John Wilkes Booth: Chasing Lincoln’s Assassin

Follow the escape route of John Wilkes Booth, one of history’s most notorious assassins, as he fled from Washington, D.C., and hid for several days in Southern Maryland before being cornered.

The Surratt House Museum is in the former home of Mary Surratt, who was executed for her alleged part in the assassination plot of Abraham Lincoln.

Image Credit: Buddy Secor

Southern Maryland
66 miles on mostly country roads from Washington, D.C. to Popes Creek and part of the Great Chesapeake Bay Loop.

Places along the way

Surratt House Museum
9118 Brandywine Rd
Clinton, MD 20735

The Dr. Mudd House Museum
3725 Dr. Samuel Mudd Rd
Waldorf, MD 20601

St. Mary's Church and Cemetery
13715 Notre Dame Pl
Bryantown, MD 20617

Port Tobacco Courthouse (1819)
Off Rt 6 on Chapel Point Rd
Port Tobacco, MD 20677

Friendship Landing
4715 Friendship Landing Rd
Nanjemoy, MD 20662

13500 Trotter Rd
Bryantown, MD 20617

Rich HIll
Bel Alton Newtown Rd
Bel Alton, MD 20611

The Civil War was coming to an end and hopes were high that the mending of America could quickly get under way. But on the night of April 14, 1865, thoughts of reconciliation suffered a serious setback. John Wilkes Booth, a Maryland-born actor and Confederate sympathizer, shot President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. He then fled into Maryland and eluded Federal troops for nearly two weeks.

Washington, D.C., to Waldorf

30 miles including MD 5 & MD 205 | Directions

At Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., Booth snuck into the president’s box, shot Lincoln and then leapt dramatically onto the stage, breaking his leg but managing to escape. While the president’s body was moved across the street to Petersen’s Boarding House, Booth fled on horseback over the Navy Yard Bridge to rendezvous with accomplice David Herold.

Follow Booth and Herold to the town of Clinton, where they arrived at a tavern that Mary Surratt operated as a Confederate safe house. Today, the Surratt House Museum tells the tale of her role in the assassination plan and how she became the first woman to be executed by the U.S. government.

With fresh supplies, Booth and Herold quickly made their way to Dr. Samuel A. Mudd’s Waldorf home, now a popular museum stop. The country physician, apparently unaware of his patient’s role in Lincoln’s assassination, treated Booth’s broken leg —an act that would land Mudd in prison.

Continue south and visit St. Mary’s Church and Cemetery, one of many historic places of worship in Southern Maryland. It is Mudd’s final resting place.

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Zekiah Swamp Natural Environment Area in Brandywine is near the Pine Thicket where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold hid for four days.

Image Credit: Buddy Secor

Waldorf to Popes Creek

23.5 miles including US 301 | Directions

Visit the 21-mile-long, half-mile-wide Zekiah Swamp, a protected state wetland area popular among canoeists and birders. Booth and Herold navigated through this swampy terrain on their way to the home of Samuel Cox, near the present-day town of Bel Alton.

To the west is one of the oldest communities on the East Coast, Port Tobacco. Formerly an Indian settlement, it became a major seaport in the 17th century. Visit a museum inside the Port Tobacco Courthouse to see archaeological finds and gather Civil War knowledge, including information about George Atzerodt, a Booth conspirator who was assigned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson but lost his nerve.

Booth and Herold hid along Nanjemoy Creek before fleeing into Virginia. The creek still has plenty of natural charm as a nesting site for bald eagles and fishing hole for boaters who use the Friendship Landing ramp.

Across the Potomac River on April 26, Federal troops caught up with Booth and Herold at a Virginia farm. Herold surrendered, stood trial in Washington, D.C., and was hanged. Refusing to turn himself in, Booth was shot and killed while hiding in a barn.  This byway is part of the Great Chesapeake Bay Loop and visits authentic Chesapeake sites.

John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. Booth dramatically jumped to the stage and broke his leg before fleeing.

Image Credit: Natalie Marchant

Maryland Lore

John Wilkes Booth was born on a farm near Bel Air, Md. One of his older brothers, famed Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, reportedly saved President Lincoln’s son Robert from falling into the path of a train several months prior to the president’s assassination.

Connect with a complex piece of American history at Tudor Hall in Bel Air, the childhood home of John Wilkes Booth. Scheduled tours make his early life come alive.

Image Credit: Junius B. Booth Society, Inc. |

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