The Reason Lincoln Had to Die
by Don Thomas

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Who Helped Booth Kill Lincoln

by Don Thomas

Found Guilty, 1865

Two years after the trial ended Congress investigated suspicions about a cover-up by the conspiracy prosecution. Today, there is finally enough recovered evidence to end the 150 year-old mystery about, who actually helped Booth kill Lincoln.

Newly Discovered Secret Files

For more than seven decades the War Department kept large volumes of secret files collected during Lincoln's conspiracy investigation, classified and locked away. Even after their release the old filing system made those documents almost meaningless to history researchers. Classified documents about the conspiracy investigation did not become orderly, easily accessible public information until 2009. Those old War Department files are no longer a random, unrelated stockpile of microfilm images, but edited pages published in, The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence [E&S]. And those newly edited old documents reveal a new and much different story from the old 1865, version of the reason Lincoln was killed, as well as revealing the people responsible for his death.

Before 2009, independent researchers looking into the conspiracy to kill Lincoln had a very restricted source of evidence to study. In 1865, the War Department under Edwin Stanton began concealing or destroying specially selected statements and letters that were collected from an assorted troupe of conspiracy witnesses. Surviving evidence (which is now easily accessible) contains information about the New York accomplices who helped John Wilkes Booth kill the President. After those secret classified military documents were published Lincoln's old murder mystery acquired a great wealth of old suppressed evidence, inspiring a new investigation.

These once concealed statements and letters reveal that during the conspiracy trial Stanton's prosecution Judge Advocates deceitfully withheld significant information about Booth and his accomplices. A single withheld statement would have proven John Wilkes Booth was not seen behind Ford's Theater talking to an unidentified lady on the afternoon of the assassination. Other related evidence withheld from the trial was found in a military report that stated Booth and his accomplices used whistles to synchronize their attack against the President.

The prosecution also persuaded witnesses to give false testimony. Two Union soldiers falsely testified they saw Booth in front of Ford's Theater calling out the time to his Confederate friend John Surratt, just minutes before Lincoln was attacked. The prosecution enticed several other witnesses to claim they also saw John Surratt in Washington the day Lincoln was shot. However, withheld evidence could have easily proven that John Surratt was not in Washington during the assassination.

The investigation was conducted by subordinates under Secretary Stanton, and throughout the conspiracy trial false testimony was encouraged by the judges. Many prosecution witnesses were rewarded with money from War Department funds or special favors, still others were threatened with execution. Unchallenged prosecution testimonies, which lead to the conviction of seven accomplices in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln were based on intentionally fabricated accusations. Today, the old secret documents are accessible to the general public in several different formats. And after a review of this new evidence it becomes apparent that having complete authority over the investigation and conspiracy trial was a very crucial element of Secretary Stanton's treachery to cover-up his own involvement in Lincoln's murder.

This 1865, terrorist attack against the United States government was a successful military coup, with a motive to replace the administration with a controllable president while maintaining the Northeastern majority Congress. Most all institutions of higher learning still claim that Booth's accomplices were the people found guilty by Stanton's military tribunal. However, it can now be proven that Stanton's actual military plot used a State Department employee, James Donaldson to solicit two well-known government subversives to be political assassins. John Wilkes Booth and Lewis Powell inadvertently abolished the President's reconstruction policy for the political regime who conspired to remove Lincoln from office. Booth's idiot followers (in his ridiculous and impossible kidnapping scheme) were convicted as assassination accomplices without motive, evidence or even an escape plan. All the while the implicated New York crowd suspects, were never investigated, because those New York suspects were part of Stanton's plot.

George Atzerodt's recovered confession, the congressional investigation into Booth's diary confession, the FBI forensics of Booth's diary and the newly released War Department secret files help to make-up the immense volume of suppressed documents. None of which was never known during the conspiracy trial. And only now does the investigation into who killed Lincoln have enough recovered evidence to end the mystery about this nation's most infamous unsolved murder.

Booth's Whistle, and More

One such significant piece of withheld evidence is a report filed nine days after Lincoln was murdered. Military investigator, Col. John A. Foster wrote about witnesses hearing whistles signaling back and forth from the streets and alleys around Ford's Theater, just before the President was shot [E&S p. 539]. Those same witnesses also heard three shrill whistles immediately after the murder, followed by several horsemen riding rapidly away.

