John Wilkes Booth and David E. George–one and the same?

by Al Benson Jr.

Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

This is the question I started this entire series of articles out with back in early May of 2019. In the process of dealing with this I found that this subject opened up a can of hidden worms that I had not anticipated when I started out. I have come to the conclusion that none of us has ever really been told the whole truth about the Lincoln assassination and the reasons for it. All we have ever been told is a fairy tale geared to satisfy the lowest common denominator of our society. The same goes for the Kennedy assassination. The same principles were used to “report” both and in no way do they satisfy those who really want the truth. They satisfy those who do not have the sense to question anything and no one else!

You come away from the Lincoln assassination and the personalities involved with more questions than answers. I am convinced we have never been told anything remotely approaching the real truth and that is no accident.

David O. Stewart, in his book about Andrew Johnson, Impeached wrote about something I have alluded to in a previous article. He said, in his notes on page 357 that: “Also while on his deathbed, Bingham supposedly told his doctor that Mrs. Mary Surratt–one of the executed conspirators–had revealed to him and Secretary of War Stanton certain information ‘so shocking that its publication would threaten the Republic.’ Bingham and Stanton agreed it should not be disclosed, and Stanton on his own deathbed made Bingham swear to preserve the confidence.” Personally, I think that whatever Mrs. Surratt knew, it guaranteed that she would hang. Her knowledge, if these statements are accurate, was her death warrant.

I wonder if this has any reference to what Otto Eisenschliml wrote about in his book Historian Without an Armchair. He wrote, on page 189: “Whether Robert Lincoln, Lincoln’s only surviving son, became a thwarter of history by burning some of his father’s papers is a hotly debated question. My own opinion leans toward an affirmative answer. I am basing it on his statement that he had withheld their publication in order to protect the reputation of some persons, then still living, until their death would free him of this self-imposed inhibition. But now that the papers have been thrown open to the public, I have not found a single letter which contains anything derogatory to anybody.” Of course you haven’t! Robert Lincoln burned all those!

Eisenschiml also noted the comments of John P. Usher, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Interior. Usher said, to his own son, that “the ramifications (of the assassination) were so far-reaching that it was well that investigations had gone no further.” Eisenschiml wondered who Usher was protecting with such a statement and he asked the question–and it was a good one–“If Booth alone had been responsible, or Southern leaders had been involved in the crime, why was it ‘well that investigations had gone no further’?” I don’t believe anyone has ever addressed that question. I believe the Establishment would rather, even today, that it was forgotten.

Theodore Roscoe in The Web of Conspiracy  noted, on page 533 that: “Robert Todd Lincoln died in 1926. Some time before he died, he burned a great collection of his father’s letters and private papers. A friend, Mr. Young, stopping in on a visit to Mr. Lincoln’s home in Manchester, Vermont, was appalled to see these documents going up in flames.” He said “Mr. Young at once remonstrated…Mr. Lincoln replied he did not intend to continue his destruction–but the papers he was destroying contained the documentary evidence of the treason of a member of Lincoln’s Cabinet, and he thought it was best for all that such evidence be destroyed.” Was he afraid that this evidence would bring down the Republic? He needn’t have been. His father had destroyed the Republic during his first administration in all but name. All that was left at that point was “post-America.”

So the question still remains–Did John Wilkes Booth die in Garrett’s tobacco barn, or did he get away? Roscoe informed us that “Pro and con, informed historians and other interested parties have argued the question for nearly a century. Early in 1903 the question was treated to headlines in the national press.” Roscoe wrote in 1960. So actually, this question has been debated for 150 years now, and still no real resolution.

However, something happened in January of 1903 that brought it to the fore again. A drifter who called himself David E. George committed suicide in Enid, Oklahoma, in the Grand Avenue Hotel. It was reported in the local paper. Supposedly he killed himself with a dose of strychnine. Roscoe asked the question: “One wonders why the story made the local paper. There were many solitary nobodies drifting around the Cherokee Strip. Causes of death were usually more interesting–gunfire or perhaps a lynching. Nevertheless, this shabby suicide was reported in that evening’s edition of the Enid Daily Wave.

More to come.

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