Prince George's County
John Wilkes Booth Tour
In 1865, John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, escaped for twelve days from what may have been the largest manhunt in history. He passed through Maryland and Virginia via horse, foot and boat. Now one can sign up for the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Tour, which involves 12 hours on an air-conditioned bus with fact-packed guide. Call 301-868-1121.
The first stop is Ford's Theater in Washington, DC where tourists exit stage right, as Booth did, but are encouraged not to break a leg. He fled past Mary Surratt's former boarding house, now a Chinese Restaurant at 604 H Street, NW, then crossed the Navy Yard Bridge, now the 11th St. Bridge. Another stop is the Surratt Tavern in Clinton. This was a hotbed of anti-Union insurrection, and here it is believed that Booth picked up guns and ammunition assisted by Mary Surratt's tenant. Mary was hanged as an accomplice in the penitentiary at the present corner of 4th and P streets in DC. The area is said to be under her spell still.
The final stop is on Highway 301 near Bowling Green. Only a pipe and cinder
blocks mark the spot where Booth was cornered in a tobacco barn. His pursuers
torched the place to force him out. A sergeant of the 16th New York Cavalry
shot him as he tried to exit, gun in hand. This was a true reprisal, since it
was with a gun that he had assassinated President Lincoln.
This 1852 plantation house served as a family home, tavern, post office and polling place during the crucial Civil War years. It was also a safe house on the Confederate spy route that ran from the Northern Neck of Virginia through southern Maryland and into Washington, D.C.
In the fall of 1864, the Surratt family became involved with John Wilkes Booth in a daring scheme to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln. As part of that plan, rifles and supplies were hidden at the home. That plan fell through, and Booth changed his plot to assassination. After shooting the President at Ford's Theater on the night of April 14, 1865, he fled to Surratt House to retrieve those items.
The widow, Mary Surratt, was arrested, tried and convicted for her alleged role in the plot. On the afternoon of July 7, 1865, she went to the gallows-- marking the first time that a woman was executed by the federal government. Her guilt or innocence continues to be debated. Surratt house is now open to the public as a historic house museum and is a focal point of one of history's mysteries.
Costumed guides conduct tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 am to 3 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 pm. An adjacent visitors' center houses exhibits and a gift shop. A research center is also part of the complex. A small admission fee is charged. Annual special events include a fully narrated bus tour over the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route, sponsored by the museum since 1977.
For further information, please call 301 868-1121 or visit www.surrattmuseum.org. The museum is located at 9118 Brandywine road, Clinton, Maryland 20735 , just ten miles from Washington, D.C. and is easily reached via Exit 7A off 1-95 onto Route 5/ Brach Avenue. Exit Route 5 at Route 223/Woodyard Road, bear right and go one mile to the second traffic signal. Turn left onto Brandywine Road, and the museum complex will be immediately on your left.
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