Last original member of MPD remembers hunting for John Wilkes Booth in Anacostia

Lingarn B. Anderson, of Anacostia, 95 years old, oldest member of Metropolitan Police, full-length, standing on porch. Courtesy LOC. [www.loc.gov/pictures/item/93513633/]

 

With the formation of the Metropolitan Police Department in 1861, there was an immediate tension between the flood of military recruits in the city and the newly constituted municipal force. Lingarn B. Anderson, an Anacostia native, was one of the first policemen, attached to the Anacostia precinct his whole career.  (According to City Directories, Anderson, of the 300 block of Jefferson Street, was a neighbor to Frederick Douglass in old Anacostia.)

The old Anacostia substation, originally the first precinct, “was a converted coal office with a part of the room roped off, and we had to keep guard there all the time or prisoners would step over the rope and walk out of the front door.”

Anderson reminisced a half-century later to a newspaperman and the chief of police about the “devilment” that crawled in the city during the war. “Then there were Southern sympathizers,” he remembered. “They’d get busy in barrooms with a gang of abolitionists, and the first thing you knew there would be artillery play, and some of those boys could shoot.” He had a bullet wound in his left thigh to prove it.

“I hunted for him,” Anderson said, his memory shifting to John Wilkes Booth’s escape on horseback from Washington which took Booth over the Navy Yard bridge and into Uniontown where he waited for Davy Herold before galloping towards Southern Maryland. “We heard for a while that he was around Anacostia.”

Suspicions that John Wilkes Booth might be hiding out in Uniontown were not unfounded as testimony of the Lincoln Conspiracy Trial revealed. Dr. Samuel Mudd, Mary Surratt, and others associated with Booth were seen around the area in the immediate weeks and months leading to President Lincoln’s assassination.

Robert F. Martin’s Farmers and Drovers Hotel, at the junction of Monroe and Harrison Streets in Uniontown about a hundred yards from the Navy Yard bridge, was a frequent point of rest for Marylanders from Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County, Bryantown in Charles County, and Leonardtown in St. Mary’s County bringing their products to the markets of Washington. In March of 1865 Martin was appointed postmaster for Uniontown, in Washington, D.C. The Baltimore Sun commented that the “post office there will be of great advantage to the large number of mechanics and other workmen, soldiers.”

During the trial Martin testified he had seen Dr. Mudd in the market on Christmas Eve 1864 and that in March and April of 1865 he had stayed at his hotel. Martin could not verify if Mudd was or was not up from his Southern Maryland farm for the purpose of meeting Booth in Washington.

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