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Lincoln Assassination

Lincoln Assassination


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John Wilkes Booth was a noted actor and Confederate sympathizer. Plans were made among a small group of conspirators to carry out the kidnapping in March 1865, on a day when Lincoln was scheduled to attend a function at a Washington hospital. At the last moment, the president’s plans were changed and Booth’s plot was neutralized.On April 11, two days after Lee`s surrender, Lincoln spoke to a crowd outside the White House and, among other things, mentioned that some blacks should be given the vote. Booth, an avowed racist, was in the crowd and decided to kill Lincoln rather than kidnap him.On Good Friday evening, April 14, President and Mrs. Lincoln attended a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Some patrons reported hearing him shout the Virginia motto, “Sic simper tyrannis” (thus always to tyrants); others thought they heard, “The South shall live!”Lincoln lingered throughout the night and died early the next morning without regaining consciousness.The assassination was part of a larger plot, which also targeted Vice President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and General Ulysses S. Grant. Booth had hoped that the removal of the leading figures in the government would spark a revival of the Confederacy.Booth escaped, but was found by federal soldiers several weeks later. He was shot and killed by one of the armed officials.Eventually eight persons were arrested as conspirators. Three received presidential pardons in 1869.Popular opinion for many years held that high Confederate officials had played a role in planning the assassination, but convincing evidence has never been presented.Lincoln had not been uniformly popular in the North during his presidency. Peace Democrats thought he was waging an unnecessary war and Radical Republicans felt he was too moderate. Even some Southern leaders expressed sadness at his murder—a well founded sentiment in light of the nature of Reconstruction, which was to emerge.


Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln

On the evening of April 14, 1865, while attending a special performance of the comedy, "Our American Cousin," President Abraham Lincoln was shot. Accompanying him at Ford's Theatre that night were his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, a twenty-eight year-old officer named Major Henry R. Rathbone, and Rathbone's fiancée, Clara Harris. After the play was in progress, a figure with a drawn derringer pistol stepped into the presidential box, aimed, and fired. The president slumped forward.

The Martyr of liberty. [n. p., n. d.] (Library of Congress, Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.)

The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, dropped the pistol and waved a dagger. Rathbone lunged at him, and though slashed in the arm, forced the killer to the railing. Booth leapt from the balcony and caught the spur of his left boot on a flag draped over the rail, and broke a bone in his leg on landing. Though injured, he rushed out the back door, and disappeared into the night on horseback.

A doctor in the audience, Dr. Charles Leale, immediately went upstairs to the box. The bullet had entered through Lincoln's left ear and lodged behind his right eye. He was paralyzed and barely breathing. He was carried across Tenth Street, to a boarding-house opposite the theater, but the doctors' best efforts failed. Nine hours later, at 7:22 a.m. on April 15th, Lincoln died.

President Lincoln's funeral procession in New York City. From Harper's Weekly, May 13, 1865. (Library of Congress, Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division. )

At almost the same moment Booth fired the fatal shot, his accomplice, Lewis Powell (alias Lewis Paine, Lewis Payne), attacked Lincoln's secretary of state, William Henry Seward, at his home on Lafayette Square. Seward lay in bed, recovering from a carriage accident. Powell entered the mansion, claiming to have a delivery of medicine from the secretary's doctor. Seward's son, Frederick, was brutally beaten while trying to keep Powell from his father's door. Powell slashed the secretary's throat twice, then fought his way past Seward's son Augustus, an attending hospital corps veteran, and a State Department messenger.

Powell escaped into the night, believing his deed complete. However, a metal surgical collar saved Seward from certain death. The secretary lived another seven years, during which he retained his seat with the Johnson administration, and purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.

There were at least four conspirators in addition to Booth involved in the mayhem. Booth was shot and captured while hiding in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia, and died later the same day, April 26, 1865. Four co-conspirators, Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Mary Surratt, were hanged at the gallows of the Old Penitentiary, on the site of present-day Fort McNair, on July 7, 1865.


Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC), an Indian teacher, philosopher and royal advisor, wrote about assassinations in detail in his political treatise Arthashastra. His student Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire of India, later made use of assassinations against some of his enemies, including two of Alexander's generals Nicanor and Philip. [1]

Towards the end of the Warring States period (3rd century BC) in China, the state Qin rose to hegemony over other states. The Prince of the state Yan felt the threat and sought to remove the Qin king (later Qin Shi Huang) and sent Jing Ke for the mission. The assassination attempt was foiled and Jing Ke was killed on the spot.

The Old Testament story of Judith illustrates how a woman frees the Israelites by tricking and assassinating Holofernes, the war-leader of the enemy Assyrians with whom the Israelites were at war.

Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, can be viewed as a victim of assassination. It is a fact, however, that by the fall of the Roman Republic assassination had become a commonly-employed tool towards the end not only of improving one's own position, but to influence policy—the killing of Gaius Julius Caesar being a notable example, though many Emperors met such an end. In whatever case, there seems to have not been a good deal of moral indignation at the practice amongst the political circles of the time, save, naturally, by the affected. [ citation needed ]

Roman history Edit

Some of the most famous assassinations in history have taken place in the Roman Empire. Many of these assassinations were for political gain, like that of Gaius Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar was one of the three leaders of the First Triumvirate of the Roman Republic. After the other two members of the Triumvirate died, Julius Caesar became so popular he was proclaimed 'Dictator for Life', but the senate of the Roman Republic saw this as the end of the Republic, so, on the Ides of March (March 15) of 44 BC, the Roman Senate, including Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger who was a friend of Caesar went to the Senate, and when Caesar arrived, they stabbed him to death. When he was dying, Caesar is said to have looked at Brutus and said "Kaì sú, téknon" (meaning "You too, child"). Soon after this, the Second Triumvirate was formed, ending in the collapse of the Roman Republic and the creation of the Roman Empire by Augustus Caesar.

Another Roman assassination was that of Caligula, the great-grandson of Augustus Caesar. He was overthrown by the military, had his head cut off, and was soon replaced by Claudius. There were many other, less important assassinations, and many more attempted assassinations, but none that had much meaning in the formation and history of the Roman Empire.

One of the earliest accounts of a historical assassination society were the Jewish sicarii in 6 A.D. during the Roman occupation of Israel. [2] This group performed high-risk assassinations of Roman military individuals and other Jewish countrymen who have sided with them, with the use of daggers hidden in cloaks, sometimes performed in broad daylight before disappearing in the crowd. [3] One of their most infamous assassination was that of Jonathan the High Priest.

As the Middle Ages came about from the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the moral and ethical dimensions of what was before a simple political tool began to take shape.

Although in that period intentional regicide was an extremely rare occurrence, the situation changed dramatically with the Renaissance when the ideas of tyrannomachy (i.e. killing of a King when his rule becomes tyrannical) re-emerged and gained recognition. Several European monarchs and other leading figures were assassinated during religious wars or by religious opponents, for example Henry III and Henry IV of France, and the Protestant Dutch leader, William the Silent. There were also many unsuccessful assassination plots against rulers such as Elizabeth I of England by religious opponents. There were notable detractors, however Abdülmecid of the Ottoman Empire refused to put to death plotters against his life during his reign.

Assassinations also became part of the religious arena as well. For example, Thomas Becket was promoted to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry II of England because Becket was part of the King's personal counsel and was also a major supporter of the King's claims on French land. Unfortunately, Becket did not like his new position and found support with the Pope Alexander III, so when Henry sought Becket's support for a lessened Papal grip on England, Becket refused and supported the Church and the Pope. Henry II didn't outright call for Thomas Becket's assassination after this point, but he is reported to have said, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" As a result, Becket was assassinated by four knights: Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton. [4]

The Hashshashin, a Muslim group in the Middle Ages-Middle East, was well known for performing assassinations in the style of close combat. The word assassin was derived from the name of their group. In Feudal Japan, ninjas or shinobis were hired from both the aristocracy and the peasantry to spy on enemy factions, perform arsonism and disruptions, as well as infiltrating and assassinations. [5]

Pre-World War I Edit

As the world moved into the present day and the stakes in political clashes of will continued to grow to a global scale, the number of assassinations concurrently multiplied. [ improper synthesis? ] In Russia alone, five emperors were assassinated within less than 200 years – Ivan VI, Peter III, Paul I, Alexander II and Nicholas II (along with his family: his wife, Alexandra daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and son Alexei). In the United Kingdom, only one Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has ever been assassinated—Spencer Perceval on May 11, 1812. [6]

The most notable assassination victim within early U.S. history was President Abraham Lincoln. Three other U.S. Presidents have been killed by assassination: James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. Presidents Andrew Jackson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan survived significant assassination attempts (FDR while President-elect, the others while in office). Former President Theodore Roosevelt was shot and wounded during the 1912 presidential campaign. During the Lincoln assassination, there were also attacks planned against current Vice-president Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward, but Johnson's did not go through, and Seward survived the attack. An assassination plot against Jefferson Davis, known as the Dahlgren Affair, may have been initiated during the American Civil War.

In Europe the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, one of several Serb nationalist insurgents, triggered World War I. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina, since it was newly annexed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had a route through the city streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia, but was redirected to a back alley. He changed his course and as he was led around the corner out of the back alley and back onto the main street, Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife (Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg). This assassination brought the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a state of outrage and therefore, World War I was triggered.

Post-World War I Edit

However, the 20th century probably marks the first time nation-states began training assassins to be specifically used against so-called enemies of the state. During World War II, for example, MI6 trained a group of Czechoslovakian operatives to kill the Nazi general Reinhard Heydrich (who did later perish by their efforts – see Operation Anthropoid), and repeated attempts were made by both the British MI6, the American Office of Strategic Services (later the Central Intelligence Agency) and the Soviet SMERSH to kill Adolf Hitler, who was in fact nearly killed in a bomb plot by a group of his own officers.

India's "Father of the Nation", Mohandas K. Gandhi, was shot and killed on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse, for what Godse perceived as his betrayal of the Hindu cause in attempting to seek peace between Hindus and Muslims. [7]

Cold War and beyond Edit

The Cold War saw a dramatic increase in the number of political assassinations, likely due to the ideological polarization of most of the First and Second worlds, whose adherents were more than willing to both justify and finance such killings. [ citation needed ] During the Kennedy era, Fidel Castro narrowly escaped death on several occasions at the hands of the CIA (a function of the agency's "executive action" program) and CIA-backed rebels (there are accounts that exploding shoes and poisoned clams were employed) some allege that Salvador Allende of Chile was another example, though specific proof is lacking. The assassination of the FBI agent Dan Mitrione, a well-known teacher of torture techniques, in the hands of the Uruguayan guerrilla movement Tupamaros is a perfect proof of United States intervention in Latin American governments during the Cold War. At the same time, the KGB made creative use of assassination to deal with high-profile defectors such as Georgi Markov, and Israel's Mossad made use of such tactics to eliminate Palestinian guerrillas, politicians and revolutionaries, though some Israelis argue that the targeted often crossed the line between one or another or were even all three.

Most major powers were not long in repudiating such tactics, for example during the presidency of Gerald Ford in the United States in 1976 (Executive Order 12333, which proscription was relaxed however by the George W. Bush administration). Many allege, however, that this is merely a smoke screen for political and moral benefit and that the covert and illegal training of assassins by major intelligence agencies continue, such as at the School of the Americas run by the United States. In fact, the debate over the use of such tactics is not closed by any means many accuse Russia of continuing to practice it in Chechnya and against Chechens abroad, as well as Israel in Palestine and against Palestinians abroad (as well as those Mossad deems a threat to Israeli national security, as in the aftermath of the Munich Massacre during "Operation Wrath of God"). Besides Palestine Liberation Organization members assassinated abroad, Tsahal has also often targeted Hamas in the Gaza strip.

Terrorist organizations will frequently target other combatants as well as non-combatants in their efforts, a prime example was the assassination of Irish solicitor Patrick Finucane who was murdered by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association in 1989 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

New technology has made targeted killing easier to accomplish remotely, including high precision cruise missiles and combat drones.

In the Israeli–Palestinian conflict Edit

In the course of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) employed what they call "focused foiling" (Hebrew: סיכול ממוקד ‎ sikul memukad), or targeted killing, against those suspected by Israel of intending to perform a specific act of violence in the very near future, or to be linked indirectly with several acts of violence (organizing, planning, researching means of destruction, etc.), thus raising the likelihood that his or her killing would foil similar activities in the future. Usually, such strikes have been carried out by Israeli Air Force attack helicopters that fire guided missiles at the target, after the Shin Bet supplies intelligence for the target.

Related controversies Edit

The exact nature of said proof in focused foiling is controversial and classified, as it involves clandestine military intelligence oriented means and operational decisions made by intelligence officers and commanders rather than being a part of a published justice system executed by lawyers and judges.

The IDF says that targeted killings are only pursued to prevent future terrorism acts, not as revenge for past activities. It also says that this practice is only used when there is absolutely no practical way of foiling the future acts by other means (e.g., arrest), with minimal risk to the soldiers or civilians. It also says that the practice is only used when there is a certainty in the identification of the target, in order to minimize harm to innocent bystanders. The IDF deliberations about the killings remain secret. Moreover, actual injury and death of innocent bystanders remains a claim by opponents of these targeted killings.

