Saturday, December 01, 2007

Boston Corbett

Boston Corbett was a trooper of the 16th New York Calvary who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth on April 26, 1865, he was also a nuttier than a pecan pie with almonds on it.
Born Thomas P. Corbett in London England in 1832 he emigrated as a child with his family to New York city in 1839, later becoming a hatter in Troy New York. It is suspected that the mercury used in the felting process made him mad. How mad you ask? In 1858 he used a pair of scissors to open his scrotum and clip off his testicles. Corbett did this to avoid the temptation of prostitutes. The historical record is silent as to whether or not this technique worked, but you have to admire his commitment.
Exactly why Corbett shot Booth is not exactly clear. Contrary to popular belief, there were no orders not to shoot and as a NCO Corbett could reasonably be expected to act on his own initiative if threatened. At one point Corbett said he thought Booth was about to fire on another trooper and he also said that God told him to do it. In addition to being crazy Corbett was also extremely religious. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had hoped to bring in Booth alive to ferret out any broader conspiracy, but it was Stanton who let Corbett off the hook for shooting Booth.
In one of the ironies that make the facts surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln so much stranger than fiction, Corbett shot Booth in the neck just behind his left ear - a wound eerily similar to the grievous wound Booth inflicted upon poor honest Abe. And like Lincoln, Booth was not killed instantly but survived the night to die just as the sun rose in Virginia. Unlike Lincoln, Booths was sentient as he lay dying, though paralyzed from the neck down. Allegedly, Booth's last words were "useless, useless", perhaps in reference to his hands that he had asked those attending to him to lift up for him to see.

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