David Herold (image above) was the “Jack Ruby” in the scheme. His job was to kill “Oswald” (John Wilkes Booth) after Booth had murdered President Abraham Lincoln. Dead men tell no tales.
The real chief within the band of “conspirators” was Lewis Powell, a different person than Louis Paine. Louis Paine, executed on July 7, 1865, was an escaped imbecile from a lunatic asylum who knocked on the wrong door at the wrong time. Lewis Powell, a different person than Louis Paine, was a tough cavalry fighter who had served under John Mosby’s Confederate guerillas.
John Wilkes Booth was just talk. He had a ridiculous idea to kidnap Abraham Lincoln from a theater while a performance was underway. It would all be very dramatic, thought Booth. But then, in late February or early March of 1865, Booth came in contact with a much stronger personality, the hardened Mosby raider Lewis Powell. “They pushed him to it!” was the judgment of the Booth family as to why the daydreaming actor had done such a real, cold-hearted deed. (Background: “This One Mad Act”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of March 1, 2013)
In 1860 David Herold received a certificate in pharmacy from Georgetown College. He then worked as a pharmacist’s assistant. He knew all about poisons. Mrs. Mary Surratt, perhaps not “Little Miss Innocent” as some contend, smuggled arsenic trioxide (white arsenic) hidden in a “field glass” (telescope) to Lloyd’s Tavern, in the rural hamlet of Surrattsville (now Clinton, Maryland). (Alternately, David Herold himself, who had earlier visited Lloyd’s Tavern, smuggled and hid the arsenic trioxide.)
Under orders from Lewis Powell, really running the show in “Booth’s” little band, David Herold joined up with John Wilkes Booth outside Washington, DC, after Booth had shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865. The two rode by horse to Lloyd’s Tavern. Sitting on the porch with an injured ankle, Booth accepted a bottle of poisoned whiskey brought out to him by Herold. But here the plot went amiss, since Booth was a connoisseur of brandy and disliked whisky. And so Booth did not drink enough of the poisoned whisky to quickly die.
Yet John Wilkes Booth had drank enough to cause serious harm. By the time Booth and Herold reached the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, Booth was complaining of “back pains.” (The poison by then had damaged Booth’s kidneys.) Dr. Mudd was puzzled by Booth’s condition, since a simple fracture (not compound) of the ankle Mudd did not regard as an especially painful or dangerous wound. Yet Booth by this time slept and groaned in his sleep. He was very pale. Next morning, David Herold ate a hearty breakfast but Booth stayed in bed.
Booth and Herold traveled on to the farm of Samuel Cox near Bryantown and hid in the woods from Saturday night April 15th until the evening of Friday, April 21. Thomas Jones, foster-brother of Cox, took food and newspapers to the men hiding in the woods. Cox later described Booth as “exceedingly pale.” Why did Booth and Herold waste time escaping and stay in the woods for six days? Cox said the pale Booth had shaken his hand but did not rise and that Booth’s features bore traces of intense suffering. Jones later said Booth remained “pale at all times” and never rose from the ground until he was helped onto Jones’ horse at the end of the six days.
By the time Booth and Herold reached Garrett’s farm, the acclaimed actor had recovered somewhat yet still had been greatly weakened. After Booth was supposed to have been shot dead at Garrett’s farm (some say it was not Booth but someone else), the body was brought back to Washington, DC. There, it was examined by Dr. John Frederick May, who had known Booth when alive. Dr. May was shocked by the condition of the body, which was “greatly wasted.” This was not due to “starvation” since David Herold, Booth’s companion, was in no such condition. Dr. May was puzzled by the “freckled skin” and its being “yellow and discolored.”
But because “Booth” had seemed to die from being shot, no autopsy was conducted. The body was hurriedly buried in a secret location, in order to avoid such an autopsy being demanded by any influential persons who might have seen the remains.
(Acknowledgement to: Mask For Treason, by Vaughan Shelton. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1965)