Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

By Otto Eisenschiml | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER X The Man Hunt Is On!

WHEN Lincoln's assassin had been swallowed up in the darkness of the night and the clatter of his horse's hoofs had died away, it seemed at first thought a hopeless task to divine his probable direction or to organize anything but a haphazard pursuit. On second consideration, however, the choice of possible routes of escape narrowed down perceptibly. Booth, who had been seen on the stage by thousands, could not risk passing through northern cities where he might have been recognized by any chance passer-by. The country west of Washington was held by Federal troops; even if Booth was ignorant that the War Department had alarmed such far-away posts as Cumberland and Charlestown, he would have shied at the prospect of traversing these districts. Nor did the northwestern roads lead to friendly territory. There remained Baltimore, a town in which Southern sentiment always ran high and where Booth had many friends; and finally, the South itself, where the assassin could hope for acclaim and assistance. But it is probable that Baltimore would have proved a cul-de-sac rather than a shelter; Booth was much more likely to strike for broader spaces in the hope of thus evading his pursuers.

The fact that no trains left Washington after 7:30 P.M. and the probability that all railroads would be kept under strict surveillance, should have been given serious thought by both the assassin and the authorities. Trains would certainly be closely watched, and Booth would have been insane to use them.

The only likely route for Booth to take was the one he actually followed. It was what was then known as the underground railway to Richmond and was traveled by spies and dispatch-bearers, by Confederate mail-carriers and by dealers in contraband. There

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