At 11.00 am on July 6th 1865, the fate of the eight accused co-conspirators were brought by a horseback rider to the old arsenal prison in four sealed envelopes from Edwin Stanton’s war department.
It was not encouraging news for the frightened and waiting accused: the following day, Mrs Mary Surratt, a Catholic, would hang; Lewis Powell/Payne, the son of a Baptist preacher, would hang; David Herold, an Episcopalian, would hang; and George Atzerodt, a Lutheran and “a cartoon of an assassin” as remembered rather unkindly by one lawyer, would also have an appointment with the hangman’s rope, this being an appointment they all had hoped to avoid. But it was not to be.
The other four deluded defendants were Mudd, O’Laughlan and Arnold (sentenced to life imprisonment) and Spangler sentenced to six years. I suppose this was expected by the three, although Samuel Mudd must have expected the rope due to his personal association with John Wilkes Booth.
Apparently, there is no official record of how the nine military judges voted. Yet “the speed with which the alleged conspirators were arrested, tried and convicted, and the sentence carried out was truly breathtaking,” writes Robert K. Summers.
Mary Surratt had not been offered a favourable press whilst confined in the “pen,” it seems, although I do not think she was able to read any of the press comments about herself during her trial. Yet her daughter Anna certainly would have heard and read the damning news coverage of her “infamous” mother and probably had also informed her of what was being reported about the trial and its accused during her frequent visits to the prison.
One eager and spiteful journalist had referred to Mary Surratt as an “Amazon,” although she was actually only 5’4 tall. Then there were cruel and mean descriptions of her black eyes and small mouth also added to this malicious mix. In other words, a “criminal’s face of a cold and beguiling woman,” recorded one toothless drunken hack of the lady’s facial features. Oh my, the cruelty of the media even then!
Concerning John Wilkes Booth’s romantic influence upon Mrs Surratt and others, it seems: “She was charmed and probably in love poor woman at the dangerous age in her sex, probably revelling in amorous fancies with this Apollo, twenty years her junior,” suggested historian Lloyd Lewis. Well, maybe love or infatuation is blind, say the poets and the wise men, whoever they are, but the love of Christ for His saints is endless and always will be.
Public opinion, it seems, was never going to be in Mrs Surratt’s favour prior to her hanging. Later, the written memories of the official hangman, Captain Christian Rath, stated that he believed she would never hang. Well, he got that wrong, didn’t he? Incidentally, you can actually see him in those atmospheric pictures of the execution, he being seen in a white coat.
As mentioned before, public opinion during the trial was very much against Mary Surratt, but this would later turn dramatically to her favour after the verdict, with many later coming to see her as a sacrificial lamb of the Stanton establishment. Yet her local neighbours recall that when President Lincoln was murdered, her house at 604 H Street did not display the traditional black bunting usually draped over the exterior gables. Others also remembered that there was no sound of musical celebration emanating from her abode when General Lee finally surrendered his exhausted southern troops. So, it seems there would be no weeping or wailing for this Washington widow from her hostile neighbours and others the lady knew and may have socialized with for afternoon tea. Mary Surratt, of course, was the first woman ever executed by the U.S. federal government, although five of the nine sitting judges apparently sought to have Mrs Surratt’s sentence commuted to serving life in prison “given her age and gender,” it was later revealed. Sadly, this would offer no concerning comfort to her desperate darling daughter Anna, so plagued with grief and unhappiness.
Once the severity of her sentence had finally dawned on her, Mary Surratt sought even more comfort from her visiting priests. However, they didn’t seem able to offer the lady any spiritual sustenance on her final night on earth, if we are to believe her weeping continually heard in her cell that night. More seriously, these priests must have known and colluded with their Catholic hierarchy in concealing the secret whereabouts of her wanted son, John Jr. He was, I expect, making furtive plans for a fast getaway to Catholic Europe. She always had the full love and assistance of her faithful “but impressionable” daughter Anna who had been herself swept up in the numerous arrests at the Surratt boardinghouse on the night of April 17th. (Anna would herself later be released on May 11th. I’m not sure she ever fully recovered from this period in prison).