Defenders of this practice point out that it is in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention (Part 3, Article 1, Section 28), which reads: "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations," and so they argue that international law explicitly gives Israel the right to conduct military operations against military targets under these circumstances. [8] [9]

Israeli public support Edit

Targeted killings are largely supported by Israeli society to various extents, [10] [11] but there are exceptions: In 2003, 27 IAF Air Force pilots sent a letter of protest to Air Force commander Dan Halutz, refusing to attack targets within Palestinian population centers, and saying that the mistreatment of the Palestinians "morally corrupts the fabric of Israeli society". The letter, the first of its kind emanating from the Air Force, evoked a storm of political protest in Israel, with most circles condemning it as dereliction of duty. IDF ethics forbid soldiers from making public political affiliations, and subsequently the IDF chief of staff announced that all the signatories would be suspended from flight duty, after which some of the pilots recanted and removed their signature.

Well-known Israeli operations Edit

Some of the best-known targeted killings by Israeli military were Hamas leaders Salah Shahade (July 2002), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (March 2004), Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi (April 2004), and Adnan al-Ghoul (October 2004). While the term "targeted killing" is mostly used within the context of the Al-Aqsa Intifada by airborne attacks, Israeli security forces have reportedly killed top Palestinians in the past, although this was never confirmed officially.

Some of the best-known operations include:

    against Black September, perpetrators of the 1972 Munich massacre against top PLO leaders in Beirut, Lebanon, 1973 (Fatah) in Tunis, 1988 (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in Malta, 1995 (Hamas bombmaker, "the engineer") in Gaza, 1996 (Hamas, foiled) in Jordan, 1997

While most killings throughout the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were carried out by the IDF against Palestinian leaders of what Israel says are terror factions, Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a militant group listed as a terror organization by the U.S. and the EU.

Palestinian attacks and Israeli response Edit

Palestinian attacks against Israel have been costly for Israel. IDF reports show that from the start of the Second Intifada (in 2000) to 2005, Palestinians killed 1,074 Israelis and wounded 7,520. These are serious figures for such a small country, roughly equivalent to 50,000 dead and 300,000 wounded in the United States over five years. Such losses generated immense public pressure from the Israeli public for a forceful response, and ramped-up targeted killings were one such outcome. [12]

While Palestinian operations caused substantial damage, there is also evidence that the IDF reprisal targeted killing policy has been salutary in reducing the effectiveness of such attacks. As regarding Hamas, for example, although Hamas attacks increased between 2001 and 2005, Israeli deaths dropped as the people targeted for killing were killed, reduced from a high of 75 in 2001, to 21 in 2005. So even as the total number of Hamas operations climbed, deaths resulting from such attacks plunged, suggesting that the effectiveness of such attacks was being continually weakened. [12]

There are several practical reasons why calculated hits may weaken the effectiveness of terrorist activities. Targeted killings eliminate skilled terrorists, bomb makers, forgers, recruiters and other operatives who need time to develop expertise. The targeted killings also disrupt the opponent's infrastructure, organization, and morale, and cause immense stress on the targets, who must constantly move, switch locations, and hide. This reduces the flow of information in the terrorist organization and reduces its effectiveness. Targeted killings may also serve as a demoralizing agent. Targeted individuals cannot visit their wives, children, relatives, or families without severe risk, and may even avoid their names being made public for fear of being killed. Israeli killings of Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantisi for example, caused Hamas to not publicly identify their replacement, a step necessary to ensure his survival.

Continual diplomatic pressure against the Israeli policy, and the announcement of temporary cease-fires at various times by Hamas are seen by some as further proof of the policy's efficacy. Some observers, however, argue that other factors are at play, including improved intelligence-gathering leading to more arrests, and the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier which has made it more difficult for terrorists to infiltrate. [12]

United States Edit

In 1943, the United States military used knowledge from decoded transmissions to carry out a targeted killing of the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. [13]

During the Cold War, the U.S. attempted several times to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. [14]

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12333, which codified a policy first laid down in 1976 by the Ford administration. It stated, "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination." [15]

In 1986, the American air strikes against Libya included an attack on the barracks where Muammar al-Gaddafi was known to be sleeping. It was claimed that the attack resulted in the death of Gaddafi's infant daughter but reporter Barbara Slavin of USA Today who was in Libya at the time, set the record straight. "His adopted daughter was not killed," she said. "An infant girl was killed. I actually saw her body. She was adopted posthumously by Gadhafi. She was not related to Gadhafi." [16]

During the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. struck many of Iraq's most important command bunkers with bunker-busting bombs in hopes of killing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. [ citation needed ]

Since the rise of al-Qaeda, both the Clinton and Bush administrations have backed "targeted killings." In 1998, in retaliation for the al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa, the Clinton administration launched cruise missiles against a training camp in Afghanistan where bin Laden had been hours before. Reportedly, the U.S. nearly killed the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, with a Predator-launched Hellfire missile on the first night of Operation Enduring Freedom. In May 2002, the CIA launched a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone in an effort to kill the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. [ citation needed ]

On November 3, 2002, a US Central Intelligence Agency-operated MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fired a Hellfire missile that destroyed a car carrying six suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. The target of the attack was Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, the top al-Qaeda operative in Yemen. Among those killed in the attack was a US citizen, Yemeni-American Ahmed Hijazi. [17] [ citation needed ]

According to Bush administration, the killing of an American in this fashion was legal. "I can assure you that no constitutional questions are raised here. There are authorities that the president can give to officials. He's well within the balance of accepted practice and the letter of his constitutional authority," said Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser. [18] [19]

During the press-conference, the US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Washington's reasons for opposing the targeted killings of Palestinians might not apply in other circumstances and denied allegation that by staging the Yemen operation the US may be using double standards towards Israeli policy: "We all understand the situation with regard to Israeli–Palestinian issues and the prospects of peace and the prospects of negotiation . and of the need to create an atmosphere for progress. . A lot of different things come into play there. . Our policy on targeted killings in the Israeli-Palestinian context has not changed." [20]

On December 3, 2005, the US was blamed for another incident, in which alleged al-Qaeda #3 man (operations chief Abu Hamza Rabia) was reportedly killed in Pakistan by an airborne missile, together with four associates. However, Pakistani officials claim the group was killed while preparing explosives, not from any targeted military operation., [21] [22] The US has made no official comment about the incident.

On January 13, 2006 US CIA-operated unmanned Predator drones launched four Hellfire missiles into the Pakistani village of Damadola, about 7 km (4.3 mi) from the Afghan border, killing at least 18 people. The attack targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri who was thought to be in the village. Pakistani officials later said that al-Zawahiri was not there and that the U.S. had acted on faulty intelligence. [23]

On June 7, 2006, US Forces dropped one laser-guided bomb and one GPS-guided bomb on a safehouse north of Baqubah, Iraq, where Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was believed to be meeting with several aides. His death was confirmed the next day.

On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden, the founder of the militant Islamist organization al-Qaeda, was killed by gunshot wounds in a raid by United States special operations forces on his safe house in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Modern India Edit

India saw assassination – Mahatma Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by one Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s acceptance of India's partition into India and Pakistan and rejection of Hindu nationalism being the prime causes of Godse's action.

Lal Bahadur Shastri, India's second Prime Minister died in Tashkent, USSR. His cause of death remains a mystery but his body turned blue indicating poisoning. He had gone to Tashkent for a Multi-nation meet in general and to meet Pakistani premier in particular.

India's third Prime minister – Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by Sikh Extremists in retaliation at her decision to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Her son Rajiv Gandhi too met his end when he was assassinated by the LTTE in 1991.

Russia (post-communism) Edit

Russia employed a similar strategy in the course of its First and Second Chechen Wars, targeting the leaders of the Chechen separatist movement. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev was killed by an air strike of the Russian Air Force on April 21, 1996, and Aslan Maskhadov was killed on March 8, 2005. On July 10, 2006, Shamil Basayev, the Chechen rebel, was killed in an explosion, though it is unclear if this was an accident in the handling of explosives, or a targeted Russian attack.

In the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko of 2006, a former KGB officer was murdered in Great Britain by means of the radioactive element polonium-210. Litvinenko had obtained political asylum in Great Britain, and was an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and the Russian security services. It was reported that the source of the polonium had been traced to a Russian nuclear power plant, and Russia subsequently refused Britain's request to extradite ex-KGB bodyguard Andrey Lugovoy to face murder charges Lugovoy was later elected to the Russian State Duma.


34f. The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

On April 11, 1865, two days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln delivered a speech outlining his plans for peace and reconstruction. In the audience was John Wilkes Booth , a successful actor, born and raised in Maryland. Booth was a fervent believer in slavery and white supremacy. Upon hearing Lincoln's words, he said to a companion, "Now, by God, I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make."

After failing in two attempts earlier in the year to kidnap the President, Booth decided Lincoln must be killed. His conspiracy was grand in design. Booth and his collaborators decided to assassinate the President, Vice President Andrew Johnson , and Secretary of State William Seward all in the same evening. Lincoln decided to attend a British comedy, Our American Cousin , at Ford's Theater, starring the famous actress Laura Keene . Ulysses S. Grant had planned to accompany the President and his wife, but during the day he decided to see his son in New Jersey. Attending the play that night with the Lincolns were Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris , the daughter of a prominent Senator.

In the middle of the play that night, Booth slipped into the entryway to the President's box, holding a dagger in his left hand and a Derringer pistol in his right. He fired the pistol six inches from Lincoln and slashed Rathbone's arm with his knife. Booth then vaulted over the front of the President's box, caught his right leg in a flag and landed on the stage, breaking his leg. He waved his dagger and shouted what is reported to be Sic semper tyrannis &mdash Latin for "thus be it ever to tyrants." Some reported that he said, "The South is avenged." He then ran limpingly out of the theater, jumped on his horse, and rode off towards Virginia.

The bullet entered Lincoln's head just behind his left ear, tore through his brain and lodged just behind his right eye. The injury was mortal. Lincoln was brought to a nearby boarding house, where he died the next morning. The other targets escaped death. Lewis Powell, one of Booth's accomplices, went to Seward's house, stabbed and seriously wounded the Secretary of State, but Seward survived. Another accomplice, George Atzerodt , could not bring himself to attempt to assassinate Vice President Johnson.

Two weeks later, on April 26, Union cavalry trapped Booth in a Virginia tobacco barn. The soldiers had orders not to shoot and decided to burn him out of the barn. A fire was started. Before Booth could even react, Sergeant Boston Corbett took aim and fatally shot Booth. The dying assassin was dragged to a porch where his last words uttered were, "Useless . useless!"


The conspirators in the President's assassination were tried in front of a military tribunal known as the Hunter Commission.

Assassination

After Lincoln became president in 1861 threats against his life became common. The first attempt to murder him was during his voyage to the nation’s capital from his residence in Springfield, Illinois. The newly elected president had to take a secret night trip through Baltimore to keep him safe from a conspiracy to assassinate him. However, during his entire presidency Abraham Lincoln never took seriously any threats against his life.

After his reelection in 1864 threats considerably increased as Confederacy sympathizers realized that he would be in the White House for another 4 years. There were rumors that Confederates wanted to kidnap the President as a hostage for peace negotiations or to use him to release the 20,000 captured Confederate soldiers.

In September 1864 Thomas Nelson Conrad, a Confederate preacher and spy, had planned to kidnap the president. Acknowledging threats the War Department increased his security.

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth was an actor and a confederate sympathizer.

Booth was an actor whose career was declining. He was a Confederate sympathizer and had contacts with the Confederate secret service. Booth and six of his associates had planned to kidnap the president on March 17 while attending the play Still Waters Run Deep at the Campbell Hospital. They planned to hold him hostage in exchange of the thousands of imprisoned confederate soldiers. The plan failed when Lincoln did not show up in the location where the kidnapping was to take place.

On April 9 Lee’s Army surrendered in Appomattox. Two days later, on April 11, President Lincoln would give his last public address. He addressed a crowd near the White House where he recommended speedy restoration of the Union, the reconstruction of the South and suffrage for African Americans who had served in the Civil War and who were educated. Giving the same rights to African Americans was the last straw for Booth who was in the crowd and decided it was time to act.

Booth acted on his own with no instructions from the Confederate secret service. He had three associates: Atzerodt, Herold and Paine (or Powell). Atzerodt was to murder Vice-President Andrew Johnson Paine, Secretary of State William Seward and Booth would murder President Lincoln. Booth who was the ring leader was hoping to sever continuity in the chain of command by eliminating the top three people in the administration and create chaos in the government.

The assaults were planned to occur simultaneously at 10:15 pm. Atzerodt changed his mind at the last minute and fled. Paine managed to wound Secretary of State William Seward.

The Assassination

President Lincoln received a lethal shot in the back of the head when attending a play at the Ford’s Theater.

On Friday, April 14, 1865 President Lincoln, his wife, a young army officer named Henry Rathbone and his fiancé, Clara Harris, were attending the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater when the President was shot to death by John Wilkes Booth. Five days earlier the Union Army under General Ulysses Grant had defeated General Robert Lee who surrendered bringing an end to the Civil War.

Booth was a very well known actor in the nation’s capital theater world and had no trouble finding and accessing the president’s private box at the Ford’s Theater. At 10:13 pm from about 2 feet Booth shot President Lincoln with a .44 caliber single shot-derringer. Booth dropped the pistol while Rathborne rushed at him managing to force him against the rail, Booth attempting to defend himself stabbed Rathborne in the arm with a dagger. Booth was able to jump from the balcony but his left boot got caught in a flag draped over the rail and broke a bone on his leg. However the actor managed to escape through the back door.

