The Trials of the Assassins
by Documentary Evidence
ARGUMENT OF JOHN A.
BINGHAM, Special Judge Advocate.
IN REPLY TO THE
SEVERAL ARGUMENTS IN DEFENSE OF MARY E. SURRATT AND OTHERS, CHARGED WITH
CONSPIRACY AND THE MURDER OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, LATE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
"May it please the
Court: The conspiracy here charged and specified and the acts alleged to
have been committed in pursuance thereof, and with the intent laid,
constitute a crime, the atrocity of which has sent a shudder through the
civilized world. All that was agreed upon and attempted by the alleged
inciters and instigators of this crime constitutes a combination of
atrocities with scarcely a parallel in the annals of the human race.
Whether the prisoners at your bar are guilty of the conspiracy and the
acts alleged to have been done . . . as set forth in the charge and
specification, is a question, the determination of which rests solely with
this honorable court, and in passing upon which, this court are the sole
judges of the law and the fact.
"In presenting my
views upon the questions of law raised by the several counsel for the
defense, and also on the testimony adduced for and against the accused, I
desire to be just to them, just to you, just to my country, and just to my
own convictions. The issue joined involves the highest interests of the
accused, and, in my judgment, the highest interests of the whole people of
the United States . . . . A wrongful and illegal conviction, or a wrongful
and illegal acquittal upon this dread issue, would impair somewhat the
security of every man's life, and shake the stability of the Republic.
"The crime charged
and specified upon your record is not simply the crime of murdering a
human being, but it is a crime of killing and murdering on the 14th day of
April, A. D. 1865, within the Military Department of Washington and the
entrenched lines thereof, Abraham Lincoln, then President of the United
States, and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy there; and then and
there assaulting with intent to kill and murder, Wm. H. Seward, then
Secretary of State of the United States; and then and there lying in wait
to kill and murder Andrew Johnson, the Vice President of the United
States, and Ulysses S. Grant, then Lieutenant General and in Command of
the Army of the United States, in pursuance of a treasonable conspiracy
entered into by the accused with one John Wilkes Booth, and John H.
Surratt, upon the instigation of Jefferson Davis, Jacob Thompson, Clement
C. Clay, George N. Sanders and others, with intent thereby to aid the
existing Rebellion and subvert the Constitution and laws of the United
"The Government in
preferring this charge, does not indict the whole people of any State or
section, but only the alleged parties to this unnatural and atrocious
crime. The President of the United States in the discharge of his duty as
Commander-in-Chief of the Army and by virtue of the power invested in him
by the Constitution and laws of the United States, has constituted you a
military court, to hear and determine the issue joined against the
accused, and has constituted you a court for no other purpose whatever. To
this charge and specification the defendants have pleaded first, that this
court has no jurisdiction in the premises; and, secondly, not guilty."
After a careful
covering of every point raised by the defense, embellished with numerous
citations of legal authorities and court decisions as to both of the
points raised by the defense, the Judge Advocate continues:
"It only remains for
me to sum up the evidence and present my views of the law arising upon the
facts in the case on trial. The questions of fact involved in the issue
"First, did the
accused, or any two of them, confederate and conspire together as
"Second, did the
accused, or any of them, in pursuance of such conspiracy, and with the
intent alleged, commit either or all of the several acts specified?
"If the conspiracy be
established, as laid, it results that whatever was said or done by either
of the parties in the furtherance or execution of the common design in the
declaration or act of all the other parties of the conspiracy; and this
whether the other parties, at the time such words were uttered, or such
acts done by their confederates, were present or absent—here, within the
entrenched lines of your Capitol, or crouching behind the entrenched lines
of Richmond, or awaiting the results of their murderous plot against their
country, in Canada . . . . The same rule obtains in cases of treason. A
conspiracy is rarely if ever proved by positive testimony. When a crime of
high magnitude is about to be perpetrated by a combination of individuals,
they do not act openly, but covertly and secretly. The purpose formed is
known only to those who enter into it . . . . Unless one of the original
conspirators betray his companions and give evidence against them, their
guilt can be proved only by circumstantial evidence."
