In what has to be one of the most irresponsible acts in the history of protecting a U. S. President, guard John F. Parker left his post on the evening of April 14, 1865 where he was stationed outside the presidential box at Ford’s Theater. In doing so, he made the assassination attempt on President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth much easier-as Mr. Lincoln had no official guard when he left.
According to H. Donald Winkler in his book “Lincoln And Booth,” Parker left the theater shortly before 9:00pm (while the play “Our American Cousin”was still ongoing). Outside, Parker found the president’s coachman Francis Burns, and the two then walked over to Taltavul’s Tavern for some ale. Charles Forbes, the president’s footman, joined them. Just after 930pm, Booth decided to have a last minute drink himself. He had already left his horse in the rear of Ford’s Theater and checked on the progress of the play. He knew he had time to imbibe.
Booth entered Taltavul’s and requested a bottle of whisky and some water. He didn’t order his usual Brandy that evening. Further down the bar sat John Parker (the guard) and Francis Burns (the Coachman) drinking as well. Forbes apparently had returned to the theater. Winkler writes: “In one of the tragic ironies in American history, the man who was supposed to be guarding Lincoln was having a drink near the man who, in less than one hour, would kill the president.”
Parker never returned to assigned post. At approximately 1015pm, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln. Believe it or not, Parker didn’t lose his job over this negligence of duty. Even stranger, it was Mary Lincoln who had originally authorized Parker to be assigned to the post in the first place.
In my own mind I wonder if when Parker and Booth were both sitting at the bar having a drink-did they look at each other? Surely, Parker would have recognized the famous actor Booth. Did Parker live with an added guilt? I mean-besides having left his duty which resuled in the shooting of Lincoln-did Parker have to live with knowing that he was drinking alcohol in the bar near Booth before the assassination? We’ll never know what went through his mind-on that evening when John Parker and John Wilkes Booth drank together.Mail this post