A member of a famous acting family, and a fierce partisan
of the Confederacy, Booth was the subject of a 12-day manhunt
through Maryland and Virginia after he shot Lincoln at Ford’s
Theatre. Union cavalry pursued him to the Garrett farm,
burned down the barn to flush Booth out, then, as he rushed
out, killed him with a bullet to the neck.
Wilkes Booth's Role in the Conspiracy
the summer of 1864, Booth began formulating plans to kidnap
Abraham Lincoln. The plan called for Lincoln to be taken
south to Richmond, where he would be held until exchanged
for Confederate prisoners-of-war. Booth recruited friends
and known southern-sympathizers for his mission, including
the eight persons tried before the 1865 military commission.
Some who resisted his persuasive efforts, such as actor
Samuel Chester, became key government witnesses in the
March 15, Booth and his most of his fellow conspirators
met at a Restaurant three blocks from Ford's Theatre to
plan their abduction of the President. Soon thereafter,
Booth heard that the President would be attending a matinee
performance of Still Waters Run Deep on March 17 at the
Campbell Hospital on the outskirts of Washington. This,
he decided, would the perfect opportunity for a kidnapping
and--according to John Surratt--Booth developed a plan
to intercept Lincoln's carriage enroute to the play. Booth's
plans were foiled, however, when the President changed
his plans and decided instead to speak to the 140th Indiana
Regiment and present a captured flag.
then turned to plan to kidnap the President at a future
performance at Ford's Theatre, where the actor had several
friends, but the plan failed to win the support of some
of his co-conspirators, who dismissed it as infeasible.
April 14, 1865, after the fall of Richmond rendered moot
his kidnap scheme, Booth set in motion his final plan--one
of assassination. Booth may have made the decision to
kill the President after hearing Lincoln deliver a speech
urging Negro suffrage, according to Booth's former friend,
Louis Weichmann. Weichmann spoke of his viewing of the
the President's speech with Booth:
had never seen Mr. Lincoln up close and I knew he was
a tall man, however nothing could have prepared me for
the sight of him. A long shadow did he have. And his arms,
when at his sides, touched near his knees. Very professionally
he said that there would never be any suffrage based on
differences in the way people look. Upon this, Booth turned
to the two of us and said, “That means nigger citizenship.
Now by God I’ll put him through!”
tried to convince several of his co-conspirators to participate
in his plot to kill several high government officials
( including the Vice President, the Secretary of State,
and probably General Grant), but found few willing.
10:15, as the President and the First Lady watched a performance
of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre, Booth, showed
a card to a presidential aide and was allowed entry through
a lobby door leading to the presidential box. Reaching
the box, Booth pushed open the door. The President sat
in his armchair, one hand on the railing and the other
holding to the side a flag that decorated the box, in
order to gain a better view of a person in the orchestra.
From a distance of about four feet behind Lincoln, Booth
fired a bullet into the President's brain as he shouted
"Revenge for the South!" (according to one witness)
or "Freedom!" (according to another). Major
Rathbone, seated with the President in the State Box,
sprang up to grab the assassin, but Booth wrested himself
away after slashing the general with a large knife. Booth
rushed to the front of the box as Rathbone reached for
him again, catching some of his clothes as Booth leapt
over the railing. Rathbone's grab was enough to cause
Booth to fall roughly on the stage below, where he badly
fractured his leg.
from the stage, Booth shouted "Sic semper tyrannus!"
and ran across the stage and toward the back of the theatre.
Booth rushed out the back door of the theatre to a horse
being held for him by Joseph Burroughs (better known as
"Peanuts"). Booth mounted the horse and swept
rapidly down an alley, then to the left toward F Street--and
disappeared into the Washington darkness.
Powell was a former Confederate prisoner of war. Tall and
strong, he was recruited to provide the muscle for the kidnapping
plot. When that plan failed, Booth assigned Powell to kill
Secretary of State William Seward. He entered the Seward
home and severely injured Seward, Seward’s son, and
a bodyguard. Powell was tried and convicted, and was executed
by hanging in July 1865.
