The John Wilkes Booth Escape Tour, a fundraiser for the Surratt Society, is always sold out months before the bus ever leaves Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Md.
The tour follows the route Booth took on his ill-fated 12-day run to the South, using many of the same roads Booth used. Many of the original buildings are still standing, and several have been restored.
You start with an informative tour of Mary Surratt’s country tavern in Clinton, Md., now the well-restored Surratt House Museum. Then you continue to the scene of the crime in Washington, D.C., where you go on a guided tour of Ford’s Theatre and Petersen House, the house where President Lincoln died. You do several drive-bys in Washington, including Mrs. Surratt’s Boardinghouse, which is now the Wok and Roll Chinese Restaurant. Then you follow Booth’s route over the Navy Yard
Bridge and into Maryland.
The tour includes stops at private homes Booth visited, camp sites and an informative tour of the Dr. Mudd House.
At Dr. Mudd’s you can see the bedroom where Booth shaved and slept, the original red setee Booth sat on while the doctor examined his leg, and several pieces of furniture made by Dr. Mudd and fellow conspirator Edman Spangler.
You walk into the back yard and see the back route Booth took to avoid federal troops.
Many of the sites are on private property, but the owners welcome the Surratt Society bus.
You’ll see the spot where Booth and Davy Herold launched David Jone’s skiff on their first failed boat ride towards Virginia. It is now a religious retreat house, but they allow the Surratt Society to tour.
The Garrett House, where Booth died, no longer exists. The tour guide takes you to the middle of a median strip on a Virginia highway and shows you the exact spot where the Garrett front porch was in 1865. You can look across traffic and downhill to the spot where the tobacco barn once stood.
Each fall and spring, the society sponsors the 12-hour tours on luxury buses, each narrated by a knowledgable host. One of the past hosts was Michael W. Kauffman, author of “American Brutus.”
If you’re interested, contact the Surratt House Museum at 301 868 1121 this month and ask to be added to the advanced notice mailing list. They mail information on fall tours in June and spring tours in January. Reservations are accepted on a strict first-come basis, so call now and mail your reservation form back the moment you receive it. It’s not unusual to have 200 or 300 names on the waiting list.
The tour is so popular that society mails out the advanced notices in sequence to assure some parity within the U.S. Postal Service – west of the Mississippi first, then east of the Mississippi, then the Washington-Baltimore region last.
The 12-hour tour costs $75 per person, or $70 for members of the Surratt Society. The proceeds pay for the preservation of Surratt House Museum, the first stop on Booth’s flight south.