The Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy: New York Herald July 8, 1865














Our Special Washington Dispatch
Washington, July 7, 1865


The lobbies and public places of the city were thronged till a late hour last night by scores and hundreds of eager and excited citizens, and in many instances the proportions were unable to close their doors till daylight.  The absorbing topic of conversation everywhere was the approaching execution.  The sympathy in favor of Mrs. Surratt gained ground by discussion, and hundreds who admitted her guilt inveighed bitterly against the mode of punishment.  This morning the sun rose on the hum and excitement of expectant preparation, and every face denoted the interest felt in the day’s developments.  This day the great penalty due to outraged laws and an outraged nation by the conspirators who sought to overthrow the government through the assassination of its heading officials has been paid by a portion of the guilty gang.  So great a crime required an equally signal punishment, not only as a just retribution upon the guilty, but as a warning to any who might hereafter be tempted to imitate their atrocious example.  Other great crimes have been committed by great criminals, but never one that so altered the heart and excited the execration of the people as the murder of Mr. Lincoln in the hour of success and in the height of his popularity.   The execution of his murderers to-day has proven us to be a law-abiding people; otherwise the miscreants who plotted and executed their great crime would have long since been torn to pieces by the people, who were as much convinced of their guilt before as after their trial.  Everything has been done decently and in order, and the majesty of the law and of the nation has been vindicated, and the guiltiest of the wretches have gone to answer for their crimes at the great tribunal where no subterfuge will avail to hide their criminality.


 It has been one of the hottest days of the season, and the sun has shone brightly upon the terrible scene which has flatly closed this unparalleled chapter of wickedness and heartless crime.  Nothing has been thought or talked of but the execution.  Many were of the opinion that at the last moment Mrs. Surratt would be reprieved, but no one anticipated any postponement of the execution of the others.  The only ground upon which mercy was looked for is the case of Mrs. Surratt was that of her sex, many doubting whether a woman would finally be executed, however great her crimes.


 As a late hour last night a writ of habeas corpus was sworn out before Judge Wylie, of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, in the case of Mrs. Surratt, by her attorneys, as stated in the HERALD of this morning; but Marshal Gooding decided that it could only be served during legal office hours, and postponed it till nine this morning.  The writ was promptly served, and reads as follows:


District of Columbia, to writ: -- In the matter of Mary E. Surratt—  Petition for Habeas Corpus—
The Major General Hancock, commanding the Middle Military division,  greeting: -- 
You are hereby commanded to leave the body of Mary E. Surratt    detained under you custody, as aforesaid, together with the day and cause            of her being taken and detained by whatever name she may be called in the same, before the Criminal Court of the District of Columbia, now sitting at        the City Hall, in the city of Washington, at the hour of ten o’clock in the   morning, this the 7th day of July, 1865, to do and receive whatever shall then  and there be considered of in this behalf, and have then and there this writ.
Witness—Andrew Wylie, one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of said District, the seventh day of July, 1865.
R.J. MEIGS, Clerk.
 I certify that I have served a copy of the within writ of habeas corpus on General W.S. Hancock this, the seventh day of July, 1865, at half-past eight o’clock, at the Metropolitan Hotel, Washington city, D.C.
United States Marshal, District of Columbia

 The writ was served upon Major General Hancock by United States Marshal Gooding, where he proceeded at once to consult the Attorney General and the President.

The letter promptly advised General Hancock to disregard the writ and proceed at once with the execution of Mrs. Surratt.

 The writ was returnable at ten o’clock; but nearly tow hours after that time General Hancock entered the court, accompanied by Attorney General Speed, who apologized for the apparent delay in making a return on the part of the General, as it was unavoidable.  He then proceeded to read the return, in which General Hancock said the body of Mrs. Surratt was in his possession under and by virtue of an order of President Johnson, for the purpose expressed, etc., and which order is as follows: --
  To Major General W.S. Hancock, commanding, etc.: --
 I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States do hereby             declare that the writ of habeas corpus had been heretofore suspended in such cases as this; and I do hereby specially-suspend this writ, and direct that you proceed to execute the order heretofore given upon the judgment of the Military Commission.  And you will give this order in return to this writ.

The court remarked that no further steps would be taken in the matter.  Attorney General Speed briefly  commented upon the distinction between the civil and military jurisdiction, showing the utter impossibility of fighting battles, carrying on war, maintaining the government in times of war, etc., by process of law.


Father Walker and Wiget, her spiritual advisors, called upon the President this morning with a request from the Bishop of Baltimore that the execution of Mrs. Surratt might be postponed for at least three days, as the formulas for repentance and preparation prescribed by the Church in such cases could not be complied with in less time.  They were met wit a decided refusal, and assured that her case had been carefully considered, and so earthly power could change the decision.


There was a great anxiety to witness the executions, and all sorts of devices and entreaties were resorted to for the purpose of obtaining cards of admission.  These were seldom successful, however, as the number issued was necessarily very limited.  The public generally were therefore obliged to wait until the newspapers should furnish the accounts of the solemn scene.


