The “Huckleberry” farm, a home of Thomas Jones, is located near the place where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold sought passage across the Potomac River. Jones was the Confederate agent who aided the fugitives as they hid in a nearby wood for five days. Union soldiers were closing in on the injured slow-moving Booth who was wanted for assassinating President Abraham Lincoln.
John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were part of a plan to
assassinate the top three executive officials of the U.S.
government for the purpose of punishing the Union
for its “aggression” against the Southern States and to allow the installation
of more Confederate-leaning politicians.
Booth had slain President Lincoln on April 14, 1865 at Ford’s
Theater. Herold wounded but failed to
slay Secretary of State William Seward.
The two fled the nation’s capitol fleeing south to southern Maryland where
Confederate sympathizers were expected to greet them as heroes.
Booth’s injured leg cost the two fugitives time and speed,
and they were unable to gain distance on the determined Union soldiers. Word of the assassination had caught up with
them. They could not travel far or long
without rest and food. They were forced
to hide in a Pine Thicket from April 16 to 21, 1865. During that time, Confederate agent Thomas
Jones brought provisions to the hiding fugitives from his nearby farm called
“Huckleberry.” From his home, Jones was
watching the movements of Union soldiers seeking the right time for the
fugitives to leave. After five days, an
opportunity arose to reach and cross the wide Potomac
River. Jones took the
fugitives to nearby Dent’s Meadow where Jones had hidden a flat bottomed boat
about twelve feet long. They carried the
boat to the river’s shore. Booth
insisted on giving Jones money for his help, but Jones only accepted the cost
of the boat—eighteen dollars—because he wasn’t doing it for the money. The two men got in the boat with Booth in the
stern to steer and Herold at the bow to row.
Under cover of darkness, the fugitives launched for Virginia.
Jones forgot to mention the Potomac’s strong flood tide and the
boat was swept up river to Nanjemoy Creek on the Maryland side. There the men got little aid from the John J.
Hughes home. After a day’s rest, they tried crossing the Potomac again and this
time landed in Virginia
near the home of Elizabeth Quesenberry.
Jones was later arrested on suspicion of aiding the
assassins, however he was released due to lack of evidence. Years later he told his story to author Osborn
Oldroyd, saying he would never have turned Booth in for the $100,000
reward. He said that his aid was “a
sacred trust” and that he still had “honor.”
In 1898, Jones published his
recollections of his days with the conspirators in a book called “J. Wilkes
Booth: An Account of His Sojourn in Southern Maryland after the Assassination
of Abraham Lincoln, his Passage Across the Potomac, and his Death in Virginia.”
Thomas Jones’s farm still exists much as it did over a
century ago. Today it serves as a Jesuit
retreat, accessible only by appointment.