Booth's body. In other words, state secrets were shared with southern sympathizers.

Landes also records that Booth's decapitated body was removed from the ship after the autopsy at 2 PM. This means that it was on the Montauk for about 12 hours.

This incident reported by Baker did not happen.

Now why is this story important? It is used to affirm that Booth was indeed dead; that he did not escape from Garrett's farm. Lucy Hale, his fiancĂ©, came to the boat to weep, thus confirming that Booth died. Unfortunately, it sounds more like a  Dickensian melodrama than fictional history. Shadowy, unnamed characters are the stuff of fiction.

Until substantive material emerges from credible sources, this story has to be relegated to the doubtful things of Washington.

L. C. Baker, History of the United States Secret Service, 1867, Philadelphia, L. C. Baker, 704pp, (accessed:

Don Thomas, The Cover-Up of Booth's Diary Confession, The Lincoln Conspiracy Cover-Up, nd, 11pp (accessed:

Steven Hager, Lucy Hale is a key to the Lincoln assassination [sic], The Tin Whistle, September 29, 2014, (accessed:, 10/13/2020)

Leonard F Guttridge, Identification and Autopsy of John Wilkes Booth: Reexamining the Evidence, January-February 1993, Navy Medicine, pp 17-26, (accessed:, 10/16/2020)

Dave McGowan, WHY EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT THE LINCOLN ASSASSINATION IS WRONG, PART XII, Center for an Informed America, March 13, 2015, (accessed:, 10/16/2020)

Copyright 2020 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Lafayette Baker's Secret Confession

The old saying, the truth will out, is so apropos in the case of Lafayette Baker (1828-1868) who left a coded message which, when deciphered, revealed the ring leaders of the conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln.

Ray Neff was an amateur historian whose day job was a professor at Indiana Status University. In the 1960s he uncovered a coded message from Baker who was at one point during the Civil War head of the National Police Detective Bureau. Much of Baker's prominence during the Civil War and later owed to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (1814-1869) with whom he had a love-hate relationship.

Neff decoded the message whose version we publish from Ersjdamoo's Blog:
In new Rome there walked three men, a Judas, a Brutus and a spy.
Each planned that he should be the king when Abraham should die.
One trusted not the other but they went on for that day,
waiting for that final moment when, with pistol in his hand,
one of the sons of Brutus could sneak behind that cursed man
and put a bullet in his brain and lay his clumsey [sic] corpse away.
As the fallen man lay dying, Judas came and paid respects to one he hated,
and when at last he saw him die,
he said, “Now the ages have him and the nation now have I.”
But, alas, fate would have it Judas slowly fell from grace,
and with him went Brutus down to their proper place.
But lest one is left to wonder what happened to the spy,
I can safely tell you this, it was I. (Lafayette C. Baker)

The confession is extraordinary on two counts. In the first, it is breathtaking that he would confess to being a participant to a murder of the president. One must assume that he thought that his encrypted message would never be decrypted.

On the second count, it puts to death the notion that Booth was a lone nut acting alone to murder the president. It clearly shows the vast, deep river of hatred many felt toward Lincoln.

But let's add a bonus count. This interpretation fits well with long standing suspicions of Stanton which historian Don Thomas describes so well in his book The Reason Lincoln Had to Die, in which he accuses Stanton as one of Lincoln's assassins.

The interpretation of the poem is obvious, though some have stumbled over it. Baker identifies 3 primary players, Judas, a Brutus, and a Spy. Without any more knowledge than we have provided, one could deduce Baker as the spy, and if that were too difficult, he admits to it in the concluding line.

Judas is very easy to discern as well, the give away clue being an allusion to Stanton's gnothic acclamation, "Now he belongs to the ages" (though alternative readings have been provided.) Thus Judas is unquestionably Stanton.

The final character, Brutus, might be the most difficult. At first we considered John Booth to be Brutus since it was Brutus who assassinated Caesar. Also, John was the son of Edward Brutus Booth, and as such fits well the description " of the sons of Brutus could sneak behind that cursed man and put a bullet in his brain..."

But clearly Booth could have had no expectation to be king, unless the brains of the conspiracy had promised him a royal prize for his actions - something which might have appealed to his delusions of grandeur. However, it is hard to imagine Booth thinking that he would be king "when Abraham should die" or that "...But, alas, fate would have it Judas slowly fell from grace, and with him went Brutus down to their proper place..." After all, the wide spread belief was and is that Booth died at Garret's farm, coming to a rather abrupt end. So how could he go with Judas (Stanton) "slowly" down to his place?

One could say that Booth's descent may have been his fall from a leading star, c. 1863, to his alleged demise in 1865, but Baker seems to imply a parity between Judas and Brutus.

The key to the puzzle is in the first line where Baker speaks of "a Brutus." Clearly Booth was "a Brutus," for he fits well the descriptions of the assassin. But he was not the only Brutus. We believe, with no adamancy or pontification, that Baker refers to more than one Brutus in his poem. Booth clearly fulfills the role of a Brutus, but we need another "a Brutus."

