After news of President Lincoln’s assassination reached the Metropolis on April 15, the city was heavy with grief.
Plans were in the works for a two-day viewing and funeral procession that would take Lincoln’s casket from City Hall up Broadway.
Meanwhile, one city resident was scouring the Virginia countryside, leading the detail of soldiers sent to capture on-the-run assassin John Wilkes Booth.
His name was Edward P. Doherty (right). A Canadian immigrant born to Irish parents, Doherty moved to New York in 1860.
When the war between the states began, he joined the 71st New York Volunteers. He spent all four war years in the military, distinguishing himself by escaping capture during the first Battle of Bull Run and earning officer status with the 16th New York Cavalry.
Yet Doherty’s most important assignment came on April 24, after South had surrendered.
Summoned to gather 25 military men on horseback, he was then told by a colonel “that he had reliable information that assassin Booth and his accomplice were somewhere between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers,” Doherty said later in a report.
He was instructed to take his men south toward Fredericksburg, Virginia, and hunt down Booth and his accomplice, David Herold.
(Herold was part of the unsuccessful plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, a New Yorker, on the same night Lincoln was shot.)
With the help of locals, Doherty and his soldiers tracked the men to a barn on April 26. There, they tried to negotiate a surrender with a defiant and injured Booth.
Booth wouldn’t let that happen. Ultimately one of the men in Doherty’s detail set the barn on fire, and another shot Booth fatally through the neck. (Herold was brought out alive and later hanged.)
“Chance has connected my name with a great historical event,” Doherty said in 1866.
After resigning from the Army, Doherty made his way back to New York City in 1886, snagging an appointment as Inspector of Street Pavings and living at 533 West 144th Street (above, the building on the site today).
Doherty died in 1897 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; his gravestone makes light of his most famous military assignment.
Lincoln’s assassination was felt profoundly in New York, especially considering the ties Booth had to the city, where he had performed Shakespeare with his actor brothers only months earlier.
The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910, delves into it the city’s grief as well as Booth’s connections to New York City.
[Top photo: Wikipedia; second image: Trulia; third image: Getty Images; fourth photo: Findagrave.com]
Once again, hat tip to Dean at the History Author Show!