Abraham Lincoln: Part 4: “Arrests And Trial Of The Co-Conspirators”

Abraham Lincoln: Part 4: “Arrests And Trial Of The Co-Conspirators”

Edwin Stanton’s “show trial” was to be performed behind military walls (naturally), and with a supporting cast headed by nine distinguished decorated generals, no less. Amazingly, only one apparently had qualified as a lawyer, that being Lew Wallace of “Ben Hur” fame. In the meantime, Colonel Lafayette Baker’s police force had been active in the arrests department as well. By now, most (if not all) of the so-called Lincoln co-conspirators were detained under lock and key waiting for a pre-trial hearing.

Eight suspects had been previously hooded and escorted into the grim old arsenal penitentiary known today as Fort Leslie J. McNair. Only four would apparently leave its stone walls alive. Edwin Stanton, it seems, had laid down 28 strict rules to be observed concerning the prisoners’ welfare. Only later would he give permission for young Anna Surratt to occupy the cell next to her ailing mother Mary to care for her; so the man did appear to have some compassion after all. Before then, some of the confused and cowering prisoners would later be re-housed at the “Pen,” as it was popularly known. They had earlier been escorted to the ironclad naval vessel, the USS Montauk, where they patiently waited their fate, maybe some even prayed.

Conventionally berthed alongside is The Saugus. In fact, both naval vessels were now to be used as holding pens for processing the prisoners’ personal details.

Strangely enough, President Lincoln and his wife Mary had been invited to visit the Montauk, courtesy of the captain, on the afternoon of that terrible day of the assassination. There “the president informed his wife that they must try to be happy again, perhaps to travel, maybe move to Chicago where he would practice his trade again. Freed from the vexation and fear of war and its sister death.” Or even maybe a spiritual journey to Jerusalem that he had hoped to visit someday. Maybe once there perhaps to assimilate his confused religious ideas.

Some who knew Lincoln claimed he was a believer in the Blood of Christ for the atonement of sin. Others claimed that “he did not believe in the divinity of Christ,” wrote one of his biographers. But it was not to be, of course. Within 24 hours, Abraham Lincoln was history.

An interesting observation worth mentioning from the Australian writer Thomas Keneally that I came across recently suggests that, “It is obvious that Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln were complicated and fretful souls. Lincoln seems to have been a sometimes acute depressive whereas Mary exhibited a bipolar volatility.” Well, I suggest this could be true of any of our world leaders and their wives today because we know almost nothing about their personal lives except through the rumour mill and gossip columns. Of course, that same logic can be applied to all the pagan popes, past and present. I also include the ecumenical and interfaith clerical clowns who parade in ridiculous hats and garish vestments as well!

Back in 1865, arriving on that good ship “Montauk” was Mr. Alexander Gardener, apparently Lincoln’s favourite photographer. He then began to open his collapsible tripod. Afterwards, once on board the ship, he would take multiple images of Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlin, Edmond Spangler, George Atzerodt and little Davy Herold, all willing Booth co-conspirators, or so the court would be informed, now held under military detention.

This photographer, it seems, would not have a booked appointment with Mary Surratt, which is interesting to me. With her striking features, he could have made her facial features a work of art to be revealed in glorious monochrome. I can only speculate of why the widow was excluded from this Scotsman’s probing lens, possibly because she was then being held in the old capitol prison before being transferred to the “Pen”. Or were there other covert reasons we know nothing about?

(Grim mug shots of Lincoln’s infamous killers and assailants)

It seems there were reports of the above widow and others being transported in and around the capitol blindfolded. This may have been some early form of selective disorientation being practised and obviously under Edwin Stanton’s orders. This man thought of everything, of course, to add to the prisoners’ already noticeable pain and discomfort. So, I doubt Gardener would have refused a rare opportunity to photograph this “infamous” photogenic lady whose name and reputation were all over Washington’s newspapers. But who knows? Maybe some lost wet plates of mother Surratt’s image are somewhere and still preserved just waiting to be located. These posed portraits of the male prisoners viewed even today are, in my opinion, some of the most detailed ever recorded of suspects at that time or since.

