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JOHN WILKES BOOTH
There have been many authors, beginning with Charles Chiniquy in 1885, who have claimed that Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was a Catholic who had committed the murder as the tool of a conspiracy by the Catholic Church. Needless to say, this is a very serious accusation. But, what are the facts?
In a nutshell, there is NO evidence whatsoever that John Wilkes Booth was ever a Catholic. To the contrary, all the available evidence strongly indicates that he was definitely not Catholic, and furthermore that he was a member of a well-known anti-Catholic political organization.
John Wilkes Booth was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian protestant. His baptism took place at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Catonsville, Maryland, on January 23, 1853. This is documented by the writings of Booth's sister. See, Clarke, Asia Booth, John Wilkes Booth: A Sister's Memoir, (University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1996 edition), pp. 44-45.
Moreover, in the 1850s, John Wilkes Booth was an active member of the American Party, an organization better known as the "Know-Nothing Party". This was a strongly anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant political party. See, Rhodeehamel, John and Taper, Louise, eds., Right or Wrong, God Judge Me: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth, (University of Illinois Press, Urbana 1997), pp. 38-39; see also, Clarke, Id., p. 75.
In fact, the only specific reference to any religion in all of Booth's actual writings is an August 1854 letter in which he mentions participating a Methodist religious meeting that month. See, id., Rhodeehamel and Taper, p. 7.
John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865 in Ford's Theatre in Washington DC. Booth escaped immediately after the murder.
Booth was finally found, asleep in a tobacco barn, by U.S. army troops, on the morning of Wednesday, April 26, 1865, near Port Royal, Virginia. A soldier named Boston Corbett shot Booth through the neck. Booth died from the wound shortly thereafter.
There have been claims, by several anti-Catholic authors, that Booth was holding a rosary or wearing a necklace with a medal of the Virgin Mary when he died. This is untrue.
A detailed search of his body, at the time of his death, turned up a pair of revolvers, a belt and holster, a knife, some cartridges, a file, a War Map of the Southern States, a spur, a pipe, a Canadian bill of exchange, a compass with a leather case, a signal whistle, an almost burned up candle, pictures of 5 women -- 4 actresses (Alice Grey, Helen Western, Effie Germon, and Fanny Brown) and his fiancee, Lucy Hale (the daughter of ex-Senator John P. Hale from New Hampshire), and an 1864 date book kept as a diary. There was no rosary, necklace nor any medal of the Virgin Mary.
In plain English, the evidence is overwhelming: John Wilkes Booth was NOT a Catholic.