James William Boyd

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James William Boyd
An alleged photograph of Boyd from the early 1860s-see the Civil War Times Illustrated article on the Talk page
Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Diedafter 1865
Jackson, Tennessee
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate States Army
RankConfederate States of America Captain.png Captain
UnitCompany F of the 6th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

James William Boyd (1822 – after 1865) was a Confederate States of America military officer who was alleged in a conspiracy theory to have been killed in the place of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln due to their resemblance.

Boyd was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1822, and lived in Jackson, Tennessee, where he married Caroline A. Malone in 1845, and had seven children.[1] Boyd was a captain in the 6th Tennessee Infantry Regiment of Confederate States Army, Company F, during the American Civil War.[2]

Boyd was captured at Jackson in 1863 and held as a prisoner of war by the Union.[3] In December 1864, while a prisoner of war, he requested permission to be released so he could return home to take care of his seven motherless children. Boyd's wife Caroline had died while he was incarcerated. Edwin M. Stanton, the United States Secretary of War, approved Boyd's petition on February 14, 1865. Boyd's official whereabouts following his release remain a mystery. His son James received a letter to meet Boyd in Brownsville, Texas, for a trip to Mexico, but Boyd never showed up for the rendezvous and no further contact was ever received from him.

Alleged role in the Lincoln conspiracy[edit]

According to a theory put forth by the 1977 book and subsequent film The Lincoln Conspiracy, Boyd was mistaken for John Wilkes Booth and killed on April 26, 1865, at Richard Garrett's farm, near Bowling Green, Caroline County, Virginia. The theory adds that the U.S. government was aware of the error, but covered it up and, thus, enabled Booth to escape to freedom.[4]

James L. Swanson counters this claim by stating, "The survival myth of John Wilkes Booth, roaming across the land, evokes the traditional fate of the damned, of a cursed spirit who can find no rest. There is no doubt that Booth was the man who died at Garrett's farm."[5]


Boyd's death is widely disputed amongst historians. Conventional accounts assert that he died in a military skirmish in 1866.[6]


  1. ^ Steers, Edward Jr., and Chaconas, Joan L., "Dark Union: Bad History Archived April 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine", North & South, Vol. 7, No. 1, January 2004, pg 19
  2. ^ M231 roll 5, National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
  3. ^ M598 roll 98, Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
  4. ^ "The Lincoln Conspiracy: Review". TV Guide Online. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
  5. ^ Swanson, James L. (2006) Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer. William Morrow. p. 385.
  6. ^ Riverside cemetery records

Further reading[edit]

  • The Lincoln Conspiracy (ISBN 1-56849-531-5) details theories about the assassination, the alleged Boyd plot, and Booth's asserted escape to the swamps.
  • The Curse of Cain: The Untold Story of John Wilkes Booth (ISBN 1-58006-021-8) continues with the claim that Booth escaped, sought refuge in Japan and eventually returned to the United States where he died in Enid, Oklahoma in 1903.