In these photographs, we can see the suspects posed, with or without handcuffs, and with the ship hulk used as a striking background. However, Mary Surratt is not included. Interestingly, in one of the wanted posters, one of the suspects is pictured in handcuffs. Yet, according to the wanted poster issued at the time, he was still being sought by the police? Um! Someone slipped up there. It would later be quietly withdrawn.

Later, the prisoners were escorted under a military guard to the Old Arsenal Prison (now demolished) in Washington. There, they would be manacled in so-called heavy wrist irons or painful “Lilly irons,” as they were then known and remembered. These irons would be secured on the prisoners’ hands and measured about 10 inches apart with additional foot chains also used to add to the discomfort (not used on Mrs Mary Surratt, however). Then, and I’m not sure on whose orders, disgusting and suffocating heavy canvas hoods would be added to the torture endured by prisoners as they were placed on shaking perspiring heads (again, not on Mrs Surratt’s head or maybe Dr. Mudd’s either, it has been suggested).

After being detained and documented, the prisoners would be appropriately housed in their respective cells. Mrs Mary Surratt was placed in cell 153, George Atzerodt (the reluctant assassin) in cell 151, Dr. Samuel Mudd in cell 194, Samuel Arnold in cell 205, Lewis Payne (Paine) in cell 157, Michael O’Laughlin in cell 207, and Edward Spangler in cell 184 with David Herold locked in cell 155. Also being housed in cell 212 in that same grim establishment and as a possible future bargaining chip was skull-and-bones member Mr Burton N. Harrison who had acted as secretary to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Edwin Stanton always suspected that old Jefferson Davis was deeply involved somehow in the Lincoln plot, and he may have been correct in this assumption, as so much of Davis and his involvement is still unclear.

The prisoners “will be subjected to excessive physical torture while confined to prison awaiting their trial.” The men would be forcibly placed in those heavy suffocating canvas hoods to prevent suicide, we are informed. Lewis Powell had attempted this earlier when continually banging his head against a brick wall until restrained. The hoods also were fitted with rope ties allowing only a hole for breathing and eating. Heavy lead weights were fitted over the eye space of these suffocating hoods. Naturally, this caused cruel discomfort to all eye movement. On reflection, this seems to me an early form of sensory deprivation, but Mary Surratt was not subjected to this torture, I do wonder why.

You know it all reminds me of those Muslim suspects detained some years ago in those distinctive orange jumpsuits in camp X in Guantanamo Bay; according to the Bush Government, this was apparently legal. Of course, there are many levels of torture and pain that these prisoners may have also been subjected to repeatedly in their cells that we do not know about, for instance, not being able to see what was happening in and around them even though they could certainly hear what was being said about them in the crudest manner. I suspect there was punching, prodding and pinching from the mocking guards and the usual indignities they must have experienced when using basic toilet facilities, probably buckets when provided. Also, many crude, cruel and cutting remarks must have been used on them for the amusement of the guards. Apparently, one of the men even requested a Holy Bible but this was apparently denied him, and who could or would have read it to him anyway?

As regards Mrs Surratt’s genuine state of anxiety as reported to the court by her defence attorney, it seems the lady was suffering serious menopausal problems and frequently requested some pain relief, personally asking to consult a woman doctor if possible. Naturally, this was refused her. It seems that “Mary Surratt’s cell consisted of a very thin straw mattress, and an old army blanket and an old pail. She had neither washing utensils nor a chair to sit in nor a single comfort for her toilet or dress, the cell had a cold stone floor later because of this treatment Mrs Surratt began to haemorrhage.” Naturally, the judges, all men, were unconcerned about her female plight and why would they be? This discomfort, as far as they were concerned, would be further punishment for her personal role in aiding the fugitive John Wilkes Booth to escape Washington that night after escaping to the sanctuary of her tavern in the suburbs.

