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Recruiting a Light Cavalry Regiment in New York that Eventually Captured John Wilkes Booth
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Broadside assembled from two printed leaves, features a large hand-colored spread wing eagle with patriotic shield, calling for men to join the Sprague Light Cavalry in New York, which became part of the 16th New York Cavalry. On April 26, 1865, a detachment from the 16th New York cornered John Wilkes Booth and David Herold in a tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold surrendered, but Sergeant Boston Corbet, a member of the 16th New York Cavalry shot and killed Booth.

[CIVIL WAR]. Printed Broadside, Sprague Light Cavalry Head-Quarters, New York, [1863]. 1 p., 12 x 14 in.

Inventory #24511       Price: $2,500

Historical Background

The General Headquarters for the 16th New York Infantry was Plattsburgh, New York, but the “Sprague Light Cavalry” also had a headquarters for the Eastern District of New York on Broadway in New York City. The building at 400 Broadway in New York City in 1863 was erected from 1862-1865 for Augustus Hemenway of Boston. This four-story building extending 30 feet along Broadway and 100 feet along Walker Street replaced a masonry structure that housed part of the Florence Hotel. In 1863, it housed the offices of the National Freedmen’s Relief Association, Grover & Baker’s salesrooms, the Metropolitan Cloak Rooms, and other offices and stores, including the New York recruiting headquarters for the Sprague Light Cavalry. The headquarters of the Sprague Light Cavalry was also located, at different times, at 421 and 428 Broadway.

16th New York Volunteer Cavalry was formed by the merger of three partially filled regiments, the Sprague Light Cavalry, the Washington Light Cavalry, and the reorganized 20th New York Infantry. The Sprague Light Cavalry was named for New York Adjutant General John T. Sprague (1810-1878). On January 17, 1863, Colonel Spencer H. Olmstead received permission to recruit the “Sprague Light Cavalry.” Although the 16th New York Cavalry formed at Camp Norton in Plattsburgh, New York, by late March, men were enrolling state-wide, with recruiting offices open in New York City, Buffalo, and other points. Potential recruits were promised a $75 state bounty, a $25 U.S. bounty, and one month’s pay in advance, for a total of $113. The first four companies were mustered in to the U.S. service at Plattsburgh on June 19, 1863, and took part in the Gettysburg campaign. Four more companies joined them in August 1863, and four additional companies were mustered in at Staten Island in September and October 1863. Colonel Henry M. Lazelle (1832-1917) commanded the 16th New York Cavalry from October 1863 to October 1864, and Nelson B. Sweitzer (1828-1898) commanded it from November 1864 through June 1865. Lieutenant-colonel Olmstead was dismissed by court martial in November 1863, and the regiment suffered from a variety of other problems. It was active in northern Virginia and fought several engagements against John Singleton Mosby’s Confederate cavalry.

In April 1865, a detachment of 26 troopers from the 16th New York Cavalry commanded by Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty (1838-1897) pursued the assassins of President Abraham Lincoln. On April 26, they cornered John Wilkes Booth and David Herold in a tobacco barn south of Port Royal, Virginia, some fifty miles south of Washington. Herold surrendered, but Booth refused, and Sergeant Boston Corbet shot and mortally wounded Booth, who died a few hours later. Doherty and his men returned to Washington, D.C. the next day with Booth’s body. For their service in the capture of Lincoln’s assassin, Doherty received a promotion to captain and a reward of $5,250, and each of his 26 men received $1,658 in reward money.

Condition

Soiling and uneven toning of the paper as well as some flaking and folds/creasing throughout. With tape covering the majority of the verso. Small holes in broadside, mostly along center (just below the illustration of the eagle). Two 3 x .5 in. pieces of paper affixed to ribbon eagle holds in its mouth, which appear to cover areas of loss underneath the ribbon.


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