Today we had another first!
Our first tour bus!
This tour was from the “In the Footsteps of John Wilkes Booth” Tour. They start at Ford’s Theater and trace the places that John Wilkes Booth and David Herold took. Their last stop is the site of Garrett’s Farm on Route 301. Today, we were the last stop!
So how does Belle Grove Plantation fit in? Well, Booth and Harold didn’t stop at Belle Grove Plantation, but they did take the Port Conway ferry crossing to Port Royal. Just a day or so later, the detachment pursuing them, stopped at Belle Grove Plantation. Here they ate and slept until it was time to cross the river.
One of the officers, Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger, who had been wounded three times during the Civil War, was allowed to sleep in Belle Grove Plantation’s Grand Hallway. One of the wounds that Lt.Col. Conger had received had been so severe that they had given him up for died. It was during this time that he was cared for by Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. After leaving the plantation and finding Booth and Harold at Garrett’s farm, Lt. Col. Congar pulled up brush from around the barn, lite it on fire and stuffed it into the barn setting it on fire.
Today’s group of forty-three were from Michigan. Their tour guide was Michael W. Kauffman, author of “American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth”, a modern edition of Samuel B. Arnold’s Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator, and the book and CD – “In the Footsteps of an Assassin”.
As historian William C. Davis once wrote, “no one has studied [John Wilkes] Booth longer or more in depth than Michael W. Kauffman, a well-known figure and voice of reason in the field of Lincoln assassination studies.”
For thirty-five years, Kauffman has been a fixture at assassination-related symposia, tours, and news events. He has written numerous articles on the subject, and his bus tours of the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route have been a staple of feature publications all over the U.S., making Kauffman “legendary,” according to The Washington Post. Taking a full-immersion approach to history, he has rowed across the Potomac where Booth rowed, leaped to the stage in Ford’s Theatre, and burned down a tobacco barn almost identical to the one in which Booth was cornered and killed. (It was already slated for demolition!) For a time he even took up residence in Tudor Hall, the Booth family home in Maryland.
Kauffman has written for Civil War Times, the Washington Post, American Heritage, Blue and Gray, and the Lincoln Herald, among others. He has lectured throughout the United States, and has appeared in more than twenty television and radio documentaries, including programs on A& E, The Learning Channel, the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, and the Discovery Channel.
One of the highlights of the day was the appearance of “President Lincoln”. Ron Carley, a Professional Lincoln Impersonator from Detroit surprised us today with his wonderful performance as “President Lincoln”. It was amazing! He is the same height as President Lincoln standing at a towering 6 feet and 4 inches tall! With his hat and hand at his jacket, you could have swore he was in fact President Lincoln!
He even had his photograph taken on one of our “Lincoln Movie” Settees! It just make this settee even more special!
Just as we were finishing up with the “John Wilkes Booth” Tour, we had two couples from Port Tobacco, Maryland come in for a tour of Belle Grove Plantation. Little did they know who they were bumping into as they came into the door!
All and all it was a wonderful day with many great surprises. This is just the first in many more “John Wilkes Booth” Tours we will be a part of in the years to come. I guess you can now say we have had TWO “Presidents” grace our halls at the plantation!
Thank you to all the wonderful tourist we met today! We had a wonderful time getting to know you and sharing our love of Belle Grove Plantation! Thank you to Liz and Michael for including us in such a wonderful tour!