(Judges at Lincoln’s murder trial)

“Stanton it seems had the imagination of a torturer,” remembered one of his cabinet colleagues years later. That statement would be repeated by the prison physician Dr. George Loring Porter, who wrote to the prison authorities with great concern saying, “that the constant pressure of those thickly padded hoods may induce insanity.” I think this good doctor was correct in his medical prognosis in his humane concern about the suffering of those untried prisoners. Of course, doctors have seen it all and heard it all, haven’t they? But it just goes with the job.

As regards Edwin Stanton’s supposed taste for sadism, wouldn’t he have just been a willing participant for the cruel Spanish Inquisition prepared and praised by those wicked Roman Catholic Dominican priests now burning in hell!

After much thought, I have to admit that I do believe Mary Surratt was guilty and some of the other prisoners were all guilty by association in collaborating with Wilkes Booth in what he was about to do in executing Lincoln. Yet it seems to me that after Wilkes Booth learned the electrifying news from Henry Clay Ford that the Lincolns would be at his theatre that evening, nothing or nobody could restrain him. Mary Surratt seems to have gotten pretty close to him in the crucial hours leading up to the shooting of Lincoln. I can only speculate also that Booth confided in her of what he was about to commit in the theatre that Friday evening.

I also suggest that Stanton did believe this also, in that she did know what her matinee idol Wilkes Booth was about to perform in the Ford Theatre that night. This was why he would demand the death penalty for her when the guilty sentence was predictably announced. Later, when Booth finally arrived in a fever of pain at Surrattsville, she was there waiting and watching and anxious, of course, to learn if he had succeeded in murdering Lincoln.

To me, John Wilkes Booth seems to have been badly prepared for the expected hazardous journey he was supposedly about to undertake. So, was he perhaps with some other co-conspirators expecting to be safely holed up in a Washington “safe house” for a few days, then to head off to the south if things went wrong (which of course they did)?

And was it a wise move, I suggest, after the cowardly shooting of Lincoln to launch himself fifteen feet from the box onto a hard wooden stage!?! This was bad timing, Johnny, and with your professional acting skills, you should have known better.

However, back to the trial hastily summoned by the military, which has to be judged as illegal, certainly by the legal ethics of today that I have seen. These prisoners were under a wrongful jurisdiction of the military; this certainly infringed their civilian status. We now know also that they were prevented from offering evidence on their own behalf, nor were they offered enough time to allow their defence lawyers to prepare a case for the court to consider, which was what Stanton wanted all along.

This was a wrong judicial decision, but Edwin “Czar” Stanton claimed or persuaded the Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt – the chief prosecutor in the trial – that the Union was technically still at war with the South. But I don’t think Holt needed much “friendly” persuasion on this matter in going along with Stanton’s wishes. In other words, in times of war, civilian courts can be overridden and suspended. In this demand, Stanton seems to have been supported by the then Advocate General and President Andrew Johnson.

I’m not sure how reluctant these gentleman and the court were with regard to its planned and expected outcome, yet they seemed to have gone along with what was expected of them. They also had not seen Booth’s damaged diary for court inspection and were probably unaware of its content. I suggest, however, that Johnson was content for many reasons with this legal farce to proceed under Stanton’s strict orders and to arrive at its expected outcome.

Of course, it was also expected by many observers and reporters that Mrs Surratt would, once the guilty announcement was made, perhaps serve a life sentence. On the other hand, Mrs Surratt may have been used as a tempting prosecution bait by Edwin “Mars” Stanton in hopefully luring her weak son John to voluntarily return and stand alongside the other accused co-conspirators. Surely Stanton would have argued that this son would not let his own mother hang at the end of a Hessian rope, well, would he?