During the course of
Judge Advocate Bingham's address the influence of the Jesuit theology
showed up in his reference to Jacob Thompson, one of the conspirators
referred to, who was a leader in the group of Confederates of Montreal.
when he said:
"In speaking of this
assassination of the President and others, Jacob Thompson said that it was
only removing them from office, that the killing of a tyrant was no
Emanuel Sa, a Jesuit
authority, said, "The tyrant is illegitimate; and any man whatever of the
people has a right to kill him. (Uniquis-que de populo potest ocoidere.)"
But note this bit of evidence referred to by the distinguished lawyer:
testified further that after this meeting in Montreal he had a
conversation with Clement Clay in Toronto about the letter from Jefferson
Davis which Sanders had exhibited and in which conversation Clay gave the
witness to understand that he knew the nature of the letter perfectly and
remarked that he thought, 'The end would justify the means.' The witness
also testified to the presence of Booth with Sanders in Montreal last fall
and of Surratt in Toronto in February last."
The above is
certainly proof positive of Jesuit influence. Continuing below record
"John Wilkes Booth
having entered into this conspiracy in Canada, as has been shown, as early
as October, he is next found in the City of New York on the 11th day, as I
claim of November, in disguise, in conversation with another, the
conversation disclosing to the witness, Mrs. Hudspeth, that they had some
matter of personal interest between them; that up on one of them the lot
had fallen to go to Washington . . . upon the other to go to Newbern. This
witness upon being shown the photograph of Booth swears that "the face is
the same" that of one of the men, who, she says, was a young man of
education and culture, as appeared by his conversation, and who had a scar
like a bite near the jawbone. It is a fact proved here by the Surgeon
General that Booth had such a scar on the side of his neck."
It was this witness
that found the letter on the floor of the car which Booth dropped and
which was transmitted from her to the War Department on November 17th,
1864. The letter was delivered to President Lincoln, who after having read
it wrote the word Assassination across it, and filed it in his
office where it was found after his death and was placed in evidence as a
court exhibit. The letter reads as follows:
The time has come at
last that we have all so wished for, and upon you everything depends. As
it was decided, before you left, we were to cast lots, we accordingly did
so, and you are to be the Charlotte Corday of the Nineteenth Century. When
you remember the fearful solemn vow that was taken by us, you will feel
there is no drawback. Abe must die, and now. You can choose your weapons,
the cup, the knife, the bullet. The cup failed us once and might again.
Johnson who will give this has been like an enraged demon since the
meeting, because it has not fallen to him to rid the world of a monster .
. . . You know where to find your friends. Your disguises are so perfect
and complete that without one knew your face no police telegraphic
dispatch would catch you. The English gentleman, Harcourt, must not act
hastily. Remember, he has ten days. Strike for your home: strike for your
country; bide your time, but strike sure. Get introduced; congratulate
him; listen to his stories (not many more will the brute tell to earthly
friends;) do anything but fail, and meet us at the appointed place within
the fortnight. You will probably hear from me in Washington. Sanders is
doing us no good in Canada.
And we quote again
from Judge Bingham:
"Although this letter
would imply that the assassination spoken of was to take place speedily,
yet the party was to bide his time . . . . This letter declares that
Abraham Lincoln must die and now, meaning as soon as the agents can be
employed and the work done. 'To that end you will bide your time.'
co-conspirator, Payne, now on his trial . . . says Booth had just been to
Canada. 'Was filled with a mighty scheme and was lying in wait for
agents.' Booth asked the co-operation of the prisoner and said, 'I will
give you as much money as you want; but you must swear to stick to me. It
is in the oil business.' This you are told by the accused was early in
March last . . . . In the latter part of November, 1864, Booth visits
Charles county, Maryland, and is in company with one of the prisoners, Dr.