Lincoln was taken to William Petersen Boarding house located at 516 10th Street NW in Washington, D.C, across the street from the Ford’s Theater.

The bullet struck Lincoln in the back of his head behind his left ear. A young Army surgeon, Charles Leale, who was attending the play quickly approached Lincoln’s box. Leale cleaned the wound and prevented further bleeding. The president was moved to a house across the street at William Petersen boarding house. The White House was too far and the road too bumpy to transfer the president.

Joseph K. Burnes, the US Army Surgeon General and three other doctors declared that the wound was mortal and the bullet was too deep in his skull that it was almost impossible to be removed without causing immediate death. The first lady was in shock and had a nervous breakdown.

Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 am on April 15, 1865. He was 56 years old.

The hunt for John Wilkes Booth was one of the largest manhunt in American history with 10,000 police, federal troops and detectives trying to track him down.

For more information on the Petersen House visit Ford’s Theater National Historic Site.


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Every April 14, on the hour of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the place where it happened is one of the loneliest historical sites in America.

I should know. I’ve been making disappointing anniversary pilgrimages to the scene for more than a quarter of a century. My first was in 1987, during my first spring in Washington, D.C., when my future wife and I were serving in the Reagan administration. After work, we walked to the then-seedy neighborhood surrounding Ford’s Theatre and discovered Geraldine’s House of Beef, a restaurant whose only attraction was a table near the front window that offered a clear view of Ford’s facade on Tenth Street NW. We decided to have dinner while we waited to see what would happen. Of course, we thought, a crowd would arrive soon to honor the most beloved president in American history. No doubt the National Park Service, which has administered Ford’s since 1933, would hold a solemn ceremony.

Nine p.m., nothing. Ten p.m.—about 20 minutes before the moment John Wilkes Booth fired his single-shot Deringer pistol at the back of the president’s head and changed the nation’s destiny—nothing. Then we saw movement. A station wagon turned onto Tenth Street. In it was a picture-postcard American family—two parents and two young children, a boy and a girl. As the car slowed and coasted past, the driver pointed out the window to the theater. The kids’ heads swiveled to their left and nodded up and down. The car drove on.

That was it. That was how the American people honored Abraham Lincoln on the night and at the place of his assassination. I did not realize it then, but that was the moment that would lead me to write my book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.

On all the April 14ths that followed, nothing changed at Ford’s. Far from inviting people to sit vigil, the National Park Service’s security guards and police discouraged nighttime anniversary visitors. In 2013, I almost got arrested trying to honor Lincoln.

Around 9 p.m. I sat, as had become my habit, on the front steps of the Petersen House, the boardinghouse where Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865. It, too, is administered by the National Park Service as part of the assassination historical site. I imagined the theater doors across the way bursting open and the shouting, frenzied audience of 1,500 flooding Tenth Street. I could see in my mind’s eye the unconscious president as he was carried into the street. I pictured how a Petersen House resident opened the door at the top of the staircase and shouted, “Bring him in here!” and how the soldiers carried him past the very spot where I sat.

Across the street, a guard inside Ford’s Theatre pushed open a plexiglass door next to her security desk and bellowed: “Get off those steps! You can’t sit there. That’s private property. I’ll call the police.” I got up and crossed the street. I explained to her that tonight was the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. That I served on the advisory council of the Ford’s Theatre Society. That I had written a book about what had happened. And those steps, I couldn’t resist reminding her, belonged to the American people.

She gaped at me, uncomprehending. I returned to the Petersen House and sat down. Ten minutes later, two park service police cars pulled up. The three cops said that Officer Johnson had reported a hostile homeless man lurking about. “Lots of men sit on these steps and urinate on the house,” said one of the officers. “How do we know you’re not going to do that? You’ve got no right to sit here.” After much tense discussion, another officer rolled his eyes and advised me to enjoy the evening.

Last year, I brought two friends along as reinforcements. The country was in the middle of celebrating the 2011-15 Civil War sesquicentennial. Surely that would bring people out. But no. Fewer than ten people showed up. I posted a disappointed report on Twitter. And received no comments.

Things promise to be different this April 14, the 150th anniversary of the assassination. The Ford’s Theatre Society and the park service will transform Tenth Street into a time tunnel that will transport visitors back to the sights and sounds of 1865. Starting the morning of April 14, the street will be closed to traffic. Ford’s will stay open for 36 hours straight to accommodate a schedule of short history plays, readings, musical performances and moments of silence. Street vendors will hawk small paper flags celebrating the fall of Richmond and the effective end of the Civil War, just as they did in 1865, right up to the moment of the assassination.

And at 10:20 p.m., all will go silent, until a bugler playing taps breaks the spell. Then, for the first time in 150 years, mourners will hold a torchlight vigil in front of the Petersen House. I will be there too, marking the climax of a lifelong fascination with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

I was born on February 12, Lincoln’s birthday. From childhood, I received books and souvenirs about him as gifts. When I was 10, my grandmother presented me with an engraving of Booth’s Deringer. Framed with it was a clipping cut from the Chicago Tribune the day Lincoln died. But the story was incomplete, ending in mid-sentence. I hung it on my bedroom wall and reread it hundreds of times during my childhood, often thinking, “I want to know the rest of the story.” I still have it today.

On weekends I begged my parents to take me to the old Chicago Historical Society so I could visit its most prized relic, Lincoln’s deathbed. I longed to go to Washington to visit Ford’s Theatre, and my father took me with him on a business trip there. That boyhood curiosity turned me into an obsessive lifelong collector of original Lincoln assassination documents, photographs and artifacts.

And years later, it led to the books: Manhunt its sequel, Bloody Crimes and even a book for young adults, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. I could not have written them without my personal archive. In fact, I think of myself as a crazed collector who happens to write books. My collection contains magical objects that resonate with meaning. They don’t just reflect history they are history. For the 150th anniversary, I’ve picked out my favorite Lincoln assassination relics—from my collection and others—that best bring alive what Walt Whitman called that “moody, tearful night.”

Ford's Theatre playbill (Cade Martin)

Ford’s Theatre Playbill

On the morning of Friday, April 14, 1865, Mary Lincoln notified Ford’s Theatre that she and the president would attend that night’s performance of Our American Cousin. That pleased Laura Keene. The show was a “benefit” for the star actress she would share in the profits, which would presumably grow as word of the first couple’s plans spread. A few blocks away, on D Street near Seventh, H. Polkinhorn & Son printed a playbill—something to hand out on the street that day to drum up ticket sales. But that night’s events invested this common-place piece of theatrical ephemera with unparalleled significance: It freezes a snapshot of the “before.”

For me, the playbill conjures the opening scenes from one of Lincoln’s happiest nights: the presidential carriage arriving on Tenth Street, and inside the theater the sound of cheers, “Hail to the Chief,” laughter and hissing gaslights. It also resonates with eerie foreboding, symbolizing not only Lincoln’s death, but also the end of Ford’s Theatre, which would go dark for more than a century. Lincoln loved theater, and coming to Ford’s. Whenever I leave my house to go there, where I often attend performances and other events, I always glance at the playbill hanging in my hallway. It reminds me that Ford’s is not just a place of death. Lincoln laughed there, too.

His hat bore a mourning band for his son Willie, who had died in 1862. (Cade Martin) The coat Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre was made for his second inauguration. (Cade Martin)

Lincoln’s Top Hat and Overcoat

Nothing from the president’s wardrobe more potently symbolizes his identity than his top hat. Lincoln adopted one as his trademark back in Illinois, when he was a lawyer, long before he came to Washington. He chose unusually tall hats to attract attention and accentuate his height. At 6-foot-4, Lincoln already towered over most of his contemporaries his hat made him look like a seven-foot giant. This is the hat that he wore on April 14, and that he doffed when he stood in the President’s Box at Ford’s and bowed to acknowledge the jubilant audience of his fellow citizens.

Lincoln’s signature color was black, and throughout his presidency he wore a white shirt, black pants and a thigh-length frock coat. And the night he went to Ford’s Theatre, he wore a custom-made black wool Brooks Brothers overcoat trimmed at the collar, lapels and cuffs with grosgrain piping. The black silk quilted lining was stitched with the outline of a large American eagle, a shield of stars and stripes and the motto “One Country, One Destiny.” How eerily appropriate that when Lincoln was murdered, his body was draped in a garment writ large with the words for which he gave his life.

After Booth’s shot stopped the play in the third act, Laura Keene made her way to Lincoln’s side (her blood-stained costume). (Cade Martin)

Swatch of Laura Keene’s Costume

After Booth fled Ford’s, Laura Keene raced from the stage to the President’s Box, where she discovered that Dr. Charles Leale had laid Lincoln on the floor. She knelt beside the unconscious, dying president and cradled his head in her lap. Blood and brain matter oozed from the bullet wound onto her silken costume, staining its festive red, yellow, green and blue floral pattern. Like a Victorian bride who lovingly preserved her wedding dress, Keene cherished her frock from this terrible night. But it soon became an object of morbid curiosity—strangers tried to cut swatches as gruesome keepsakes—and she eventually exiled the haunted relic into her family’s care. The dress vanished long ago, but miraculously five swatches survived. For more than a century, they have been legendary among collectors. The whereabouts of this example had been unknown until it surfaced in the late 1990s, and I acquired it. This one, according to an accompanying letter of provenance from Keene’s grandson, was presented to a longtime family friend. The gay floral pattern remains almost as bright as the day the dress was made more than 150 years ago in Chicago by dressmaker Jamie Bullock. But the red bloodstains faded long ago to a pale rust-brown.

When I was working on Manhunt, I never let this swatch out of my sight while I wrote the scene describing what happened in the President’s Box after the shooting. As I stared at this blood relic, I saw it all, and the paragraphs wrote themselves.

This vintage print shows the bed and linens in the Petersen House bedroom where Lincoln died. The photo was taken the day after the assassination by two Petersen House boarders, brothers Henry and Julius Ulke. (Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation)

Lincoln’s Deathbed

At 7:22 and 10 seconds a.m. on April 15, after an all-night vigil, Abraham Lincoln died in a back room at the Petersen House on a bed that was too small for his frame. The doctors had had to lay him diagonally atop the mattress. Soldiers wrapped his naked body in an American flag and put him into a plain pine box—a rectangular military crate. Lincoln, the former rail-splitter, would not have minded so simple a coffin. After they took him home to the White House, sheets, pillows, towels and a coverlet lay on the boardinghouse bed, still wet with the president’s blood. Two Petersen House boarders, brothers Henry and Julius Ulke, one a photographer and the other an artist, set up a tripod camera and, with the morning sun flooding the hallway from the front door all the way back to the little rear room, photographed the scene.

“A hippodrome of sorrow,” one writer called Lincoln’s final journey. A lock of hair clipped by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton at the president’s deathbed. (Cade Martin)

Lock of Lincoln’s Hair

Within an hour after the assassination, Mary Lincoln summoned Mary Jane Welles to the Petersen House. Mary Jane, the wife of Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, was one of Mary’s few friends in Washington. They had bonded over shared sadness: In 1862, Mary Jane had helped nurse 11-year-old Willie Lincoln until he died of typhoid fever the next year, the Welleses lost their 3-year-old son to diphtheria. On the morning of April 15, Lincoln’s death room emptied of mourners (including Gideon Welles) save one: War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton, whom Lincoln called his “Mars, God of War.” Stanton was an imperious and widely feared cabinet secretary, but he had loved the president, and the assassination was for him a profound personal tragedy. Alone with his fallen chief, Stanton cut a generous lock of the president’s hair and sealed it in a plain white envelope. He knew who deserved the memento. After signing his name on the envelope, he addressed it “For Mrs. Welles.” When she received it later that day, she inscribed the envelope in pencil in her own small, neat hand: “Lock of Mr. Lincoln’s hair April 15, 1865, M.J.W.”

She mounted the lock in an oval gold frame, along with dried flowers she collected from Lincoln’s coffin at the April 19 White House funeral. The card securing the relics in place behind their glass cover was calligraphed to testify that they were “Sacred to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States.” This isn’t the only surviving lock of Lincoln’s hair. Mary Lincoln claimed one, as did several of the doctors present at the Petersen House or his autopsy. Others were purloined from Lincoln’s head, and one wonders how he made it to the grave with any hair at all. But the Stanton/Welles lock, with its unparalleled provenance and interwoven tales of love and loss, is perhaps the most evocative one of all.

War Secretary Stanton proclaimed a $100,000 reward for the capture of Booth. (Cade Martin)

$100,000 Reward Poster

Today, it is the most famous reward poster in American history. In 1865, it was the symbol of a failing, increasingly desperate manhunt. And when I was 19 years old, it was my first important acquisition. I had coveted one of these posters since I was 10, and when I was a sophomore at the University of Chicago I spotted one in a book dealer’s catalog and ordered it at once. I bought the poster instead of a used car.

Booth shot Lincoln in front of 1,500 witnesses, escaped from Ford’s Theatre, galloped away on a horse and vanished to parts unknown. The failure of several thousand pursuers to hunt down Lincoln’s assassin had become an embarrassment to the government. On April 20, six days after the assassination, War Secretary Stanton proclaimed a $100,000 reward for the capture of Booth and two of his alleged accomplices. It was a staggering sum—the average worker was earning about $1 a day—and the War Department printed broadsides to publicize it. Every penny of the blood money was paid, divided among a few dozen of the pursuers most credited for the capture or death of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices.

