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David Herold, Lincoln Co-conspirator
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David Herold, born in Maryland in 1842, was possibly a dupe in the plot to assassinate Pres. Abraham Lincoln, Vice-Pres. Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward in April 1965. Witnesses testified that, although he was nearing his 23rd birthday, he was "trifling" and had the mental age of an eleven-year old. Minutes of the trial, as reported in the Daily National Intelligencer of Washington in May 1865, recount testimonies by at least 9 people (including his sister Emma) who all said that David was easily led and childish.
Recruited to guide Lewis Thornton Powell to the home of Seward the evening of 14 April, he was supposed to wait outside with the horses but became frightened at the unexpected commotion inside and took off. Later that night he met up with John Wilkes Booth, after Lincoln's assassination, on the road to Surrattsville (now Clinton), MD and accompanied him to pick up more weapons at Mary Surratt's tavern, then south to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd who splinted Booth's broken leg. They left the Mudd home the afternoon of 15 April 1865 and traveled until they were surrounded by authorities in the barn of Richard H. Garrett near Port Royal, VA, on 26 April.
Booth refused to come out of the barn but Herold surrendered after some talk and came out "with his hands up". Booth, being a stage actor and well-known, needed no identification but that was not the case with Herold. To identify David Herold, Eugene Conger, chief detective in the hunt for Lincoln's assassins, provided a photo that had been taken some time earlier, perhaps during the Civil War, because this same photo is now on Footnote as part of the Brady Collection of Civil War Photos, and is likely the photo referred to by Herold's sister, Jane (see Letters Received and Statements of Evidence Collected by the Military Commission, pages 402-410, of the Lincoln Assassination Papers on Footnote). The Indiana Historical Society identifies this photo as the same used by Conger to identify David Herold.
After his capture, David Herold was interrogated on board the monitor Montauk (a ship). The transcript of the questions and answers are available in Letters Received and Statements of Evidence Collected by the Military Commission within the Lincoln Assassination Papers, pages 442-485. Herold was tried on a charge of conspiracy to murder, then hung on 7 July 1865 with three other conspirators -Mary E. Surratt, Lewis T. Powell (tried under the surname Payne or Paine) and George A. Atzerodt. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.
- Washington, DC
- 14 Apr 1865