It may be surprising to learn that there were eight conspirators in President Lincoln’s assassination. This is because they were also trying to kill the vice president and Secretary of State. The conspirators and their roles are listed below:
Born Mary Elizabeth Jenkins in 1823, was from Maryland. She married John Harrison Surratt when she was 17, and together, they bought massive amounts of land near Washington. Together, she and her husband had three children: Isaac, Anna, and John, Jr. After her husband’s death in 1864, Mary moved to Washington, DC, on High Street. She rented part of her property – a tavern that her husband had built – to a man named John Lloyd, who was a retired police officer.
John, Jr, her eldest son, had become familiar with a man named John Wilkes Booth during his time as a Confederate spy. Because of this connection, when Booth was plotting Lincoln’s assassination with his co-conspirators, he felt perfectly at home in Mary Surratt’s DC residence, which had become a boardinghouse.
Mary Surratt became involved with the shooting of Abraham Lincoln through these men. She even asked Lloyd to help – she asked him to have some “shooting-irons” ready for some men that would stop by later that night – the night that they murdered Abraham Lincoln. Although inebriated, Lloyd was able to provide testimony of the appearance of Booth and a co-conspirator at Mary’s tavern. For her involvement, Mary Surratt was sentenced to death, she was the first woman to be executed by the United States Government. She asked of her executioners only to, “not let her fall” in a very small voice, she was hanged on July 7, 1865.
Given the nickname Doc as a child for his love of nursing animals, Lewis Powell was described as an introverted youth. Powel was assigned to assassinate Secretary of State Seward. Seward was at home sick in bed the night of the assassination. Powell gained entry to the home claiming to have medicine for Seward. When he entered Seward’s room, he found Seward’s son, Franklin. They got into a scuffle when Powell refused to hand over the medicine. Powell beat Franklin so badly that he was in a coma for sixty days. He also stabbed Seward’s body guard before stabbing Steward several times. He was pulled off the Secretary by the body guard and two other members of the household. He managed to escape from the house and hid in a cemetery overnight. He was caught when he returned to Mary Surratt’s while she was being questioned by investigators. Powell attempted suicide while waiting for a verdict. He was convicted and hanged on July 7, 1865.
David E. Herold
Accompanying Powell to Seward’s house was David E. Herold. Herold waited outside with the getaway horses. After Lincoln was assassinated, Herold managed to escape DC that same night, and met up with Booth. He was caught with Booth on April 26. Despite his lawyers many attempts to convince the court his client was innocent, Herold was convicted and was hanged on July 7, 1865.
George A. Atzerodt
Atzerodt was given the task of killing Vice President Johnson. He went to the hotel Johnson was staying at, but could not kill the vice president. To build up his courage he began to drink in the bar. He got very drunk and spent the night wandering the streets of DC. He was arrested after the bartender reported his strange questions the night before. Atzerodt was convicted and hanged on July 7, 1865.
Spangler was at Ford’s Theater the night of the assassination. Conflicting witness testimonies dispute his role in covering up Booth’s escape. He allegedly took down the man trying to catch Booth before he fled. Spangler was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison. He was pardoned in 1869 by President Johnson. He died in 1875 on his farm in Maryland.
Arnold was not involved in the April 14 assassination attempts. However, he was involved in earlier plots to kidnap Lincoln, and was arrested for his connections to Booth. Arnold was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was pardoned by President Johnson in 1869. He died in 1906 from tuberculosis.
It is unclear what role Michael O’Laughlen played in the actual assassination attempts. He was surely a conspirator to the group’s plans. He voluntarily surrendered on April 17. O’Laughlen was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He died from yellow fever two years into his sentence.
John Surratt, Jr.
It is also unclear what part, if any, Mary’s son, John Surratt, Jr., played in the events of April 14. He claims to have been in New York that night. He fled to Canada and so began an international manhunt for him. After his mother’s execution in July, he embarked for England. He then traveled to Rome and joined the group of soldiers protecting the Pope. It was while visiting Alexandria, Egypt that he was recognized and sent back to the United States. Unlike the other co-conspirators, Surratt was tried by a civilian court. On August 10 the trial ended with a hung jury and the government eventually dropped the charges in 1868. He died from pneumonia in 1916, and was the last living person with ties to the assassination attempt.
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