Very little time elapsed after nine o’clock this morning before the rapidly increasing assemblage of carriages and hacks at foot of Four-and-a-half street, in front of the entrance to the outer yard of the Arsenal building,  betokened that the public were already upon the alert for the great execution, and eager to obtain an early access to the grounds upon which it was to transpire.  At precisely ten o’clock the gates opening into the extension grounds north of the arsenal were unbarred, and from that time the passage of individuals bearing tickets of admission to the awful spectacle that was forthcoming continued uninterrupted.


The number of troops on guard was estimated at about three thousand, and was made up of four regiments of infantry from Hancock’s corps, who were posted upon the walls immediately overlooking the prison yard, where the scaffold had been erected, upon the grounds leading to the doors and gates of the Arsenal building, and again about the avenue of approach to the main gate at the foot of Four-and-a-half street.  This force was under command of Lieutenant Colonel Ledbeater.  In the immediate neighborhood of the cells in which the condemned were confined, and patrolling every corridor leading thereto, as well as the ground upon which the scaffold stood, were posted the Fourteenth and Eighteenth regiments Veteran Reserves, under command of Captain Wakenhak, of the latter regiment.  Both detachments were from General Giles’ brigade, commanding the troops employed in garrisoning the city of Washington.


All the arrangements for the reception of the privileged characters from the hosts of people desiring to attend the finale of this great secession drama were admirably perfected and very satisfactorily applied.  For the distance of seventy-five or a hundred feet outside the threshold of the entrance from the street to the Arsenal grounds double lines of soldiers, facing each other, had been posted, through which the applicant for admission was ushered to the presence of officials who had the examining of passports in charge, to who the admission ticket, which reads as below was shown:--

Washington, D.C.,  July 7, 1865 }
Major General J.F. Hantranft, Military Governor Military Prison:--
Admit ______ to the military prison this day.
W.B. Hancock,
Major General U.S. V. commanding.
This secured the visitor access to the arsenal grounds only and not to the prison, which stands separate of a quarter of a mile to the southward.  Arrived at the arsenal, the major part of the crowd were admitted to the inner yard, which is little more than a huge open court, the north and western sides being overlooked by the high walls of the prison, and the other two enclosed by a wall twenty feet high an between three and four feet in thickness.  Through the gate upon the west end of the enclosure a few friends of the prisoners, general officers and members of the press were allowed to enter the building and remain in the ante rooms until the hour of execution, when they passed into the yard through the corridor by which the condemned were subsequently led forth.


Such visitors as were allowed the entrée of the prison building were ushered into a hall about ten feet wide, upon the left of which lay two rooms, the front apartment being occupied by General Hartranft, Provost Marshal of the Arsenal building, and such officers as were to assist in  the execution.  The other room had been kindly opened for the accommodation of reporters of the press and artists in the employ of illustrated papers.  The windows in the latter commanded a full view of the scaffold and nearly the whole of the yard in which it stood, thus making it especially adapted to the use of the gentlemen for whom it had been set apart.  At the innermost end of the hall, 
which was not more than forty feet in length, was a door studded with massive rivets and bolts, which opened into a passage leading into the yard, and which also gave ingress to the hall upon which the cells of the condemned prisoners were located, on the ground floor.

At half-past ten o’clock there was no very considerable assemblage either in the ante-rooms alluded to, or the yard in which the execution was to take place.  It was not anticipated that there would be a very large turnout, as General Hancock had only issued two hundred tickets of admission last night and beyond fifteen or twenty that were issued this morning this was the entire number out.  When we entered the building at the hour above named, the sentries were pacing in front of the door leading within to the cells, gentlemen were grouped about as their inclination prompted, discussing the scene that was soon to be before them, and the members of the press were swiftly and silently sketching the surroundings and appointments without and within.  There was no commotion whatever, and though all wore a look of expectancy there was only a subdued murmur of conversation prevalent in either the hall or adjacent apartments.


By order of the President Major General W.S. Hancock was charged with seeing the order for the executing of the criminals carried into effect, and to Major General J.F. Hartranft, Provost Marshal of the arsenal building, belonged the duty of his personal supervision.  In the disagreeable work of this memorable day the latter officer was aided by the following members of his staff:--
Colonel L.A. Dodd
Lieutenant Colonel McCall
Lieutenant Colonel G.W. Frederick
Captain C. Roth
Captain Watts
Lieutenant Golsinger
Together with Surgeons Dr. Otis, United States Volunteers; Dr. Woodward, United States Army, and Dr. Porter, United States Volunteers.  The regiments and detachments on duty have already been named.


