The Lincoln Conspirators

Engravings of 9 portraits of the conspirators, arranged in a circle with Mrs. Surratt at center.
Engravings of the conspirators tried in connection with Lincoln's murder. From the frontispiece to Benn Pittman's "The Trial of the Conspirators" (1865). Dr. Mudd is missing as the author did not have a likeness of him to include.
In the two weeks following the assassination, hundreds of individuals were detained, questioned, and in some cases imprisoned, as federal agents tried to determine who was responsible for the assassination of President Lincoln. The investigators settled on ten individuals they believed were responsible for the crime. One, John Wilkes Booth himself, had been cornered and killed on Garrett's farm on April 26, 1865. Another, John Surratt, had fled the country and would not be tried until 1867. The remaining eight were charged in the conspiracy and tried by a military tribunal. Testimony from 366 witnesses took seven weeks, and at the conclusion, four of the accused were sentenced to hang, and the other four sentenced to imprisonment (three for life at hard labor, and one, Ned Spangler, for six years). Many others who assisted Booth in the plot or in his escape were brought in for questioning, but were released due to lack of evidence.
 
Bust Photo of Samuel Arnold
Photo by Alexander Gardner on board the USS Montauk, April 1865.

Library of Congress

Samuel Bland Arnold

A childhood friend of John Wilkes Booth, both were schoolmates at St. Timothy's School in Catonsville, MD in the 1850s. Arnold was a veteran of the Confederate Army, and was recruited by Booth to participate in the kidnapping plot in 1864. Arnold parted ways with Booth on March 15, 1865, following an argment in which he told Booth that his kidnapping plans were impractical. Arnold was not in Washington D.C. at the time of the assassination and probably did not have any knowledge of the plot to murder the president. He was arrested at Fortress Monroe Virginia on the morning of April 17, 1865, and investigators tied him to Booth and the kdinap plot. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869, Arnold lived until 1906, long enough to publish a memoir he hoped would vindicate his name. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, the same final resting place as John Wilkes Booth and conspirator Michael O'Laughlen.
 
Bust Photo of George Atzerodt
Photo by Alexander Gardner taken in April 1865 on board the USS Montauk.

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George A. Atzerodt

30 years old, German-born Atzerodt was a carriage painter and boatman who was known to ferry Confederate spies and supplies across the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. Recruited by Booth for his knowledge of the waterways and his ability to handle a boat, both of which would be useful in transporting a kidnapped President Lincoln. After Booth's plans changed from kidnapping to murder, he assigned Atzerodt to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, who was staying at the Kirkwood Hotel a few blocks from Ford's Theatre. Atzerodt instead ordered a drink at the Kirkwood bar and lost his nerve, wandering the streets of the city through the night. Azterodt fled Washington and was arrested on April 20, apprehended at the house of his cousin Hartman Richter in Germantown, MD. Atzerodt was tried and convicted for conspiracy to commit murder, and he was executed by hanging on July 7, 1865. He is buried in an unmarked grave at Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
 
Bust Photo of David Herold
Photo by Alexander Gardner in April 1865 on board the USS Montauk.

Library of Congress

David E. Herold

23 years old, Herold first met Booth in 1863 after a performance at Ford's Theatre. Herold was friends with George Atzerodt and John Surratt and had met Michael O'Laughlen through Atzerodt. His role in the assassination plot was to guide Powell to Secretary of State Seward’s home and then aid his escape out of the city. He fled after hearing the screams coming from the Seward home following Powell's attack. He met up with Booth in Maryland and stayed with Booth until his capture at Garrett's farm. Herold was brought back to Washington D.C. for trial. Described in the trial as dull-witted and simple-minded in an attempt to convince the court that he was easily duped by Booth and should not be held responsible for his role. Herold had actually studied pharmacy at Georgetown and worked as a druggist's assistant. and his answers to an interrogator suggested a quick and agile mind. David Herold was convicted and hanged July 7, 1865. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C., his gravesite marked only by the tombstone of his sister buried beside him.
 
Bust Photo of Samuel Mudd
Samuel Mudd

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Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd

32 years old, Mudd was a graduate of St. John's College and Georgetown College (now University), and got his miedical degree from the Baltimore Medical College in 1856. He and his wife Sarah had 4 children, and they lived on the 200+ acre tobacco plantation "Oak Hill," near Bryantown Maryland, that had been in the Mudd family for seven generations. He met Booth on several occasions and his house may have been planned as a safe stop for the kidnap plot. Booth and Herold arrived at Dr. Mudd's farm at about 4 a.m. on April 15, seeking medical assistance for Booth's broken leg. Doctor Mudd treated the leg and made a splint for him, and allowed Booth and Herold to stay upstairs the rest of the night. Booth and Herold left Dr. Mudd’s the next afternoon, heading into the Zekiah Swamp and the route southward. Mudd later insisted that he did not recognize Booth and that he did not know that Lincoln had been assassinated. He was evasive and nervous while questioned, was tried and convicted of conpsiring to kill the president, and given a life sentence at hard labor. He was sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. He was pardoned and released by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. He lived the rest of his life at his farm and fathered five more children. Dr. Mudd died January 10. 1883 at the age of 49 and is buried In the cemetery at Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Bryantown, Maryland.
 