No less than four credible witnesses reported the exact same story, clearly alerting investigators that many accomplices were working with Booth to kill Lincoln. No further investigation was ever made, while Foster's report remained unknown to the general public for 144 years [E&S pp. 138, 139, 1042 & 1195].

The whistle pictured on the right was found among the many items recovered from Booth's body when he was captured. Combining Col. Foster's newly published report, together with this old whistle evidence, verifies that the military investigators knew unidentified accomplices were helping Booth kill Lincoln.

But who were they, and why was there no investigation?

Detectives also recovered photographs of five women, tucked inside the diary of John Wilkes Booth after he was pulled from the burning tobacco barn at Garrett's farm. Four of the five photographs were of actresses, and one very significant picture was that of the New York actress Fanny Brown

Fay Brown

Several years before becoming Booth's girl-friend Fanny was married, for a short while to a famous New York minstrel actor Fred Buckley. In 1861, Fanny made her acting debut at New York's Winter Garden performing the role of Dora Sunnyside. During those early years Fanny also belonged to the same Davenport Theater Company as did another close friend of Booth's, actor John McCullough. By 1865, Fanny Brown was just one of Booth's many girl-friends, and before Lincoln's assassination both Fanny and Booth were living in Washington at the same National Hotel.

John McCullough

Fanny Brown and John McCullough were each very close friends of John Wilkes Booth, making them both suspects of interest in Lincoln's murder investigation. However, there are no statements found among the old secret files about any of Booth's entertainer friends from New York. Secretary Stanton's military detectives knew Booth's only stage performance for 1865, was a play scheduled at Ford's Theater on March 18. Stanton's investigators also knew that Booth gave his only benefit performance as a special favor for his friend John McCullough. And it was no secret McCullough knew Fay Brown. However, despite collected evidence and legitimate suspicion neither Brown nor McCullough were ever investigated.

In fact, collected evidence implicating Booth's New York actor friends remained suppressed from the public for many decades, while other such evidence was completely destroyed by military investigators.

Louis Weichmann

The conspiracy prosecution's prime witness was, Louis Weichmann an imprisoned suspect for being very closely associated with Booth and his kidnapping plot. Accusations from Weichmann's testimony are still used to imply that Booth and his kidnappers made plans to deliver President Lincoln to Richmond during the same night of Booth's (March 18) benefit play for McCullough. The kidnapping attempt was claimed to have failed, but neither the conspiracy prosecution, (nor any contemporary historians) have explained how Booth pre-planned to be in Richmond and Washington during the same time [Pitman p. 118]. Days before the play Booth had given complimentary tickets to Weichmann and several of his kidnappers [Pitman p. 115]. Louis Weichmann gave false testimony for the prosecution in order to save himself from execution.

Soon after the trial, and again years later Secretary Stanton and Judge Holt twice rewarded Weichmann, (a known conspirator in Booth's plot to capture Lincoln) with two government jobs [E&S pp. 1332-33].

George Atzerodt

In the now published old secret files there is a collection of letters about Booth's New York associates, yet those suspects were never investigated. George Atzerodt's last confession to Military Marshal James McPhail, talked about Booth's New York acquaintances, "the New York crowd", but his confession was also suppressed and then destroyed by someone within the War Department [Thomas Ch. 6].

Before Lincoln's assassination Marshal McPhail had been informed about George Atzerodt being an accomplice with Booth [Reward Files, Section IV]. The Marshal knew a lot about George before he was arrested, and that he was not an insider of Booth's social circle. McPhail realized Atzerodt's knowledge about other actors was from a gofer's point of view, who just repeated conversations and identified Booth's New York friends as he understood them to be.

George Atzerodt's brother, John and brother-in-law, John L. Smith were both detectives for McPhail.