Powell's Role in the Conspiracy
Confederate operative, David Parr, introduced Powell to
John Surratt, who in turn introduced Powell to John Wilkes
Booth. Booth recruited Powell, along with other conspirators,
to participate in the kidnapping of President Lincoln.
Booth planned to kidnap Lincoln on March 17 as he attended
a play at the Seventh Street Hospital, then take him to
Richmond where would be held in exchange for Confederate
POWs. The plan collapsed, however, when Lincoln cancelled
his appearance at the play.
kidnap conspiracy turned into an assassination conspiracy
by April. Powell agreed to participate in Booth's plot
to assassinate high government officials in the hopes
of throwing the federal government into chaos. Powell's
assigned role was to enter the home of Secretary of State
William Seward and kill him as he lay on his bed recovering
from a recent carriage accident.
conspiracy began to unfold around eight o'clock on April
14, when Powell met with Booth, who gave him weapons and
a horse. At ten o'clock Powell and David Herold arrived
at Seward's home in Washington. Powell told the servant
who answered the door, William Bell, that he had a prescription
for Secretary Seward from his doctor. Over Bell's objections,
Powell began walking up the steps toward the Secretary's
room, when he was confronted by the Secretary's son, Frederick
Seward. Seward told Powell he would take the medicine,
but Powell insisted on seeing the Secretary. When Seward
resisted entry, Powell clubbed him violently with his
revolver (fracturing Seward's head so severely that he
would remain in a coma for sixty days), then slashed the
Secretary's bodyguard, George Robinson, in the forehead
with a bowie knife. Finally reaching the Secretary in
his bed, Powell--shouting, "I'm mad, I'm mad!"--stabbed
him several times before he could be pulled off by Robinson
and two other men. Powell raced down the stairs and out
the door to his one-eyed bay mare. Attempting to flee
in the direction of the Navy Yard bridge, Powell instead
made a wrong turn and ended up spending the night in a
cemetery near the Capitol
An impressionable and dull-witted pharmacy clerk, Herold
led Booth on the escape route into Virginia. He surrendered
at the Garrett farm, was tried and convicted, and was executed
by hanging in July 1865.
Herold's Role in the Conspiracy
Herold accompanied Lewis Powell to the home of Secretary
of State William Seward on the night of April 14. While
Powell entered the Seward home and made his knife attack
on the Secretary, Herold waited outside with his horse.
to co-conspirator George Atzerodt, Booth had chosen Herold
to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood
Hotel. It is believed to be Herold's gun, bowie knife,
and map of Virginia that were discovered by investigators
in a room at the Kirkwood rented by Atzerodt. Whether
Atzerodt's story is entirely accurate and why, if so,
Herold did not carry out his attack on Johnson is unknown.)
the attack on Seward, Herold crossed the Navy Yard Bridge
and made his way into Maryland, where he met up with the
injured John Wilkes Booth. Herold and Booth's escape route
took them to the home of John Lloyd in Surrattsville,
where they picked up carbines, and then to the home of
Dr. Samuel Mudd, where Booth found treatment for his broken
leg. A pursuing party of soldiers finally caught up with
Herold and Booth at Garrett's farm in northern Virginia
in the early morning of April 26. Faced with the prospect
of being shot or dying in a burning barn, Herold surrendered.
Booth’s childhood friend was an ex-Confederate soldier.
