Edmund Spangler, Lincoln Co-conspirator

Edmund Spangler, Lincoln Co-conspirator


Edmund Spangler, sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy to murder Pres. Lincoln

Edmund Spangler

  • Washington, DC

Not much is known of the early life of Edmund (aka Edward, Edman and Ned) Spangler, and what we do know comes from a statement he wrote before his death in Maryland in 1875. He was born in York, PA, in 1825 but lived most of his life in Baltimore, MD.  He had known John Wilkes Booth since he was a child and had worked for his father, Junius, building Tudor Hall in 1854. The 1860 census of Baltimore shows him living with an older woman named Mary Spangler (age 45, born in Maryland - he was 35) and 2 others, William and Elizabeth Maxwell, ages 28 and 19 respectively and both born in Maryland. Without further research, it is unknown whether Mary is Edmund's wife or an older sister, and the relationship of the Maxwells is only speculative. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he moved to Washington, DC, where he worked as a carpenter and scene shifter at several theaters including Ford's Theater.

On Thursday 14 April 1865, Spangler was asked by his employer, John T. Ford, to remove the partition between boxes 7 and 8 and to prepare it for the President and his party who were to attend the Friday evening performance. Booth was in and out of the theater that day, taking the workers out for drinks when their work was done. Booth kept horses, a buggy and equipment in the stable behind the theater, and Spangler was accustomed to seeing him, even helping him with the horses on ocassion. There was nothing unusual when, on the evening of 15 April, Booth asked Spangler to hold a saddled horse for him at the back of the theater. As Spangler had other responsibilities while the play was in progress, he delegated another man by the name of Burroughs to hold the horse for him.

Spangler wrote, in the statement found after his death, that he heard the shot and "immediately saw a man run across the stage... I did not recognize the man as he crossed the stage as being Booth... I could not see any person pass out the back door." In court, he testified that he had not aided Booth in any way, but another employee at the theater claimed that he was stopped by Spangler and told not to say which way Booth went. He was the second oldest of the conspirators tried for the murder of Pres. Lincoln (Mary Surratt was the oldest). The Baltimore Sun reported that, "... from the torture he endured he was mostly unconscious of the proceedings in the case and often knew nothing of what was going on around him... the padded hood was placed upon his head in prison, covering his eyes and tightened about his neck and chest, with manacles already on both hands and feet..." The prisoners were held on two monitors (ships), the Saugus and the Montauk, during their trial. The photo below was taken while Spangler was held on the ship, and contributed by a member of Footnote.

In spite of questionable evidence, Spangler was found guilty of being an accomplice and sentenced to 6 years of hard labor at Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida. Most of the time he was there was spent in the carpentry shop. In 1869, Pres. Andrew Johnson pardoned the Lincoln conspirators imprisoned at Fort Jefferson, and Spangler accompanied Arnold and Arnold's father when they returned to Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun of 7 April 1869 reported that they had been treated well during their return and that Spangler appeared to be in good health.

Spangler went back to work for John T. Ford at his Holliday Street Theatre in Baltimore until the theater burned down in 1873. He then went to live near Dr. and Mrs. Mudd, who gave him some land to farm, until his death in 1875. He is buried in St. Peter's Churchyard.

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