Searching for Forgotten History: 2015

By KI Thompson

Most people spend New Year’s Day recovering from the night before, or perhaps watching sports on television and eating all kinds of tasty treats to celebrate the New Year. Kathi and I did something a little out of the ordinary this year, we followed the escape route of John Wilkes Booth.

There are lots of maps to choose from marking all the places Booth stopped after his frantic ride from Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Some of the places are still standing, like the Surratt House (his first stop heading south)

Enter History

Enter History

and Dr. Samuel Mudd’s home where Booth had his broken leg set. But we were surprised and disappointed to discover that the terminus (in more ways than one) of Booth’s trip, the Garrett farm, is no longer extant. All that’s left of this historic moment in our history is a four lane highway separated by a tree-lined median. Even the marker indicating its significance is located almost two miles from the original site.

Once it became known as the place where Booth died, the Garrett farm initially attracted all kinds of curiosity seekers and souvenir collectors. Eventually the house fell into disrepair since the family’s livelihood was destroyed by the burning of the tobacco barn where Booth was hiding. However, the site still existed (barely) as recently as World War II when the federal government took over the property and built Fort A.P. Hill (named in honor of a famous Confederate general). Visitors may no longer stop along the road and walk on the property.



Some may question why we should preserve the steps of this man’s horrific act in our nation’s history. I can certainly understand why in the early years after the Civil War’s end that people did not wish to create a monument to Booth and make a martyr out of a man who assassinated one of our greatest and most beloved presidents. But we then have to ask ourselves, why preserve the Texas Book Depository? At one of my favorite museums in DC, the Newseum, they have preserved the shed of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who spent his days in rural Montana plotting his serial murders. They also have the automobile of the Beltway Snipers who randomly shot ten people from a hole in the trunk.

The Civil War Trust is a great organization whose goal is to preserve Civil War battlefields. There may be other such organizations out there I’m unaware of, but if we can preserve so much of this period of our history, we need to also be concerned with preserving the uglier parts of that history as a reminder of where we’ve been and how it affects us now and in the future.

Water's Edge

Water’s Edge









The photos accompanying this blog were taken along the escape route which observes its 150th anniversary this April. “Enter History” is a door of an original building at Mary Surratt’s Tavern. “Restoration” is of Dr Samuel Cox’s house at Rich Hill, a stop close to where Booth crossed the Potomac River into Virginia. Booth was hidden in a stand of pine trees near this house. The last photo is the Maryland spot where Booth rowed across the river to Virginia.

KI Thompson’s first novel, House of CloudsBSB-HouseOfClouds, is a love story which occurs during the first year of the Civil War.

About kathiissermanphotos

I have been taking photos for the last 40 years and sharing them with friends and family. Recently I took the plunge to share them with a wider audience. You can view my photos on Facebook-, my purchase site- or here. I hope you enjoy viewing them, and please let me know what you think.
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9 Responses to Searching for Forgotten History: 2015

  1. S.A. says:

    Thoughtful post, KI! I agree – if we keep only the “good” parts of history, we lose out not only on a better understanding of where we are, but how we got there, which in turn can make the paths forward less clear (and leave open the possibility of repeating past mistakes). Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos!


  2. Debby says:

    It’s great that KI is so interested in history and can write about it so well. The House of Clouds is a wonderfully written novel. It stimulates our interest of the Civil War. This blog does the same of the search for Booth and co-conspirators. I hope KI will write about it.


  3. Dorinda Depp says:

    Hi Kathi & KI, that was great. The narrative with the pics was a terrific combination. I agree with you about history, it’s always written by the winners, and lots of info is lost


  4. Devlyn says:

    KI, thanks for your informative blog, I learnt a heap. Kathi again you have created and captured some wonderful memories through your photography.


  5. Kim says:

    So glad you all enjoy history as much as I do. It’s fascinating to delve into the events that shape us as individuals as well as a country. Researching ones genealogy is another way to achieve it. Hope you all take the time to explore your own past. KI


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