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The Unfortunate Mr. Pumphrey

The Unfortunate Mr. Pumphrey
By
John William, Tuohy



James Pumphrey was born in Washington, D.C., to Levi Pumphrey and Sarah Pumphrey née Miller, and was one of six children. Upon the death of his father, being the eldest son, James inherited a livery stable at 224 C Street NW at the corner of C Street and 6th Street.

Pumphrey, who had two common law marriages, was an acquaintance of conspirator John Surratt and it was Surratt who introduced Booth to him prior to the assassination. Pumphrey's stable was located near the National Hotel, (Below) where Booth lived while in DC.


On the day he shot Lincoln, Booth (Below) showed up at a stable and rented a fast mare. He said he would pick the horse up at 4:00 P.M. that afternoon. 

At the hour agreed upon, Booth arrived at the stable. Pumphrey warned Booth that the horse was high-spirited and she would break her halter if left unattended.


 

After the assassination, Booth and Herold made good an escape to Virginia. Prior to crossing the Potomac River and while hiding out in some woods, David Herold, a co-conspirator,  killed Pumphrey's horse along with his own because the horses were no longer needed.


United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton rounded up and arrested anyone connected to the Lincoln assassination including Pumphrey for having supplied the getaway horse.



On May 15, 1865, Pumphrey testified for the Prosecution and described the horse he provided to Booth and the details of how that transaction came about. Afterwards, he waited on his horse for hours outside the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in the hope of having carrying President Andrew Johnson's reprieve to Mary Surratt. It never came.


Pumphrey continued to operate the livery stable until sometime after 1900. The end of his stable came with the advent of the automobile. He died on March 16 1906, at his house at 477 C Street.  He is buried in Congressional Cemetery.

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