It seems John Surratt did just that, with the complicity of the Catholic Church, can you believe? The little rat bolted for a hideaway hole in the nearest Catholic Church, and once there, would be offered papal protection.

But who am I to interfere with conspiratorial speculation concerning the complex American raft of church and state and its so-called separation. Yet are we not all products of sin and shame until truly born again by true repentance? Remember, there will be no sanctuary in Hell for those seeking escape or solace from those everlasting fires that will never be quenched. Then, time and its significance will be worthless for the unsaved with no prospects of redemption, and instant pain relief will be denied. How shocking for all sinners to share and weep over as they contemplate “what might have been”!

As I write this, I am listening to the heart-wrenching final movement of the Pathetique symphony by Tchaikovsky, and somehow it brought to mind a sad story I heard some years ago.

For several years, a famous author had been nursing her husband, who was suffering from a motor neurone disease. He had been lapsing into semi-delirious moods for several days. Then, opening his eyes one morning, he looked at his wife in a strange way and said as a matter of fact, “You know, I never loved you.” The couple had been married for over thirty years. He then added, “I really only ever loved her,” he whispered quietly and closed his eyes. His wife had no idea of whom he was referring to, but the pain of these words was deeply wounding for her. Later, he slipped into a coma and never recovered. I felt for his poor wife hearing these cutting words from the man that she had loved and cared for and assumed he had reciprocated her love as well, but apparently not. How turbulent her emotions must have been from that day onward as this wife prepared for her husband’s funeral and entered a new era of her life!

This will happen one day, you know, at the Great White Throne Judgment when billions will cry to the Lord with excuses such as, “we prayed all the novenas, recited our rosaries, journeyed on pilgrimages to Croagh Patrick (barefoot), to Walsingham (barefoot), to Lourdes and Fatima.” The Muslims will wail and insist that they visited Mecca once in their lifetime and benefited from the Quran, Buddhists will lament that they sought foolishly nirvana through yoga. All useless good works, of course, that will save nobody! Only faith in the precious blood of Jesus Christ “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), and “without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22).

However, on May 11th 1865, the unprepared prisoners were now brought up from their cells and seen blinking at the blinding sunlight in the stifling room. Then, the suffocating hoods were pulled from their heads. They were then ordered to be seated. Seated before them, it seems, and in full uniform were nine stern and unsmiling bearded military judges. They would now sit and pontificate for six sweltering weeks and mull over the evidence presented to them. With over 300 nervous witnesses to be summoned, this court apparently meant business. Occasionally, the author of “Ben Hur” General Lew Wallace would sometimes offer a faint smile at what he learnt. However, as this coordinated trial commenced, it seems most of these military men’s minds considered the true culprit of the murder of their commander-in-chief to be that traitor Jefferson Davis. Naturally, Stanton would make sure they were briefed about Davis and his complicity to bring down the true government of the United States, Davis being aided in this act of treason by many other carpetbaggers and others in this Confederate mix, according to Stanton.

The eight suspected prisoners now entered the trial room in the newly “created courtroom on the third floor”. The night before, the eight had heard the serious charges read to them for the first time. The canvas hoods were then removed and some had requested that the charges be read to them. The reading of the words would have been difficult to decipher by flickering candlelight. Now in the courtroom, the men, with those canvas hoods previously pulled roughly off their heads, stood and waited. They perhaps were now also suffering the discomfort of swollen and blistered feet, previously enclosed for hours in sharp foot chains.

Interestingly, Edwin Stanton had said rather optimistically that, “It was his intention that the criminals should be tried and executed before President Lincoln was buried.” So, you can see his impatience to have this matter settled and sealed, hoping for the prisoners to be swinging at the end of a rope, and not before much time. It was not to be, of course. Stanton did not get his way this time.

