“Let the Stain of Innocent Blood
Be Removed from the Land”
The Military Trial of the
Edward Steers Jr.
ON APRIL 26, 1865, JUST TWELVE DAYS AFTER PRESIDENT Abraham Lincoln's murder, a troop of Union cavalrymen cornered John Wilkes Booth and his cohort David Herold at the farm of a Virginia planter near Bowling Green.1 Following a bravura performance by Booth, he was killed and Herold taken prisoner. While Booth's death brought an end to the hunt for President Lincoln's killer, it did not bring closure to the nation's grieving. It marked only the end of the first phase of an emotional period that had replaced the jubilation brought about by the surrender of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia three weeks earlier. America's greatest criminal manhunt lasted less than two weeks, resulting in hundreds of people being swept up in the government's dragnet and thrown into prison, including those unlucky enough to be needed as witnesses in support of the government's case.
As the president's funeral train made its way across the country toward his hometown of Springfield, the government prepared to prove to the world that John Wilkes Booth had been the tool of a larger conspiracy whose perpetrators were the leaders of the