Samuel A. Mudd, with whom he lodged over night, and through whom he
procures of Gardner one of the several horses which were at his disposal
and used by him and his co-conspirator in Washington on the night of the
"Some time during
December last it is in the testimony that the prisoner Mudd introduced
Booth to John H. Surratt and the witness Weichmann; that Booth invited
them to the National Hotel; that when there in the room to which Booth
took them, Mudd went out into the passage, called Booth out and had a
private conversation with him, leaving the witness and Surratt in the
room. Upon their return to the room, Booth went out with Surratt and upon
their coming in all three—Booth, Surratt and Samuel A. Mudd went out
together and had a conversation in the passage, leaving Weichmann alone.
Up to the time of this interview it seems that neither the witness or
Surratt had any knowledge of Booth as they were then introduced to him by
Dr. Mudd. Whether Surratt had previously known Booth it is not important
to inquire. Mudd deemed it necessary, perhaps a wise precaution, to
introduce Surratt to Booth; he also deemed it necessary to have a private
conversation with Booth shortly afterwards. Had this conversation, no part
of which was heard by Weichmann, been perfectly innocent, it is not to be
presumed that Dr. Mudd, who was an entire stranger to the witness, would
have deemed it necessary to hold the conversation secretly, nor to have
volunteered to tell the witness, or rather pretend to tell him what the
conversation was . . . . And if it was necessary to withdraw and talk by
themselves secretly, about the sale of a farm, why should they disclose
the fact to the very man from whom they had concealed it?"
As a matter of fact,
the above conversation about the purchase of Mudd's farm by Booth was
merely a ruse to deceive Weichmann: The whole conversation was talking
over the shortest and safest route for flight from the Capitol by which to
reach their friends south of Washington.
A number of Dr.
Mudd's slaves testified that he was absent from his home at this time
which corroborated Weichmann's testimony.
We quote from the
summing up of the evidence at the trials by Judge Advocate Bingham
referring to O'Laughlin as follows:
had come to Washington on the 13th of April, 1865, the day preceding the
assassination; had sought out his victim, General Grant, at the house of
the Secretary of War, that he might be able with certainty to identify
him, and that at the very hour when these preparations were going on, was
lying in wait at Rullman's on the Avenue, keeping watch, and declaring as
he did, at about ten o'clock P.M. when told that that fatal blow had been
struck by Booth. 'I don't believe Booth did it.' During the day and night
before he had been visiting Booth, and doubtless encouraging him, and at
the very hour was in position, at a convenient distance to aid and protect
him in his flight, as well as to execute his own part of this conspiracy,
by inflicting death on General Grant who happily, was not at the theatre,
nor in the city, having left the city that day.
"Who doubts that
Booth ascertained in the course of the day that General Grant would not be
present at the theatre. O'Laughlin who was to murder General Grant,
instead of entering the box with Booth, was detailed to lie in wait, and
watch and support him.
"His declarations of
his reasons for his changing his lodgings here and in Baltimore, so ably,
and so ingeniously presented in the arguments of his learned counsel (Mr.
Cox), avail nothing before the blasting fact, that he did change his
lodgings and declared: 'He knew nothing of the affair whatever.'
"O'Laughlin who said
he was in the 'oil business' which Booth, Surratt, Payne and Arnold, have
all declared meant this conspiracy, says he 'knew nothing of the affair.'
O'Laughlin, to whom Booth sent the dispatches of the 13th and 27th of
March,—O'Laughlin who is named in Arnold's letter as one of the
conspirators, and who searched for General Grant on Thursday night, laid
in wait for him on Friday, was defeated by that Providence 'which shapes
our ends,' and laid in wait to aid Booth and Payne, declares, he 'knows
nothing about the matter.' Such a denial is as false and inexcusable as
Peter's denial of our Lord."
preparations were going on, Mudd was awaiting the execution of the plot,
ready to faithfully perform his part in securing the safe escape of the
murderers. Arnold was at his post at Fortress Monroe, awaiting the meeting
referred to in his letter of March 27th, wherein he says they were not to
'Meet for a month or so,' which month had more than expired on the day of
the murder, for his letter and testimony disclose that this month of
suspensions began to run from about the first week of March. He stood
ready with the arms with which Booth had furnished him, to aid the escape
of the murderers by that route, and secure their communication with their
employers. He had given the assurance in that letter to Booth that
although the Government "suspicioned" them, and the undertaking was
becoming "complicated" yet a time "more propitious would arrive," for the
consummation of this conspiracy in which he "was one" with Booth and when
he "would be better prepared to again be with him."