After he turned himself in to the authorities, he was tried
as a conspirator, though his role remained unclear. O’Laughlen
was sentenced to life in prison and sent to Fort Jefferson,
off of Key West, Florida, where he died of yellow fever
O'Laughlens's Role in the Conspiracy
recruited O'Laughlen in the late summer of 1864 to participate
in the plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln and take him to
Richmond, where he would--it was hoped--later be exchanged
for Confederate prisoners-of-war. O'Laughlen, along with
Booth and other conspirators, attended a March 15 meeting
at Gautier's Restaurant in Washington where plans were
laid for the kidnapping. The plot to intercept Lincoln's
carriage while enroute to a play at the Campbell Hospital
fell through when Lincoln changed his plans. Booth's next
plan involved kidnapping Lincoln at Ford's theatre. O'Laughlen's
was to have extinguished the gas lights at the theatre,
but the plan was abandoned as infeasible.
returned to Washington shortly before the assassination,
but what role--if any--he played in Booth's final, desperate
plan is unknown.
voluntarily surrendered himself to federal authorities
on April 17, 1865.
Surratt owned a boarding house in Washington where the conspirators
met. The subject of some controversy, she received the death
sentence and was put to death by hanging in July 1865, becoming
the first woman executed by the United States.
Surratt's Role in the Conspiracy
Surratt's eldest son, John, served in the Civil War as
a Confederate secret agent. John Surratt's acquaintances
included many of the key figures in the assassination
conspiracy, including John Wilkes Booth, George Atzerodt,
David Herold, and Lewis Powell.
Weichmann, who attended college with John Surratt, resided
at Mary Surratt's boarding house in Washington during
the period in which the conspiracy plot was hatched. Weichmann,
although describing his landlord as "exemplary"
in character and "lady-like in every particular,"
provided testimony that incriminated Mary Surratt. He
described numerous private conversations in the Surratt
house between Mary and Booth, Powell, and other conspirators.
Typically, according to Weichmann, Booth would ask Mary--if
John were not at home--if she could "go upstairs
and spare a word." He testified that on April 2 Mary
Surratt asked him "to see John Wilkes Booth and say
that she wished to see him on 'private business'"--and
that Booth visited with her in her home that evening.
He told of Booth giving him $10 on the Tuesday before
the assassination which he was to use to hire a buggy
to take Mary Surratt to Surrattsville to collect--according
to Surratt--a small debt.
the day of the assassination, April 14, Mary Surratt sent
Weichmann to hire a buggy for another two-hour ride to
Surrattsville. Weichmann reported that Surratt took along
"a package, done up in paper, about six inches in
diameter." Surratt and Weichman arrived sometime
after four at Surratt's tavern. Surratt went inside while
Weichmann waited outside or spent time in the bar. Surratt
remained inside about two hours. Between six and six-thirty,
shortly before the began their return trip to Washingon,
Weichmann saw Mary Surratt speaking privately in the parlor
of the tavern with John Wilkes Booth. At nine o'clock,
Surratt saw Booth for a last time when he visited her
home in Washington. After the visit, according to Weichmann,
Surratt's demeanor changed--she became "very nervous,
agitated and restless."
than seven hours later, as the President lay dying and
Booth having fled, investigators paid an initial visit
to the Surratt home. When the investigators left, Surratt
reportedly exclaimed to her daughter, "Anna, come
what will, I am resigned. I think J. Wilkes Booth was
only an instrument in the hands of the Almighty to punish
this proud and licentious people." [Weichmann affidavit,
April 17, shortly after eleven at night, a team of military
investigators again arrived at the Surratt home to interview
her and other residents about the assassination. While
they were doing so, Lewis Powell, carrying a pick-axe,
knocked on the door. When he claimed to have been hired
by Mary Surratt to dig a gutter, Surratt was asked whether
she could confirm his story. Surratt answered, "Before
God, sir, I do not know this man, and have never seen
him, and I did not hire him to dig a gutter for me."
While in the Surratt home, investigators uncovered various
pieces of incriminating evidence, including a picture
of John Wilkes Booth hidden behind another picture on
a mantelpiece. Facing arrest, Surratt asked a minute to
kneel and pray.
Booth’s most valuable conspirator was a Confederate
spy with a college education. Surratt introduced Booth to
Herold and Azterodt, and conspired with the others to kidnap
the president, but was not in Washington several months
later when the assassination was carried out. Surratt fled
the U.S. when he heard news of the crime, and lived in Europe
as a fugitive for several years until he was apprehended
in Egypt in 1866. Tried by a civilian court in 1867-1868,
Surratt was not convicted. He would survive until 1916.