We believe that Andrew Johnson fulfills the role of the other Brutus. Johnson was certainly well placed to "be the king", having the most to gain from Lincoln's murder. In fact there was no way that Johnson could have gained the presidency in his own right. He had so many personal defects that it is a wonder that he even got on the 1864 ticket as vice president.

If Johnson is "a Brutus," then he was the leading catalyst for recruiting Stanton and other Radical Republicans into his orbit. As such, he is the one who commissioned Booth to "...put a bullet in his [Lincoln's] brain..." While Booth was the trigger man, Johnson was the puppet master pulling the strings.

There is much weight against this theory of Johnson being part of the plot. The royal battles which Johnson and Stanton fought against each other suggests that Johnson was the innocent bystander and victim of Stanton's egomaniacal drive for supremacy . How could Johnson be involved with someone who nearly caused his conviction from impeachment?

Perhaps the answer lies here, "...Each planned that he should be the king when Abraham should die. One trusted not the other..." Events clearly showed that each man did not trust the other. In fact Johnson caught Baker red handed spying on him at the White House, a fact which Baker admitted in his biography, but which he said was done under Stanton's orders.

Each man fulfilled "But, alas, fate would have it Judas slowly fell from grace, and with him went Brutus down to their proper place." Stanton became victim of Johnson's determination to dismiss him, and Johnson in his turn barely survived his presidency, and failed abysmally in his attempt for his party's nomination in 1868. Thus the two came to their "proper place."

Stanton died in 1869 possibly by suicide as we reported in a previous Chronicle. Johnson died in 1875 apparently from afflictions of old age. But Baker's demise is more mysterious. There are some theories that he faked his own death, fearing - we believe - that Stanton was intent on rubbing him out. 

The poem assures us that Baker, in fact, faked his death, because he tells of the fall of both Stanton and Johnson. Baker "died" in 1868, the year Johnson was acquitted, and the year before Stanton was finally evicted from office. The two scorpions in a bottle battled it to the bitter end - they "...slowly fell from grace..."

The world owes Dr Neff a great debt of gratitude for giving us the Rosetta Stone of the Lincoln conspiracy.

ed., Escape of Lafayette Baker, Ersjdamoo's Blog, July 18, 2015, (accessed: , 10/9/2020)

Copyright 2020 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Did Edwin Stanton Commit Suicide?

Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was a force with which to reckon - assuming that one had the standing to even approach the imperious man - but these forces may have overwhelmed him in death with suicide.

An interesting article published in the Cambridge Chronicle on December 5, 1874 plainly tells the story of Stanton committing suicide. A quick check with CIA's Wikipedia reports that Stanton was in failing health, and succumbed to various pains and asthma attack which lead quickly to his death on December 24, 1869, just days after Congress confirmed his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Both accounts document the incipient event occurring on December 23, and both accounts give the time of death as 3a the following morning. In between is considerable difference.

The Cambridge Chronicle - no relation to this Chronicle - stated the secret of Stanton's death as limited to a mere handful of people. Why it decided to break the news at that late date is a bit of a mystery, but the paper provided a reasonably thorough account, stating that Stanton was normally shaved by his "colored" valet at the former's mansion. After the barber went to the wash basin for water while performing his task, he found Stanton bleeding across his neck when he turned around, having slit himself with the nearby razor.

It is possible that with Stanton's wife's death in 1873, the newspaper felt freed from the shackles of propriety.

The valet sent for a doctor, family, and clergy, but it was all in vain as Stanton failed to recover, ending the life of the man whom the writer thought was a broken man, having fallen from the pinnacle of power, to the lowly position of associate of the Supreme Court.

But we have to ask, Does a supreme court justice, or anyone for that matter, commit suicide in the presence of another, especially before his valet? The story reeks a bit, but not because it is totally without merit.

The article recounts Stanton's war time service, doing its best to paint an even handed picture of his tenure and personality, but gives the impression of the former Secretary being a tyrannical man of justice with no mercy. It cites two examples of his malice, the first of which involved Annie Surratt who attempted to see President Johnson to plead clemency for her condemned mother. Stanton made certain that no one would circumvent the outcomes of the trial he so forcefully guaranteed, preventing the daughter the petition through his intermediary Preston King.

King however, did not live to a ripe old age unless 59 is such an age. In an hilarious moment on Wikipedia, its contributors note
Despairing of success, King committed suicide by tying a bag of bullets around his neck and leaping from a ferryboat in New York Harbor on November 13, 1865.
As you do.

In another example, it recounted Stanton's wars with Johnson, particularly the latter's attempts to implement Lincoln's lenient policies of reconciliation, which led to the president's impeachment when he tried to fire Stanton.