With the terrible news of her mother’s hanging due in a matter of hours and now desperately alone, she turned to the president for mercy for her mother’s life. I’m not sure if Fredrick Aitkin accompanied her to beg for her mother’s life at the White House, but it would be very much the sort of mercy dash he would be involved in with Anna. The president would, of course, refuse the crying and hysterical girl’s desperate pleas. She would later be brutally escorted from the White House grounds in tears.
In Robert Redford’s 2010 movie The Conspirator, the role of Frederick Aitkin is glamorized. Yet the locations for the film and the executions were admirable from this Catholic actor/director. There was no mention whatsoever, of course, of the Jesuit connection in the film!
Some years ago I read the memoirs of an old man who had been employed as a butler at the White House for many years, as had Duke Ellington’s father. He relates a story that on the anniversary of Mary Surratt’s hanging, the White House staff would hear her daughter weeping pitifully and garbling her words in the numerous rooms and corridors of the mansion. She had also been seen, it seems, silently banging on the door of what was Johnson’s dressing room, naturally pleading for her mother’s life as it ebbed away.
As we know, Andrew Johnson refused her request. But I can’t help speculating that if it had been President Lincoln and he had been asked by another young girl for mercy he would have complied. Strangely enough, there have also been many sightings circulating over the years of a ghostly apparition of a woman in black that wanders aimlessly through the old boardinghouse that Mary Surratt owned on H Street. Is this Mary Surratt or just a familiar spirit? Well, probably the later. Anna Surratt, of course, never fully recovered from the traumatic turns that led to her mother’s hanging, and her own incarceration in prison probably did not help her anxieties. Anna would be bedridden for many years before her death in 1904, aged 61.
Another innocent victim, in my opinion, would have to be the young defenceless Adeline Fanny Seward. She had desperately and bravely fought and struggled with the giant Lewis Payne, preventing him from successfully achieving the attempted murder of her father, Secretary of State, then slowly recovering in his sickbed. She also, I suggest, never fully recovered from that terrible night or its consequences that affected her damaged life. Fanny sadly died the following year aged just 21. Her mother Frances, also involved in the altercation in the house that terrible night with Lewis Powell, would die the following year, aged 59.
William H. Seward himself expired in 1872 and was buried with his beloved daughter Fanny and his wife Frances. His last words apparently were: “Love one another.” Of his young daughter’s premature death he recalled this as: “Great unspeakable sorrow,” which left his dreams for the future “broken and destroyed forever.” For the rest of his life he “preferred to turn the scarred half of his face away from the camera and pose in profile.” William H. Seward would later continue to serve as Secretary of State under President Andrew Johnson, as indeed did Secretary of State Dean Rusk, holding that same political office. Rusk would serve both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
Strangely enough, Seward would later journey to Salt Lake City where he met Mormon leader Brigham Young whom he had known and employed years before as a young man when Young had worked in the Seward house as a jobbing carpenter.
Anna Surratt and her tragic plight becomes interesting because entering into the film The Conspirators is her mother’s young defence lawyer, 28-year-old Fredrick Atkins. He would make an important appearance and later be a great moral support in assisting this impressible young lady through the agony of the trial. At first, Frederick Atkins had been naturally suspicious of Mrs Surratt and her motives in the Lincoln killing at the Ford Theatre. He felt he had been pressured by his superior Reverdy Johnson into mounting a proper defence for Mrs Surratt. However, in the film, this young man gradually emerges as perhaps her only legal hope of gaining any reprieve. This young soldier-turned-lawyer quickly “argued that the military commission was highly prejudicial.” Well, in this assumption he was certainly correct. After all, the eight conspirators were civilians now being tried and paraded in a military courtroom, with little time given for the prisoners to confer with their defence lawyers. It seems they would not be allowed to give evidence on their behalf either. Quite simply, Edwin Stanton wanted revenge and I doubt he cared or understood how it was to be completed. Interestingly, in my three used reference books, I can find no mention of Frederick Atkins’ name in the index, I wonder why!
During the movie, young Atkins’ role is greatly enlarged by the paid scriptwriters. However, it seems that after Atkins had learned of the unexpected death sentence to be handed down against Mary Surratt he took it upon himself to visit the home of Judge Andrew Wylie in the middle of the night with a request for his Honour to issue a writ of habeas corpus for the lady. This the judge finally agreed to perform, offering a false hope for Atkins to pursue legally and of course for Mary Surratt now lingering at death’s door. But it was not to be, with the writ later declined by President Andrew Johnson.