Since their incarceration in the arsenal building has been remarkable, and shows how every loophole has been guarded beyond all recourse of the captives.
Each day at ten o’clock in the morning fifty-four men accompanied by nine non-commissioned and commissioned officers and men from guard duty over the prisoners.  In every instance a staff officer of General Giles accompanied the guard to the arsenal and reported their arrival to General Hartranft.  The details as above made were kept on duty for twenty-four hours, and were ___________ ordered not to leave the immediate vicinity of the cells of the criminals when on duty, or to go outside the yard when not posted as sentries.  Their rations were all provided them within the walls wherein the prisoners were actually confined, and is no case had any member of the guard thus furnished served twice in that capacity.  Thus had every avenue of escape or communication been vigilantly guarded, and all possible means of aid or flight been shut out from the hapiea captives who to day suffered the dreadful retribution demanded of them. 


Of course, much of the time previous to the hour of execution was devoted to inquiry and discussion of the manner in which the condemned had passed the night.  To the officers of General Hartranft’s staff, who had been constantly on guard during the night and throughout the morning, the public is indebted for the details attendant upon the manner in which the prisoners were severally affected by the knowledge of their impending doom, and how they awaited its nearing approach.  With all it was a wretched night, from which refreshing sleep was debarred, and the fearful boding of the frightful events of the morrow refused to be gone.  The friends, relatives and spiritual advisors of the prisoners were with them until nearly eleven o’clock last night and ministered to the comforting of their mental distress by all the means in their power.  Miss Anna Surratt remained with her mother nearly the entire night.

Payne was the only one of the miserable party who is said to have rested at all soundly or unbrokenly and this unexcitable and stalwart man was not vouchsafed rest and unconsciousness until nearly dawn.  Unlike the rest, he consumed a hearty breakfast, and in no way gave evidence of the failure of that matchless nerve and resignation which he has exhibited from the hour of his arrest.  Though regarding his ultimate execution as a foregone conclusion, in communicating with his friends and pastor he displayed genuine contrition, and believed he was justify expiating his monstrous offence.
Mrs. Surratt early in the evening became completely unnerved and somewhat flighty in thought and expression.  She seemed not only overwhelmed with mental anguish, but utterly prostrated physically with the near approach of the terrible ordeal which was meted to her.  The intellectual resources and will that sustained this dark and sinister woman throughout the session of the court of inquisition completely forsook her when hope vanished and the gibbet from which she was to swing was already reared scarce fifty paces from the portals of her cells.

Harold, like Payne, succeeded in gaining several hours of sleep towards morning, and was apparently much comforted throughout the night by the presence of his sisters, six in number, who consoled him with reminders of the pardon that awaits repentant and contrite hearts.  The Scriptures were also read to him at frequent intervals.
Atzorott, completely beside himself with dismay and fear, suffered indescribable agony throughout the weary watches of the night, and could take no nourishment whatever this morning.  Weak and shrinking with horror at the thought of the doom that awaited him, he evinced the spirit of the craven that possessed him and led to the wretched complicity that has brought him to the gallows.  Like his associate in crime, he was comforted with the presence of a minister of the Gospel, and endeavored as well as his fears would permit to draw there from the comfort they manifestly derived from such ministration.


The cells of the prisoners executed are located upon the first floor on the south side of the east wing of the arsenal and open into a corridor about twelve feet wide, which completely encompasses the cells on every side.  The disposition of the four prisoners executed to-day has been in the cells upon this hall, with one empty cell intervening between each prisoner and his fellow.  Payne has occupied the first cell and next in the order stated, Mrs. Surratt, Harold Atzorott fronting upon the western end of the corridor.


From an officer who passed the doors of each of the cells wherein the prisoners were confined about half-past eleven o’clock, we learned some few details in regard to the positions and conditions of the condemned at that time.  Payne at the time designated was sitting upon his mattress, which was spread upon the floor cell, with his feet drawn under him, and his heavily manicured hands resting across his knees, with his head depressed and his whole attitude expression objection, but nothing like fear, to which he seems a stranger.  He entirely alone, and was said to have given his final confession to his spiritual advisor.  He was dressed in sailor’s pants and shirt, the latter open very low in the throat—the same dress in which he has repeatedly appeared on trial.  Mrs. Surratt was lying at full length upon her mattress, clothed in some white undress garment, looking very pale and debilitated.  She was attended by two priests, who were about to administer the sacrament to their hopeless daughter.  Two ladies were also in the cell endeavoring to the almost continual shuddering of her shrunken figure and summon fortitude for her to bear the wretched fate that was at hand.  Harold lay upon a cot, looking very pale and livid, with eyes rolling frenziedly and conversing in a low tone with his sisters, who were grouped around him in sitting postures.  Atzerott was alone, with the exception of his minister, and, like the rest, was reclining upon his mattress, and though evidently seeking comfort in the spiritual advice of his companion, and nearly beside himself with fear at the nearness of his sudden death, had his feet elevated some two or three feet above his head upon the side of the wall, at an angle occasionally assumed by luxurious smokers, and thus in this singularly irreverent attitude was he receiving and apparently consoled with the ministrations of his companion.


