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Mary Surratt From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search This article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2009) Mary Surratt Born May/June 1823
Waterloo, Maryland Died July 07, 1865 (age 42)
Washington, D.C Conviction(s) Treason, conspiracy, plotting murder Penalty Death by hanging Status Deceased Occupation Boardinghouse owner Spouse John Harrison Surratt Parents Archibald and Elizabeth Anne Jenkins Children Isaac (born in 1841)
Elizabeth Susanna ("Anna", 1843)
John, Jr. (1844)

Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt[1] (May/June 1823 – July 7, 1865) was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was the first woman executed by the United States federal government, and was hanged. She was the mother of John Surratt, also alleged to have been involved in the conspiracy.

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Early life

Surratt was born to Archibald (who died when Mary was two years old) and Elizabeth Anne Jenkins in southern Maryland, in the town called Waterloo. She had two brothers. As a child, Surratt was enrolled in a private Roman Catholic girl's boarding school, the Academy for Young Ladies in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mary Jenkins married John Harrison Surratt, also a Roman Catholic and a farmer of French ancestry,[2] in 1839, when she was sixteen and he was twenty-seven; his family had settled in Maryland in the 18th century and the community in which they lived, Surrattsville, was named for the Surratt family. The couple had three children, Isaac (born in 1841), Elizabeth Susanna ("Anna", 1843), and John, Jr. (1844).[3]

The Surratts engaged in many livelihoods over the next two decades. They farmed tobacco on a 287-acre (1.16 km2) tract purchased in 1852 and supplemented their income by operating a general store, a gristmill, a tavern, and a post office. They were nevertheless continually plagued by financial worries, problems exacerbated by John Surratt's drinking.[3][4] One biographer suggested that John Surratt was physically and emotionally abusive to his wife.[4]

Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, though the border state of Maryland was officially Union, the Surratts were Confederate sympathizers like many other slave-owning farmers.[citation needed] Their tavern regularly hosted fellow sympathizers, and their post office did double duty as a United States and Confederate post office.[1] The full extent of the family's involvement in clandestine Confederate activities may never be known, but it is certain (and was introduced into evidence at Mary Surratt's trial) that weapons and cash for Confederate agents were stored at the Surratt tavern, which had been leased to John Lloyd.[5]

John Surratt died suddenly at the family homestead and tavern in August 1862.[3] Though the marriage had not been happy, his death left his widow far from relieved as she was in desperate circumstances financially and even in danger of eviction. The family's slaves had either run away or been repossessed (it is unknown exactly what became of them), the sale of a substantial amount of property which had given hope of resolving the financial difficulties failed because of the buyers' default, and John's many creditors still pressed to collect.[1][3] Mary leased the family farm and tavern to a former Washington, D.C., policeman named John M. Lloyd and moved with her three children to the small but well-located townhouse (at 604 H Street, NW (then 541), in the District of Columbia),[1][3][4] inherited from John Surratt's relatives and transformed its upper floor into a boardinghouse. She employed her only remaining asset in one of the few ways considered respectable for an indigent young widow; with the home's location convenient to government buildings, she was able to eke out a very modest living for herself and her family.

Lincoln assassination connection Surratt's boarding house, c. 1890, with little difference as it looked during her ownership. Surratt's boarding house, now used as a restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Mary Surratt's older brother, Zadoc Jenkins, was arrested by Union forces for trying to prevent an occupying Federal soldier from voting in the Maryland elections that gave Lincoln a second term. Surratt's son later admitted that he was actively involved in an earlier plot to kidnap the president, but claimed he was not involved in the assassination. He testified at his own trial that he had been in Elmira, New York, enroute to Montreal, Canada, when Lincoln was shot. He also denied that his mother had been involved in the plot in any way.

On the day of the assassination, Mary rode out to her tavern with one of her boarders, Louis J. Weichmann, a young War Department clerk, who was a friend of her son, John Surratt, Jr. Although Mary Surratt claimed to have made the journey to collect back rent owed by her tenant, John Lloyd, Lloyd later testified against her, saying she gave him a package containing field glasses and told him to "make ready the shooting irons." This referred to two repeating carbines and seven revolvers that she had bought and stored for the conspirators on her property. After assassinating President Lincoln at Ford's Theater, John Wilkes Booth did in fact first stop at the Surrattsville tavern with his accomplice David Herold. John Lloyd, the innkeeper, gave Booth and Herold whiskey, pistols, and one of two Spencer carbines as well as the field glasses. Lloyd claimed Surratt had told him to do this when she arrived earlier that day. Booth and Herold then continued traveling southward, helped by many of the same Southern sympathizers who had aided John Surratt in his activities as a courier for the Confederacy.