It was upon the above
evidence for which O'Laughlin and Arnold were convicted and sentenced to
the Dry Tortugas.
And now I will quote
from the same document the summing up of the evidence against Mary E.
Surratt, for as a matter of facts tersely stated nothing could surpass
that of the Judge Advocate, John A. Bingham.
"That Mary E. Surratt
is as guilty as her son, as having thus conspired and combined and
confederated, to do this murder, in aid of this rebellion, is clear.
First, her house was the headquarters of Booth, John Surratt, Atzerodt,
Payne and Herold; she is inquired for by Payne, and she is visited by
Booth, and holds private conversations with him. His picture together with
the chief conspirator, Jefferson Davis, is found in her house. She sends
to Booth for a carriage to take her on the 11th of April to Surrattville,
for the purpose of perfecting the arrangement deemed necessary to the
successful execution of the conspiracy, and especially to facilitate and
protect the conspirators in their escape from justice. On that occasion,
Booth, having disposed of his carriage, gives to the agent she employed (Weichmann)
ten dollars with which to hire a conveyance for that purpose. And yet the
pretense is made that Mrs. Surratt went on the 11th of April to
Surrattville on exclusively her own private and lawful business. Can any
one tell, if that be so, how it comes that she should apply to Booth for a
conveyance? And how it comes that he, of his own accord, having no
conveyance to furnish her, should send her ten dollars with which to
"There is not the
slightest indication that Booth was under the slightest obligation to her,
or that she had any claim upon him, either for a conveyance, or for the
means with which to procure one except that he was bound to contribute,
being the agent of the conspirators in Canada and Richmond, whatever money
might be necessary to the consummation of this infernal plot. On that day,
the 11th of April, John H. Surratt had not returned from Canada with the
funds furnished him by Thompson.
"Upon that journey of
the 11th, the accused. Mary E. Surratt, met with the witness, John M.
Lloyd, at Uniontown (her tenant at Surrattville). She called him; he got
out of his carriage and came to her; she whispered to him in so low a tone
that her attendant could not hear her words, though Lloyd to whom they
were spoken, did distinctly hear them, and testifies that she told him he
should have those 'shooting irons' ready, meaning the carbines, which her
son, and Herold and Atzerodt had deposited with him, and added the reason,
'for they would soon be called for.' On the day of the assassination, she
again sent for Booth, had an interview with him in her own house, and
immediately again went to Surrattville, and then, about six o'clock in the
afternoon, she delivered to Lloyd a field glass and told him to 'Have two
bottles of whiskey and the carbines ready, as they would be called for
that night.' Having thus perfected the arrangement, she returned to
Washington to her own house at about half past eight o'clock, to await the
final result. How could this woman anticipate on Friday afternoon at six
o'clock, that these arms would be called for, and would be needed that
night, unless she was in the conspiracy and knew the blow was to be
struck, and the flight of the assassins attempted and by that route.
"Was not the private
conversation with Booth held with her in her parlor on the afternoon of
the 14th of April, just before she left on this business in relation to
the orders she should give to have the shooting arms ready?
"An endeavor is made
to impeach Lloyd. But the Court will observe that no witness has been
called who contradicts Lloyd's statement in any material matter; neither
has his general character for truth been assailed. How, then, is he
impeached? Is it claimed that his testimony shows that he was a party to
the conspiracy? Then, it is conceded by those who set up any such a
pretense that there was a conspiracy. A conspiracy between whom? There can
be no conspiracy without the co-operation, or agreement, between two or
more persons. Who were the other parties to it? Was it Mary E. Surratt?