Fanny Brown

The lady conspirator living with Booth at the National Hotel, whom Atzerodt thought was, "Kate Thompson or sometimes Brown" would not have been introduced to him. Booth's friend Kate was just one of the many women in Booth's harem, while she, Fay Brown and others were all spoken of in front of Atzerodt. The woman Atzerodt described as having black hair and eyes, round face, good looking and well-dressed fits Fay Brown, while another woman from South Carolina, went to Richmond with John Surratt and Gust Howell fits Sarah Slater. And the widow accomplice known at the Pennsylvania House, who knew about the kidnapping affair fits Kate Warne's trademark alias. It was well-documented that Kate Warne spied on Booth while infiltrating sympathizer groups in and around Baltimore [Thomas Ch. 6].

Because Atzerodt's confession was never publicly known, there was no official inquiry to determine if Atzerodt was confusing three individual women as being just one single woman. But it is not speculation that the War Department investigators knew all about Booth's girl-friends, and that each fit some part of Atzerodt's description. It cannot be argued that the only woman investigated (among those three different women) was Sarah Slater. However, soon after Slater's arrest she disappeared. And while in the custody of the War Department, just like Atzerodt's last confession [E&S p.871]

George Atzerodt was executed because of who he knew and what he said, not for what he did, while Sarah Slater was never found. Much like the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

Mistaken Identity

One of the most repeated fabricated allegations taken from the assassination investigation and trial is that:

"John Wilkes Booth planned the assassination on his own, preparing Lincoln state box himself on the afternoon before his attack."

A peephole had been cut in the state box door, and a notch cut in the floor to secure a wood brace to keep the door from being opened after Booth entered. In order to hide Booth's New York accomplices the conspiracy prosecution had to establish Booth rigged Lincoln's state box. Conspiracy trial Judges suppressed information about Booth's New York accomplices while specially selecting three false testimonies which placed Booth at Ford's Theater during the afternoon of April 14. An accurate statement which would have contradicted those three prosecution witnesses was suppressed.

Edwin "Ned" Emerson

The testimonies given by witnesses, Mary Jane Anderson, Mary Ann Turner and John Miles is just one example to show how the conspiracy prosecution was able to cover-up the actual murder plot. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, his military investigators, and even the conspiracy trial Judge Advocates had the authority to choose witnesses and suppress evidence to protect any suspects they chose not to expose.

Anderson, Turner and Miles each testified for the prosecution, and said that on the afternoon of April 14 they saw Booth talking to an unidentified lady behind Ford's Theatre [Pitman pp. 75, 81]. However, the man they actually saw was not Booth, but actor Edwin "Ned" Emerson. Emerson played "Lord Dundreary" later that same night at Ford's. The unidentified lady with Ned Emerson was actress May Hart, and she played "Georgiana". May Hart gave her statement to investigators explaining why she was talking with Emerson behind Ford's Theatre, and why they were seen pointing up and down the alley. But her statement was withheld from trial evidence, and the public [E&S p. 648].

Military investigators as well as the Judge Advocates knew all three of their witnesses mistook Emerson for Booth.

Yet, the conspiracy prosecution still used Anderson, Turner and Miles as trial witnesses, in order to falsely place Booth at Ford's Theatre during the late afternoon of April 14.

It was never publicly released (until 100 years later) that the unknown lady seen behind Ford's Theater talking to Booth was May Hart, nor did anyone learn that the man she was talking to was not Booth, but Ned Emerson [E&S p. xxiv].

Contemporary historians refuse to acknowledge the criminality of the conspiracy trial proceedings.

*Lord Dundreary...E.A. Emerson

*Georgiana...May Hart

Another often repeated myth from the trial

One of the most repeated fabricated allegations taken from the assassination investigation and trial is that:

"Two Union soldiers falsely placed Booth, his Confederate agent friend John Surratt and stagehand Ed Spangler in front of Ford's Theatre just minutes before Lincoln was shot."

Edward "Ned" Spangler

John Surratt Jr.

The prosecution deceitfully used Sergeant Joseph M. Dye's testimony to hide Booth's unknown accomplices, and accused that John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt and Ed Spangler were the three assassins in front of Ford's Theater calling out the time just before Lincoln was shot. However, it is an undisputed fact that John Surratt was in New York before and after Booth's attack [E&S p. 457].