This widow “who was fascinated by Booth and simply carried off her feet” would, along with the others, hang the next day. President Johnson had simply doomed Mrs Surratt to the gallows and he would utter that infamous remark about the widow and her reputation: “She kept the nest where the egg was hatched.” I do speculate, however, if he did indeed say these words himself, or were they perfectly penned by a paid White House spin-doctor? Some of my other favourite presidential sound bites that you might well remember are: “There will be no whitewash at the White House” from dear old “Tricky” Dick Nixon. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” FDR. “Fake news” has to be Donald Trump, of course. “All the way with JFK,” John F. Kennedy. But I won’t repeat what was said about LBJ’s 1964 presidential campaign slogan, and who can forget: “Honey, I forgot to duck,” attributed to Ronald “the Gipper” Reagan. Finally, “Only Americans can hurt America,” proclaimed by good old Ike from his favourite golf course.
“There were four to be hanged that day but because one was a woman, Christian Rath the hangman could find nobody to dig the graves. He then promised that every man would get a drink of whisky when the thing is done. Then every soldier in the regiment stepped forward.” In fact, a thousand uniformed soldiers were scattered in and around the jail area for this one-off event. In the picture of the hanging they are clearly visible on the 30-foot high prison wall, and in that hot sun as well.
During the night before the hangings, the gallows were erected high in the prison yard. The continual noise of the workmen could be clearly heard by the condemned themselves. One perspiring reporter remembered that: “Through the cells of the condemned there was wailing, terrible and long. Seven sisters hid David Herold with their embraces and a nephew of sixteen had spent the night with Davy.” A local preacher would be on hand to offer his services, whether required or not.
Mary Surratt would have two Catholic priests with her, offering some religious comfort (which didn’t seem to help her). She would also be given powerful opiates by the prison medic Dr. Porter, it seems, to calm her nerves.
Lewis Payne would have a Baptist minister from Florida, a Mr. Gillette arriving at the prison, should he so require. Some claimed he refused all religious ministering. No relatives came to comfort Powell and it seemed he needed none. The man who had hidden in a tree was now alone and needing nobody it seems.
George Atzerodt would be spiritually prepared for death by a Mr. Butler, a Lutheran minister. It seems he hunted through his Bible meanwhile for the verse, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23) of course. Not sure why he was looking for this verse.
The other four prisoners, Spangler, Mudd, Arnold and O’Laughlin, “Knowing their departure for prison would come later,” waited and brooded in their cells for what was to come.
Edman/Edmund Spangler, it seems, did not learn of his coming fate for some reason, “so he wept and howled as the final hammers rang on the gallows in the yard.” And “none of the reporters bothered with these four,” so obviously not newsworthy to the Washington press, it seems, of their coming fate. I can only speculate as to why Edwin Stanton did not insist that all eight should hang. He certainly had that power securely in his hands. Maybe there was an element of mercy in his Masonic heart, or had he compromised in his driven desire for justice for Lincoln? It now seems these four would live, and as it turned out, three would outlive even Edwin Stanton.
The following morning with temperatures in the high 90s and stress levels of the prisoners even higher, the four condemned prisoners entered the baking prison yard (interestingly barefoot), yet Hell will be hotter. Crowds were expected and many had gathered overnight to watch and enjoy the morning’s entertainment. Hawkers and vendors were also seen selling glasses of mint lemonade and blueberry muffins. Some even offer homemade peg dolls of the accused with coloured balloons affixed to their wooden trays for amusement. There was a jolly carnival atmosphere at this venue of death, and the only popular entertainment missing is the organ grinder with his tethered chattering dancing monkey The prisoners now blinked at the harsh sunlight and seemed to be shoeless for some reason. A hush descended on the yard, with all eyes on the prisoners, most naturally on Mrs Surratt it seems.
Mary Surratt was now assisted by two Catholic priests, one being Jacob Walter. He would later write that he was unable to accept the proposition that “a Catholic woman would go to communion on Holy Thursday and be guilty of murder on Good Friday.” The other cleric was B. F. Widget. Many other priests were involved with the Surratt defence, and some may have been Jesuit soldiers serving their conniving church. Remember, as Charles Chiniquy would later write: “The Jesuits killed Lincoln and buried the evidence.” That old ex-Catholic priest knew something about his dear friend’s murder, I’m sure.