Was it John H. Surratt? Was it George Atzerodt, David Herold? Those are
the only persons so far as his own testimony, or the testimony of any
other witnesses discloses, with whom he had any communication whatever on
any subject immediately or remotely touching this conspiracy before the
assassination. His receipt and concealment of the arms, are unexplained
evidence that he was in the conspiracy.
"The explanation is,
that he depended on Mary E. Surratt; was her tenant, and his declaration,
given in evidence by the accused, himself, is that: 'She had ruined him
and brought this trouble upon him.' But because he was weak enough, or
wicked enough, to become the guilty depository of these arms, and to
deliver them on the order of Mary E. Surratt, to the assassins, it does
not follow, that he is not to be believed on oath. It is said, that he
concealed the fact that the arms had been left and called for. He so
testifies himself, but he gives the reason, that he did it only from
apprehension of danger to his life. If he were in the conspiracy, his
general credit being unchallenged, his testimony being uncontradicted in
any material matter, he is to be believed, and cannot be disbelieved if
his testimony is substantially corroborated by other reliable witnesses.
"Is he not
corroborated touching the deposit of arms by the fact that the arms are
produced in court, one of which was found upon the person of Booth at the
time he was overtaken and slain, and which is identified as the same which
had been left with Lloyd, by Herold, Surratt and Atzerodt? Is he not
corroborated in the fact of the first interview with Mrs. Surratt by the
joint testimony of Mrs. Offut (his sister-in-law), and Louis J. Weichmann,
each of whom testified, (and they are contradicted by no one) that, on
Tuesday, the 11th of April, at Uniontown, Mrs. Surratt called Mr. Lloyd to
come to her, which he did, and she held a secret conversation with him? Is
he not corroborated as to the last conversation on the 14th of April by
the testimony of Mrs. Offut, who swears that upon the evening, April 14,
she saw the prisoner, Mary E. Surratt, at Lloyd's house approach and hold
conversation with him? Is he not corroborated in the fact, to which he
swears that Mrs. Surratt delivered to him at that time, the field glass
wrapped in paper, by the sworn statement of Weichmann, that Mrs. Surratt
took with her on that occasion two packages, both of which were wrapped in
paper, and one of which he describes as a small package, about six inches
in diameter? The attempt was made, by calling Mrs. Offut, to prove that no
such package was delivered, but it failed; she merely states, that Mrs.
Surratt delivered a package wrapped in paper to her, after her arrival
there, and before Lloyd came in, which was laid down in the room. But
whether it is the package about which Lloyd testifies, or the other
package, of the two about which Weichmann testifies, as having been
carried there that day by Mrs. Surratt, does not appear. Neither does this
witness pretend to say that Mrs. Surratt, after she had delivered it to
her, and the witness had laid it down in the room, did not again take it
up, if it were the same, and put it into the hands of Lloyd. She only
knows that she did not see that done; but she did see Lloyd with a package
like the one she received in the room before Mrs. Surratt left. How it
came in his possession she is not able to state; nor that the package was
that Mrs. Surratt first handed her; nor which of the packages she
afterwards saw in the hands of Lloyd.
"But there is one
other fact in this case that puts forever at rest the question of the
guilty participation of the prisoner, Mrs. Surratt, in this conspiracy and
murder; and that is, that Payne who had lodged four days in her house—who,
during all of that time had sat at her table, and who had often conversed
with her—when the guilt of his great crime was upon him, and he knew not
where else he could go so safely, to find a co-conspirator, and that he
could trust none, that was not like himself, guilty, with even the
knowledge of his presence, under the cover of darkness, after wandering
for three days and nights, skulking before the pursuing officers, at the
hour of midnight found his way to the door of Mrs. Surratt, rang the bell,
was admitted, and upon being asked, 'Whom do you want to see?' Replied,
'Mrs. Surratt.' He was then asked by the officer Morgan, what he came at
that time of night for, to which he replied, 'To dig a gutter in the
morning,' that Mrs. Surratt had sent for him. Afterwards he said that Mrs.