About a quarter of twelve the friends and relatives of the prisoners began to arrive, and were admitted to the cell of the condemned.  At this time came Miss Anna Surratt, accompanied by a gentleman, and was immediately shown to the cell of her mother.  As she entered and followed her conductor through the hall into the corridor beyond, her bearing was quite firm, and her manner and step almost confidant in the expression, which gave rise to an opinion, quite generally concurred in, that the interview she had with General Hancock this morning, between eight and nine o’clock, and subsequently attempted to bring about with the President, had finally been crowned with success and her petitions for clemency and a respite for her mother granted.  Next to Miss Surratt came the sister of Harold, followed by a sister of Atzerott, all of whom gained immediate access to the prisoners.  Scarcely half an hour had elapsed before they all issued, nearly swooning wit anguish, from the inner door, and were conducted to apartments upon the second floor, where restoratives were administered.  All of these heart-broken women were attired in deep black, with heavy veils of serge screening their from the multitude; but their sobs and tottering steps excited the sympathies of all, and many eyes were bedimmed as the mournful cortege passed beyond sight or hearing.


At exactly one o’clock the heavy door opening from the northwestern hall of the prison building into the court yard opened, and Mary E. Surratt, leaning upon two gentlemen, issued forth, followed by Fathers Wiget and Walter, the latter of whom carried a small cross with an effigy of the Saviour thereon, and also a book of prayer.  She looked very pale; her limbs seemed to fail her, and it required no small exertion on the part of the gentlemen alluded to lead her as far as the scaffold steps.  Step by step she ascended, her hands manacled behind her, every eye united on her now shrunken cheeks.  Her face betrayed more horror than of physical fear; her upper lip, as sometimes seen in the newly dead, curled upward from the now incomplete teeth, which added greatly to the ghastliness of her expression.  She sat on a chair placed at the northwestern corner of the scaffold, and immediately the reverend gentleman waiting upon her leaned forward, applying the crucifix to her ashen lip, and pouring into her ear the words of comfort expected to soothe to resignation the rebellious human heart that sets itself against the decree of mortality upon the scaffold, the field or the home bed.


Shackled hand and foot, and presenting to the spectator a face so full of fear, of woe, of horror and of supplication, that for mere relief they turned from him to rest upon the regal face of Payne.  Atzerott was attended to and up the steps of the scaffold by the Rev. Mr. Butler, and he too was bidden to be sealed on a chair placed at the southern end of the grim white structure.


Manacled like Atzerott, dressed only in the navy pants and collarless shirt he wore during the long trial.  So instinctive is the admiration which men feel for any man who is the last hour meets unmoved the king of terrors, that this youth with the bull neck and close shaven crown, short face and quiet blue eye, draw more sympathy than the fears of a thousand Atzerotts could ever evoke. On he went to the steps, side by side with the minister of his choice, Mr. Gillett.  Checked in his gait but seemingly unembarrassed he reached the platform and sat down near to Mrs. Surratt, and there he remained gazing, as he used to do in the court room, through the bars at the white ______ clouds that shifted before the intense rays of a sun that glided with all the pomp of a summer noon one of the most solemn scenes ever exhibited in this land, so free thitherto from such crimes.  Payne (we prefer the more generally known name) looked neither to the right nor to the left, but straight forward and upwards.  It was evident that to him the crowd were nothing, his own thoughts everything.  His face might be likened to that of a builder of castles in the air.  Fear there was none, no more than on the face of a sleeping infant; braggadocio, or the morbid vanity that so often supplies courage, was not to be read in the quiet, dreaming eye, where the old wildness alone had fled, and as the sun faced him as truly as he faced it, the photographer whose instrument stood in a window of the western wall will hand down Payne to posterity with a face on which no man could read either remorse for past crime or the rear of present punishment.  The memory of his horrid crime, which had appalled a nation, was lost in contemplating his bearing, which at the very foot of the scaffold a soldier who had braved death from Chattanooga to Savannah, styled right regal.  Last, and in every way least, came Harold, with bloodless, sallow cheeks, still sufficiently self contained to walk or hobble as well as his shackles would permit, and, attended by Dr. ______, he, too, mounted the stairs and sat between the quaking Atzerott and the quiet Payne. 


When they were all seated, Mr. Gillett stepped forth and said:--
Gentlemen, the prisoner Lewis Thornton Powell, known as Payne requests me, on this occasion, to say for him that he thus publicly and sincerely thanks General Hartranft and all the other officers and soldiers who have had charge of him, and all who have ministered to his wants, for their unvarying kindness and attention to him.  Not an unkind word was ever spoken, not an unbecoming gesture has ever been made towards him.