Bust Photo of Michael O Laughlen
Photo by Alexander Gardner, taken April 1865 on board the USS Montauk.

Library of Congress

Michael O'Laughlen

O'Laughlen was a childhood friend of John Wilkes Booth, living across the street from the Booth family in Baltimore. An ex-Confederate soldier and one of Booth's earliest recruits in the fall of 1864, O’Laughlen agreed to assist in the plot to kidnap President Lincoln. At trial, he admitted to participating in the failed abduction of Lincoln on March 17, 1865, but withdrew from other abduction attempts when it seemed that Booth's plans were not at all feasible. He is unlikely to have had any role in the assassination plot. O'Laughlen turned himself into authorities Monday, April 17, two days after the assassination. He was tried as a conspirator and sentenced to life in prison. Sent to Fort Jefferson in the Florida Keys, he died there of yellow fever in 1867. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD, in the same cemetery as John Wilkes Booth and Samuel Arnold.
 
Bust Photo of Lewis Powell
Photo taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865 on board the USS Montauk

Library of Congress

Lewis Thornton Powell (alias "Lewis Paine")

21 years old, Powell was a former Confederate soldier with the 2nd Florida Infantry who was wounded and captured at the battle of Gettysburg. After recovering from his wounds, he escaped and joined Mosby’s Rangers in Virginia. Powell was introduced to Booth through John Surrat in January 1865, an became an important part of Booth's plan to kidnap President Lincoln. He used the aliases "Paine" or "Payne" so that his family would not find out about his role in the kidnap or murder if he was killed in the attempts. Tall and strong, he was recruited to bring the muscle for the kidnapping. When the plan failed and Booth turned to murder, he assigned Powell to kill Secretary of State William Seward. Powell entered the Secretary's home in Lafayette Square and severely injured Seward and others in the house. He was tried and convicted, and executed by hanging on July 7, 1865. His remains were moved from place to place, and the only remains to survive, his skull, was eventually interred in the family plot at Geneva Cemetery in Geneva, Florida.
 
Bust Photo of Edman Spangler
Photo by Alexander Gardner, taken April 1865 on board the USS Montauk.

Library of Congress

Edman "Ned" Spangler

40 years old, Spangler was a stagehand and carpenter at Ford's Theatre who had met John Wilkes Booth years earlier while doing carpentry work on the Booth home "Tudor Hall" in Bel Air, Maryland. Spangler renewed their friendship while both were working at Ford's. Booth asked Apngler to hold his horse in the back alley behind Ford's the night of the assassination, and Spangler turned that duty over to young "Peanut John" Burrows. It is unlikely that Spangler knew anything about Booth's plots or intent. Even so, he was found guilty of helping Lincoln's assassin escape and was sentenced to six years of hard labor at Fort Jefferson Prison in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Spangler was befriended by Dr. Mudd in prison, and when both were pardoned by President Johnson in 1869, he moved to Maryland and did odd jobs around the Mudd farm until his death in 1875. He is buried In St. Peter's Cemetery in Waldorf, Maryland.
 
Bust Photo of John Surratt
Photo by Matthew Brady taken in 1868.

Library of Congress

John Harrison Surratt, Jr.

21 years old, Surratt was one of Booths most valuable and capable conspirators. He was a Confederate spy with a college education who ran mail and correspondence across Union lines, and worked with Confederate Secret Service agents in Canada. He introduced Herold and Atzerodt to Booth, and also brought Powell into Booth's orbit. John took part in the failed abduction atempt in March 1865, but was in Elmira New York at the time of the assassination. He fled to Canada, then England, when he heard news of the crime. He lived as a fugitive for several years, serving with the Papal Guards for the Vatican until he was recognized and apprehended in Egypt in 1866. Extradited back to the United States, he was tried by a civilian court in 1867. The case resulted in a hung jury and Surratt was set free and never tried again. John Surratt died in 1916, the last surviving Lincoln conspirator. Many blamed him for his mother’s death, believing that had he surrendered himself in 1865, he would have been hanged in place of his mother. He is buried in New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore, MD.
 
Bust Photo of Mary Surratt
Photo of Mrs. Surratt, circa 1850s.

Mary Elizabeth Surratt (nee Jenkins)

Mary Surratt, a southern sympathizer, owned a boarding house in Washington D.C. where the conspirators met and planned the kidnap, and eventually the assassination, of President Lincoln. President Johnson called her boarding house “the nest that hatched the egg.” Both Powell and Atzerodt also boarded there briefly. Following the assassination, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold stopped for supplies at the Surratt Tavern in Surrattsville Maryland (today Clinton MD), which Mary owned and had leased out to tenant John M. Lloyd. Earlier on the day of the assassination, she rode down to the tavern and gave Lloyd a package that Booth had given her earlier that morning. According to Lloyd, she asked him to “have the shooting Irons ready”. Due mainly to the testimony of Lloyd, she received the death sentence for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Despite five of the judges at the trial asking that she be granted clemency by President Johnson because of her age and sex, she was put to death by hanging on July 7, 1865. She was the first woman executed by the federal government in the United States. Her guilt or innocence, and the appropriateness of the death penalty, has been much debated by historians. She is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. The Surratt boarding house still stands today at 604 H St N.W. Washington D.C., and is currently in use as a Chinese restaurant and karaoke bar.

Last updated: July 5, 2021

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