Surratt knew he was a poor man and came to him. Being asked where he last
worked, he replied: 'Sometimes on I street;' and where he boarded, he
replied, that he had no boarding house but was a poor man who got his
living with the pick, which he bore upon his shoulder, having stolen it
from the entrenchments of the Capital. Upon being pressed why he came
there at that time of night to go to work, he answered that he simply
called to see what time he should go to work in the morning. Upon being
told by the officer who fortunately had preceded him to this house, that
he would have to go to the Provost-Marshal's office, he moved and did not
answer, whereupon Mrs. Surratt was asked to step into the hall and state
whether she knew this man. Raising her right hand, she exclaimed: 'Before
God, sir, I have not seen that man before; I have not hired him: I do not
know anything about him.' The hall was brilliantly lighted.
"If not one word had
been said, the mere act of Payne in flying to her house for shelter, would
have borne witness against her, strong as proofs from Holy Writ. But, when
she denies, after hearing his declarations that she had sent for him, or
that she had never seen him, and knew nothing of him, when, in point of
fact, she had seen him four consecutive days, in her own house (that same
house) in the same clothing which he wore, who can resist for a moment,
the conclusion that these parties, were alike, guilty?"
And this is the woman
whom the Roman hierarchy in this country is trying to make a martyr of.
Contemplate this female Jesuit, this Leopoldine, without being asked to
swear to her denial, volunteered to lift her hand and in the name of her
God, perjure herself in the presence of those witnesses! Do you doubt that
she was a lay Jesuit? Listen. Let me quote the "Doctrine of the Jesuits"
upon this point:
Under Of Lying and
False Swearing in JUDICIO TEOLOGICA, Basnedi, Jesuit authority,
page 278, we find:
"If you believe in an
inconvertible manner, that you are commanded to lie, then lie."
Again, we quote
from the Jesuit Father Stoz in Of the Tribunal of
"When a crime is
secret, the culpability of the crime may be denied; it being understood
"Mrs. Surratt had
arrived at home from the completion of her part in the plot, about half
past eight in the evening. A few minutes afterwards she was called to the
parlor, and there had a private interview with someone unseen, but whose
retreating footsteps were heard by the witness, Weichmann. This was
doubtless the secret, and last visit of John H. Surratt to his mother, who
had instigated and encouraged him to strike this traitorous and murderous
blow at his country.
"Booth proceeded to
the theatre about nine o'clock in the evening, at the same time that
Atzerodt and Payne and Herold were riding the streets, while Surratt,
having parted with his mother at the brief interview in his parlor, from
which his retreating steps were heard, was walking the Avenue
(Pennsylvania) booted and spurred, and doubtless consulting with
O'Laughlin. When Booth reached the rear of the theatre, he called Spangler
to him and received from Spangler his pledge to help him all he could,
when, with Booth, he entered the theatre by the stage door, doubtless to
see that the way was clear from the box to the rear door of the theatre,
and to look upon their victim, whose erect position they could study from
the stage. After this view Booth passes to the street in front of the
theatre, where on the pavement, with other conspirators, yet unknown,
among them one described as a low-browed villain, he awaits the appointed
moment . . . . Presently, as the hour of ten o'clock approached, one of
his guilty associates calls the time; they wait; again, as the appointed
time draws nigh, he calls the time; and finally when the fatal moment
arrives, he repeats in a louder tone 'Ten minutes past ten o'clock, ten
minutes past ten o'clock' . . . . The hour has come when the red right
hand of these murderous conspirators should strike, and the dreadful deed
of assassination be done.
