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   Chapter 14 No.14

Tom Strong, Lincoln's Scout By Alfred Bishop Mason Characters: 17262

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Tom Hunts Wilkes Booth-The End of the Murderer-Andrew Johnson, President of the United States-Tom and Towser Go Home.

The assassination of Lincoln was not the only crime that stained that memorable night. Secretary-of-State Seward was stabbed in his sick-bed by one of Booth's co-conspirators. Attempts were made upon the lives of other Cabinet ministers. Many arbitrary arrests had been made during the war by Secretary Stanton. It had been said that whenever Stanton's little bell rang, somebody went to prison. That little bell had little rest this Saturday. Wholesale arrests were made of suspected Southern sympathizers who might have known something of the hideous conspiracy of murder. Stanton put all the grim energy of him into the pursuit of the leading criminals. He was said never to forget anything. One of the things he had not forgotten was that Tom Strong knew Wilkes Booth by sight. He sent him from Lincoln's bedside, hours before Lincoln died, to join a troop of cavalry that was to pursue Booth. The road by which the murderer had left Washington was known. Hard upon his heels rode the avengers of crime. Wherever there was a light in one of the few houses along the lonely road, often where there was no light, the occupants were seized, questioned, sometimes sent to Washington under guard, sometimes released and sternly bidden to say nothing of the midnight ride. Piecing together scraps of information gathered here and there, studying every crossroad for possible hoof-marks of flight, the silent commander of the cavalrymen at last convinced himself that he was on the trail of the quarry. The troops broke into full gallop. A few minutes before dawn they reached a small village on the bank of the Potomac, where the fires of a smithy gleamed. They pulled up short as the startled blacksmith came out of his sooty shed.

"What are you doing here?" demanded the captain.

"I've been-I've been-putting on a horseshoe, sir."

"For what kind of a looking man?"

"He said his name was Barnard."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Tom from his saddle, "but Barnard was the name Wilkes Booth once gave me for his own." At the beginning of the ride, Tom had described Booth's appearance to the captain.

"Was the man pale? Did he have long black hair?"

"Long black hair," answered the blacksmith, "but his cheeks were red. He seemed excited. While I was replacing the shoe his horse had cast, he kept drinking brandy from a bottle he carried. He never gave me none of it," the man added with an injured air.

"Did he say anything?"

"Yes, sir. He said I'd hear great news later today, that the Southerners had won their greatest victory. I asked him where and he swore at me and told me to shut up. But he gave me a silver dollar. Perhaps it's bad. Is it?"

The blacksmith pulled out of his grimy pocket a dollar and showed it to the captain.

"Do you know who that man was?" was the stern command.

"No, sir, o' course I don't. I s'pose he was Mr. Barnard."

"He was Judas. He has murdered Abraham Lincoln. And he has given you one of the forty pieces of silver."

With wild-eyed horror, the smith started back. He flung the accursed dollar far into the Potomac.

"God's curse go with it," he cried. "Captain, the man went straight down the river road. He gave his horse a cut with his whip 'n he yelled 'Carry me back to ole Virginny!' and he went off lickety-split. He ain't half-an-hour ahead of you."

No need to command full speed now. Every man was riding hard. Every horse was putting his last ounce of strength into his stride. Within an hour, the hounds saw the slinking fox they chased. Booth, abandoning his exhausted steed, took refuge in a tumble-down barn. A cordon was thrown about it and he was called on to surrender. The reply was a shot. Tom heard the whiz of the bullet as it tore by him. The cavalry pumped lead into the barn. Once, twice, thrice they fired. At the first volley, the trapped murderer had again fired. There was no answer to the second and third. With reloaded carbines, the troopers charged, burst open the barred door, and rushed into the rickety shed. A man lay on the earthen floor, breath and blood struggling together in his gaping mouth. As they gathered about him, the Captain asked:

"Do you know this man, Captain Strong?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who is he?"

"Wilkes Booth, sir."