George Atzerodt would be accompanied by Rev. Butler; young David Herold by Episcopalian Rev. Olds; Lewis Payne strutted alongside Rev. Gillette and Baptist minister Rev. Striker. One report claimed: “That he walked like a king about to be crowned.” It’s reported also that the waiting hangman whispered in his ear as the noose was placed on his neck that: “I want you to die quick.” Powell replied almost jauntily saying: “You know best.” So, many will be laughing and joking before they enter into the grim gates of everlasting Hell from where none return, of course. The prisoners’ hands and legs were now quickly bound as the prepared death sentences are read out. Nothing can now go wrong, it seems.
Some would hear Mrs Surratt whimper: “Don’t let me fall; hold on.”
George Atzerodt proclaimed to the crowd: “May we all meet in the other world.” Sad to say, this will be unlikely unless of course, he is referring to Hell.
For modesty’s sake, a cotton cloth was secured around Mrs Surratt’s dress so it would not fly up when her body descended towards the ground. She was attired in a plain black “bombazine” alpaca dress with a matching black bonnet set off with a thin veil. She sat on the platform shielded from the sun by a large black umbrella provided to her. This created a ghostly effect on the gathering crowd, many later remembered in regard to the events that day. (These images can be seen in Alexander Gardener’s pictures of the hanging.)
As the printed order of execution was proclaimed, Mrs Surratt was seen to kiss the crucifix offered by one of the waiting priests standing next to her. The condemned took chairs and Mrs Surratt swayed against her priest. “Then the back door opened and general Hancock strode out nodding to Rath, he orders him by saying: “Go ahead. Rath.’ “The hangman incredulously enquired: “Her too?” The general nodded. The State has spoken, it seems, and it must not be disobeyed. All four would hang. There is a silent agreement, it seems, that the state must be served at all cost.”
George Atzerodt would be heard to cry out: “God help me now, Oh…Oh…Oh.” We say: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
At 1.30 pm, the four finally dropped to their death. This moment will forever be frozen in time in Alex Gardener’s iconic picture. The bodies were allowed to hang for ten minutes, then cut down, and waiting army surgeons would pronounce life extinct.
Some news reports stated that no necks were broken, but others disagreed. Yet: “The head of her who had been Mrs Mary Surratt fell broken, necked upon her breast.” “She makes a good bow,” chirped a bystander. It seems he would be sternly rebuked by one of the shocked soldiers for this unkind comment.
Amazingly, selfish souvenir hunters descended on the wooden gallows like flies, snatching articles to plunder. Years later, after the death of one of the hangman’s helpers, four separate three-foot lengths of the ropes that served their purpose that day were discovered wrapped in an old army blanket in the trunk of the deceased, very macabre.
I can only speculate that Edwin Stanton observed this “slice of history” and relished its final outcome from the building. I also suggest he must have been delighted to see the four bodies swaying from the rope. His only possible regret was that John Wilkes Booth was not joining them on the scaffold for this reuniting of the conspirators.
Later, the bodies were taken down and fitted into the prepared coffins with their names and crimes being written out on long strips of paper, then placed in sealed glass bottles upon the bodies. Maybe this was done as a record for any future exhumations. When Lewis Payne’s body was viewed years later, his printed paper prison details had been eaten away, perhaps by mites.
Strangely enough, when Lewis Payne’s body was released with the other co-conspirators, his skull was found to be missing, can you believe? This was later located by chance, with the number “2244 skull of a white male” stencilled on the forehead. Obviously a “Smithsonian” museum identification number, it seems. The skull was later buried in 1994 beside Lewis Payne’s late mother in a Florida cemetery. It is thought that his body lies elsewhere in a mass grave at Rock Creek off lot 23, it has been suggested. But all very strange, it seems.
George Atzerdot’s final resting place is apparently unknown. It seems he had a brother serving in the Washington police who may have arranged a secret location site for when his brother’s body was finally released to the family and did not want the publicity.