In the open stifling court, all of the accused were seated close to each other. In a pen-and-ink drawing from the time, the accused were seen sitting tightly together on a raised wooden platform, with a five-foot rail secured in front of them. Several armed soldiers stood nearby. Mrs Mary Surratt was seen in a long black dress with a heavy veil shielding her face, perhaps from all the suspicious and sniggering spectators who had been admitted to the court. Later, for some reason, she was allowed to step down from the others and be seated next to her lawyer’s table.

More favourable treatment for this lady, it seems, and just possibly because of her medical condition, it has been suggested. All pled not guilty, with the obvious failure of any methods of torture previously perpetrated on the suspects in prison to attempt to extract a guilty plea from each of them. Out of the eight prisoners, Edmond Spangler for some unknown reason has been previously subjected to the worst treatment of all the eight, it seems, being secured in rusting chains and hooded in the cramped stinking hull of the Saugus ship. There we learn: “He stands in stagnant seawater up to his waist”. But, I ask, why him?

We should also mention Major Thomas Eckert, Chief of the War Department’s telegraph office who had declined an invitation to join the Lincolns at the Ford Theatre as did Ulysses Grant, and the Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax who later became Vice President serving under President Grant. I find it all very suspicious, as I wonder about these men’s motives. Thomas Eckert did accompany Edwin Stanton to the Peterson house where the dying Lincoln lay. I believe he entered that crowded bedroom with Stanton and looked upon the dying President’s parched face in shock. Later, Eckert would spend hours interviewing Lewis Payne privately in a prison cell, even bringing him a wad of tobacco to chew through his canvas hood.

Apparently years later, “Eckert never revealed what he knew about the Lincoln assassination.” So, I can only speculate on whether he was perhaps related in some way to Lewis Payne. Or was this act just a kind gesture or was the tobacco laced with something? Why was Payne selected for these “kind” prison chats by Eckert and what was he hoping to learn from Payne about John Wilkes Booth? It seems many other suspects had been hauled in and now numbered over three hundred swept up in this presidential playlet, being housed and detained elsewhere, of them in a pitiful and confused condition. It should be remembered also that when the noose was about to be placed around Lewis Payne’s neck on the gallows, he was quoted as saying quietly, “They ain’t caught half of us yet.” Very strange final words from a condemned man whom I suggest knew a lot more about the other conspirators who somehow escaped Stanton’s wrath.

He also said that, “Mrs Surratt is innocent. She doesn’t deserve to die with the rest of us.” I can’t help suggesting that Payne was a mass of contradictions, but just maybe he did indeed know something important that Eckert wanted to know about.

However, back in the courtroom, permission was now gratefully given for the four windows of the courtroom to be opened. Little lost boy David Herold, who some claimed to have the mind of a 12-year-old boy, would look desolately out of the window and probably wondered why he was even there.

Lewis Powell would stare back defiantly at the gapers in the court. He seemed not to care and seemingly show no emotions at all. Powell had incidentally been wounded at Gettysburg and may have suffered some form of head trauma because of this. No electric fans in those days, of course! And it seems also that twenty tall spittoons stood like sentries around the room. Mrs Mary Surratt would make full use of the offered palm fan now clasped tightly in her gloved hand. But what a cast of characters, it seems, wandered freely in and out of that courtroom, viewing the proceedings as a popular staged play, perhaps with refreshments being served during the court recess in and outside the stockade.

For some reason, the fair ladies of Washington had heard or seen the newspaper pictures of Lewis Payne and he seems to have made quite a stir to many of them. Hearts were fluttering, I believe, with perhaps some scented love letters being passed to his attorney. Yet, at 6’2 tall and weighing 170 lbs, he seemed uninterested and blasé about what is happening around him. Even enquiring autograph hunters would wander into the court unopposed, clutching leather-bound autograph books. Then it seems some of the judges, can you believe, we’re happy to oblige the request with a signature and dedication to the owner.