The sound of his own name half recalled Booth to life. He looked up at the boy who stood beside him and recognized him. Ferocious hate filled the glazing eyes. Then Wilkes Booth went to his eternal doom, hating to the end.

"Is he dead?" said the Captain, turning to a major of the medical service, who had galloped beside Tom on that fierce ride of the avengers. A big, bearded man knelt beside the body of Wilkes Booth, put his finger where the pulse had been and laid his hand where the heart had once beat.

"He is dead," answered Major Hans Rolf.

His body was thrust somewhere into the earth he had disgraced or else was flung, weighted with stones, into the river, all the flood tides of which could not wash away the black guilt of him. No man knows where the body of Wilkes Booth was buried.

* * *

"The king is dead! Long live the king!"

When Tom rode sadly up Pennsylvania Avenue, with a crape-laden flag at half-mast over the Capitol, glad for the stern justice that had been dealt out to the murderer he loathed, but bowed down with grief for the murdered President he had loved, Abraham Lincoln was no longer President of the United States. In his stead, our uncrowned king was Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, a Southern Unionist who had been elected Vice President when the people chose Lincoln a second time for their ruler. Johnson had been born to grinding poverty in a rough community where "skule-l'arnin'" was not to be had. He was a grown man, earning a scanty livelihood as a village tailor, when his wife taught him to read and write. He worked his hard way up in life, became a man of prominence in his village, in his county, in his State, until he was chosen for Lincoln's running-mate as a representative Southern Unionist. He was of course a man of native force, but he sometimes drowned his mind in liquor. That fatal habit pulled him down. He was a failure as a President, though thereafter he served his State and his country well as a United States Senator from Tennessee.

The White House was changed under its new ruler. John Hay, full of cheer and wit, was abroad as a secretary of legation. Nicolay, his superior officer, was a consul in Europe. The Lincoln family had gone West through a sorrowing country, bearing the body of the martyr-President to its burial-place in Springfield, Illinois. For a while some familiar faces were left. At first, the same Cabinet ministers served the new President. For some time, Uncle Moses had to learn no new names as he carried about the summons to the Cabinet meetings. But the visitors to the White House had changed mightily. Rough men from Tennessee and the other Border States, some of them diamonds in the rough, swarmed there. Lincoln had never used tobacco. The new-comers both smoked and chewed. Clouds of smoke filled the lower story and giant spittoons lined the corridors and invaded the public rooms. Gradually the Republican leaders ceased to wait upon the President.

Among the people who left the White House soon after Lincoln left it was Tom Strong. On a bright May morning he walked across the portico, where Towser was eagerly awaiting him and where Uncle Moses followed him. Unk' Mose lifted his withered black hands and called down blessings on the boy who had been his angel of freedom and had led him out of bondage.

"De good Lawd bress you, Mas'r Tom. And de good Lawd bress dat dar wufless ol' houn' dawg Towser, too. 'Kase Towser, he lubs you, Mas'r Tom,-and so duz I," Uncle Moses shyly added.

The venerable old negro and the white boy shook hands in a long farewell upon the steps of the White House. Then Tom turned away from the historic roof that had so long sheltered him and walked to the railroad station, to take the train for New York. Towser trotted stiffly by his side, trying at every step to lick his master's hand.

Tom Strong studied hard at home and then went to Yale, as his father had done before him.

Towser could not go with him. The laws of Yale forbade it. That is one of the chief disadvantages of being a dog. Soon after Tom went to New Haven, Towser went to heaven. At least, let us hope he did. He deserved to do so. One of the human things about Martin Luther, the stern founder of Prote

stantism in Germany in the Sixteenth Century, was that he once said to a tiny girl, weeping over the death of her tiny dog: "Do not cry, little maid; for you will find your dog in heaven and he will have a golden tail."


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Tom Strong, Junior's son helps his father build the first railroad in the United States and then goes with Kit Carson on the Lewis and Clarke Expedition.


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Serving under President Lincoln, the fourth Tom Strong becomes an actor in the most stirring events of the Civil War.

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