Those four hanged co-conspirators have now earned their place in the history books, with most of the others involved now forgotten. You know, every so often a new television special or a new book concerning the Lincoln shooting arrives to a fanfare of publicity, but I notice that they actually offer nothing of substance to the reader/viewer who specializes in this fascinating subject.
President Lincoln has taken John Wilkes Booth with him, as did JFK with Lee Harvey Oswald into the history books and the History Channel. I find it rather interesting that those past assassinators of Presidents Garfield and McKinley (these being Charles Guiteau and Leon Czolgosz) were quickly forgotten then and still are unknown today.
Today, myths are maintained and managed and possibly manipulated by media men and none more so than in the Lincoln legend. His sombre face adorns coins, holograms, t-shirts, coffee mugs, underwear, shoes/boots, and umbrellas, with garish dog bowls and many more items to purchase if you so wish. Even the Ford Theatre’s museum today has a plastic mannequin of a scowling John Wilkes Booth about to pull that infamous trigger into the head of the commander-in-chief. But, interestingly, nothing of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas can be seen aiming his rifle from the Texas Book Depository Building on Elm Street toward the head of JFK in his car convoy.
The then-remaining four other prisoners sentenced in the court in 1865 were: Mudd, Spengler, O’Laughlan and Arnold. They would eventually be deported to the grim island prison of Fort Jefferson, 70 miles off Key West. It’s now a tourist stop-off, I understand, for popular cruise liners.
I ought to bring to your attention another infamous doctor caught up in the Lincoln assassination and detained for three weeks as a possible serious accomplice to the crime and of great interest to the police, namely Francis Tumblety. He would later be quietly released in London, England. It is possible that Tumblety was seen in Booth’s company by Lafayette Baker’s spies before the killing of Lincoln.
There may have been a future role for this doctor that would benefit Wilkes Booth in his escape after the shooting. Of course, the escape plan went terribly wrong for him, as we know, when he fell and injured his leg in the Ford Theatre. He could not, of course, have seen this calamity coming, could he? Isn’t it always the little, unforeseen things that can trip you up?
Later, when domiciled in England some years later, Tumblety was seriously suspected by the Metropolitan Police to be “Jack the Ripper,” is then responsible for five unsolved murders in the East End, some say maybe more. The escaping American doctor would later jump bail and set sail to America from France. Once there, he would have to be kept under surveillance by the New York Police acting with the Metropolitan Police. Now it gets interesting because, after the doctor’s death in 1903, some macabre anatomy parts were discovered in his personal possessions, along with small rings, some English money and other useless female trinkets. These may well, of course, have been the missing body parts and personal property of the five unfortunate women murdered in Whitechapel, London, in 1888-1891.
These grisly murders were never solved possibly due to political reasons!
The final curtain must slowly descend at last on this American tragedy. Yet out of the shed blood of the US Civil War, a country was united perhaps reluctantly and still is just about being held together today. But at a terrible personal price, it seems, with maybe a million killed, maimed and largely forgotten. In fact, many Confederate statues of Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and other heroes of the South are today being quietly removed with little or no objection, it seems, from the public.
At his second inauguration, President Abraham Lincoln quoted Matthew 18:7: “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”
Later he would proclaim on the steps of the White House that with: “Malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives to us to see the right.” A month later Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
On a personal note, I will now be greatly relieved to see the back of all the principal players in this 5-part series concerning the Lincoln assassination. When I came across James Swanson’s book by chance, I could not have foreseen that it would occupy six months of my life in researching, examining and writing this series of Lincoln articles. Like Hemmingway always reminded writing “scribes” to “be there,” I have tried to heed and practice his advice by immersing myself in that volatile but fascinating period of American history.
It’s almost as if John Wilkes Booth, Mrs Surratt, Edwin Stanton, David Herold, Dr. Mudd, Lewis Payne, Ed Spangler, Sam Arnold, as well as young Fanny Seward and the distraught Anna Surratt, with many more, of course, seemed to have taken up a permanent occupation in my daily life, but they must now take their leave of me. I have even dreamed about some of them! Can you believe? How sad, I know! All have since departed into their waiting graves long ago and far away. I suspect many are unsaved, now awaiting their own prepared judgment as explained in Revelation 20:12 of which I now quote: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
So, finally, dear reader, it is not with reluctance that I happily bid them all a lasting adieu.
