After John Wilkes Booth was shot at Garrett's farm on April 26, 1865, Colonel Everton Conger removed a small red appointment book from Booth's body. The book, which served as Booth's diary, contained a final diary entry, written after the April 14 assassination:
|Until today nothing was ever thought of sacrificing
to our country's wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture,
but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done.
But its failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their country
with a heart. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I walked with
a firm step through a thousand of his friends, was stopped, but pushed
on. A colonel was at his side. I shouted Sic semper before I fired.
In jumping broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that
night with the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never
repent it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all her troubles to
him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment. The country
is not what it was. This forced Union is not what I have loved. I care
not what becomes of me. I have no desire to outlive my country. The night
before the deed I wrote a long article and left it for one of the editors
of the National Intelligencer, in which I fully set forth our reasons for
our proceedings. He or the gov'r-
After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every man's hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for. What made Tell a hero? And yet I, for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew, am looked upon as a common cutthroat. My action was purer than either of theirs. One hoped to be great himself. The other had not only his country's but his own, wrongs to avenge. I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone. A country that groaned beneath this tyranny, and prayed for this end, and yet now behold the cold hands they extend to me. God cannot pardon me if I have done wrong. Yet I cannot see my wrong, except in serving a degenerate people. The little, the very little, I left behind to clear my name, the Government will not allow to be printed. So ends all. For my country I have given up all that makes life sweet and holy, brought misery upon my family, and am sure there is no pardon in the Heaven for me, since man condemns me so. I have only heard of what has been done (except what I did myself), and it fills me with horror. God, try and forgive me, and bless my mother. Tonight I will once more try the river with the intent to cross. Though I have a greater desire and almost a mind to return to Washington, and in a measure clear my name - which I feel I can do. I do not repent the blow I struck. I may before my God, but not to man. I think I have done well. Though I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me, when, if the world knew my heart, that one blow would have made me great, though I did desire no greatness. Tonight I try to escape these bloodhounds once more. Who, who can read his fate? God's will be done. I have too great a soul to die like a criminal. Oh, may He, may He spare me that, and let me die bravely. I bless the entire world. Have never hated or wronged anyone. This last was not a wrong, unless God deems it so, and it's with Him to damn or bless me. As for this brave boy with me, who often prays (yes, before and since) with a true and sincere heart - was it crime in him? If so, why can he pray the same?
I do not wish to shed a drop of blood, but 'I must fight the course.'
'Tis all that's left to me.
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