John Wilkes Booth’s Body Double

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

Stories and accounts persist as to whether someone else is buried in John Wilkes Booth’s grave. I started this series out with commentary on that, and during all of this, I have seen nothing that still does not raise the question. The facial recognition technique I noted in the first article, which compared photos of John Wilkes Booth as a young man and David George of Enid, Oklahoma as an old man seems to point to the fact that there is only a one percent chance that George was not Booth.

I expect the results of these tests will be routinely ignored by both historians who have built their careers by writing politically correct “history” and by the “news” media, so called, because this presents a situation where some of our history may well have to be corrected and rewritten and careers may be changed. History is often messy, while establishment “historians” work to provide us with certain Pollyanna visions of what really went on that just do not satisfy.

I am going to quote some of the material I have come up with, including the links listed, so folks can check out the same stuff I did. A link I checked out was that had something to do with the Learning Channel. It states, from an article posted on April 24, 2002, that: “Sunday night on the Learning Channel was a documentary on the Lincoln assassination including some documents just released by the family of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. These documents show that Stanton searched through Northern prisons until he found a person with the initials J.W.B. Who he found was a fellow of similar looks and age of John Wilkes Booth. His name was James W. Boyd. And furthermore he had the initials of J.W.B. tattooed on his left arm. Then Stanton managed to have all of the telegraph lines shut down in and around Washington DC for six hours after the shooting of Lincoln…What the Learning Channel came up with was as hypothesis that perhaps the soldiers who shot John Wilkes Booth only thought they had shot him. The initials of J.W.B. tattooed on this guy’s arm might have proven to them that they actually had John Wilkes Booth instead of the other guy.”

Another article I came across noted that James William Boyd had been a captain in the 6th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He was captured in 1863 and was a prisoner of war until early 1864. At that point he asked permission to be released so that he could return home to care for his seven motherless children because his wife had passed away while he was in prison. Edwin M. Stanton approved Boyd’s request in February of 1865. After that, his whereabouts remains a mystery. He was supposed to meet his son in Brownsville, Texas but he never showed up, nor was he ever heard from again. If he did end up in John Wilkes Booth’s grave then it is not surprising that he contacted no one.

Another article on notes the testimony of Lieutenant Edward Doherty, who was supposed to be commanding the soldiers who went after Booth at Garrett’s Farm. The article noted: “Lieutenant Edward Doherty is testifying. Herold has run out of the flames in terror, surrendering to the soldiers. With a shot, the target of the manhunt is laid low. Herold cries out ‘Who is that that has been shot in the barn?’ Doherty says to him ‘You know well who it is.’ Says Herold, ‘No, I do not; he told me his name was Boyd.’ Doherty says ‘It is Booth and you know it.’ Says Herold ‘No, I do not know that it was Booth.’ Of course Herold’s statement to Judge Bingham, on April 27th, on the Monitor Montauk, corrects this misstatement. Several things stand out. First, remarkably, Herold’s is the only statement of all the conspirators that makes it into the official record. Herold never seems to understand what he is confessing to. However, it is clear that detectives are standing around him to make sure the details are correct. He states he met Booth while coming home, rather than thundering over the bridge after him. This may fit the detectives’ plan to craft a unified tale…In conclusion, most historians deny Boyd’s existence, through no fault of their own. The thoroughness with which the original record was cleansed means that those who do not consult primary sources rarely spot the inconsistencies that come out in official accounts. Boyd, the wounded soldier trying to get home, slips between the cracks.”

And finally, an article on by researcher Mark Owen, originally published in January 2011. Mr. Owen stated: “John Wilkes Booth did not die in Garrett’s tobacco barn in 1865 as is currently supposed…James Boyd, a former Confederate agent working for the War Department was the man shot and killed in Garrett’s barn. He bore a passing resemblance to Booth aside from his red hair and mustache. Booth’s hair was jet black and he had shaved off his mustache at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd…Not a single friend of Booth was called in to identify the body…When the blanket covering the body was lifted (Dr.) May stated, ‘There is no resemblance in that corpse to Booth, nor can I believe it to be him.’ May later changed his statement to conform with the official proclamation that Booth had been captured and killed.” So that’s now two people we have that “changed” their first statements as to who the corpse was, David Herold and Dr. May. Lots of “statement changing” going on here–for whose benefit?

Mark Owen provides a couple more tidbits relating to this. He says “Each of the 26 detectives that worked on the case received several thousand dollars apiece after signing quitclaims, stating that they had no further interest in the case. This was a big payday 150 years ago.” I have no doubt that any further interest they might have had in this case was bought and paid for.

But one more comment from Mr. Owen was rather enlightening. He stated: “In 1922, two Civil War veterans swore an affidavit stating that the body removed from the Garrett farm was not Booth. Joseph Zeigan and Wilson Kenzie said that they had served with the cavalry troop which had surrounded the barn. The man dragged from the barn wore a Confederate uniform  and on his feet were yellow brogans, the service foot gear of Johnny Reb. The two veterans were sworn to secrecy.” Of course, by 1922, there was small possibility there would be anyone left to harass them should they speak out. Another site that carried some of this same information was So as you all can see, there is just enough information out there to cast serious doubt on the “official version.” In the intervening 150 years since the Lincoln assassination there have been several disconcerting events in our history and most of the official versions leave serious doubts anymore. The government has been caught lying way to many times for anything they say to be taken seriously. We have been lied to about Lincoln’s assassination, the assassinations of the Kennedys, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, the Gulf of Tonkin situation that got us into the Viet Nam War, the situation with the U.S.S. Liberty attack, and so much more, that the lies beggar description anymore. If we really want the truth we have to look for it ourselves. Trusting the feds to tell us the truth is, at best, a crap shoot, and, at worst, sheer insanity!

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