The Judah Benjamin/Rothschild/Jesuit/Bank of Montreal is still a crucial connection in the assassination that has never been fully explained and probably never will be.
But what of the audacious “Dahlgren” fiasco perhaps dreamed up by Edwin Stanton himself, when a one-legged Colonel Ulric Dahlgren with a selected force of troops was hopefully to liberate hundreds of captured Union troops, then hopefully march on to Richmond. “Once in the city it must be destroyed, and Jefferson Davis and cabinet killed.” These were apparently the sealed orders entrusted to the colonel and found in his uniform. Of course, none of it happened, with the ill-fated Colonel Dahlgren later being killed in action at age 21 by Confederate troops. Apparently, there was a disgraceful display of his corpse in Richmond for several weeks. This naturally inflamed the North.
Afterwards, rumours suspiciously emerged that the War Department plans on the Richmond sacking and Jefferson’s cabinet assassination that were discovered on Dahlgren’s body had been forged by the Confederates, can you believe? Today it is difficult to elucidate the truth of this military debacle of 1864. But more importantly, did this fuel the future attempt to assassinate President Lincoln, perhaps as a reprisal, and maybe on personal orders from Jefferson Davis himself to kill Lincoln?
Davis was very close to the Vatican, it seems, and even received a letter delivered to him in prison at Fort Monroe by a Catholic priest dispatched from Pope Pius IX himself, with the gift of a miniature woven crown of thorns and ‘blessed’ by the old boy himself, I suppose. A Biblical text was also thrown in, that being Matthew 27:29, for Davis to read.
It seems that Mrs Mary Todd Lincoln sadly descended into a slow mental state of decline after departing Washington. Her son Tad had died in 1871 before he reached manhood. His mother would later attend and arrange séances in the false hope of communicating with her late husband, her two sons, and her brother. She also suffered from hallucinations and feared for her life. So much so that her son Robert had her committed to a private insane asylum, from which she somehow escaped. In her twilight years, “she shut herself away in a darkened room, preferring candlelight to sunlight.” She died in 1882 “pitifully in her sister’s home at Springfield, after years of insanity.”
Laura Keene (the actress, producer and theatre manager) died in 1873 from tuberculosis, she was 47. In spite of those cruel critics claiming she offered no comfort to the dying president (and why wasn’t his own wife cradling his head, you may ask, certainly a valid question), Dr. Teale’s autobiography does confirm Laura’s compassionate actions that fateful night. And that’s good enough for me.
Robert Lincoln, the only surviving son of the Lincolns, later held the office of Secretary of War. He would witness two other presidential assassinations, these being Garfield and McKinley. He also served as the US Ambassador to London. He died in 1922 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Edwin M. Stanton died in 1869, he was just 55. He had been involved with the important impeachment of President Johnson. President Grant had later nominated him for the Supreme Court but died before he could take up that appointment. There was an unconfirmed rumour that he had committed suicide, but I doubt that he would have even considered this. It was just not his style, and he certainly wasn’t a coward. He is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown; “few people visit his grave,” writes James Swanson. But if I ever get to visit Washington I will certainly make a point to call and pay my respects and leave some of our own Bible ministry tracts at the graveside. This was the man Lincoln had defended so often during the Civil War. Yet in that boardinghouse, as he watched over the dying president “he was now dictator,” which none can deny. All of his previous loathing for Lincoln now seems to have turned to love. All these deeds after the shooting of Lincoln are, I believe, unparalleled in American history.
Doctor Charles Leale died in 1932 at the age of 90.
Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were married and had a family. However, on 23rd December in 1883 after acting strangely “Rathbone attempted to murder his children, when a nurse intervened he shot his wife then stabbed her to death. He would later try to commit suicide himself. He would somehow escape from America “but spent the rest of his years in a German asylum.”
Maybe it would have been better for “Clara if Wilkes Booth had stabbed her fiancé and slain him in the Ford Theatre in 1865,” writes James Swanson. Cynical, but true.
For Boston Corbett, the man who supposedly shot Wilkes Booth at Garrett’s Farm, fame lasted a short time. He later took a job as an assistant doorkeeper in the Kansas House of Representatives. “One morning he appeared with revolvers in each hand and opened fire on the legislators and the ladies. Overpowered he was committed to an insane asylum but escaped.” It is rumoured but not confirmed that he is buried in Enid, Oklahoma.
