John Wilkes Booth, James Reed Ford, & the Treasury Flag

Ford had the flags, Booth had a plan… John Wilkes Booth and James Reed Ford met on the street the day of April 14, 1865. They were not strangers to each other. Booth was a celebrated actor known to theatre goers both in the North and in the South. Ford was the business manager at Ford’s Theatre. Booth had just left Ford’s Theatre after learning the electrifying news that President Lincoln would be attending the theatre that evening for the performance of Our American Cousin. Ford had just left the Treasury Department building and was heading back to the theatre with flags in hand to decorate the Presidential Box for Lincoln and his guests. Booth carried with him a plan. He had just a few hours to make the necessary arrangements that would culminate, if successful, in the assassination of President Lincoln and other heads of State. Ford didn’t know it but by the end of the night he would be arrested in the aftermath of the plan as carried out. Booth didn’t know it but the flags in Ford’s arms would serve not only to decorate the Presidential Box but also to hinder his escape out of the box. His riding spur would get caught in one of those flags as he leaped out onto the stage below causing him to lose balance suffer a broken bone from the landing. The fact that Booth was known to have broken his leg and was wearing a splint and using a crutch during his 12 day run towards Virginia was a key factor in identification by authorities as they searched for him and questioned witnesses. The wound also slowed Booth down while on the run. He would not have needed to seek out a doctor had he not broken his leg. So as Booth and Ford exchanged pleasantries on the avenue that April 14th day, neither would know what an impact that simple Treasury Flag would play in history. After all, Ford was just decorating the box for a very special night…

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