 Still gazing at the passing cloud sat Payne, no word of approval or disapproval, no gesture did he make till again the reverend gentleman spoke, saying:--
 Almighty God, we command this soul into thy hands, depending upon the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has promised unto us eternal life through faith in Him.  Grant us forgiveness of his sins, an easy passage out of this world and if consistent with Thy purposes of mercy, receive him into Thy everlasting kingdom; and this we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

 In this amen Payne joined, quietly but unmistakably.


 Dr. Olds then came forward and said:--“David E. Harold requests me to say for him that he requests forgiveness for all wrongs he may have done, and that he thanks the officers and Major General Hartranft for their kind treatment of him while in their hands.  He hopes he dies in charity with all men, and trusts his soul to God.”  The reverend gentleman then uttered a prayer which could only be heard by those upon the scaffold itself.  All this time Atzerott kept trembling violently.  Harold listened, and Payne continued building his castles and watching the fleeting cloud.
 Next the Rev. Mr. Butler spoke, and said:--
 The prisoner Atzerott requests me thus publicly to offer his thanks to General Hartranft and all associated with him in this prison, for their uniform offices of kindness to him during his imprisonment, and now may God have mercy upon him.  The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death; but if we confess our sins God thinks it just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, for Christ came to save sinners.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and then shalt be saved.  He blood of Christ is an atonement for all sin.  Lord God Almighty have mercy upon this man.  Lord God, the Father, Son and Spirit, have mercy upon him and grant him Thy peace.  Amen.


 [?]   the rope allotted [?] then stepped forth Mrs. Surratt, aided by her reverend advisers, who had read to her a portion of the Catholic ritual prepared for such occasions.  Then, at the other end of the platform, rose Atzerott, quivering in every nerve his knees knocking together, his arms trembling even in their manacles; and last again came forth Harold, his demonstrative of terror, but only loss pale than Mrs. Surratt, over whose face there began to steal an expression of resignation.
 Then the arms of all four were tied above the elbows with strips of white muslin.  Men have issued from imprisonment of years with whitened locks and from shipwreck with shattered reason; but Atzerott apparently suffered more than those sixteen minutes that elapsed from his entering the yard to the time of his being led forward to the rope than was ever endured in the Bastille or in St. Marks.  His eyes stood out, his shoulders drooped, and no aspen over trembled as he shook from too to head.  It was pitiful to look at him, and withal sickening.  Payne’s eyes still followed the ________  white cloud.  Harold was expressionless, while Mrs. Surratt seeming less and less terrified, submitted to the tying with no appearance of conscience.  Then other strips of muslin were brought forth to tie the legs between ankle and knee.


 Then over the head of each was passed the fatal noose.  Payne bent gracefully to it, as if he were assuming a crown, and then it circled his powerful throat he drew himself up, and turning his head slightly, addressed some quiet words to the officer who still held the rope.  To all present it was the execution of a murderer; to the murderer it evidently was the coronation of martyrdom, and the noose an aureole of glory.  None resisted the rope. 


 Then over the face and head of each was placed a cap of white muslin shaped somewhat like a jockey’s skull cap, but larger enough in enclose face and head, and long enough to reach below the chin, and now the pent up fear of Atzerott breaks forth in words and he exclaimed:  “Gentlemen, beware!”  And as Harold’s cap was pulled on last of all, Atzerott again burst forth with—“Goodbye gentlemen!”
 At half past one o’clock, as the ministers moved back, Atzerott again spoke:--“May we all meet in another world.”


 A moment after the officials drew back, and down fell the trap, and swaying to and fro swung the four bodies.


 There was no struggle on the part of Mrs. Surratt.  She hangs and swings as if within the dark folds of her puffed dress no life had ever been.  A bag of old clothes if might be but for that flesh we see between the rope and the cap.  Atzerott still shakes as if the fear of death were to continue beyond it, and outlive consciousness itself.  Harold struggles—his chest heaves.  Payne slowly draws himself up till he assumes for a second the shape of a man sitting in a rather low chair, his thighs forming a similar angle with the portion of his legs from the knees downwards.  He straightens again, but the broad chest heaves and swells, and there is a sort of writhing of the body on the hips.  It is twenty-six minutes and fifteen seconds after one.  Six minutes and a half have they swung there, and again a spasmodic curving of the body and bending of the lower parts proves Payne still alive, but it is the last.  If death must, for the safety of society, be inflicted on the assassin, for the make of civilization let some more summary means of inflicting it be devised.


 Until the drop fell, a general belief existed, shared in by the military, that Mrs. Surratt would be reprieved, and had a reprieve come even when the rope had been adjusted around her neck, it would have surprised no one.


did surprise many.  The absence of all vanity or repulsive indifferences, joined to his drapery, caused many to regret that much a man should have merited such a doom.


The four bodies hung straight and motionless as plumb lines, the red sun pouring its rays with fierce intently upon the dead and the living.  Under the oppressive heat the spectators still lingered around the corpses, till orders were issued to clear the court yard, having therein only a few members of the press and the soldiers and officers, together with Dr. Otis, United States Volunteers, and Dr Woodward, United States Army, and Dr. Porter, United States Army.  It was then within five minutes of two o’clock.


