Back to top

John Wilkes Booth (Goodrich, 2005)

Scholarship

Thomas Goodrich, The Darkest Dawn: Lincoln, Booth, and the Great American Tragedy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 60-61.

Although [John] Wilkes [Booth] was an outspoken advocate of Southern rights, other siblings in the Booth family were either neutral or, as was the case with older brother Edwin, strongly pro-Union.

In 1859, when the startling news from Harpers Ferry arrived, John Booth was performing in Richmond. Begging officers to take him along, the actor joined a Virginia militia unit as it rushed north to quell the attempted slave revolt led by the abolitionist John Brown. Although diametrically opposed to Brown’s beliefs, Booth nevertheless came to understand and respect the grit and determination of the white-bearded Kansan. After his capture and trial, Booth was also present at Brown’s execution. More than his life, it was John Brown’s death that stirred the actor’s greatest admiration. The image of the “rugged old hero” standing alone on the scaffold unflinchingly, moments from eternity, without a friend or rescuer in sight, was one that Booth never forgot…One of the lessons Booth learned from Brown was that even in utter defeat, millions of souls might still be stirred; that one bold man with a will of iron and a heart of steel could make a difference and change the course of history. “John Brown was a man inspired, the grandest character of this century!,” praised Booth.

How to Cite This Page: "John Wilkes Booth (Goodrich, 2005)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19785.