I cannot confirm if any of the co-conspirators were approached or if indeed they accepted the offer to sign the book, but who knows? Some of the other Washington elite travelled into the courtroom to observe history take place, among them, bishop Simpson who would later preach at Lincoln’s funeral in Springfield.

Also paying visits (out of curiosity, I suspect) were General Ulysses, Grant a future president no less, and the soldier who had declined an offer to accompany his commander-in-chief to the Ford Theatre that night.

John Hay put in an appearance, he being Lincoln’s private secretary. Ward Hill Layman, he being Lincoln’s self-appointed bodyguard who later purchased the funeral railcar that took Lincoln’s remains to Springfield. Edwin Thomas Booth, he being John Wilkes Booth’s actor brother, put in an appearance and probably would certainly have happily signed autographs. Apparently, when his brother John Wilkes Booth entered the Ford Theatre that night to shoot the president, he had spoken to several fans who recognized him and he might even have signed autographs, as he was known to do.

Concerning brother Edwin, by a strange twist of fate, he had previously saved Robert Lincoln, the president’s eldest son, from death or serious injury on a railway station platform in New York. “So, it seems, one Booth brother took a Lincoln’s life whilst the other saved a Lincoln’s life some 20 years earlier.”

Surprisingly, the 12-year-old Tad Lincoln was seen at the trial and maybe Captain Robert Lincoln, his older brother, probably both together. But Mrs Lincoln did not, it seems, make an expected appearance.

As for the rest of the crowd there, well, they just wandered in to stare, sneer and gawp at the eight accused, joined of course by the usual souvenir hunters. To them, it was just another day’s entertainment, and free of charge at that.

Again we don’t know if any of the pitiful prisoners on display actually signed an offered autograph book, probably not, especially as they were handcuffed, except for Mrs Surratt whose hands were free. She may well have been offered rosary beads, not that it did her any good, of course, nor will it to any other sinner who seeks solace through those worthless and wicked beads. Only true repentance and faith alone in Christ can do that.

I can’t help speculating that watching these proceedings from a concealed area through a magnified viewing lens hidden in a wooden panel was good old Edwin Stanton. Now he must be obviously relishing the prisoners’ discomfort and dismay of what is being offered to the court and what he can observe. Did he perhaps delight in what they had endured previously in their cells and would he be at their expected execution? Well, I suspect he was indeed there, waiting and watching as the four hung and swung from a twirling rope and smiling at what he had achieved, and all of course for his dead president’s lasting legacy and his own vanity, of course. This, he must have reasoned in his attorney’s brilliant mind, was what it was all about – vengeance – and as simple as that.

It also seems odd from a legal perspective that there was only one witness to the drama at the theatre and seated in the box that evening next to the wounded president, namely, Major Henry Rathbone. When he was called to offer his evidence, it seemed as if he had learned it from a prepared script, someone later remembered. Again, why wasn’t the brave major’s fiancée Miss Clara Harris, the daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris, called to describe to the court what she had seen? And what of Mrs Mary Todd Lincoln, you may ask. Both of these women had lived and suffered through the terror of that night at the theatre, but they were not summoned, or perhaps both declined the offer to attend. All very strange and yet I also have to speculate that Mrs Lincoln would have insisted and demanded to give her side of the story about her husband’s murder, but it seemed not.

Young Fanny Steward submitted her evidence to the court, but I’m sure she would not have had the courage to enter that room and see again her father’s assailant, Lewis Powell, staring at her. There were rumours that John Wilkes Booth had previously made the acquaintance of a young chambermaid in the Seward household, even giving her a diamond pin as a gift. Was this perhaps for important information concerning the layout of the house and bedroom of Secretary of State William H. Seward? Lewis Payne certainly seemed to know his way up the stairs when he attempted to murder Seward in his sick bed.