 The doctors examined the bodies, commencing with Mrs. Surratt and ending with Atzerott.  Having pronounced them dead, Captain Roth then ordered his men to prepare to take the bodies down, and some ascended the scaffold with knives, while others stood below to catch them.  They were cut down successively—first Atzerott, then Harold, next Payne, and last Mrs. Surratt.


 The four boxes prepared for coffins were then brought forward, and the corpses being laid upon them, another examination was made, and it being perfectly evident that life was extinct in all, they were placed each in his narrow house and buried in the four yawning holes prepared for them.


Sat down to make his report to Major General Hancock.  General Hancock then commenced preparing his to the President, and all was over.  Everything throughout was managed with the utmost order and care, and the thanks of the press are certainly due to Generals Hancock and Hartranft, as well as to Colonel Bird, of the First United States Volunteers, for the facilities and courteous they extended towards them.


Sketch of Mrs. Mary R. Surratt

 After the death of Booth the public interest, which had been centered upon him as the leading spirit of the conspiracy which robbed the country of the President, was chiefly directed to Mrs. Surratt and Lewis Payne as the next most important characters.  The evidence before the court has served still further to direct attention to Mrs. Surratt; and she has been made to stand forward as a central figure of the group of criminals, and now excites more interest than any of the condemned.  The general repugnance to the execution of a woman added still more to the interest which was felt in her, and every particular regarding Mrs. Surratt will be devoured with great eagerness.
 Mrs. Surratt, nee Mary E. Jenkins, was born in the spring of 1820, and at an early age was destined for a conventual life by her parents, whose Catholic piety seemed Italian and medieval in its strictness and fervor.  She was sent at the age of ten to the Catholic Seminary at Alexandria.  The home of her parents, E. and Mary Jenkins, was but two miles and a half from the bridge at the Navy Yard—the bridge over which Booth was destined to enter upon his wild night ride.  Twenty-one years ago Mary E. Jenkins was married to John H. Surratt, a farmer and mail station keeper of her own county and neighborhood.  John did not posses much of a fervid feeling of devotion or of the exalted and intense passions of his wife.  He was a simple, hard-working farmer, who thought more of the prospects of a fine harvest than of the prospects of the Church or of the coming crisis.  He had few accomplishments, nor had the woman he married, outside of a somewhat extended reading of those belles letters which have had the sanction of her Church.  She neither sang nor played, nor drew’ seldom embroidered, and then awkwardly.  On the tenets and observances of her church she could talk long and talk well, and rather chose such topics.  Her eldest child was John Surratt, on whose head a price a price his been fixed, at whose heels are ever the ceaseless feet of the death pursuit.  Hunted, homeless, fatherless, and now motherless, his sister heart broken, John’s punishment exceeds that of any of his companions in the crime for which they have been sentenced.  The mother had destined him for the church, towards whose cloisters her heart had once turned, and, like herself, he had received a strictly Catholic education; and his life and hers certainly seem to have been free from those vices which generally prepare the mind for the contemplation of crime.  The witness Weichman, whose ______ intimacy with the family was latterly greater than that of any other individual, speaks ever respectfully of Mrs. Surratt, and it is remarkable in how different a tone he would mention any of that family from that he used when speaking of any of the other accused.  The family seems to have been rather reticent and retired when in Maryland.  Hospitable as John Surratt, the father, was, something of a more serious and collected calm which enveloped the mother rather chilled than invited the intimacies that are generally so natural and pleasant a relief t country monotony.  When her husband died, and the station and tavern had been sold and the house on H Street occupied, a very perceptible change was observed in the manners of Mrs. Surratt.  Visitors whom her fastidiousness and her son’s taste would have shrunk from were frequently seen at the house and in close intimacy with John.  The exacting letter and protecting commands of the Church were loss religiously hooded, though the attendance was just as regular.  The stage, so long the abomination of the Catholic church, at last furnished, in its gayest, most accomplished and gifted roué’, the favored friend of the family.  John visited the theatre as though the ritual had never forbidden it, and the mother is not known to have objected.  Indeed, she becomes exceedingly intimate with Booth, and fell under his influence to an extent which has been her ruin. Certain it now is that J.W. Booth became the real master of the widowed Mary E. Surratt and the controller of all pertaining to her.  The result of that intimacy is now plain to all.
 The husband, John Surratt, died in 1864 of apoplexy.  He was a well-to-do farmer, living about ten miles from Washington.  He added to his business as a farmer the office of postmaster of his village and kept in addition a large country store.  Mrs. Surratt seems to have been his chief helper in his business, his son, John H. Surratt, being a wild and reckless youth, employed at the time of his father’s death in the conspiracy for which his mother was yesterday executed.  Engaged in these active pursuits Mrs. Surratt, who was naturally a woman of strong mind and nerves, appears to have gradually contracted a habit of decision not characteristic of or common with her sex.  She appears to have been masculine not only in person and manners, but mind; and throughout every detail of the conspiracy she appears as stolid and determined as Payne and as desperate and dramatic as Booth.  Her control over her nerves, her extraordinary self-possession and her reserve indicated thoroughly her masculine character, and prepare us for the description which we have of her person.  Her forty-five years had not served to counteract the effect on her person of her active disposition and habits, and the full, rounded, Amazonian-figure was not the least faded.  Her face was full, and if her dull gray eyes had had aught of warmth in them would have given her the look of a well preserved voluptuary. But the gray eyes were cold and lifeless and added to the masculinity of her appearance. They were seldom lit up by excitement or pleasure, though occasionally they gleamed with a furious or stealthy glare which indexed the bad passions of her soul.

