Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    [Abraham Lincoln]: James O'Beirne's Diary Detailing the Pursuit of Booth. Personal diary kept by Major James Rowan O'Beirne (1840-1917), Military Provost Marshal of the District of Columbia, detailing his dogged pursuit of John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators. The diary is leather bound, 4" x 6 ¼" with repaired spine, inscribed on the front cover "Booth Memoranda". There are fifty leaves in the diary, many blank. Fifteen pages written in pencil deal directly with the manhunt for Booth. The beginning of the diary contains notes related to soldier furloughs. There are miscellaneous entries not related to official work. The last page has an itemized list of pursuit-related expenditures. O'Beirne had a distinguished war record, serving in the Irish Rifles of the 37th Regiment of New York Infantry, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Fair Oaks and being severely wounded at Chancellorsville. At the time of the assassination, he was Provost Marshal for Washington, D.C. We will digress a little to point out a little known irony of history. At the personal request of Mary Todd Lincoln on April 3, 1865, O'Beirne authorized draft exemptions for two men routinely assigned to White House and Capitol security. One of these was Metropolitan Police Department Officer John F. Parker who got the assignment to guard President Lincoln while he attended the performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. Parker deserted his post long enough for Booth to gain access to the Presidential Box and assassinate Lincoln. In a glaring lack of tact, he served as bodyguard for Mrs. Lincoln for a brief time following the assassination. After Lincoln was shot, O'Beirne was present, on-and-off, in the "death room" at the Peterson House until Lincoln expired. He was summoned to bring Vice President Johnson and was present at Johnson's swearing-in. He interviewed Johnson and, based on information obtained, searched the room at the Kirkwood House that contained incriminating evidence against Booth and his co-conspirators. Secretary of War Stanton ordered him to pursue the conspirators using all available resources. After gathering information and closely monitoring the situation, O'Beirne traveled to Port Tobacco with six detectives and twenty-five soldiers. While there, he noticed some "tracks" in the mud caused by Booth's crutch. These were followed, resulting in Booth's capture and death the next day. Some excerpts: "... Mudd near Bryantown... served more than two years in the Rebel Army is a black hearted man and possibly a conspirator see after him... Pope's creek has been a crossing. The conspirators are there if they have not crossed over to the Virginia side which examine into and follow up... Herold was coming backwards & forwards to visit the dissipated set at Port Royal even just after his father's death... Description of Azterodt. Medium height... looks like a German a smiling man ordinary... Herold visits frequently a Dr. Robinson between Woodville & Benedict... The people thru this country understand that Miller Pro Mar Mo will protect & otherwise screen all who come from the confederates... Send the men over to Mattox Creek & to work their way up and arrest Jones... Learned from Colored Man at White Point Va that about between 9 & 10 o'clock two men... landed in a boat & left it hastily then went across the field hastily without stopping at Golman's house... Saml Cox (at Scotia Swamp) his mill servant stated to another colored man that Cox has been cooking provisions lately & carrying it to persons down in the swamp... Judge Scott Gardiner's house should be searched. Booth is likely to be there as anywhere... [Gardiner is a ] monomaniac on the subject of secession & a virulent rebel. He should be looked into... Herold & Booth came out of a belt of cedars... on the morning of April 25th... spoke to a colored girl at Turner's House, asked for food the night before a fire was discovered in the woods... they asked if anyone was in the house & if they could get water... The visitation today shows that they have made a circuit from the belt of wood in which these were & are not 5 miles distant. The two men are Booth & Herold beyond doubt." The last page of expenditures deals exclusively with the pursuit of Booth, including the rental of a room at the Kirkwood, monies paid to "Special Officers", "subsistence for 7 men from Apr. 18th to 25th on Steamer Tug Wm. Fischer", etc. Housed in beautiful, custom slipcase with gold-stamped titled spine. Ex: Sang Collection (Sotheby Parke Bernet, April 1978, lot #200).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    24th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,934

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $100,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $100,000 and $1,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $1,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 21 days left to consign to the 2019 September 5 Rare Books Signature Auction Books - New York !

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage Auctions and Mr. Chad Reingold were...professional and courteous in all transactions and provided outstanding service in answering my many emails. I recommend them at the highest level.
    Killy M.,
    Melbourne Beach, FL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 June 9 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 June 9 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,101,256