"Booth at the
appointed moment entered the theatre, ascended to the dress circle, passed
to the right, paused a moment looking down, doubtless to see if Spangler
was at his post, and approached the outer door of the closed passage
leading to the box, occupied by the President, pressed it open, passed in,
and closed the passage door behind him. Spangler's bar was in its place
and was readily adjusted by Booth in the mortise, and pressed against the
inner side of the door, so that he was secure from interruption from
without. He passed on to the next door, immediately behind the President,
and stopping, looks through the aperture in the door into the President's
box, and deliberately observes the precise position of his victim seated
in the chair, which had been prepared by the conspirators, as the altar
for the sacrifice, looking calmly and quietly down upon the glad and
grateful people, whom by his fidelity he had saved from the peril which
had threatened the destruction of their government, and all they held
dear, this side of the grave, and whom he had come, upon invitation, to
greet with his presence, with the words still lingering upon his lips,
which he had uttered with uncovered head and uplifted hand, before God,
and his country, when on the fourth of last March, he took again the oath
to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, declaring that he
entered upon the duties of his great office 'With malice toward none and
charity for all.'
"In a moment more,
strengthened by the knowledge that his conspirators were all at their
posts, seven at least of them present in the city, two of them, Mudd and
Arnold, at their appointed places, watching for his coming, this hired
assassin moves stealthily through the door, the fastening of which had
been removed to facilitate his entrance, fires upon his victim, and the
martyred spirit of Abraham Lincoln ascends to God."
"Treason has done
his worst; nor steel nor poison;
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further."
Now, I will let Judge
Bingham pick up the thread of evidence by which Booth and Herold were left
at the home of Dr Mudd:
". . . . They arrived
early in the morning before day, and no man knows at what hour they left.
Herold rode towards Bryantown with Mudd, about three o'clock that
afternoon, in the vicinity of which place he parted with him, remaining in
the swamp, and was afterwards seen returning the same afternoon in the
direction of Mudd's house, a little before sundown, about which time Mudd
returned from Bryantown towards his home. This village, at the time Mudd
was in it, was thronged with soldiers in pursuit of the murderers of the
President, and although great care had been taken by the defense to deny
that anyone said in the presence of Dr. Mudd, either there or elsewhere on
that day, who had committed this crime, yet it is in evidence by two
witnesses, whose truthfulness no man questions, that upon Mudd's return to
his own house that afternoon, he stated that Booth was the murderer of the
president, and Boyle, the murderer of Secretary Seward, but took care to
make the further remark that Booth had brothers, and that he did not know
which one of them had done the act.
"When did Dr. Mudd
learn that Booth had brothers? And what is still more pertinent to this
inquiry, from whom did he learn that either, John Wilkes or any of his
brothers, had murdered the President?
"It is clear that
Booth remained in Mudd's house until some time in the afternoon of
Saturday; that Herold left the house alone, as one of the witnesses
states, being seen to pass the window; that he alone of these two
assassins was in the company of Dr. Mudd on his way to Bryantown. It does
not appear that Herold returned to Mudd's house. It is a confession of Dr.
Mudd himself, proven by one of the witnesses that Booth left his house on
crutches and went in the direction of the swamp. How long did he remain
there, and what became of the horses that Booth and Herold rode to his
house and which were put in his stable, are facts nowhere disclosed by the
evidence. The owners testify that they have never seen the horses since."
As a matter of fact,
it afterward developed. Herold, while he and Booth skulked in the timbers
near the place of Thomas Jones, not a great way from the road on which
they could see the soldiers and searchers riding up and down feared the
horses might, by neighing, attract the attention of the riders and be
betrayed, so he led the horses a safe distance away and shot them.
The late Brig.
General T. M. Harris, a member of the military commission which convicted
the conspirators, in his great book on the Conspiracy Trials, page 80,
describes Dr. Mudd as follows:
"Mudd's expression of
countenance was that of hypocrite. He had the bump of secretiveness
largely developed, and it would have taken months of favorable
acquaintanceship to have removed the unfavorable impression made by the
first scanning of the man. He had the appearance of a natural born liar
and deceiver. Mudd was a physician living on a farm. He had a considerable
number of slaves at the breaking out of the Rebellion, most of whom had
left him during the previous winter. His father, also living in the
neighborhood, was large land and slave holder, and Mudd's disloyalty was,
no doubt, of the rabid type. His home was a place for returned Rebel
soldiers and recruiting parties, and he had a place of concealment in the
pines near his house, where they were sheltered and cared for, the doctor
sending their food to them by his slaves; and if at any time any of these
parties ventured to his house to take their meals, a slave was always
placed on watch to give notice of the approach of anyone."