Yet, I did read that Payne had requested genuine forgiveness from the family for what he had subjected them to that terrible night, especially to young Fanny. Later, other prepped and paid prosecution witnesses would appear and disappear after giving their sometimes faulty evidence. The final outcome, of course, was always going to be a guilty verdict for the eight defendants then struggling to breathe in that hot sticky makeshift courtroom over many long weeks, always (it seems to me) with the old ‘puppet master’ Edwin Stanton himself pulling all the political strings covertly behind the scenes. It was indeed a strange and unreal occasion being played out in that room in 1865 about which the world has still not grasped the meaning and probably never will.

Interestingly “except for two witnesses, there was no case against Mrs Mary Surratt.” But then into the picture entered John M. Lloyd, her alcoholic tenant and former Washington policeman employed at the Surrattsville tavern. The other was a paid boarder in her own home, he being Louis J. Weichmann who apparently “suffered from an inferiority complex and jealousy.” They both were now secure in the prosecutor’s camp and it was not looking good for the widow at this stage of the trial, as their evidence built up against her.

Of course, that suspect tavern (still standing) doubled as a sub-post office managed and operated by John Surratt, Mary’s son. He had earlier been accused of receiving coded messages in the post from Confederate spies. Later, he would be unmasked and sacked. Now, I suspect Col. Lafayette Baker who had replaced Alan Pinkerton knew of these treasonable actions the young John Surratt was performing. In fact, I would be very surprised if he did not use all of this gained information for his own purposes to arrest the Surratt family.

Louis J. Weichmann incidentally had been a failed Catholic seminarian. He also had a brother who was a Catholic priest. With John Surratt Jr, the two had attended the same Catholic seminary, so there was a bond of friendship forged with these two young men. Later, he certainly stayed at Mrs Surratt’s guesthouse in Washington (and yes, it’s still standing today but is now known a popular Chinese restaurant specializing in crispy duck and chow mien and ‘wok and roll’).

(The Surratt boardinghouse now a Chinese restaurant)

Of course, Weichmann had witnessed John Wilkes Booth’s frequent visits to the house and knew of the private conversations that Booth shared with Mrs Surratt. “Weichmann felt left out, worst of all when they had asked him to leave the room,” on several occasions, it is reported. He also coincidently was employed at the time at the War Department in Washington and may have been employed as an information-gatherer by its boss Edwin Stanton. Interestingly, after the trial, he was quickly promoted by Stanton to the Philadelphia customs house, a job for life, it seems, “but he was definitely Edwin Stanton’s prosecution star witness,” claims one historian, who may well be correct in this assumption.

He had certainly informed his superior at the War Department of the failed kidnapping of the president in February. Also “Doctor Mudd had been identified by Weichmann as being seen with Booth,” so his evidence certainly did not help the accused. Naturally, there were other paid and bribed government witnesses lined up for the prosecution who played their part as well.

So, was Weichmann “Stanton’s poodle” as he was later called? Or was he simply a “patsy” or a patriot, a perjurer, a fool or a felon in this matter? In fact, Edwin Stanton had five of the nine conspirators in prison three days after the assassination, so he had moved quickly and successfully. Nothing complicated about that! But it seems history is still judging Louis J. Weichmann for what he did and said at the trial under oath. Many details have been written and still are, of course, about this so-called miscarriage of American justice. I have highlighted only some of the salient points of interest in this series of articles. I leave it to the reader to continue their further interest into this fascinating subject of the trial and its repercussions if they so wish.

At long last, the expected verdict was to be announced. Now I do perhaps wonder if the prisoners were cognizant of what the court’s sentence had in store for each of them as they sat waiting and maybe prayed and wept in their cells. It would have been a long night for all of them, as they pondered their legal and eternal destiny.

Yet each of us will spend eternity in one of two permanent places, that is Heaven or Hell.

The Lord Jesus knew where He would spend eternity. He said: “I go to him that sent me.” The apostle Paul had no doubt where he would spend eternity: “Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

So, Heaven or Hell, the choice is always yours. Do not delay.

(Rare and unused stamp)


August 2017

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