Many witnesses testified Ed Spangler was not outside the theater before Lincoln was shot and the man seen holding the theater back door for Booth had a black mustache. (Spangler had red hair). It is stated in the old secret documents that Sergeant Dye was taken to see Spangler in prison, and the Sergeant admitted the man he saw was not Spangler [E&S p. 456].

Despite evidence and testimony to the contrary, Ed Spangler was found guilty and sentenced to six years for helping Booth escape. Two years later a civilian court found John Surratt Jr. not involved in the assassination plot. Who were those men Sergeant Dye actually saw?

Sergeant Dye was also shown Booth's picture and asked was Booth the third man he saw in front of Ford's Theater, and the one going into the bar? Dye looked at the picture and answered, "The hat was on so carelessly that I could not see his features" [E&S p. 456]. During the trial three weeks later, Sergeant Dye was again shown Booth's picture, and on that day he testified, "These are his features exactly" [Pitman p. 73].

At the conspiracy trial Dye changed his original statement, and claimed he clearly saw Booth slip into the bar, elegantly dressed with stylish boots, wearing a flat stiff rim round crown black hat [Pitman p. 72].

The recovered riding boot and spur is evidence that Booth did not wear stylish boots just before Lincoln was shot. Nor could the same well-dressed man Sergeant Dye saw going into the bar, wearing a stiff rim hat been Booth because Booth did not wear a hat when he entered Lincoln's state box. The recovered hat said to belong to Booth was found to be a phony and could not be used as evidence [E&S p. 1098]. (Recovered assassination artifacts do not include a "Booth hat").

[See: Peter Taltavul (the bartender's) testimony on last page].

Recovered artifacts, boot & spur

Stylish boots

Ford's Theatre Doorkeeper John Buckingham, was the third consecutive prosecution witness to misidentify the man Sergeant Dye claimed was Booth. Buckingham also misidentified Booth as the same man Sergeant Dye saw elegantly dressed with stylish boots, coming out of the bar around 10 o'clock and walking in and out of Ford's lobby. Buckingham testified, "I know Booth by sigh...he came to me and asked what time it was. He stepped out and walked in again...then went up the stairway to the dress-circle" [Pitman p. 73].

Not a single trial witness correctly described the way Booth was dressed before he shot Lincoln.

After including the old secret War Department files with the recovered evidence, it becomes an uncontested fact that the three accomplices seen in front of Ford's Theater (just before Booth fired his Derringer) could not have been Booth, Surratt or Spangler [Thomas Ch. 10]. The mystery remains; "Who was helping Booth before the assassination, giving whistling signals and running with Booth from the theater alley after Lincoln was shot?" They were not any of the seven convicted; David Herold, George Atzerodt, Dr. Mudd, Mary Surratt, Ed Spangler, Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin or the accused Confederate agent John Surratt. (Another example of mistaken identity, suppressed evidence and false history gone unchallenged).

Two years later (1867) during the trial of John Surratt; Sergeant Dye would again claim that he clearly saw John Surratt talking with Booth outside the theater on the night of the assassination [E&S p. 457]. It is a proven fact that all three of those men Sergeant Dye saw, (until the book, The Reason Lincoln Had to Die), remain "unidentified".

*Peter Taltavul, for the Prosecution May 15, 1865: "I kept the restaurant adjoining Ford's Theater on the lower side. Booth came into my restaurant on the evening 14th of April, I judge a little after 10 o'clock, walked up to the bar, and called for some whisky, which I gave him; he then called for some water, which I also gave him; he placed the money on the counter and went out. I saw him go out of the bar alone, as near as I can judge, from 8 to 10 minutes before I heard the cry that the President was assassinated." [Pitman p. 72]

"NOT BOOTH", so who was that man?


E&S - The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence, edited by William C. Edwards and Edward Steers Jr. University of Illinois Press Urbana and Chicago, 2009

Pitman - The Assassination of President Lincoln, Benn Pitman, United States Army, Military Commission (Lincoln's assassination: 1865)

Thomas - The Reason Lincoln Had to Die by Don Thomas, & Don Thomas Facebook

Reward Files - companion volume to E&S - The Lincoln Assassination: The Reward Files, by William C. Edwards, Copyright 2012.

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