Surratt's Role in the Conspiracy
Samuel Mudd introduced John Surratt to John Wilkes Booth
on December 23, 1864 in Washington. Surratt joined the
Confederate conspiracy to abduct President Lincoln and
participated in the March 15 meeting with other conspirators
at Gautier's Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, where
plans were laid for a March 17 kidnapping.
the night of April 14, 1865, Surratt--by his own account--was
in Elmira, New York on a spying mission for General Edwin
Lee. He fled to Canada upon learning of the President's
assassination. He remained in Canada until after his mother's
execution on July 7, 1865.
A stagehand and carpenter at Ford’s Theatre who was
also known as Edward, Edman, and Ned, Spangler knew Booth
well and assisted him on April 14 at the theater. He was
not connected to the kidnapping plan, but he was found guilty
and sentenced to six years in prison. Pardoned by President
Andrew Johnson in 1869, Spangler moved to Maryland, where
he remained until his death in 1875.
Spangler's Role in the Conspiracy
April 14, the day of Lincoln's assassination, Spangler
helped prepare the State Box for the president. He removed
a partition separating two boxes, creating a larger one
for Lincoln and the other members of his party. While
working on the box, Spangler allegedly made derogatory
remarks--such as "Damn the President!"--about
Lincoln. (On the other hand, a defense witness testified
that Spangler smiled and clapped along with other theater
workers when the president arrived at Ford's.)
between nine and ten o'clock, Booth appeared at the rear
of the theatre and called for Spangler. Booth asked Spangler
to hold his horse. Spangler in turn asked Joseph Burroughs
(better known as "Peanuts") to watch Booth's
horse. When Peanuts told Spangler that he "had to
go in to attend my door," Spangler said he should
hold the horse anyway and "if there was any thing
wrong to lay the blame on him."
after the shooting of Lincoln, Spangler hit Jacob Ritterspaugh,
another Ford's employee who followed Booth out the rear
door and observed him head down an alley on his horse.
Ritterspaugh testified that when Spangler slapped him
on his mouth he said, "Don't say which way he went."
Spangler was convicted almost entirely on the testimony
of Ritterspaugh. Defense witnesses were offered to contradict
Rittersbaugh's testimony. James Lamb testified that after
Booth's exit, when Ritterspaugh returned to the stage,
he said, "That was Booth! I'll swear it was Booth!"
According to Lamb, Spangler responded by slapping Ritterspaugh
and saying, "Shut up. What do you know about that?
Hold your tongue." The words attributed to Spangler
in Rittersbaugh's testimony would probably constitute
aid in furtherance of Booth's escape, while Lamb's version
(supported by another defense witness) would probably
not be a crime.
was questioned the day after the authorities, then arrested
on April 17 and charged with being an accomplice to Booth.
Another long-time friend of Booth, Arnold was not in Washington
at the time of the assassination. However, investigators
tied Arnold to Booth’s original kidnapping plot. Sentenced
to life in prison, Arnold was pardoned by President Andrew
Johnson, and survived until 1906, when he died of tuberculosis.
Arnold's Role in the Conspiracy
the late summer of 1864, Booth recruited Arnold, then
unemployed and bored, to join the conspiracy to kidnap
Lincoln and take him to Richmond. On March 15, 1865, Arnold
met Booth at Gautier's Restaurant in Washington to plan
the kidnapping, scheduled for two days later. When Lincoln
cancelled plans to attend a play at the Campbell Hospital
on March 17, the abduction plans fell through and Arnold
returned to Baltimore.
March 27 letter from Arnold to Booth was discovered by
investigators during a search of Booth's hotel room after
the assassination. On April 17, authorities arrested Arnold
in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, where he worked as a clerk.
