Only serious followers of the Abraham Lincoln assassination are even aware of the name Thomas Jones. Jones was forty years old when the Civil War started with a large family. Southern Maryland and Charles County was a stronghold of Confederate sympathizers. Jones started a ferry across the river, going back and forth several times a night if need be ferrying mail, people, soldiers, and ammunition across to Virginia. There were Union boats patrolling but he was never apprehended while on the river. By his own words, he never lost the mail. He was in constant danger of being arrested. He did spend six months in the Old Capital Prison from September, 1861 to March, 1862.
His foster brother, Col. Samuel Cox, owner of “Rich Hill” several miles from Jones’ estate “Huckleberry”, asked him to come over on the night of April 16, 1865. He had visitors, John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice, David Herold. Cox, who was also a Confederate sympathizer, asked Jones to be totally responsible for the protection of Booth and Herold. Jones took the fugitives to a pine thicket on the Bel Alton/Newtown Road where he hid them for six days and nights. He brought them food, whiskey, and most importantly, newspapers for Booth to read about what the country thought about his deed of assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. The two men eventually made it across the Potomac River but were cornered in Garrett’s barn, Booth killed and Herold captured.
Jones and Cox were arrested and taken to Bryantown, Maryland and held on the second floor of the tavern. Later they were taken to the Old Capital Prison in Washington, DC. He was kept seven weeks and released on the testimony of Cox’s slave Mary Swann. It was not until 30 years later when this book came out that Jones’ full part in the Booth escape came to light. It is an interesting read as Jones seems to feel regret at Lincoln’s death as the wartime passions waned and he re-evaluates his feelings. Here is the opening of his book.
“In writing this little book, it is my intention to tell the reader of the part I performed in the great war between the States, and my connection with the flight of the criminal whose deed closed the bloodiest chapter in our country’s history. No act ever committed has called forth such universal execration as the murder of that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln. To-day I speak of the murdered President as “great and good;” thirty years ago I regarded him only as the enemy of my country. But now that the waves of passion stirred up by the storm of war have all subsided and passed away forever, and I can form my opinions in the light of reason instead of the blindness of prejudice, I believe that Lincoln’s name justly belongs among the first upon the deathless role of fame. I can now realize how truly he was beloved by the North, and what a cruel shock his death, coming when and as it did, must have been to the millions who held his name in reverence. And with that realization comes the wonder that the revenge taken for his murder stopped when it did”
excerpt from “J. Wilkes Booth: An Account of His Sojourn in Southern Maryland After the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln…” by Thomas A. Jones, 1893 edition