The 12-day manhunt for Booth unleashed a torrent of anger (a defaced portrait) and ended in reprisal. (Cade Martin)

Defaced Photograph

The day after the assassination, technicians at the Surgeon General’s photo laboratory copied a popular carte-de-visite photo of Booth and printed multiple examples for distribution to the assassin’s pursuers. This copy was issued to William Bender Wilson, a telegraph operator at the War Department who was in the field during the manhunt. Wilson inscribed its provenance on the back of the card: “This picture of J. Wilkes Booth was given to me from the War Department at Washington, D.C. whilst Booth was still a fugitive. Wm. B. Wilson.” Upon learning of Booth’s death, Wilson expressed his contempt for the murderer by defacing his image with a handwritten message: “. for the cause he said was a righteous one. No! Cowardly murder suited him better. And this is Chivalry is it? Like a viper he lived—like a dog died, and like a dog buried. ‘Assassin.’ ‘Booth the accursed.’” Few other relics preserve so well the passions unleashed in April 1865.

The bullet that killed Lincoln. (Cade Martin)

The Bullet That Killed Lincoln

Booth fired a lead ball at Lincoln’s head. The bullet entered below the president’s left ear, bored diagonally through his brain and stopped behind his right eye. Lincoln never regained consciousness. No autopsy was necessary to determine the cause of death, but it would have been obscene to bury the president of the United States with a bullet in his brain. It had to be dug out. Edward Curtis, an assistant surgeon at the autopsy, described the hideous work: “I proceeded to open the head and remove the brain down to the track of the ball. Not finding it readily, we proceeded to remove the entire brain, when, as I was lifting the latter from the cavity of the skull, suddenly the bullet dropped out through my fingers and fell, breaking the solemn silence of the room with its clatter, into an empty basin that was standing beneath. There it lay upon the white china, a little black mass no bigger than the end of my finger—dull, motionless and harmless, yet the cause of such mighty changes in the world’s history as we may perhaps never realize.” Whenever I visit this bullet at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, I hear its echo in the basin.

Booth had two Colt pistols (including this one) and a Spencer repeating carbine with him when he confronted the Union party that pursued him to the Garrett farm in Virginia. (Cade Martin)

Booth’s Arsenal

Booth’s Deringer is just one of several arms he purchased for his March 1865 plot to kidnap the president and soon deployed in his plot to kill Lincoln. Booth had two Colt revolvers and a Spencer repeating carbine with him when he was killed. He had issued a revolver and knife to George Atzerodt, who was supposed to murder Vice President Andrew Johnson. (Atzerodt got drunk and ran away, throwing the blade into the street and selling the pistol at a Georgetown shop.) Booth lent a knife and Whitney revolver to Lewis Powell, who made a bloody but failed attempt to kill Secretary of State William Seward. (Powell broke the pistol on the skull of one of Seward’s sons and used the knife to stab Seward nearly to death, along with several other members of his household.) Along with his Deringer, Booth carried into Ford’s Theatre a Rio Grande camp knife, which he used to stab Lincoln’s guest Maj. Henry Rathbone in the theater box, and which, after he leapt to the stage, he thrust above his head for all the audience to see as he shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”). The audience was too far away to read the mottoes acid-etched onto the blood-smeared blade: “Land of the Free/Home of the Brave” “Liberty/Independence.” How strange that the president and his assassin both embraced those sentiments.

“Our country owed all our troubles to [Lincoln], and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment,” Booth wrote in the pocket calendar he carried during the 12 days he was a fugitive. (Cade Martin)

Contrary to popular belief, Booth never kept a “diary” of the Lincoln assassination. During the manhunt he carried a small bound pocket calendar for the year 1864, which contained several blank pages, and on those sheets he wrote several notorious entries. To read them today is to encounter the mind of the assassin in all its passion, vanity and delusion: “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment” “After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods and last night being chased by gun boats till I was forced to return wet cold and starving, with every mans hand against me, I am here in despair” “I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me” “I bless the entire world. Have never hated or wronged anyone. This last was not a wrong, unless God deems it so.” The notebook takes readers back to Booth’s hiding places. It is easy to hear his pencil scratching against paper as he scribbles his final thoughts. One can imagine the soldiers plundering it from his body and rifling through its pages in the firelight of the blazing tobacco barn, or War Secretary Stanton scrutinizing it for clues about the assassination after it was brought back to Washington.

The announcement of Booth's fate. (Cade Martin)

Broadside Announcing Booth’s Death

After Booth died, at sunrise on April 26, Col. Everton Conger, one of the leaders of the patrol that had tracked him down, rushed back to Washington to report to his superior, detective Lafayette Baker. Together, at about 5:30 p.m., they went to Edwin Stanton’s home to give him the news. “We have got Booth,” Baker told him. The exhausted war secretary had no energy for grand language or historical pronouncements. The statement he drafted, and which a War Department telegrapher transmitted across the nation, contained just the news that America had been waiting 12 days to hear. A broadside repeated the report:

BOOTH, THE ASSASSIN, SHOT

War Department, Washington. April 27, 9:20 A.M.

Booth was chased out of a swamp in St. Mary’s county, Maryland,

by Col. Barker’s [i.e., Baker] force, and took refuge in a barn on Garrett’s farm, near Port Royal. The barn was fired and Booth shot and killed. His companion, Harrold [David Herold], was captured. Harrold and Booth’s body are now here.

E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

When a unique example of this broadside, hitherto unknown, surfaced unheralded a decade ago at a small regional auction, I added it to my archives. It is published here for the first time.

This military drum is no different from thousands manufactured during the Civil War—except for the history written onto the drum head. A remnant of black mourning ribbon still hangs from the bottom rim. (Cade Martin)

Mourning Drum

Abraham Lincoln’s final journey began when soldiers placed his corpse aboard a special train that traveled the 1,600 miles from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, over 13 days. One million Americans viewed his corpse in the great cities of the North, and seven million people watched his funeral train pass by. Whenever Lincoln’s body was removed from the train for a public viewing, military units joined the procession, and the troops marched to the sound of massed drums. In Springfield, the corpse was displayed for 24 hours in an open casket at the State House, where Lincoln had served as a legislator and given his famous 1858 “House Divided” speech. And at 11:30 a.m. on May 4, 1865, the drums beat one last time for Father Abraham as the funeral procession exited the State House and passed Lincoln’s old home at Eighth and Jackson streets en route to Oak Ridge Cemetery.

One of those drums—a long-lost relic bearing a patina of dust and neglect—was recently discovered in Illinois. It is no different from thousands of military company drums manufactured during the Civil War for use by teenage drummer boys in an infantry company of one hundred men. It has a body of unpainted tulipwood or ash, calfskin heads, painted oak rims, hemp cords and leather pulls to adjust the tautness of the heads and the brightness of the sound. This one was made in Granville, Massachusetts, by Noble & Cooley, a firm founded in 1854 and still in business today. Its oak rims have been beaten down from countless drumstick strikes—more than on any other Civil War drum I’ve ever seen—and no marks indicate which regiment or company the drummer played for. But a remnant of black mourning ribbon—a few inches from a coil that must have once laced the drum—still hangs from the bottom rim. And on the top head, written in ink, is a remarkable history: “This Drum was Played at Pres Lincoln’s Funeral in Springfield Ill.” On the day I acquired it, I held a pair of Civil War-era drumsticks in my hands and—careful not to damage the fragile calfskin head—tapped out faintly the muffled sound of the funeral march.

Editor's note:  This story initially said that Booth fired a one-ounce lead ball at Lincoln's head. While t he plaque beneath Booth’s Deringer at the Ford’s Theatre Museum lists the weight of the bullet as “nearly an ounce,” the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where the bullet is displayed today, says it has no record of its weight and it cannot be weighed now because it has been permanently mounted. Bullets in the 1860s were not uniform. A f irearms expert at the National Museum of American History says 0.32 ounces is well within the realm of reason. 


The Lincoln Assassination Plot–An Alternate History

In a world full of ever arising new conspiracy theories, one over 150 years old still intrigues us. Did the South conspire to kill Lincoln? Noted scholar and historian, Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr’s, novel The Retribution Conspiracy adds his historical research and skill as a novelist to the question and answers with a resounding, “Yes!”

The Retribution Conspiracy follows the life of the protagonist, Rance Liebert, as a young man growing-up in a South that was at that time a frontier culture. It was a time when Southern gentlemen lived by the code duello, although sometimes—if the enemy needed killing—even murder was socially acceptable. The author provides his reader with a wealth of knowledge about the early South—something only a true historian/novelist could do. In so doing he sets the stage for the South’s historic struggle during the War for Southern Independence.

Rance’s military experience began as Second Lieutenant of Volunteers during the Mexican-American War. During this war Rance observed the value of the “Jeff Davis” rifles at the Battle of Buena Vista. He learned that disease killed “seven men for every one killed” by Mexicans. He witnessed the effectiveness of “flying artillery” under the command of Captain Braxton Bragg. Bragg’s decisive efforts was largely responsible for Jefferson Davis’ victory at Buena Vista and resulted in a life-long friendship between Davis and Bragg. A point that would result in disaster for the South during the War for Southern Independence—something historian Mitcham pointed out in his previous book about General Nathan Bedford Forrest—Bust Hell Wide Open.

The author justifies the South’s retribution against Lincoln early in the novel. He uses the rape of a young girl (Sally) by a local “white trash” to demonstrate the Celtic principle of revenge against one who is responsible for an immoral and heinous crime against an innocent member of society. Grady McWhiney in Attack and Die quotes a Texas Confederate soldier who declared, “…if we cannot force the invading robber from our soil, we can all die in the effort.” In a similar vein in the movie Outlaw Josey Wales, Wales is described as a Southerner who “lives by the feud.” It is a simple principle that Rance enforces against the white trash rapist and later against Lincoln—“If you harm one of my kith or kin, I am honor bound to hunt you down and harm you.” The author describes Rance’s retribution against the rapist, “If he was too late to protect (Sally)…it was never too late to avenge.” The code of honor demands it.

The innocent victim of rape, Sally, was by 19 th century social standards, a “ruined woman” who would never be able to marry into polite society. She left home and began a new life as an actress in New York where she met some prominent actors. Sally, and her various contacts, would play an important role in Rance’s work with the Confederate Secret Service.

The Retribution Conspiracy presents a convincing assertion that for his crimes against innocent Southern civilians, Lincoln needed killing and according to Mitcham, the Confederate Secret Service not only took revenge but they got away with it.


Articles Featuring Abraham Lincoln Assassination From History Net Magazines

During his initial interview with investigating detectives on April 18, 1865, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd claimed, ‘I never saw either of the parties before, nor can I conceive who sent them to my house. 1 With these words Dr. Mudd told the first in a series of lies about his involvement with John Wilkes Booth and Booth’s conspiracy to capture President Abraham Lincoln, a conspiracy that would ultimately lead to Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre.

Mudd would change his statement one day later while en route to Bryantown, in Charles County, Maryland, under a military escort for further questioning. Apparently having had second thoughts about his first statement, in which he denied ever seeing Booth, Mudd now admitted, I have seen J. Wilkes Booth. I was introduced to him by Mr. J.C. Thompson, a son-in-law of Dr. William Queen, in November or December last. 2

Mudd went on to more fully describe that meeting, telling of Booth’s alleged interest in acquiring land in Charles County and his desire to purchase a horse. In a handwritten statement, Mudd wrote, The next evening he [Booth] rode to my house and staid [sic] with me that night, and the next morning he purchased a rather old horse. He continued, I have never seen Booth since that time to my knowledge until last Saturday night. 3 In those two statements, Mudd continued his pattern of lying. He knew the statements were false and was attempting to conceal other information that would prove even more incriminating. Mudd had not only seen Booth before, but he had met with Booth on at least three occasions prior to the assassin’s appearance on his doorstep. As to who was responsible for Booth and David Herold’s visit to Mudd’s house in the early morning hours of April 15, it was Mudd himself.

History has been much kinder to Mudd than the events in the assassination should warrant. The facts that have emerged about his involvement with Booth belie the popular image of Mudd as a gentle country doctor who unexpectedly became entangled in a tragic murder through no fault of his own. The current perception of an innocent Dr. Mudd is largely due to the tireless efforts of Dr. Richard Dyer Mudd, who has struggled for seventy years to clear his grandfather’s name and officially expunge the findings of the military tribunal that convicted him. His efforts have come close to fruition in the past decade.

In 1991 the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records (ABCMR), a civilian review board, agreed to permit a hearing on Mudd’s conviction. The procedure limited the testimony to only those witnesses favorable to Mudd’s case. The board did not consider innocence or guilt but only whether the military commission that tried Mudd had legal jurisdiction to do so. In deciding against the military commission 126 years after it ruled, the ABCMR recommended that the secretary of the Army set aside the guilty verdict and expunge the record in Dr. Mudd’s case. The assistant secretary of the Army, acting for the secretary, twice refused the recommendation of the board, stating in part, It is not the role of the ABCMR to attempt to settle historical disputes. 4

That ruling resulted in Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer’s introducing a bill into the U.S. Congress directing the secretary of the Army to set aside the conviction of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd…for aiding, abetting, and assisting the conspirators who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. 5 One of the cosponsors of the bill was Representative Thomas Ewing of Illinois, who represents part of Lincoln’s original congressional district. 6 As an added measure, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Richard D. Mudd in December 1997 in the Federal Court for the District of Columbia seeking to force the secretary of the Army to accept the recommendation of the ABCMR. 7 Persistent efforts to rewrite history, however, have obscured certain facts supporting the conclusions of the military commission that first found Dr. Mudd guilty.