 For a year or two previous to the murder of Mr. Lincoln Mrs. Surratt had been engaged in the active management of a blockade running system, by which surreptitious communication was kept up between Richmond and Washington.  Her son, John H. Surratt, appears to have been the chief agent or messenger by which this was done.  In planning the escape of Booth she appears to have made the trip from Washington to Dr. Mudd’s residence for this purpose.  Every detail was made with a care and coolness which still further illustrates the masculine character of the woman, and still further robs her of that sympathy which it is so natural to extend to one of her sex similarly situated.  Her guilt was beyond question, and her whole course has been so coolly and systematically planned that it is impossible to doubt that she was willingly and knowingly an accessory to the murder of the President.

Sketch of Lewis Payne

 Lewis Payne, or James Thornton Powell, as he confessed his proper name to be, was the person who attempted to murder Mr. Seward, and, with perhaps the exception of Mrs. Surratt, the principal accomplice of Booth.  He forms the second figure of the very dramatic group of assassins who are to figure as prominently and basely in the history of crime.  A tall figure, thickly but squarely built, a stolid and indifferent expression of countenance, wearing his hair long and neglected, a low forehead lit up by two bright, glaring eyes, and with general features of a desperate cast, he formed a picture in admirable keeping with that of Mrs. Surratt.

 Payne’s true name, as has been seen was Powell. He was a native of Alabama, and the son of George C. Powell, a Baptist minister resident at Live Oak station, on the railroad from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.  He was born in 1845, and was consequently but twenty years of age at the time of his death.  He had six sisters and tow brothers, the former of whom were lately and are still supposed to be living.  At the breaking out of the war he enlisted in Captain Stuart’s company, in the Second Florida infantry, commanded by Colonel Ward, and was ordered to Richmond.  At Richmond his regiment joined the army of General Lee, and was sent to A.P. Hill corps.  With it he passed through the Peninsular campaign and the battles of Chancellorsville and Antietam.  Here he heard that his tow brothers had been killed at the battle of Murfreesboro.  Finally, on the 3rd of July, in the charge upon the Union center at Gettysburg, he was wounded and taken prisoner, and detained as a nurse in a Pennsylvania hospital.. From Gettysburg he was sent to West Buildings Hospital, Pratt street, Baltimore, and remained till October, 1863, when, seeing no hope of exchange, he deserted to a regiment of cavalry at Fauquier.  He remained in that service till January 1, 1865, when he began to despair of the confederacy, came to Alexandria, sold his horse, gave his name as Payne, took the oath of allegiance as a refugee from Fauquier, and went to Baltimore.
 Here he found himself without work or means, and being unacquainted with any trade found much difficulty in obtaining work.  While lying idle at a boarding house into which he had been admitted at Baltimore a fracas occurred, in which he became engaged.  He was arrested and taken before the Provost Marshal, and ordered north of Philadelphia.  While leaving the city he met Booth.  He told the tempter his tale, was procured food and money, and without questioning the purpose of Booth gave himself up to his purpose.
 Next morning Booth gave him money enough to buy a change of clothing and keep him for a week, and then proceeded t work on the mind of his victim, depicting to him the imagined wrongs of the South and the guilt of her oppressors, and wrought him up to a pitch of frenzied passion to avenge the wrongs of his country, and set himself right with his countrymen, who despised him as a recreant.  Booth saw his victim was ready, and on the evening of the 14th of April, at eight o’clock, he told him the hour had struck, placed in his hands the knife, the revolver and the bogus package of medicine and told him to do his duty, giving him a horse with directions to meet him at Anacosta bridge.  Powell went on his way and accomplished the deed at Mr. Seward’s as is familiar to every one.  In his desperation he not stabbed Secretary Seward, but inflicted serious wounds upon Mr. A.G. Seward, Frederick W. Hansell, George F. Robinson and came near killing Frederick W. Seward.  He has now paid the terrible penalty of his crime.