So now we have both Stanton and a key politician, connected to Stanton by the Cambridge article, committing suicide. But does this really make sense? Only a stark raving mad Coincidence Theorist would gloss over the two suicides as though nothing connects the two.

It is our opinion that the two men were killed, and justifiably so. The Cambridge Chronicle does not, try as it might, paint a flattering picture of Stanton. Nor does Dave McGowan
Elsewhere in Stanton’s biography, we find that at various times in his life he personally ordered the exhumation of at least two bodies, one of them being his daughter Lucy, who was dug up circa 1842. According to reports, Stanton kept his daughter’s decomposing corpse in a special container in his home for at least a year. Nothing there that would cause anyone to question his fitness to serve as Secretary of War.
Although it is not the purpose of this Chronicle to delve into the reasons for Stanton's demise, it is most likely for one of two reasons, one of which may have been his treason during the Civil War at the non-battle of Petersburg whose prosecution could have ended the war months sooner than it ended, but for reasons known to Stanton and us, the War Secretary made certain it did not happen. The other reason could have been Stanton's lead in the murder of Lincoln, and its cover-up.

Perhaps the years of inhaling his daughters decaying remains caused Stanton's breathing problems, and maybe his asthma was a contributor to his death, but our suspicion is that someone killed him. And no, it wasn't the valet.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, July 20). Preston King (politician). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:14, October 5, 2020, from

Dave McGowan, WHY EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT THE LINCOLN ASSASSINATION IS WRONG: PART I, Center For an Informed America, January 24, 2014, (accessed: 10/4/2020)

[unknown], Cambridge Chronicle, Volume XXIX, Number 49, 5 December 1874, Cambridge, MA (accessed: )

Don Thomas, How Stanton Covered  Up Lincoln's Murder Plot, Reason Lincoln, nd, (accessed:, 10/4/2020 )

Copyright 2020 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Three Faces of Jesse

Jesse James is a man who charges the imagination and lights up the past in a way few outlaws do. The man, the legend, and the myth is truly larger than life, and who proves time and again that the truth is stranger than fiction. To understand James, you have to understand his personas.

Conventional history declares that Jesse James was an American outlaw who was murdered by Robert Ford on April 3, 1882 in St Joseph, Missouri. The main problem with this assertion is that it is inconsistent with known facts about the case, and is upheld with the flimsiest of evidence - mainly that someone died.

But having a corpse is not the same as having its identity, a fact which Ron Pastore has established beyond reasonable doubt, whose research culminated in a presentation to the 2004 Annual Conference of the American Academy of Forensic Science, as well as extremely well received History documentary.

In this presentation, Pastore examined all kinds evidence indicating that James lived well beyond 1882, such evidence including material, eye witness, DNA, photographic, and other forms to create a complete picture of the man and his life. Some of the more sophisticated procedures rely on the most current sciences such as DNA and facial recognition software which establishes beyond reasonable doubt that the death of James was greatly exaggerated. Of course it was a faked death.

If James did not die, then who did? The answer to this question begins the twisted path to unwinding James' identity. Pastore concludes that the man who was killed in 1882 was Jesse's cousin Jeremiah M James. Jesse Woodson James then assumed the identity of Jere Miah James - J M James, and eventually settled in Neodesha, Kansas, dying in 1935.

Another cousin, Jesse R James, went by the alias J Frank Dalton, dying in Texas in 1951 at the ripe old age of 104. So there were two Jesse James floating around, and one Jeremiah James rotting in a grave.

So why did Jesse murder his cousin? It fundamentally solved two problems. Jesse W James was a wanted man, having been a terror in the west as a member of the James gang since the end of the Civil War. When Jesse and his brother attempted to surrender under the white flag of truce at the end of the war, the Union army would have none of it; so it fired upon the men, nearly killing Jesse.

After recovering, he vowed revenge, and to never surrender to the North. Thus he began a long crime spree which got the attention of law men far and wide.

At the same time, his cousin Jeremiah made a deal with Pinkerton to capture Jesse, word of which reached the James gang who vowed to take care of the problem by killing him. With Jeremiah dead, Jesse could assume his identity and lead a life with less publicity, something which he did by settling in Kansas and living a respectable life and raising a family.

Pastore reports that when Jesse's wife died around Christmas of 1934, it so broke James that he died shortly thereafter in 1935. Thus ended one of the most flamboyant careers in American history.

The history books will not correct the record because the establishment, like the pope, has declared itself infallible and beyond reproach. It will never admit to its lies, misinformation, and deceit. That old saying however, comes to mind - the truth will out.

While this summary of James' life does not touch on its many crazy aspects, it at least points earnest students of history in a new direction in search of the truth.

Ron Pastore, The Jesse James Photo Album, 2017, (accessed:, 10/3/2020)

Ron Pastore, Forensic Investigation: Into the 1882 Death of Jesse James,, (accessed:, 10/3/2020)

Copyright 2020 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.