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Upon learning from the desk clerk that neither Johnson nor his private secretary, William A. Browning, was in the hotel, Booth wrote the following note: "Don't wish to disturb you Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth." Did Johnson and Booth know each other?
In the 1997 publication "Right or Wrong, God Judge Me": The Writings of John Wilkes Booth edited by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper it is stated on p. 146 that Booth had previously met Johnson in Nashville in February, 1864. At the time Booth was appearing in the newly opened Wood's Theatre. Also, author Hamilton Howard in Civil War Echoes (1907) made the claim that while Johnson was military governor of Tennessee, he and Booth kept a couple of sisters as mistresses and oftentimes were seen in each other's company. Lincoln had essentially ignored Johnson after Johnson's embarrassing behavior on Inauguration Day.
This theory has John Wilkes Booth as the mastermind and that all remaining conspirators, with the one exception of John Surratt, were either hanged or sent to prison at Ft. Jefferson. Among the books that have supported this theory are Clara Laughlin's The Death of Lincoln: The Story of Booth's Plot, His Deed, and the Penalty, David M. DeWitt's The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Its Expiation, and George S. Bryan's The Great American Myth.
The simple conspiracy theory paints Booth as a Southern patriot and racist who originally planned to kidnap the President, take him to Richmond, and hold him in exchange for Southern prisoners of war. When the kidnapping plans fell through, Booth turned to assassination as his means for revenge. The entire plot consisted simply of John Wilkes Booth as the leader of a small band of co-conspirators. In 2004 Michael W. Kauffman's encyclopedic American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies was published. Kauffman paints Booth as a master at manipulating people, not as a stooge for others.