Mudd not only
entertained Booth a week-end in November, but he was known to have made
several trips to Washington that winter, and each time was in conference
with both Booth and Surratt. There is no doubt that Booth's Knight of the
Golden Circle signals and signs did not give him entrée to the Romanists
in the community south of Washington, in which St. Mary's Catholic Church
was the center, and to which he and Herold fled after the deed committed
in Ford's Theatre.
The next damaging
evidence against Dr. Mudd was when the officers visited his house on the
trail of the two fugitives and he emphatically denied that he had any
strange visitors. It was not until the third visit, when the officers,
fortified by definite facts informed him that they would have to search
the house, that he admitted the presence of the two men, one wounded, who
had been there the Saturday after the assassination. Mrs. Mudd disappeared
and in a few minutes came in bringing the bootleg which Mudd had cut from
Booth's boot when he bandaged his leg. On the bootleg were the initials "J.W.B."
written in India ink inside. Even then neither Mudd nor his wife told an
accurate story. Both denied that they had any idea it was Booth,
notwithstanding the fact that they were well acquainted with him, and
notwithstanding that his was a personality with voice and manner that once
known could never be forgotten.
When Mudd was being
taken to the Dry Tortugas after his conviction, he admitted to the
officers, who had him in charge, that he recognized Booth and Herold the
morning after the murder when he came to have his leg dressed.
Mudd only served
three years' imprisonment and was liberated with Spangler, as was Arnold.
O'Laughlin died of the Yellow Fever in an epidemic in the prison, and Dr.
Mudd rendered his professional services so efficiently, that it was on
this ground he received his discharge from President Johnson, who had
promised he would do so before retiring from office. The liberation of
these assassins of President Lincoln by his successor, caused much sharp
comment and criticism from Lincoln's friends. It seems almost unbelievable
that any sort of leniency should have been shown to these criminals who
were guilty not only of the murder of the most distinguished American, but
of high treason to their government!
It may be interesting
to the reader to know that in the book written by Dr. Mudd's daughter, she
proudly boasts of the fact that her mother is a graduate of the Visitation
Convent at Georgetown and that on graduation her diploma was presented to
her class by "Cardinal Bodini, who was the first papal Legate to the
The lady does not
state, perhaps she did not know, that Cardinal Bodini, prior to his
elevation as papal Legate was known all over Italy as the BUTCHER of
Bologna, because of the many Italian patriots he ordered put to death
and that he gave the order that the Revolutionary priest, Ugo Bassi, who
was the devoted follower of Garibaldi, should be tortured three hours
before his execution.
She neglects also to
state that this was the same Cardinal Bodini, who was made to leave this
country between suns by the KNOW NOTHINGS—God bless them, and all
Spangler, broken in
health, returned with Dr. Mudd and made his home with him until his death
in 1875. He is buried in the cemetery, two miles from the Mudd residence,
near St. Peter's church. Dr. Mudd lies buried in the little country
graveyard connected with St. Mary's church where he first met Booth on
that bright November morning in 1864.
The body of John
Wilkes Booth was given to his brother, Edwin, who had it removed from the
old penitentiary in the Arsenal grounds, where it had been since the
burial of the other four of his fellow conspirators, by a Baltimore
undertaker, assisted by a local Washington undertaking firm, Harvey &
Marr, to Baltimore, and buried in the Booth family lot at beautiful
The army box labeled
with Booth's name at the time of the burial was somewhat decayed but the
body was identified by the dentist who had filled several teeth, and who
had no difficulty in identifying it as that of Booth. The skull had become
detached but the jet black hair hung in long black ringlets. Edwin Booth
did not view the body but remained close by until notified of the complete
identification. He ordered the body placed in a casket which had been
provided by him and shipped to Baltimore.
The mother of Michael
O'Laughlin was given the body of her son, which was shipped from the
prison burial ground and placed in the Catholic cemetery in Baltimore.
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