Arrest and trial

Mary Surratt was arrested on April 18. While Surratt was being questioned by police in her boarding house, Lewis Powell, the former John Mosby's Ranger who had attempted to assassinate Secretary of State Seward, appeared at her door. Although witnesses later testified Surratt had met Powell several times, thus linking her further to the conspiracy, she denied ever having seen him before.

Police mugshot of Surratt at the time of her arrest in April 1865

Held in military custody under sweltering conditions, Mary Surratt had her head enclosed in a padded canvas bag to prevent a suicide attempt. She was also kept manacled. She was constantly guarded by four soldiers. For two weeks after her arrest and before her trial, she was held on board a warship that was being used as a prison for the conspirators. Her cell only had a straw pallet and a bucket as furniture. During their trial, Surratt and the other alleged conspirators were taken to the old arsenal where the Military Tribunal took place.

During the trial, a newspaper described Mary Surratt as a rather attractive, 5 ft 6 in (1.7 m) buxom, forty-year-old widow. She was the oldest conspirator on trial and the only woman. She and Lewis Powell received the most attention from the press. It was popularly believed that Mary was on trial as a means of forcing her son out of hiding. That did not happen, and she was found guilty by the military court and sentenced on June 30, 1865, to be "hanged by the neck 'til she be dead" for treason, conspiracy, and plotting murder. Military tribunals had less strict rules of evidence than civilian trials and it was highly irregular for a civilian to be tried by one.[citation needed] Moreover, the government suppressed Booth's diary during the trial, which would have been essential to Surratt's defense since it contained evidence that Booth had planned kidnapping, not murder, but changed his mind on the last day (Surratt may not have known of this and so might not have been guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, one of the crimes of which she was found guilty).[citation needed][original research?]

Despite these evidentiary problems and the desperate pleas of her daughter, her priest, and her lawyer, President Andrew Johnson signed her death warrant, saying that she had "kept the nest that hatched the egg" and was second only to Booth in the designing of the plot.[citation needed] There is some dispute whether he ever saw the military judges' recommendation that her sentence be commuted to a life of permanent solitary confinement in a penitentiary.[citation needed]

Execution Newspaper drawing of Surratt in the death cell with her priest in July 1865.

At noon on July 6, Surratt was informed she would be hanged the next day. She wept profusely. She was joined shortly by a Roman Catholic priest, her daughter Anna, and a few friends. She was allowed to wear looser handcuffs and leg irons during this period, but was kept hooded. She spent the night praying and refused breakfast. Her friends were ordered to leave her at 10:00 on the morning of July 7, and her heavy manacles were replaced. She spent the final hours of her life with her priest.

Adjusting the ropes before the hanging

On July 7, 1865, around 1:15 P.M., a procession, headed by the nearly fainting Mary Surratt and consisting of the four condemned prisoners (their hands manacled and legs chained with heavy irons and 75-pound iron balls) and many guards, was led through the courtyard, past the condemned's newly dug graves, and up the thirteen steps to the gallows where the four were to be hanged. Surratt had to be supported by two soldiers. The actual gallows was on a ten-foot-high platform. The hangman had made Surratt's noose with five turns instead of the required seven because he had thought that the government would never hang a woman.

After the drop fell. (From left to right: Mary E. Surratt, Lewis T. Powell, David E. Herold, and George A. Atzerodt), July 7, 1865 (today, these are tennis courts [1] at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.)

The condemned were seated in chairs while their chains and shoes were removed and their wrists were tied together behind them, their arms were bound to their sides, and their ankles and thighs tied together. Instead of rope, white cloth was used. Surratt wore a long black dress and black veil. The doomed party was attended by several members of the clergy. Over one thousand men, women, and children came to watch them die. The condemned were then moved up to the break, nooses were placed around their necks, and thin white cotton hoods were placed over their heads. Mary Surratt's last words, spoken to a guard as he put the noose around her neck, were purported to be, "please don't let me fall." General Winfield Scott Hancock read out the death sentences in alphabetical order. Four members of Company F of the Fourteenth Veteran Reserves knocked out the supporting post, releasing the platform. The conspirators dropped about five or six feet, which proved insufficient to break their necks.[citation needed]

The body of Mary Surratt and those of the convicted conspirators were allowed to hang for 25 minutes. She was executed along with Powell (also known as Payne), Herold (who stayed with Booth until his death in a Virginia tobacco barn), and George Atzerodt (a German immigrant who lived in Port Tobacco, Maryland, he had been assigned but failed to kill Vice President Johnson).

