“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” Thus wrote Ambrose Bierce. (qtd. in The Week magazine, Sept. 20, 2013 issue, page 17.)
And so too are Americans learning some local geography, consequent to the September 16, 2013 shootings at the Washington Navy Yard. Aaron Alexis, said now to have been another “lone nut” shooter, has put the Navy Yard on the map. Don’t think of it as a tragedy. Think of it as a geography lesson for Americans.
The Navy Yard shootings are like a mini-war erupting. Just as The Report From Iron Mountain says that war is partly founded upon a basis of international understanding, the Navy Yard mini-war of Monday, Sept. 16th contains the blossom of not just improved geography but of the history involved with that geographical location, the Washington Navy Yard. (Further background: Findings Of Iron Mountain, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of July 27, 2013.)
After John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865, he escaped on horseback and crossed the Navy Yard Bridge over Anacostia Creek at about 10:30 pm. A sentry called, “Halt!” and demanded the rider’s name. (Security was tight because of Civil War tensions.) “What is your name?” demanded the sentry. “Booth,” the rider replied. “Mr. Booth, do you not know it is regulations that no one can pass across after 9 pm?” said the sentry. “I did not know that,” answered John Wilkes Booth. (Source: Louis J. Weichmann’s book, A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and of the Conspiracy of 1865.)
But the sentry decided that Booth seemed like an okay guy, and allowed Booth to continue his escape! A few minutes later, a second horseman came galloping up to the Navy Yard Bridge. This man was supposed to have been David E. Herold, an accomplice of Booth, according to Weichmann (op. cit.). And the sentry again decided, contrary to strict regulations, that David E. Herold also seemed like an okay guy! Herold was allowed to cross over the Navy Yard Bridge.
The name of the sentry posted at the Navy Yard Bridge was Silas T. Cobb, sergeant of the guard, according to David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr’s. book, The Lincoln Conspiracy.
But this Navy Yard Bridge story is more convoluted than the above. John Wilkes Booth, on the morning of April 14, 1865, had been arrested at this same bridge! The Navy Yard guards thought he was a suspicious person, and furthermore Booth did not have proper identification. Eventually the supervisor allowed Booth to proceed into Washington, where he later murdered President Lincoln that evening. According to a “wiki.answers” summary, What Did John Wilkes Booth Do at the Navy Yard Bridge?, Booth knew the secret password, “TB Road” (Tobacco Road) when he was halted by the sentry Silas Cobb that evening. The second horseman who followed after Booth may not have been David Herold but a man who owned Booth’s horse. He was in hot pursuit of what he believed to be a horse thief! But this second horseman did not know the secret password and was not allowed to cross the Navy Yard Bridge. Then, fifteen minutes later, all the guards were removed from the Navy Yard Bridge!
The truth about this Navy Yard Bridge mystery may be contained in “John Wilkes Booth Escape”, by Kennedy Hickman. Booth “fast talked” sentry Cobb and was allowed to cross the bridge. Then David Herold arrived a few minutes later and sentry Cobb allowed Herold also to pass. “Herold was pursued by John Fletcher, a local stable hand, who was attempting to recover a rented horse from Herold.” Fletcher could cross the bridge, decided sentry Cobb. But if Fletcher crossed, he would not be allowed back until morning.