Monday, July 7, 2014



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 149 years ago today, July 7, 1865, four convicted conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln were hanged at the Arsenal Penitentiary here in the Nation's Capital.

The conspirators included a woman who ran a boardinghouse where the assassination plot was "hatched."

Mrs. Mary Surratt, who was 43 years old at the time, became the first woman to be hanged by the government of the United States.

An anticipated pardon that might have been granted by President Andrew Johnson never came.

Mrs. Surratt's son, John, also implicated in the plot, was able to escape capture and although he was finally brought to trial in 1867 on a charge of  "conspiracy and treason," the case was dismissed and John Surratt was set free.

Mrs. Surratt, along with George Atzerodt, David Herold and Lewis Powell were hanged.

The ringleader, John Wilkes Booth, after having been surrounded in a tobacco barn in Virginia, died just 2 weeks after Lincoln's murder.

Mary Surratt, who wore a black dress, bonnet and veil, led the procession of prisoners out of their cells at 1:15 p.m. local time.

They walked by "their own freshly dug graves, each with a raw pine coffin beside it" and then "slowly climbed the scaffold."

Soldiers tied the prisoner's hands behind their backs and put white hoods on their heads.

At 2 p.m., the hinged trap supports on the scaffold were knocked away "and the prisoners plunged down."


"The Civil War:  The Assassination, Death of a President," Time-Life Books, by Champ Clark and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1987.

Mary Surratt

*Director Robert Redford's film: "The Conspirator" tells Mrs. Surratt's story. 

 In a USA Today article by Maria Puente, historian Kate Clifford Larson of Simmons College in Boston, whose research supports Surratt's guilt, is quoted as saying...

 "Mary was a smart woman who made choices and she paid for those choices...but her trial was a travesty."

Larson, who approves of Redford's treatment of Surratt in the film, is the author of  "The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln".

Surratt Boarding House
 604 H Street NW
 Washington, D.C.
 Photo by Brady/Handy (1890)
 Library of Congress