One of the great pleasures of studying history is the discovery of connections, linkage between the people and places from the past and how those connections might have altered history. One such connection involves a famous actor, the collector of customs for the port of Washington, N.C. and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
The actor was Junius Brutus Booth. Booth was born on May 1, 1796 in London, England, the son of a lawyer. Early on he showed tremendous talent on the stage and became a celebrated performer throughout England. In 1821, Booth ran away with his mistress to the United States, abandoning his wife and young son, finally settling on a farm near Bel Air, Maryland.
Booth soon became one of the most renown actors in America. Critic William Winter said of Booth, “He was followed as a marvel. Mention of his name stirred an enthusiasm no other could awaken.” Booth tired of his fame and the demands of notoriety and soon developed a desire for a simpler life. In 1822, while sailing between Norfolk, Va. and Charleston, S.C., Booth had a chance encounter with a fellow passenger. Perhaps while viewing the Cape Hatteras Light, the young thespian told his acquaintance of a desire “to retire from public life and keep a lighthouse.”
Because of its significance as a port, the Confederates made several attempts to unshackle Washington from its Union occupiers.Thursday, September 6, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Washington, the second attempt by the Confederate Army to liberate the town.