Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

By Otto Eisenschiml | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX Every Avenue of Escape Blocked-- Save One

THE measures taken by the authorities to close in on Lincoln's murderer were, to all appearances, very thorough ones. A general alarm was sounded urging the commanders of troops in and around Washington to find and arrest the assassin at all hazards. Secretary Welles mobilized many naval vessels with the same object in view. In the early morning hours after the murder, scores of military dispatches left the War Department, each one designed to close some possible avenue of escape to the conspirators.

For unfathomable reasons it was deemed advisable to arouse first the northern and northwestern environs of the Capital. It was a direction the assassins could hardly be expected to take. The roads toward the north led into Union territories, where neither shelter nor aid would be available. Nevertheless, Colonel Thompson, commanding at Darnestown, was probably the first to be instructed; he was ordered to scout north of Washington. The telegram left Washington so early that the colonel was able to reply half an hour before midnight. His zeal was spurred on by an official intimation that:

THE ASSASSINS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE ESCAPED TOWARD
MARYLAND.1

By twelve o'clock three squadrons were out, scouring the roads paralleling the Potomac and covering those toward Tenellytown, Barnesville and even as far as Frederick. It is certain that Booth

____________________
1
Official Records, I, vol. 46, part 3, p. 752

-91-

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