James William Boyd
Disappeared Circa February 1865
As a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, James William Boyd was captured by Union forces in 1863. His wife died while he was imprisoned, so he petitioned for freedom to return home and care for his seven children. On February 14, 1865, the US Secretary of War approved his release. He never returned home.
It was certainly not altogether uncommon for men to go missing during wartime, but Boyd’s case emerged as particularly mysterious. He had the unfortunate luck to closely resemble a famous actor of the time. Some believe that, following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth ended with the killing of look-alike Boyd instead.
Booth was buried in an unmarked grave and three cervical vertebrae were taken out of his body during his autopsy. These are on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington DC, which is overseen by the US Army. Some descendants of the Booth family have asserted that their notorious ancestor escaped justice and have recently demanded that his remains undergo a DNA test, but they have been denied the right to exhume the body on the basis that they do not know its exact location and could disrupt other remains. The Army also refuses to let them experiment on the vertebrae, even though a DNA test would do little damage to the specimen. For now, the mystery remains.
From The Southern Gentleman on Face Book