Sketch of David E. Harold

 David E. Harold leaves a life in which not even Dumas could find matter for an interesting chapter.  He was connected with Booth, and there his life began; yesterday it ended on the scaffold.  Like the remainder of the conspirators, except Payne, Harold is said to have been born in Maryland; but he was in truth a Washingtonian.  The Navy Yard nursed him, taught him, tended him, educated him, and tried to do well by him, too.  It gave him opportunities to acquire a living by labor.  He became a drug clerk, but never was sufficiently skilled to deserve the name of apothecary.  His tastes were for sports of the field and brook, and if he was ever likely to have read a book through it would have been “Isaac Walton.”  He leaves two sisters whom he never aided to support.  He had acquired at Washington such a reputation as a liar for lying’s sake; was so fond of being thought to excel in vice, would tell of such deeds of iniquity as all knew he never had performed, and was withal at times so perverse that while people around the Navy Yard call him a fool, many vary the description by styling him a wicked fool and a slanderer.  Harold’s first acquaintance with Booth was formed before the latter yet knew either Arnold, Atzerott or O’Laughlen, and it was through Harold that Atzerott and Booth were over brought together.  Harold was fond of familiarly talking of the actor, and of conveying the idea that his influence over him was great, and in the streets would often vex Booth by ostentatiously forcing himself upon him.  Harold died at the early age of twenty-one, after a life entirely useless to his family, his country or himself.   His share in the escape of Booth, his foreknowledge of Booth’s plans, are simply an additional illustration of the maxim, that “men of great resolution generally seek for confidants women or those of their own sex who, in point of weakness of will, most resemble women.”  Harold was the son of the late A.G. Harold, a well known citizen of the Sixth ward, Washington City, and for many years the principal clerk in the Naval Store, Washington.  He was educated at Charlotte Hall, St. Mary’s county, Maryland, and was well acquainted with the topography of the district.  He leaves five sisters heart broken by his conduct.  In personal appearance he was about five feet five inches high, dusky black hair, slight tufts of beard along the chin and jaws, round face, full nose and lips, and a weak, simple expression of countenance generally.

Sketch of George A. Atzerott

 Atzerott’s history is still more obscure than that of Harold.  He was not, as has been stated, a native of Germany, but of Pennsylvania.  His parents were both German; and in his talk one could always detect his origin, from the way he dwelt upon guttural sounds and his thick, rolling pronunciation of the letter “R” Atzerott was first apprenticed to a coachmaker; but seeming to take more kindly to painting and glazing, he turned coach painter and varnisher.  He was never a good workman, lacking intelligence and application.  He came to Maryland several years ago, and has lived in almost every county of it, earning a  substantence by odd jobs of painting and glazing and finally settled at Bryantown, hovering between there and Fort Tobacco.  There it was he became acquainted with Harold, and through Harold with Booth.  It seems now pretty certain that in the conspiracy of abduction Atzerott was admitted before either O’Laughlen, Arnold or Payne.  His peculiar face and manner made one instinctively distrust him, and it is rather singular that the penetration of Booth, so well exemplified in his selection of his tools Payne, Harold and Mrs. Surratt, should have trusted a principal’s part in such a plot to a man like Atzerott, who evidently possessed but one qualification of a conspirator— cunning—and who lacked all the others, physical and moral courage especially.  When Atzerott passed, for a time, into the hands of Marshal Murray, of New York, Murray, in five minutes’ conversation, drew from him a practical confession of his connection with Booth and a confession of ownership regarding the articles found in the Kirkwood House.  The manners of Atzerott were rough and unpleasant in the extreme, his jests obscene and coarse, so much so that Miss Surratt and her mother disliked his presence in their home extremely; but Booth needed him, and who there would gainsay that lordly will?  He was aged twenty-eight.  His connection with the conspiracy will be distinctly remembered.  The circumstances of his arrest are as follows:--He was found at the house of his cousin, Ernest Harimann Richter, in Montgomery, county, Md., on April 20, by Sergeant Gemmill, of Captain Townsend’s company, First Delaware cavalry.  Richter at first denied the presence of Atzerott in the house, and afterwards, with his wife, told conflicting stories about him.  The sergeant found by questioning different parties whom Atzerott had visited, that the accused had come from Washington a day or two before, and at the house of one of the gentlemen, while eating dinner, had, upon the assassination of the President being broached, abruptly stopped eating and made use of the following language:--“If all of them had done their duty Grant would have been fixed in the same way!”  In his confession he endeavored to make it appear that he had only conspired to capture, not kill Vice President Johnson.

Sketch of Samuel G. Arnold

 Of the antecedents of Samuel G. Arnold, sentenced to imprisonment for life, very little is known.  He was early engaged in the original undertaking as planned by Booth, for the capture of the President; but, according to his own statement, he refused t enter into the plot to murder Mr. Lincoln.  He was detected as one of the conspirators through the capture of a letter from him to Booth, and was found at Fortress Monron, where he was employed in a sutler’s store.  He was at one time in the.... 


Lincoln Assassination 
Conspiracy Trial Home