John M. Lloyd, the star witness against Mary Surratt, died from alcoholic poisoning.
Christian Rath, the hangman, many years later would recall that: “The hanging gave me a lot of trouble. I took Mrs Surratt’s body down from the gallows and placed it in the coffin.” He died in 1920.
Suicides within the year would claim the lives of the two senators ‒ King and Lane ‒ who both cruelly prevented Anne Surratt from appealing personally to President Johnson for her mother’s reprieve.
Louis Weichmann faced open hostility for his part in testifying against Mary Surratt. He later operated a business academy and died in 1902. He never recanted of what he had informed the court, concerning what he had heard Booth and Surratt discussing privately in her boardinghouse. In recording the cause of death, his doctor had written, “extreme nervousness.”
John Surratt fled to the open arms of the Vatican just hours after the shooting of Lincoln. Once there, he enlisted and became “a papal Zouaves wearing the colourful effeminate uniform of the army of the papal state.” He would, it seems, be housed at the English College in Rome, this being where the formation of “elite” Catholic priests are trained then and today. It’s interesting that he did not lodge at the Pontifical North American College where the training of American men for the priesthood usually takes place. I do wonder what the English connection here was.
Surratt would later be returned to the United States and there stand trial twice in a civil court and not a military one. All charges were conveniently dismissed against him through the legal statutes of limitations. He would later tread the lecture circuit, but audiences turned against him and John Surratt never lectured again.
This former Catholic seminarian died in 1916 taking those secrets of Wilkes Booth and himself to the grave. He would almost certainly have hanged in 1865 and possibly with his mother if Edwin Stanton’s soldiers had captured him alive. I do suggest that those years afterwards allowed him to prepare his answers when asked of his own important role with Wilkes Booth, obviously minimizing his own crucial role in the murder of the president. Another man who had the rare opportunity of preparing his answers for the media and of his own actions pre the Second World War was Sir Oswald Mosley. He will be featured in our newsletter next year, God willing.
Somewhere in all of this conspiracy is the hand of “the Saint Leopold foundation,” a secret Jesuit spy network. Also, the “Sulpician Fathers” cannot be ignored; apparently they “sprang out of a Jesuit root.” Their order had a motherhouse in Montreal, it seems, operating at the time of the assassination of Lincoln. Both Surratt and Weichmann studied and visited there, it is claimed. All very suspicious!
William Peterson, the proprietor of the boardinghouse where Lincoln expired, committed suicide by swallowing laudanum. Nasty!!
Samuel Arnold survived the prison island’s harsh regime at Fort Jefferson. After his release, he would author his own memoirs and die in 1902.
Michael O’Laughlin would die of yellow fever on the same island, being nursed at the end by doctor Mudd.
Ned Spangler would be released from the Island in 1869. He had formed a close bond with Mudd and later died on Mudd’s farm in 1875.
Samuel Mudd would be released from Jefferson Island after his medical efforts with other doctors helped to contain the yellow fever outbreak. “Dr Mudd returned to his farm in 1869. Happy to be free of the black prison guards he despised,” we read. Later both Presidents Carter and Reagan were sympathetic (for some reason) to the Mudd family’s ongoing effort to clear his name.
The US Government would later purchase the Ford Theatre in 1866, to be used for storage facilities and medical records, it seems. In 1893, a floor in the building collapsed, killing 22 clerks and injuring 68 more. It’s believed some of the inquest medical notes held on the “Montauk” concerning John Wilkes Booth’s body and his final autopsy results “were lost in the avalanche of fire and mortar.” Today it is a working museum.
(Rare and unused Lincoln stamp)
“I have laboured for and not against the Union,” Abraham Lincoln.
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:26).
Books and articles
The Lincoln Conspiracy, Balsiger and Sellier Jr.
Manhunt, James L. Swanson
Myths after Lincoln, Lloyd Lewis
David McGowan 1960-2015, Internet articles
P.S. It had been my intention in this series to examine the important role of President Lincoln and his relationship with the Mormons, but space and time did not allow me to complete it this time. I hope to begin and finish this article next year for our monthly newsletter.
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