When Booth came to Mudd’s house in the early morning of April 15, 1865, seeking medical aid, it was the fourth time that the two men had met, and none of the four meetings had been accidental. In his three previous meetings with Booth, Mudd had played a pivotal role in Booth’s scheme to assemble an action team 8 to capture President Lincoln and carry him to Richmond as a prisoner of the Confederacy. Booth not only was an overnight guest at Mudd’s house during one of the three meetings but also had sent provisions to Mudd’s house for use during the planned kidnapping of the president. 9

Mudd’s statement that Booth spent the night at his house after their introduction in November 1864 and that he purchased a horse the next morning is not true. Those events did not occur in November as Mudd claimed, but in December. The reason Mudd would lie about such occurrences was self-preservation. He hoped to keep secret the number of times he had associated with Booth.

During Mudd’s trial, evidence was introduced by the prosecution showing that Mudd and Booth had indeed met prior to April 15, 1865. Louis Weichmann, the government’s key witness, told of an earlier meeting involving Mudd and Booth in Washington, D.C., at which Weichmann was present. Weichmann testified that while he and John Surratt, Jr., were walking along Seventh Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue, they met Booth and Mudd coming from the opposite direction. 10 After introductions, the four men retired to Booth’s room at the National Hotel, a short distance away. Weichmann testified that during the meeting Mudd and Booth stepped into the hall and engaged in a subdued conversation that Weichmann could hear but could not discern the actual words. The two men were subsequently joined by Surratt before all three men returned to the room where Weichmann was sitting. Booth, Surratt, and Mudd sat around a table in the center of the room while Booth drew something on the back of an envelope–Weichmann said he thought it resembled a map. Whatever was discussed among the three men, one thing is certain: As a result of Mudd’s introduction of Surratt to Booth, Surratt agreed to join Booth in his plot to capture Lincoln.

Although Mudd’s defense attorney, Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing, denied that the meeting had taken place, Mudd himself acknowledged that the meeting had taken place in an affidavit he prepared in August 1865 while in prison at Fort Jefferson, in the Florida Keys. It was in his affidavit that Mudd inadvertently let slip that yet another meeting involving Booth and himself had occurred in mid-December, immediately before the meeting in Washington.

After his conviction Mudd and co-conspirators Michael O’Laughlen, Samuel Arnold, and Edman Spangler were transported to Fort Jefferson, where the men were scheduled to serve out their prison sentences. During the trip they were placed under a military guard commanded by Captain George W. Dutton. Captain Dutton later claimed that during the journey Mudd had confessed that he knew Booth when he came to his house with Herold on the morning after the assassination of the President. The captain said that Mudd also confessed that he was with Booth at the National Hotel on the day referred to by Weichmann in his testimony and that he came to Washington on that occasion to meet Booth by appointment who wished to be introduced to John Surratt. 11

Neither of those admissions were revelations to the government, which suspected the first and had proved the second. The trial was over. Mudd had been convicted and was now serving a life sentence in the isolation of Fort Jefferson. The government had lost interest in Mudd, but Mudd had not lost interest in trying to gain his release through the federal judicial system.

Word of Dutton’s statement reached Mudd in prison, and Mudd knew that he had to respond to Dutton’s charges if he was ever to regain his freedom. On August 28, 1865, Mudd prepared an affidavit in which he denied telling Dutton that he knew it was Booth who arrived at his house on April 15, only hours after Lincoln was shot. His denial was important for if Mudd had allowed Dutton’s accusation to stand it would have meant that the doctor had indeed knowingly aided and abetted the murderer of President Lincoln. But while denying any knowledge of Booth, Mudd inadvertently admitted for the first time to the meeting at the National Hotel with Booth, Surratt, and Weichmann on December 23, 1864, thus confirming the government’s charge made during the trial.

In his affidavit protesting Dutton’s first allegation–about knowing Booth before the assassination–Mudd unwittingly let slip another damaging piece of information. In describing the Washington meeting referred to by Dutton, Mudd wrote:

We [Mudd and Booth] started down one street, and then up another, and had not gone far when we met Surratt and Wiechmann. Introductions took place and we turned back in the direction of the hotel….After arriving in the room, I took the first opportunity presented to apologize to Surratt for having introduced him to Booth–a man I knew so little concerning. This conversation took place in the passage in front of the room [hallway] and was not over three minutes in duration….Surratt and myself returned and resumed our former seats (after taking drinks ordered) around a center table, which stood midway the room and distant seven or eight feet from Booth and Wiechmann Booth remarked that he had been down to the country a few days before, and said that he had not yet recovered from the fatigue. Afterward he said he had been down in Charles County, and had made me an offer to purchase of my land, which I confirmed by an affirmative answer and he further remarked that on his way up [to Washington] he lost his way and rode several miles off the track. 12

In his revealing statement, Mudd confirmed a second visit to Charles County by Booth just prior to the December 23 meeting at the National Hotel–a trip that, by Mudd’s own admission, included a visit to his property. This was the important other meeting.

Independent evidence that Booth visited Charles County in December can be found in the trial testimony of John C. Thompson. Thompson was the man who had originally introduced Booth to Mudd in November 1864 at St. Mary’s Church, as Mudd had already acknowledged in his statement given prior to his arrest. Thompson was the son-in-law of Dr. William Queen, a prominent Confederate operative who Booth also visited during his November trip to Charles County. During questioning by one of Mudd’s attorneys, Thompson was asked if he had seen Booth again after the meeting where he had introduced Booth to Mudd in November. Thompson answered: I think some time, if my memory serves me, in December, he came down a second time to Dr. Queen’s house….I think it was about the middle of December following after his first visit there. 13

It is clear from both Mudd’s own statement in his affidavit of August 28, 1865, and Thompson’s testimony during the trial that Booth visited the Bryantown area in Charles County a second time, in mid-December 1864. And it is in his own affidavit that Mudd admits to meeting with Booth during this second visit.

While Mudd claimed that Booth stayed overnight at his house and purchased a horse from his neighbor, George Gardiner, during the November meeting, several pieces of evidence show that those incidents occurred during Booth’s December visit, not in November. The first piece of evidence is found in a letter Booth wrote to J. Dominick Burch, who lived in Bryantown and worked at the Bryantown Tavern. Written from Washington, D.C., the letter is dated Monday, November 14, 1864, the day Mudd claims he accompanied Booth to Gardiner’s farm, where Booth supposedly purchased a one-eyed horse. 14 The letter clearly places Booth in Washington on November 14, and makes it clear that Booth traveled by stagecoach and not by horse.

In his letter, Booth refers to an object he left on the stage last Friday (November 11). Booth implies from his description that the object was a gun, which he took from my carpetbag. Its [sic] not worth more than $15, but I will give him $20 rather than lose it, as it has saved my life two or three times. 15

The second piece of evidence refuting Mudd’s statement concerning the November purchase of a horse is a memorandum prepared for use at the military trial by George Washington Bunker. Bunker was a clerk at the National Hotel, where Booth stayed when in Washington. Bunker prepared an abstract of the hotel ledger for the trial prosecutors in the form of a memorandum, in which he listed Booth’s comings and goings from the hotel during late 1864 and 1865. 16 Bunker noted that Booth had checked out of the National Hotel on Friday, November 11, 1864, and had returned on Monday, November 14. In December, Bunker’s memorandum shows that Booth checked out of the National Hotel on Saturday, the 17th, and did not check back in until Thursday, the 22nd, the day before he met in his hotel room with Mudd, Surratt, and Weichmann. It was during that period, December 17-22, that Booth returned to Charles County and met with Mudd. 17 And it was at that time that Booth stayed the night at the Mudd home and purchased the horse from Mudd’s neighbor, George Gardiner.

Booth also was seen in the Bryantown area in mid-December by a third person, who was called as a government witness during the trial. John F. Hardy, who lived midway between Bryantown and the Mudd farm, testified to seeing Booth at St. Mary’s Church near Bryantown on two separate occasions, the first in November, the second about a month after but before Christmas. Hardy went on to testify: On Monday evening, I rode to Bryantown to see if I could get my horse shod and I met Mr. Booth…a little above Bryantown riding by himself. He was riding a horse in the road leading straight to Horse Head, or he could not come to this point, to Washington, on the same road. 18

This testimony places Booth in Bryantown on Monday eveningduring his second visit in December. Evidence that Booth purchased the one-eyed horse from George Gardiner during this second visit is gleaned from testimony of Thomas Gardiner. He testified that Booth bought a horse from his uncle on a Monday just as Mudd had claimed, and continued, Booth requested my Uncle to send the horse to Bryantown the next morning [Tuesday] and I took the horse myself the next morning to Bryantown. If Booth had purchased the horse on Monday and took delivery on Tuesday, it is clear that the purchase could not have happened in November, since Booth’s letter to Burch and Bunker’s memo both place him in Washington on Monday, November 14. Booth simply could not have been in two places at the same time.

Mudd probably lied about Booth’s overnight stay at his house in November and about purchasing a horse the next day to cover up his second Charles County meeting with Booth. Clues to the doctor’s reasons for meeting with Booth a second time can be found in an 1892 article written for the Cincinnati Enquirer by George Alfred Townsend. 19 In 1885, Townsend, a journalist who had written extensively on the Lincoln assassination and those involved, interviewed a man named Thomas Harbin. Harbin had served during the war as a Confederate secret service agent involved in covert operations in Charles County, Maryland, including the Bryantown area, and in King George County, Virginia.

Harbin was well-acquainted with Mudd. He had once lived a few miles south of the Mudd farm and had served as postmaster at Bryantown before the war. 20 He was well-connected throughout the area and knew virtually all the Confederate operatives working between Washington and Richmond. According to Harbin’s statement, he went to Bryantown in December 1864 at Mudd’s request and met with him and his friend at the Bryantown Tavern on Sunday, December 18. Harbin told of being introduced to Booth by Mudd, and although Harbin described Booth as acting rather theatrical, he consented to assist Booth in his plan to capture Lincoln. Summarizing what happened during that meeting, Townsend wrote, Harbin was a cool man who had seen many liars and rogues go to and fro in that illegal border and he set down Booth as a crazy fellow, but at the same time said that he would give his cooperation. 21

Whatever Harbin may have thought of Booth, he agreed to join in the conspiracy. The enlistment of Harbin in Booth’s scheme was vitally important–as important as the enlistment of Surratt. Both were Confederate agents, highly competent, trusted and well-connected throughout the Confederate underground route between Washington and Richmond. Both men knew the intricacies of safe routes and safe houses located throughout southern Maryland. 22

Harbin also helped by joining with Surratt to recruit George A. Atzerodt in Booth’s conspiracy. 23 This showed that Harbin’s involvement in the plot was not superficial but serious. His help would later prove invaluable when Booth and Herold made their escape south from Washington, D.C., after crossing the Potomac River into Virginia. 24 Booth had Mudd to thank for the enlistment of Harbin and Surratt into his team.

Mudd’s claim of knowing Booth only incidentally was already compromised by Weichmann’s testimony. Had the authorities found out about the other meeting that took place in Bryantown in December of 1864 with Harbin, Mudd’s case would surely have been lost. Harbin was well-known to the Federal authorities as a Confederate agent, and his association with Mudd would have completely undermined Mudd’s cover of feigned innocence.

Faced with the knowledge that the authorities knew of Booth’s being in the Bryantown area and meeting with him in November 1864, Mudd compressed the two meetings into a single meeting in his testimony, hoping that the authorities would never guess that separate meetings had actually taken place. It worked. The other meeting involving Harbin completely escaped the investigators’ attention, although diligent detective work would have uncovered it from the testimony of Thompson and Hardy. 25

In statements given prior to his arrest, Mudd lied about virtually every piece of information the authorities were seeking in their effort to capture Booth. Lieutenant Alexander Lovett, the first interrogator, and Colonel Henry H. Wells, the second interrogator, both complained of the doctor’s evasiveness and apparent untruthfulness during their questioning of him. 26 This behavior led Wells to place Mudd under arrest and send him to Washington under guard.

Mudd’s attempt to convince the military authorities that he had only met with Booth on one occasion belies all of the facts in his case. Mudd withheld even from his own attorneys information about the meeting at the National Hotel, where he had introduced Booth to Surratt, and the December meeting in Bryantown with Harbin. Ignorant of both meetings, Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing, one of Mudd’s two defense attorneys, weakened his credibility with the military commission by arguing that Weichmann had lied about the hotel meeting in late December and that Mudd had only met Booth before the assassination but once on Sunday, and once the day following, in November last. 27 The commission believed differently.

Mudd’s acquaintance with Booth was anything but incidental. His role in bringing Booth, Surratt, and Harbin together was pivotal. The fact that Dr. Queen chose to pass Booth on to Mudd during the November visit and that Harbin came across the river to meet with Booth at Mudd’s invitation suggests that Mudd was an important figure.