German-born Azterodt was a carriage painter and boatman
who had secretly ferried Confederate spies across Southern
Maryland waterways during the war. Recruited by Booth into
the conspiracy, he was assigned to kill Vice President Andrew
Johnson, but lost his nerve and stayed in a hotel bar, drinking,
instead. Azterodt was executed by hanging in July 1865.
Atzerodt's Role in the Conspiracy
the Surratt's, Atzerodt met John Wilkes Booth, who persuaded
him to participate in his plan to kidnap President Lincoln,
and hold him in Virginia in exchange for Confederate POWs.
Atzerodt met Booth and other conspirators at Gautier's
Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the President's
abduction. In a confession (excluded from trial) given
on May 1, 1865 to Maryland Provost Marshal James McPhail,
Atzerodt admitted his willingness to join the kidnapping
the kidnapping plan changed to one of assassination, Booth,
according to the prosecution, assigned Atzerodt the job
of killing Vice-President Andrew Johnson. On the morning
of April 14, Atzerodt (using his own name) checked into
room 126 of the Kirkwood House in Washington, the same
hotel in which the Vice President was staying. At ten
o'clock, when he was supposed to begin making his move
against Johnson, Atzerodt was attempting to build up his
courage by drinking at the hotel bar. He never got any
further, and spent the next several hours wandering aimlessly
around the streets of Washington.
had aroused suspicion by asking a bartender about the
Vice President's whereabouts. The day after Lincoln's
assassination, a hotel employee contacted authorities
concerning a "suspicious-looking man" in "a
gray coat" who had been seen around the Kirkwood.
John Lee, a member of the military police force, visited
the hotel on April 15 and conducted a search of Atzerodt's
room. The search revealed that the bed had not been slept
in the previous night. Lee discovered under a pillow a
loaded revolver and, between the sheets and the mattress,
a large bowie knife. He also found in Atzerodt's rented
room a map of Virginia, three hankerchiefs, and a bank
book of John Wilkes Booth.
search of Atzerodt's room, needless to say, made him in
the eyes of authorities a prime conspiracy suspect. Atzerodt's
arrest came on April 20 at the home of his cousin, Hartman
Richer, in Germantown, Maryland.
Prosecutors succeeded in showing that Mudd, a doctor who
set Booth’s broken leg during the night of April 14,
was well acquainted with Booth before the night of the assassination.
He escaped hanging by one vote of the military commission
that had been convened to try the conspirators. Like Arnold,
Mudd was sentenced to life in prison but pardoned in 1869.
He died of pneumonia in 1883.
Samuel Mudd's Role in the Conspiracy
four o'clock on the morning following the Lincoln assassination
two men on horseback arrived at the Mudd farm near Bryantown.
The men, it turned out, were John Wilkes Booth--in severe
pain with a badly fractured leg that he received from
his fall to the stage after shooting the President--and
David Herold. Mudd welcomed the men into his house, first
placing Booth on his sofa, then later carrying him upstairs
to a bed where he dressed the limb.
daybreak, Mudd made arrangements with a nearby carpenter
to construct a pair of crutches for Booth and tried, unsuccessfully,
to secure a carriage for his two visitors. Booth (after
having shaved off his moustache in Mudd's home) and Herold
left later on the fifteenth, after Mudd pointed the route
to their next destination, Parson Wilmer's.
a military investigator tracking Booth's escape route,
Lt. Alexander Lovett, reached Mudd's home on April 18,
Mudd claimed that the man whose leg he fixed "was
a stranger to him."
returned to the Mudd home three days later to conduct
a search of Mudd's home. When Lovett told of his intentions,
Mudd's wife, Sarah, brought down from upstairs a boot
that had been cut off the visitor's leg three days earlier
[see above photo]. Lovett turned down the top of the left-foot
riding boot and "saw the name J Wilkes written in
it." Mudd told Lovett that he had not noticed the
writing. Shown a photo of Booth, Mudd still claimed not
to recognize him.