Henry Landes (Lan-dus) of Pennsylvania, who mustered into the U.S. Marines during the Civil War, kept a diary.
This diary became an important piece of evidence when stories surfaced of a man living in Tyler, Texas, named John St. Helen, who claimed to be John Wilkes Booth.
St. Helen/Booth said he had escaped from the surrounded barn in Bowling Green, Va., and wasnt dead after all.
Henry Landes was the grandfather of the late Harold Landes of Vandalia. In an article published in the Feb. 11, 1964, issue of The Vandalia Leader, Harold showed the reporter the old diary, and recounted a few of the stories his grandfather had told him about the days following Lincolns assassination.
Harold also had a copy of a letter to the editor of The National Tribune in Washington, D.C., in which he recounted his memories.
In the letter, Henry explained that he had been a U.S. Marine guard over the prisoners implicated in the assassination of Lincoln, including Atzerott, Herold, Payne, Spangler, Dr. Mudd and Mrs. Surrat. He told how the prisoners were confined on the Monitor, Sacos and Montawk, and that he was on double duty most of the time.
Also in the letter, he wrote, I was at Fords Theatre on the night before the assassination, when they played ‘The American Cousin,’ and was doing duty at the War Department the night after. I was afterward guard over Lincolns body from 10 oclock to 2 on April 19, 1865, and after that on the Monitor, Sacos and Montawk.’
Checking the encyclopedia, I found that April 19 was the day President Lincolns body was taken to the rotunda of the Capitol to lie in state, as well as the day of his funeral. Although Henry Landes does not tell us, he was a member of Lincolns honor guard chosen to represent all branches of service.
He wrote in his diary on April 27, 1865, Was on post from 12 to two. Booth and his partner came on board at one-fourth before two. Dead on arrival. No inspection. Stood guard over him from 6 to 8, over the partner from 12 to 2.
They took Booths head off. I seen all the instruments and the head off later. The first man I seen without a head.
In my presence, they (two surgeons) examined him, and from what I could gather from the conversation, they wanted to identify him. One of them claimed that during an operation performed upon him, he left a scar, which he claimed would be there if it was Booth. He then said, ‘This is Booth.’
‘He was dead then and hes dead now,’ is how Henry answered the suggestion that John Wilkes Booth was alive and well and living in Tyler, Texas.