The Man Who Shot John Wilkes Booth

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website.

The incredibly strange life of Boston Corbett.

Abraham Lincoln, our 16th U.S. president, was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. He died the next day. Okay, what is this, a history class? Everybody knows that! But who shot Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth? Well, let's find out by looking into the life of one of the strangest, little-known men who had a part in United States history. Let's look at the strange life of Boston Corbett. Thomas Corbett was born in England in 1832. He immigrated to Boston where he became a born-again Christian. He adopted the city's name in honor of his conversion. But Corbett wasn't your normal convert. His religious zeal knew no bounds. Fearing temptation by prostitutes, he used a pair of scissor to castrate himself. After which, he casually attended a prayer meeting (he did receive medical attention afterwards). Corbett had been married earlier, but his wife died in childbirth. During the Civil war, Corbett became a Cavalry sergeant. After the 1865 assassination of President Lincoln, his unit took part in the search for John Wilkes Booth. On April 26th, his unit surrounded the barn where Booth was hiding and set it on fire. Corbett saw Booth through a crack in the barn and fired a single shot, mortally wounding him. "Providence guided my hand," Corbett told his commanding officer. By an odd coincidence, Corbett's bullet had struck Booth in the same spot Booth's shot had hit president Lincoln. When told of this, Corbett said, "What a fearful God we serve." His reward money for killing Booth was $1,653.84, the exact same amount as every other man in his unit. Corbett instantly became famous as "Lincoln's Avenger." He was flooded by requests for autographs and cheered when he walked the streets. But fame, once hot and heavy, gradually died down. Boston Corbett started suffering from severe delusions. He imagined John Wilkes Booth's men were stalking him and thought he was in grave danger. He fled to Kansas. In 1887, he was given a job as doorman to the Kansas House of Representatives. One day he showed up waving a gun, declaring the House adjourned. Corbett was declared insane and sent to an asylum. The following year he escaped, and no one ever heard of Boston Corbett again. He is thought to have settled and spent the final part of his life in the forests of Hinckley, Minnesota. There is no conclusive proof of this, but the Great Hinckley Fire of September 1894 lists a "Thomas Corbett" on the list of the dead or missing. Corbett was a hatter by trade. The mercury used to cure beaver pelts is thought to have contributed to his madness. Visit guest author Eddie Deezen at his website.


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The troops who surrounded the barn where John Wilkes Booth and his fellow fugitive were hiding were under orders to take Booth alive. That's why the barn was set on fire to flush them out. Corbett violated orders by shooting Booth although he would claim that he had seen Booth aiming at a fellow soldier (other eyewitnesses disputed this). Charges against Corbett were later dropped by Secretary of War Edward Stanton. Corbett gloried in being "Lincoln's Avenger" and nothing would infuriate him later in life more than hearing rumours that John Wilkes Booth had somehow escaped to England.
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"By an odd coincidence, Corbett’s bullet had struck Booth in the same spot Booth’s shot had hit president Lincoln."

Lincoln was shot in the head, Booth was shot in the neck.
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