And there is even more to the Mudd story that tightens the noose of incrimination around the doctor’s neck. According to Eaton G. Horner, the detective who arrested Booth conspirator Samuel Arnold at Fort Monroe on Monday, April 17, Arnold had said that Booth carried a letter of introduction when he visited Mudd in November 1864. On cross-examination by Mudd’s attorney, Horner was asked if Arnold had meant to say that Booth had a letter of introduction to Mr. Queen or Dr. Mudd? Horner was explicit in his answer: I understood him [Arnold] to say and Dr. Mudd. 28 The implication that Booth carried a letter of introduction to Mudd is obvious. 29 Of special significance in this testimony is the fact that Mudd was implicated as a correspondent with Booth by Arnold on April 17, the day before the military authorities first visited Mudd (Tuesday, April 18). There is no way Arnold could have heard about Mudd as a result of the military investigation. Clearly he must have heard of Mudd and the letter of introduction from Booth himself.

George Atzerodt, the man Booth assigned to murder Vice President Andrew Johnson, implicated Mudd more directly in Booth’s plot when he confessed to Marshal McPhail of Baltimore, I am certain Mudd knew all about it, as Booth sent (as he told me) liquors & provisions for the trip with the President to Richmond, about two weeks before the murder to Dr. Mudd’s. 30

Dr. Richard Stuart, another Confederate operative who lived south of the Potomac River in King George, Virginia, received Booth and Herold after Harbin saw them safely to Stuart’s house. Following his arrest, Stuart gave a statement to the authorities in which he said of Booth and Herold, They said Dr. Mudd had recommended them to me. 31

And in 1893, Thomas A. Jones published a book describing his role in first hiding the two fugitives in a pine thicket after they had left Mudd’s house and then sending them over the Potomac River to Harbin in Virginia. Booth and Herold had been turned over to Jones by Samuel Cox, Sr., another Confederate agent in Charles County. Subsequently, Samuel Cox, Jr., who was present the night Booth and Herold arrived at his step-father’s home, made several notations in his personal copy of Jones’ book. His notations about Mudd included one about Mudd’s role as a mail drop for the Confederate underground. 32 He also wrote that Mudd had admitted to him in 1877 that he knew from the beginning that it was Booth who came to his door seeking aid in the early morning of April 15, 1865. 33 This is the same claim that Captain Dutton had made in July 1865.

These allegations cast a dark shadow over Mudd’s claim of innocence. The story of the other meeting adds substantially to Mudd’s role as an accomplice of Booth. It opens up a whole new perspective on claims by Mudd’s defenders that he was an innocent victim of a vengeful government as it rushed to judgment.

Dr. Mudd died of pneumonia in 1883 at the age of forty-nine. George Alfred Townsend once again wrote a column about the mysterious doctor from Maryland. Among several people from Charles County he interviewed was Frederick Stone, who served as Mudd’s defense attorney along with Thomas Ewing. Stone told Townsend shortly after Dr. Mudd’s death:

The court very nearly hanged Dr. Mudd. His prevarication’s were painful. He had given his whole case away by not trusting even his counsel or neighbors or kinfolk. It was a terrible thing to extricate him from the toils he had woven about himself. He had denied knowing Booth when he knew him well. He was undoubtedly accessory to the abduction plot, though he may have supposed it would never come to anything. He denied knowing Booth when he came to his house when that was preposterous. He had been even intimate with Booth. 34

Nothing could be more damaging to Mudd’s claim of innocence than his own attorney’s condemnation. Those advocating Mudd’s innocence must explain his pattern of lying. An innocent man does not fear the truth. He neither misrepresents it nor withholds it. Dr. Mudd did both. Despite his own efforts and the efforts of his defenders to rewrite history, his name is still mud.

1 Mudd gave two statements as a result of his interrogation by authorities. Both statements are in the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), M-599, reel 5, frames 0212-0239. The statements may also be found in Laurie Verge, ed., From War Department Files. Statements Made By The Alleged Lincoln Conspirators Under Examination 1865 (Clinton: Surratt Society, 1980), 29-38 (hereinafter cited as Statements).

4 John Paul Jones, ed., Dr. Mudd and the Lincoln Assassination. The Case Reopened (Conshohocken: Combined Books, 1995), 254.

5 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on National Security, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, H. R. 1885, 105th Cong., 1st sess., May 7, 1997.

6 Representative Ewing, is related to Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing one of Dr. Samuel Mudd’s two defense attorneys.

7 Richard D. Mudd v. Togo West, case number 1:97CVO2946 (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, December 9, 1997).

8 The description of Booth’s group of conspirators as an action team was first used by James O. Hall in Come Retribution. See William A. Tidwell, James O. Hall and David Winfred Gaddy, Come Retribution (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1988), 328 (hereinafter cited as Retribution).

9 The statement by George A. Atzerodt made to Provost Marshal James McPhail, on May 1, 1865, was discovered in 1977 by Joan L. Chaconas among the personal papers of William E. Doster, defense counsel for Atzerodt. These papers were in the possession of a descendant of William Doster. Complete text of the statement is published in Surratt Courier, October 13, 1988, 2-3 (hereinafter cited as Lost Confession).

10 Mudd was taking Booth to meet Surratt at Mary Surratt’s boarding house when they encountered Surratt and Weichmann coming from the house down Seventh Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

11 Affidavit of George W. Dutton in Benn Pitmann, The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators, ed. Philip Van Doren Stern (1865 reprint, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1954), 421 (hereinafter cited as Pitmann).

12 Affidavit of Samuel A. Mudd in Nettie Mudd, The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd (1906 reprint, LaPlata: Dick Wildes Printing, 1983), 42-48.

13 Perley Poore, ed., The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President, and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of its Principal Officers, vol. 2 (1865 reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1972), 271-272 (hereinafter cited as Poore).

14 Booth rode the horse back to Washington and gave him to Louis Powell (a.k.a., Payne). Powell used the horse the night of the assassination. The horse was recovered by the military in Washington the night of April 14-15 and taken to twenty-second Army Headquarters.

15 John Rhodenhamel and Louise Taper, Right or Wrong, God Judge Me (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 123.

16 Poore, vol. 1, 29-32.

17 James O. Hall, in Come Retribution, concluded that Booth had left for Bryantown on December 20, and not the 17th. Hall based his conclusion on a check cashed by Booth at Jay Cooke’s Washington bank on December 20. The check was actually written on December 16, 1864, and cleared the bank on December 20. The trial testimony of John F. Hardy places Booth in Charles County on Sunday, December 18 and Monday, December 19, as does the testimony of Thomas Gardiner. See Gardiner’s testimony in Poore, vol. 1, 361- 365, and Poore, vol. 3, 431-437. Hall has reconstructed the Booth visit as occurring from Saturday, December 17 through Thursday, December 22. James O. Hall, personal communication with author.

18 Poore, vol. 3, 435-436.

19 Interview of Thomas Harbin by George Alfred Townsend, Cincinnati Enquirer, April 18, 1892 (hereinafter cited as Harbin Interview).

20 Harbin served as Postmaster at Bryantown in 1856-1857. He lived a short distance to the southwest of the small village.

22 The Surratt Tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland (present-day Clinton, Maryland) was identified by name as a Confederate safe house in Confederate documents. See David W. Gaddy, The Surratt Tavern – A Confederate ‘Safe House’? in In Pursuit of…Continuing Research in the Field of the Lincoln Assassination (Clinton: Surratt Society, 1990), 129.

23 Statements, 67. According to a confession published in the Baltimore American newspaper on January 19, 1869, Atzerodt stated that Harbin and Surratt came for him in the winter of 1864-1865. An article published in the American and Commercial Advertiser (Baltimore) on July 10, 1865, three days after the hanging told of an interview with Atzerodt in which Atzerodt admitted that John H. Surratt and …a man named Harlow… visited Atzerodt in Port Tobacco and convinced him to join in Booth’s conspiracy. Atzerodt’s German accent led to Harbin being transcribed as Harlow, Holborn, or Harborn on different occasions.

24 On reaching the Virginia shore on Sunday, April 23, Booth and Herold made their way to the home of Elizabeth Quesenberry, a member of the Confederate underground. Quesenberry sent word to Harbin to come at once and take charge of the two fugitives. Harbin arrived and soon passed Booth and Herold to William Bryant, one of Harbin’s agents. Harbin instructed Bryant to take the two men to their next destination, the home of Dr. Richard Stuart, known as Cleydale, located in King George County, Virginia.

25 By the time the military authorities were rounding up suspects, Harbin had disappeared. He was last seen at Ashland, Virginia, on April 28, 1865, where he secured parole as a member of Company B, First Maryland Cavalry, which appears to have been a cover for his underground activities. There is no record that Harbin was ever a member of this unit. Parole in hand, Harbin disappeared for five years only to reappear in 1870 as clerk of the National Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he worked until his death in 1885. See Retribution, 341-342.

26 See testimony of Alexander Lovett in Poore, vol. 1, 268, and testimony of Henry H. Wells in Poore, vol. 1, 286.

28 See testimony of Eaton G. Horner in Poore, vol. 1, 430 and 435.

29 The letters of introduction to Dr. Queen and Dr. Mudd were written by Patrick C. Martin. Martin was a Baltimore liquor dealer who had established a Confederate Secret Service base in Montreal in the summer of 1862. Here he arranged for blockade running and was a party to the plan to free Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island. Booth had gone to Montreal in October 1864, where he arranged with Martin to have his theatrical wardrobe shipped to a Southern port. He also secured letters of introduction from Martin to Mudd and Queen.

30 For Atzerod’s statement, see Lost Confession, 2-3.

31 Statement of Richard Stuart, NARA., M-599, reel 6, frames 0205-0211 (dated May 6, 1865).

32 The claim that Mudd received and distributed mail for the Confederate underground is supported by a statement found in the Provost Marshal’s file dated August 31, 1863. Charges filed in 1863 by two former Mudd family slaves state in part, as some cavalry were making a search in the vicinity, Samuel Mud’s [sic] wife ran into the kitchen and threw a bundle of Rebel mail into the fire…. NARA, Record Group 109, M416, Union Provost Marshal’s File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians, File 6083.

33 Photocopy of Samuel Cox, Jr., notations obtained from the files of James O. Hall. Samuel Cox, Jr.’s, claim regarding Mudd may also be found in Osborn H. Oldroyd, Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1901), 265-269. The original copy of Cox, Jr.’s copy of Jones’ book now resides in the Maryland Historical Society.

34 Statement by Frederick Stone quoted in Hal Higdon, The Union vs. Dr. Mudd (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964), 208.

This article was written by Edward Steers, Jr. and originally appeared in the Summer 1998 issue of Columbiad.

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On the morning of April 14, 1865 (Good Friday), actor John Wilkes Booth learned President Abraham Lincoln would attend a performance of the comedy Our American Cousin that night at Ford&rsquos Theatre&mdasha theatre Booth frequently performed at. He realized his moment had arrived.

By 10:15 that evening, the comedy was well into its last act. In the Presidential Box, President and Mrs. Lincoln and their guests, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris, laughed at the show along with the audience&mdashnot knowing that Booth was just outside the door.

  • How could such a thing have taken place&mdashand in Washington, the fortified capital of the nation? How did Booth gain such access to the theatre?
  • Why didn&rsquot Lincoln&rsquos security people stop him?
  • Was it a lone act or part of a larger conspiracy?
  • And, when all was said and done, what was the outcome&mdashfor those involved in the crime, for their victims, for the nation and even for Ford&rsquos Theatre?

Conduct your own investigation below! As you look at the evidence, consider:


Articles Featuring Abraham Lincoln Assassination From History Net Magazines

During his initial interview with investigating detectives on April 18, 1865, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd claimed, ‘I never saw either of the parties before, nor can I conceive who sent them to my house. 1 With these words Dr. Mudd told the first in a series of lies about his involvement with John Wilkes Booth and Booth’s conspiracy to capture President Abraham Lincoln, a conspiracy that would ultimately lead to Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre.

Mudd would change his statement one day later while en route to Bryantown, in Charles County, Maryland, under a military escort for further questioning. Apparently having had second thoughts about his first statement, in which he denied ever seeing Booth, Mudd now admitted, I have seen J. Wilkes Booth. I was introduced to him by Mr. J.C. Thompson, a son-in-law of Dr. William Queen, in November or December last. 2

Mudd went on to more fully describe that meeting, telling of Booth’s alleged interest in acquiring land in Charles County and his desire to purchase a horse. In a handwritten statement, Mudd wrote, The next evening he [Booth] rode to my house and staid [sic] with me that night, and the next morning he purchased a rather old horse. He continued, I have never seen Booth since that time to my knowledge until last Saturday night. 3 In those two statements, Mudd continued his pattern of lying. He knew the statements were false and was attempting to conceal other information that would prove even more incriminating. Mudd had not only seen Booth before, but he had met with Booth on at least three occasions prior to the assassin’s appearance on his doorstep. As to who was responsible for Booth and David Herold’s visit to Mudd’s house in the early morning hours of April 15, it was Mudd himself.

