Boston Corbett Takes Justice Into His Own Hands

Boston Corbett

After shooting President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth fled through Maryland and into Virginia. Finally, he was tracked to a farm in Virginia, where he and his fellow fugitive David Herold were cornered in a barn. The Union forces who had pursued them were under direct orders to take all "conspirators" alive.

After surrounding the barn, the soldiers set it on fire in order to force the suspects to surrender. Herold quickly complied, but Booth refused to surrender. At this point, a very odd character of history made his appearance on the scene...

Sergeant Boston Corbett (right) managed to sneak up to the rear of the burning barn, and by aiming through a crack in the wall, shot Booth in the back of the head. Interesting note : the killing of Booth, in direct violation of orders, has become an important part of some conspiracy theories surrounding the Lincoln Assassination.

Corbett was immediately arrested for disobeying orders, but was later pardoned by Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. As a result of his actions, Corbett was soon hailed as a national hero.

In his official statement, Corbett said he shot Booth because he saw the assassin aiming his weapon. This claim was contradicted by other soldiers who were present, but nothing was ever made of this fact. Several years later, Corbett claimed that, "Providence directed me" to kill Booth.

Hero or Madman?

So, what kind of guy says that God directed him to kill someone in violation of orders? A guy like Boston Corbett, that's who. 

In the 1850s, Corbett moved to Boston. There he joined a church, and changed his name from Thomas to "Boston" in honor of the city of his conversion. In an effort to be "more like Jesus," Corbett began to grow his hair very long.

So, he changed his name and started growing his hair out, no big deal, right? Wait till you hear this...

Apparently, Corbett was greatly tempted by the prostitutes who roamed Boston, and he needed some way to overcome his temptation. So did he seek guidance and help from his fellow church members? No!

He castrated himself...

With a pair of scissors...

Immediately after taking this course of action, did our erratic hero seek immediate medical attention? Not a chance! Corbett, instead, ate a full meal and attended a prayer meeting before he got around to visiting a doctor to have himself patched up.

If that is not crazy, I do not know what is.

His craziness was not isolated to that one instance either...

In the 1880s, Corbett was sent to an insane asylum after pulling a gun in the Kansas House of Representatives, but he soon escaped. After spending some time with a friend, he disappeared, never to be heard from again.

It is believed that he may have been killed in the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894, but that cannot be proven...

Whatever the case, Boston Corbett left his mark on history due the part he played in bringing down the perpetrator of the Lincoln Assassination.

So, hero or madman? Maybe a little of both...

American Civil War Story - Home

Civil War Heroes

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.