Sligoman led the chase for Lincoln assassins

One of the more well known graves in the Old Cemetery is that of the Doherty family late of Castle Street, Sligo. Their son, Edward, born in 1840, became World famous when, in charge of troop of soldiers, he captured those responsible for the assassination of American President, Abraham Lincoln.

The Dohertys were ironmongers and were all buried in the Old Cemetery. Edward P. Doherty’s mother, brother and two sisters are buried there.

His own final resting place is in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington in the United States. His grave is beside several leading military and political figures who are buried there including President John. F. Kennedy.

Edward P. Doherty enrolled in the Union army at the age of 21 in April 1861 and rose through the ranks making Captain eventually.

The Sligoman led the 16th New York Cavalry on the chase of confederate John Wilkes Booth following his murder of President Lincoln who died on April 15th 1865 the day after being shot.

Lincoln was killed whilst attending a play at Ford’s Theatre, Washington. Booth opened the door to the State box and shot Lincoln in the back of the head at point blank range. Booth broke his leg in his bid to escape but he still managed to flee the theatre, climb on his horse and escape from the city using the Navy Yard Bridge,

Booth and another conspirator, David Herold were surrounded by federal authorities led by Lieutenant Doherty on the morning of April 26th as they hid in a barn on Richard Garrett’s farm near Port Royal, Virginia.

Herold gave up but Booth refused and was shot dead by Sergent Boston Corbett.
Doherty’s own account of the events make interesting reading and reveals the leading role in Sligoman played in the events that led to being called the ‘avenger of Lincoln’s assassin.’

“I ordered my command to surround the house, and, as a precautionary measure, sent six men to the rear of the barn and outbuildings

“While I was placing my men around the buildings the detectives knocked at the door, which was opened by the elder Mr. Garrett who was much excited.

“He said the men who had been there went to the woods the previous evening. While engaged in conversation the son of Mr. Garrett came in, advising the father to tell where they were.

“I seized this man by the collar and pulled him out the door and down the steps, put my revolver to his head and told him to tell me at once where the two assassins were, He replied, ‘in the barn.’
“We started on the run for the barn, I holding him by the collar, calling on my men to follow me and surround more closely the building.

“On arriving at the barn I left the Garrett with some of my men and posted my men around the barn. This accomplished, I returned to the front of the barn and found Garrett coming out.

“It appears that he had been sent in there during my absence to summon Booth to surrender.
“This I disapproved as there were soldiers enough to preform such duty. Booth, however, refused to surrender. The detectives were in favour of firing the barn which I opposed declaring my intention to wait until daylight and I would send my men through the four different doors and overpower the assassin.

“In the meantime considerable conversation took place concerning the surrender of Booth between Mr. Baker, myself and the assassin. Sergent Corbett asked permission to enter the barn alone which I refused.

“Booth all this time was very defiant and refused to surrender.Booth up to this time had denied there was anyone in the barn besides himself.

“Considerable conversation now took place between myself, Booth and the detectives. We threatened to burn the barn if he did not surrender

“Finally, Booth said, ‘oh Captain, there is a man here who wants to surrender awful bad’.
“I ordered Garrett, the younger son, who had the key, to unlock the barn, which he did. I partially opened the door and told Herold to put out his hand, which he did.

“I told him to put out his other hand. I took hold of both his wrists and pulled him out of the barn.
“Almost simultaneous with my taking Herold out the hay in the rear was ignited and the barn fired. Sergt. Corbett shot the assassin Booth, wounding him in the neck.

“I entered the barn as soon as the shot was fired dragging Herold with me and found that Booth had fallen on his back. The assassin Booth lived for about two hours,” said Doherty in his official report to his commanding officers.

Doherty delivered the body of Booth, Herold and the two Garretts to Col.Lt.C.Baker at 3am on April 27th 1865.

His command consisted of 26 enlisted men of the 16th New York Cavaley, detectives Conger and Baker, sent by Col. Baker, making a total of 29 men.

“I would say that great credit is due to all concerned for the fortitude and eagerness they displayed in pursuing and arresting the murders. For nearly 60 hours hardly an eye was closed or a horse dismounted until the errand was accomplished.

“In conclusion I beg to state that it was afforded my command and myself inexpressible pleasure to be the humble instruments of capturing the foul assassins who caused the death of our beloved President and plunged the nation in mourning,” said Doherty.

Courtesy of the The Sligo Champion
By Paul Deering and Harry Keaney
January 2005