History has been much kinder to Mudd than the events in the assassination should warrant. The facts that have emerged about his involvement with Booth belie the popular image of Mudd as a gentle country doctor who unexpectedly became entangled in a tragic murder through no fault of his own. The current perception of an innocent Dr. Mudd is largely due to the tireless efforts of Dr. Richard Dyer Mudd, who has struggled for seventy years to clear his grandfather’s name and officially expunge the findings of the military tribunal that convicted him. His efforts have come close to fruition in the past decade.

In 1991 the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records (ABCMR), a civilian review board, agreed to permit a hearing on Mudd’s conviction. The procedure limited the testimony to only those witnesses favorable to Mudd’s case. The board did not consider innocence or guilt but only whether the military commission that tried Mudd had legal jurisdiction to do so. In deciding against the military commission 126 years after it ruled, the ABCMR recommended that the secretary of the Army set aside the guilty verdict and expunge the record in Dr. Mudd’s case. The assistant secretary of the Army, acting for the secretary, twice refused the recommendation of the board, stating in part, It is not the role of the ABCMR to attempt to settle historical disputes. 4

That ruling resulted in Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer’s introducing a bill into the U.S. Congress directing the secretary of the Army to set aside the conviction of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd…for aiding, abetting, and assisting the conspirators who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. 5 One of the cosponsors of the bill was Representative Thomas Ewing of Illinois, who represents part of Lincoln’s original congressional district. 6 As an added measure, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Richard D. Mudd in December 1997 in the Federal Court for the District of Columbia seeking to force the secretary of the Army to accept the recommendation of the ABCMR. 7 Persistent efforts to rewrite history, however, have obscured certain facts supporting the conclusions of the military commission that first found Dr. Mudd guilty.

When Booth came to Mudd’s house in the early morning of April 15, 1865, seeking medical aid, it was the fourth time that the two men had met, and none of the four meetings had been accidental. In his three previous meetings with Booth, Mudd had played a pivotal role in Booth’s scheme to assemble an action team 8 to capture President Lincoln and carry him to Richmond as a prisoner of the Confederacy. Booth not only was an overnight guest at Mudd’s house during one of the three meetings but also had sent provisions to Mudd’s house for use during the planned kidnapping of the president. 9

Mudd’s statement that Booth spent the night at his house after their introduction in November 1864 and that he purchased a horse the next morning is not true. Those events did not occur in November as Mudd claimed, but in December. The reason Mudd would lie about such occurrences was self-preservation. He hoped to keep secret the number of times he had associated with Booth.

During Mudd’s trial, evidence was introduced by the prosecution showing that Mudd and Booth had indeed met prior to April 15, 1865. Louis Weichmann, the government’s key witness, told of an earlier meeting involving Mudd and Booth in Washington, D.C., at which Weichmann was present. Weichmann testified that while he and John Surratt, Jr., were walking along Seventh Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue, they met Booth and Mudd coming from the opposite direction. 10 After introductions, the four men retired to Booth’s room at the National Hotel, a short distance away. Weichmann testified that during the meeting Mudd and Booth stepped into the hall and engaged in a subdued conversation that Weichmann could hear but could not discern the actual words. The two men were subsequently joined by Surratt before all three men returned to the room where Weichmann was sitting. Booth, Surratt, and Mudd sat around a table in the center of the room while Booth drew something on the back of an envelope–Weichmann said he thought it resembled a map. Whatever was discussed among the three men, one thing is certain: As a result of Mudd’s introduction of Surratt to Booth, Surratt agreed to join Booth in his plot to capture Lincoln.

Although Mudd’s defense attorney, Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing, denied that the meeting had taken place, Mudd himself acknowledged that the meeting had taken place in an affidavit he prepared in August 1865 while in prison at Fort Jefferson, in the Florida Keys. It was in his affidavit that Mudd inadvertently let slip that yet another meeting involving Booth and himself had occurred in mid-December, immediately before the meeting in Washington.

After his conviction Mudd and co-conspirators Michael O’Laughlen, Samuel Arnold, and Edman Spangler were transported to Fort Jefferson, where the men were scheduled to serve out their prison sentences. During the trip they were placed under a military guard commanded by Captain George W. Dutton. Captain Dutton later claimed that during the journey Mudd had confessed that he knew Booth when he came to his house with Herold on the morning after the assassination of the President. The captain said that Mudd also confessed that he was with Booth at the National Hotel on the day referred to by Weichmann in his testimony and that he came to Washington on that occasion to meet Booth by appointment who wished to be introduced to John Surratt. 11

Neither of those admissions were revelations to the government, which suspected the first and had proved the second. The trial was over. Mudd had been convicted and was now serving a life sentence in the isolation of Fort Jefferson. The government had lost interest in Mudd, but Mudd had not lost interest in trying to gain his release through the federal judicial system.

Word of Dutton’s statement reached Mudd in prison, and Mudd knew that he had to respond to Dutton’s charges if he was ever to regain his freedom. On August 28, 1865, Mudd prepared an affidavit in which he denied telling Dutton that he knew it was Booth who arrived at his house on April 15, only hours after Lincoln was shot. His denial was important for if Mudd had allowed Dutton’s accusation to stand it would have meant that the doctor had indeed knowingly aided and abetted the murderer of President Lincoln. But while denying any knowledge of Booth, Mudd inadvertently admitted for the first time to the meeting at the National Hotel with Booth, Surratt, and Weichmann on December 23, 1864, thus confirming the government’s charge made during the trial.

In his affidavit protesting Dutton’s first allegation–about knowing Booth before the assassination–Mudd unwittingly let slip another damaging piece of information. In describing the Washington meeting referred to by Dutton, Mudd wrote:

We [Mudd and Booth] started down one street, and then up another, and had not gone far when we met Surratt and Wiechmann. Introductions took place and we turned back in the direction of the hotel….After arriving in the room, I took the first opportunity presented to apologize to Surratt for having introduced him to Booth–a man I knew so little concerning. This conversation took place in the passage in front of the room [hallway] and was not over three minutes in duration….Surratt and myself returned and resumed our former seats (after taking drinks ordered) around a center table, which stood midway the room and distant seven or eight feet from Booth and Wiechmann Booth remarked that he had been down to the country a few days before, and said that he had not yet recovered from the fatigue. Afterward he said he had been down in Charles County, and had made me an offer to purchase of my land, which I confirmed by an affirmative answer and he further remarked that on his way up [to Washington] he lost his way and rode several miles off the track. 12

In his revealing statement, Mudd confirmed a second visit to Charles County by Booth just prior to the December 23 meeting at the National Hotel–a trip that, by Mudd’s own admission, included a visit to his property. This was the important other meeting.

Independent evidence that Booth visited Charles County in December can be found in the trial testimony of John C. Thompson. Thompson was the man who had originally introduced Booth to Mudd in November 1864 at St. Mary’s Church, as Mudd had already acknowledged in his statement given prior to his arrest. Thompson was the son-in-law of Dr. William Queen, a prominent Confederate operative who Booth also visited during his November trip to Charles County. During questioning by one of Mudd’s attorneys, Thompson was asked if he had seen Booth again after the meeting where he had introduced Booth to Mudd in November. Thompson answered: I think some time, if my memory serves me, in December, he came down a second time to Dr. Queen’s house….I think it was about the middle of December following after his first visit there. 13

It is clear from both Mudd’s own statement in his affidavit of August 28, 1865, and Thompson’s testimony during the trial that Booth visited the Bryantown area in Charles County a second time, in mid-December 1864. And it is in his own affidavit that Mudd admits to meeting with Booth during this second visit.

While Mudd claimed that Booth stayed overnight at his house and purchased a horse from his neighbor, George Gardiner, during the November meeting, several pieces of evidence show that those incidents occurred during Booth’s December visit, not in November. The first piece of evidence is found in a letter Booth wrote to J. Dominick Burch, who lived in Bryantown and worked at the Bryantown Tavern. Written from Washington, D.C., the letter is dated Monday, November 14, 1864, the day Mudd claims he accompanied Booth to Gardiner’s farm, where Booth supposedly purchased a one-eyed horse. 14 The letter clearly places Booth in Washington on November 14, and makes it clear that Booth traveled by stagecoach and not by horse.

In his letter, Booth refers to an object he left on the stage last Friday (November 11). Booth implies from his description that the object was a gun, which he took from my carpetbag. Its [sic] not worth more than $15, but I will give him $20 rather than lose it, as it has saved my life two or three times. 15

The second piece of evidence refuting Mudd’s statement concerning the November purchase of a horse is a memorandum prepared for use at the military trial by George Washington Bunker. Bunker was a clerk at the National Hotel, where Booth stayed when in Washington. Bunker prepared an abstract of the hotel ledger for the trial prosecutors in the form of a memorandum, in which he listed Booth’s comings and goings from the hotel during late 1864 and 1865. 16 Bunker noted that Booth had checked out of the National Hotel on Friday, November 11, 1864, and had returned on Monday, November 14. In December, Bunker’s memorandum shows that Booth checked out of the National Hotel on Saturday, the 17th, and did not check back in until Thursday, the 22nd, the day before he met in his hotel room with Mudd, Surratt, and Weichmann. It was during that period, December 17-22, that Booth returned to Charles County and met with Mudd. 17 And it was at that time that Booth stayed the night at the Mudd home and purchased the horse from Mudd’s neighbor, George Gardiner.

Booth also was seen in the Bryantown area in mid-December by a third person, who was called as a government witness during the trial. John F. Hardy, who lived midway between Bryantown and the Mudd farm, testified to seeing Booth at St. Mary’s Church near Bryantown on two separate occasions, the first in November, the second about a month after but before Christmas. Hardy went on to testify: On Monday evening, I rode to Bryantown to see if I could get my horse shod and I met Mr. Booth…a little above Bryantown riding by himself. He was riding a horse in the road leading straight to Horse Head, or he could not come to this point, to Washington, on the same road. 18

This testimony places Booth in Bryantown on Monday eveningduring his second visit in December. Evidence that Booth purchased the one-eyed horse from George Gardiner during this second visit is gleaned from testimony of Thomas Gardiner. He testified that Booth bought a horse from his uncle on a Monday just as Mudd had claimed, and continued, Booth requested my Uncle to send the horse to Bryantown the next morning [Tuesday] and I took the horse myself the next morning to Bryantown. If Booth had purchased the horse on Monday and took delivery on Tuesday, it is clear that the purchase could not have happened in November, since Booth’s letter to Burch and Bunker’s memo both place him in Washington on Monday, November 14. Booth simply could not have been in two places at the same time.

Mudd probably lied about Booth’s overnight stay at his house in November and about purchasing a horse the next day to cover up his second Charles County meeting with Booth. Clues to the doctor’s reasons for meeting with Booth a second time can be found in an 1892 article written for the Cincinnati Enquirer by George Alfred Townsend. 19 In 1885, Townsend, a journalist who had written extensively on the Lincoln assassination and those involved, interviewed a man named Thomas Harbin. Harbin had served during the war as a Confederate secret service agent involved in covert operations in Charles County, Maryland, including the Bryantown area, and in King George County, Virginia.

Harbin was well-acquainted with Mudd. He had once lived a few miles south of the Mudd farm and had served as postmaster at Bryantown before the war. 20 He was well-connected throughout the area and knew virtually all the Confederate operatives working between Washington and Richmond. According to Harbin’s statement, he went to Bryantown in December 1864 at Mudd’s request and met with him and his friend at the Bryantown Tavern on Sunday, December 18. Harbin told of being introduced to Booth by Mudd, and although Harbin described Booth as acting rather theatrical, he consented to assist Booth in his plan to capture Lincoln. Summarizing what happened during that meeting, Townsend wrote, Harbin was a cool man who had seen many liars and rogues go to and fro in that illegal border and he set down Booth as a crazy fellow, but at the same time said that he would give his cooperation. 21

Whatever Harbin may have thought of Booth, he agreed to join in the conspiracy. The enlistment of Harbin in Booth’s scheme was vitally important–as important as the enlistment of Surratt. Both were Confederate agents, highly competent, trusted and well-connected throughout the Confederate underground route between Washington and Richmond. Both men knew the intricacies of safe routes and safe houses located throughout southern Maryland. 22

Harbin also helped by joining with Surratt to recruit George A. Atzerodt in Booth’s conspiracy. 23 This showed that Harbin’s involvement in the plot was not superficial but serious. His help would later prove invaluable when Booth and Herold made their escape south from Washington, D.C., after crossing the Potomac River into Virginia. 24 Booth had Mudd to thank for the enlistment of Harbin and Surratt into his team.

Mudd’s claim of knowing Booth only incidentally was already compromised by Weichmann’s testimony. Had the authorities found out about the other meeting that took place in Bryantown in December of 1864 with Harbin, Mudd’s case would surely have been lost. Harbin was well-known to the Federal authorities as a Confederate agent, and his association with Mudd would have completely undermined Mudd’s cover of feigned innocence.

Faced with the knowledge that the authorities knew of Booth’s being in the Bryantown area and meeting with him in November 1864, Mudd compressed the two meetings into a single meeting in his testimony, hoping that the authorities would never guess that separate meetings had actually taken place. It worked. The other meeting involving Harbin completely escaped the investigators’ attention, although diligent detective work would have uncovered it from the testimony of Thompson and Hardy. 25

In statements given prior to his arrest, Mudd lied about virtually every piece of information the authorities were seeking in their effort to capture Booth. Lieutenant Alexander Lovett, the first interrogator, and Colonel Henry H. Wells, the second interrogator, both complained of the doctor’s evasiveness and apparent untruthfulness during their questioning of him. 26 This behavior led Wells to place Mudd under arrest and send him to Washington under guard.

