10. The detour of April 21 is another point of dispute
Herold and Booth found the boat, and with Herold at the oars set out in the river. But they did not cross it. Instead, they moved north and west to the mouth of Nanjemoy Creek, landing on the same side of the river from which they had set out, still in Maryland. Why they did so is disputed, some historians believe that it was simple inexperience with navigation. But the fact is Herold had to row against the current of the river, which alone should have told him that he was heading in the wrong direction. Booth offered an explanation in his diary, claiming that a Navy gunboat blocked their way across. Historians have disputed the entry, since Naval records have no gunboats in that position on the night in question.
In another diary entry reflecting Booth’s self-image of martyrdom, Booth wrote, “After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving with every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for.” Booth also lamented, “I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me”. A later entry in the diary, which was actually an appointment book for 1864 found in Booth’s pockets, read, “Tonight I try to escape these bloodhounds once more”. Whatever the reason, Booth and Herold’s detour to Nanjemoy Creek was temporary, the following night they set out a second time to cross the Potomac.