Mudd’s attempt to convince the military authorities that he had only met with Booth on one occasion belies all of the facts in his case. Mudd withheld even from his own attorneys information about the meeting at the National Hotel, where he had introduced Booth to Surratt, and the December meeting in Bryantown with Harbin. Ignorant of both meetings, Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing, one of Mudd’s two defense attorneys, weakened his credibility with the military commission by arguing that Weichmann had lied about the hotel meeting in late December and that Mudd had only met Booth before the assassination but once on Sunday, and once the day following, in November last. 27 The commission believed differently.

Mudd’s acquaintance with Booth was anything but incidental. His role in bringing Booth, Surratt, and Harbin together was pivotal. The fact that Dr. Queen chose to pass Booth on to Mudd during the November visit and that Harbin came across the river to meet with Booth at Mudd’s invitation suggests that Mudd was an important figure.

And there is even more to the Mudd story that tightens the noose of incrimination around the doctor’s neck. According to Eaton G. Horner, the detective who arrested Booth conspirator Samuel Arnold at Fort Monroe on Monday, April 17, Arnold had said that Booth carried a letter of introduction when he visited Mudd in November 1864. On cross-examination by Mudd’s attorney, Horner was asked if Arnold had meant to say that Booth had a letter of introduction to Mr. Queen or Dr. Mudd? Horner was explicit in his answer: I understood him [Arnold] to say and Dr. Mudd. 28 The implication that Booth carried a letter of introduction to Mudd is obvious. 29 Of special significance in this testimony is the fact that Mudd was implicated as a correspondent with Booth by Arnold on April 17, the day before the military authorities first visited Mudd (Tuesday, April 18). There is no way Arnold could have heard about Mudd as a result of the military investigation. Clearly he must have heard of Mudd and the letter of introduction from Booth himself.

George Atzerodt, the man Booth assigned to murder Vice President Andrew Johnson, implicated Mudd more directly in Booth’s plot when he confessed to Marshal McPhail of Baltimore, I am certain Mudd knew all about it, as Booth sent (as he told me) liquors & provisions for the trip with the President to Richmond, about two weeks before the murder to Dr. Mudd’s. 30

Dr. Richard Stuart, another Confederate operative who lived south of the Potomac River in King George, Virginia, received Booth and Herold after Harbin saw them safely to Stuart’s house. Following his arrest, Stuart gave a statement to the authorities in which he said of Booth and Herold, They said Dr. Mudd had recommended them to me. 31

And in 1893, Thomas A. Jones published a book describing his role in first hiding the two fugitives in a pine thicket after they had left Mudd’s house and then sending them over the Potomac River to Harbin in Virginia. Booth and Herold had been turned over to Jones by Samuel Cox, Sr., another Confederate agent in Charles County. Subsequently, Samuel Cox, Jr., who was present the night Booth and Herold arrived at his step-father’s home, made several notations in his personal copy of Jones’ book. His notations about Mudd included one about Mudd’s role as a mail drop for the Confederate underground. 32 He also wrote that Mudd had admitted to him in 1877 that he knew from the beginning that it was Booth who came to his door seeking aid in the early morning of April 15, 1865. 33 This is the same claim that Captain Dutton had made in July 1865.

These allegations cast a dark shadow over Mudd’s claim of innocence. The story of the other meeting adds substantially to Mudd’s role as an accomplice of Booth. It opens up a whole new perspective on claims by Mudd’s defenders that he was an innocent victim of a vengeful government as it rushed to judgment.

Dr. Mudd died of pneumonia in 1883 at the age of forty-nine. George Alfred Townsend once again wrote a column about the mysterious doctor from Maryland. Among several people from Charles County he interviewed was Frederick Stone, who served as Mudd’s defense attorney along with Thomas Ewing. Stone told Townsend shortly after Dr. Mudd’s death:

The court very nearly hanged Dr. Mudd. His prevarication’s were painful. He had given his whole case away by not trusting even his counsel or neighbors or kinfolk. It was a terrible thing to extricate him from the toils he had woven about himself. He had denied knowing Booth when he knew him well. He was undoubtedly accessory to the abduction plot, though he may have supposed it would never come to anything. He denied knowing Booth when he came to his house when that was preposterous. He had been even intimate with Booth. 34

Nothing could be more damaging to Mudd’s claim of innocence than his own attorney’s condemnation. Those advocating Mudd’s innocence must explain his pattern of lying. An innocent man does not fear the truth. He neither misrepresents it nor withholds it. Dr. Mudd did both. Despite his own efforts and the efforts of his defenders to rewrite history, his name is still mud.

1 Mudd gave two statements as a result of his interrogation by authorities. Both statements are in the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), M-599, reel 5, frames 0212-0239. The statements may also be found in Laurie Verge, ed., From War Department Files. Statements Made By The Alleged Lincoln Conspirators Under Examination 1865 (Clinton: Surratt Society, 1980), 29-38 (hereinafter cited as Statements).

4 John Paul Jones, ed., Dr. Mudd and the Lincoln Assassination. The Case Reopened (Conshohocken: Combined Books, 1995), 254.

5 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on National Security, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, H. R. 1885, 105th Cong., 1st sess., May 7, 1997.

6 Representative Ewing, is related to Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing one of Dr. Samuel Mudd’s two defense attorneys.

7 Richard D. Mudd v. Togo West, case number 1:97CVO2946 (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, December 9, 1997).

8 The description of Booth’s group of conspirators as an action team was first used by James O. Hall in Come Retribution. See William A. Tidwell, James O. Hall and David Winfred Gaddy, Come Retribution (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1988), 328 (hereinafter cited as Retribution).

9 The statement by George A. Atzerodt made to Provost Marshal James McPhail, on May 1, 1865, was discovered in 1977 by Joan L. Chaconas among the personal papers of William E. Doster, defense counsel for Atzerodt. These papers were in the possession of a descendant of William Doster. Complete text of the statement is published in Surratt Courier, October 13, 1988, 2-3 (hereinafter cited as Lost Confession).

10 Mudd was taking Booth to meet Surratt at Mary Surratt’s boarding house when they encountered Surratt and Weichmann coming from the house down Seventh Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

11 Affidavit of George W. Dutton in Benn Pitmann, The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators, ed. Philip Van Doren Stern (1865 reprint, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1954), 421 (hereinafter cited as Pitmann).

12 Affidavit of Samuel A. Mudd in Nettie Mudd, The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd (1906 reprint, LaPlata: Dick Wildes Printing, 1983), 42-48.

13 Perley Poore, ed., The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President, and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of its Principal Officers, vol. 2 (1865 reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1972), 271-272 (hereinafter cited as Poore).

14 Booth rode the horse back to Washington and gave him to Louis Powell (a.k.a., Payne). Powell used the horse the night of the assassination. The horse was recovered by the military in Washington the night of April 14-15 and taken to twenty-second Army Headquarters.

15 John Rhodenhamel and Louise Taper, Right or Wrong, God Judge Me (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 123.

16 Poore, vol. 1, 29-32.

17 James O. Hall, in Come Retribution, concluded that Booth had left for Bryantown on December 20, and not the 17th. Hall based his conclusion on a check cashed by Booth at Jay Cooke’s Washington bank on December 20. The check was actually written on December 16, 1864, and cleared the bank on December 20. The trial testimony of John F. Hardy places Booth in Charles County on Sunday, December 18 and Monday, December 19, as does the testimony of Thomas Gardiner. See Gardiner’s testimony in Poore, vol. 1, 361- 365, and Poore, vol. 3, 431-437. Hall has reconstructed the Booth visit as occurring from Saturday, December 17 through Thursday, December 22. James O. Hall, personal communication with author.

18 Poore, vol. 3, 435-436.

19 Interview of Thomas Harbin by George Alfred Townsend, Cincinnati Enquirer, April 18, 1892 (hereinafter cited as Harbin Interview).

20 Harbin served as Postmaster at Bryantown in 1856-1857. He lived a short distance to the southwest of the small village.

22 The Surratt Tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland (present-day Clinton, Maryland) was identified by name as a Confederate safe house in Confederate documents. See David W. Gaddy, The Surratt Tavern – A Confederate ‘Safe House’? in In Pursuit of…Continuing Research in the Field of the Lincoln Assassination (Clinton: Surratt Society, 1990), 129.

23 Statements, 67. According to a confession published in the Baltimore American newspaper on January 19, 1869, Atzerodt stated that Harbin and Surratt came for him in the winter of 1864-1865. An article published in the American and Commercial Advertiser (Baltimore) on July 10, 1865, three days after the hanging told of an interview with Atzerodt in which Atzerodt admitted that John H. Surratt and …a man named Harlow… visited Atzerodt in Port Tobacco and convinced him to join in Booth’s conspiracy. Atzerodt’s German accent led to Harbin being transcribed as Harlow, Holborn, or Harborn on different occasions.

24 On reaching the Virginia shore on Sunday, April 23, Booth and Herold made their way to the home of Elizabeth Quesenberry, a member of the Confederate underground. Quesenberry sent word to Harbin to come at once and take charge of the two fugitives. Harbin arrived and soon passed Booth and Herold to William Bryant, one of Harbin’s agents. Harbin instructed Bryant to take the two men to their next destination, the home of Dr. Richard Stuart, known as Cleydale, located in King George County, Virginia.

25 By the time the military authorities were rounding up suspects, Harbin had disappeared. He was last seen at Ashland, Virginia, on April 28, 1865, where he secured parole as a member of Company B, First Maryland Cavalry, which appears to have been a cover for his underground activities. There is no record that Harbin was ever a member of this unit. Parole in hand, Harbin disappeared for five years only to reappear in 1870 as clerk of the National Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he worked until his death in 1885. See Retribution, 341-342.

26 See testimony of Alexander Lovett in Poore, vol. 1, 268, and testimony of Henry H. Wells in Poore, vol. 1, 286.

28 See testimony of Eaton G. Horner in Poore, vol. 1, 430 and 435.

29 The letters of introduction to Dr. Queen and Dr. Mudd were written by Patrick C. Martin. Martin was a Baltimore liquor dealer who had established a Confederate Secret Service base in Montreal in the summer of 1862. Here he arranged for blockade running and was a party to the plan to free Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island. Booth had gone to Montreal in October 1864, where he arranged with Martin to have his theatrical wardrobe shipped to a Southern port. He also secured letters of introduction from Martin to Mudd and Queen.

30 For Atzerod’s statement, see Lost Confession, 2-3.

31 Statement of Richard Stuart, NARA., M-599, reel 6, frames 0205-0211 (dated May 6, 1865).

32 The claim that Mudd received and distributed mail for the Confederate underground is supported by a statement found in the Provost Marshal’s file dated August 31, 1863. Charges filed in 1863 by two former Mudd family slaves state in part, as some cavalry were making a search in the vicinity, Samuel Mud’s [sic] wife ran into the kitchen and threw a bundle of Rebel mail into the fire…. NARA, Record Group 109, M416, Union Provost Marshal’s File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians, File 6083.

33 Photocopy of Samuel Cox, Jr., notations obtained from the files of James O. Hall. Samuel Cox, Jr.’s, claim regarding Mudd may also be found in Osborn H. Oldroyd, Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1901), 265-269. The original copy of Cox, Jr.’s copy of Jones’ book now resides in the Maryland Historical Society.

34 Statement by Frederick Stone quoted in Hal Higdon, The Union vs. Dr. Mudd (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964), 208.

This article was written by Edward Steers, Jr. and originally appeared in the Summer 1998 issue of Columbiad.

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American Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. He was the first president of the United States to be assassinated.

Where was Lincoln killed?

President Lincoln was attending a play called Our American Cousin at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. He was sitting in the Presidential Box with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and their guests Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris.


Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre which was not
too far from the White House.
Photo by Ducksters

When the play reached a point where there was a big joke and the audience laughed loudly, John Wilkes Booth entered President Lincoln's box and shot him in the back of the head. Major Rathbone tried to stop him, but Booth stabbed Rathbone. Then Booth jumped from the box and fled. He was able to get outside the theatre and onto his horse to escape.

President Lincoln was carried to William Petersen's boarding house across the street. There were several doctors with him, but they could not help him. He died on April 15, 1865.


Booth used this small pistol to
shoot Lincoln at close range.
Photo by Ducksters

John Wilkes Booth was a Confederate sympathizer. He felt that the war was ending and that the South was going to lose unless they did something drastic. He gathered some partners together and first made a plan to kidnap President Lincoln. When his kidnapping plan failed he turned to assassination.

The plan was that Booth would kill the president while Lewis Powell would assassinate the Secretary of State William H. Seward and George Atzerodt would kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. Although Booth was successful, fortunately Powell was unable to kill Seward and Atzerodt lost his nerve and never attempted to assassinate Andrew Johnson.

Booth was cornered in a barn south of Washington where he was shot by soldiers after he refused to surrender. The other conspirators were caught and several were hanged for their crimes.


Wanted poster for the conspirators.
Photo by Ducksters


The Petersen House
is located directly across
the street from the Ford's Theater

Photo by Ducksters


Watch the video: ABRAHAM LINCOLN ASSASSINATION DOCUMENTARY. BIOGRAPHY (May 2022).