  • Waterloo, Maryland, Washington DC.
  • 1823-July 07, 1865

More on Mary Surratt.

Burial Mary Surratt's Grave

All of the bodies were placed on the coffins (which were actually gun boxes) by the gallows, declared dead by doctors, and unceremoniously buried with the hoods still on and a glass vial containing their names to help identify the bodies. Several pieces of the rope that had ended Surratt's life and locks of her hair were sold as souvenirs.

Four years later, Anna Surratt pleaded with the federal government successfully for the return of her mother's remains. Today, Mary Surratt's body is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C., 1300 Bladensburg Road, NE. Her headstone reads simply, "Mrs. Surratt". The bodies of Anna Surratt and Isaac Surratt were buried on each side of their mother. John Surratt's body was buried in Baltimore. The body of John Lloyd, whose testimony may have sealed Mary's fate, is buried less than 100 yards (91 m) south of her grave, in the same cemetery (his simple tombstone is marked, "John M. Lloyd").

Surviving family and home

Mary's son John was ultimately captured after a year and a half as a fugitive hiding in various Roman Catholic religious establishments as well as the Papal States.[6] In September, 1865, he traveled from St. Liboire to Montreal, to Quebec, and thence to Liverpool. He served for a brief time in the Papal Zouaves under the name John Watson. Arrested in 1866, he escaped and travelled to the Kingdom of Italy, posing as a Canadian. He booked passage to Alexandria, Egypt, and was arrested there by American officials on November 23, 1866, then extradited to the United States. He was sent home on a U.S. naval warship and put on trial. He was ultimately released after a mistrial and the statutes of limitations had run out on lesser charges. The federal government attempted to retry him but was unsuccessful. He died in 1916.

Mary Surratt's boarding house still stands, in what is now the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C., housing a Chinese restaurant, Wok and Roll. The Surrattsville tavern and house are historical sites run today by the Surratt Society located in Clinton, Maryland.

Mary Surratt's first cousin once removed was the American novelist and short-story writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.[7]

Surratt was portrayed by actress Virginia Gregg (1916-1986) in the 1956 episode "The Mary Surratt Case" of NBC anthology series, The Joseph Cotten Show.

See also
  • James W. Pumphrey - it is said he sat mounted on his horse for hours waiting in the hope of having the privilege of carrying President Andrew Johnson's reprieve to Mrs. Surratt.

  1. ^ a b c d "Mrs. Surratt's Story". Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  2. ^ "John Harrison Surratt's Ancestors". Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Steers, Jr., Edward (2005). Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 138-40. ISBN 0813191513.
  4. ^ a b c Kauffman, Michael W. (2004). American Brutus. Random House. p. 167. ISBN 037550785X.
  5. ^ "Biography of Mary Surratt, Lincoln Assassination Conspirator". Famous American Trials: Trial of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators, 1865. University of Missouri, Kansas City Department of Law. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  6. ^ see Travels, Arrest and Trial of John H. Surratt by Alfred Isacsson (2003) for itinerary.
  7. ^ in many Fitzgerald biographies.

Bibliography American Civil War portal
  • DeWitt, David Miller. The Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt. J. Murphy & Co., 1894. Original from the University of California, Digitized Nov 15, 2007.
  • Larson, Kate Clifford. The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln. Basic Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0465038152.
  • Swanson, James L. Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 0060518502.
  • Townsend, George Alfred. The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1419169955.
  • Trindal, Elizabeth Steger. Mary Surratt: An American Tragedy. Pelican Pub. Co., 1996. ISBN 1565541855.

External links Retrieved from "" Categories: 1865 deaths | 1823 births | Women in the American Civil War | People executed by the United States federal government | People executed by hanging | Failed assassins | Lincoln conspirators | People executed for murder | 19th-century executions by the United States | American Roman Catholics | American female murderers | Burials at Mount Olivet Cemetery (Washington, D.C.) | Executed American women
  • Waterloo, Mayland, Clinton, Maryland, Washington DC
  • Death by hanging 1865.

The rare TIN of Mary SURRATT, sent to me via email.

The rare tin of both Dr. Samuel MUDD & Mary SURRATT, was sent via email to me with permission to use by a civil war researcher


No,  I'm not related.   Just someone interested in anything to do with the civil war era and historical events.  Sure,  you can gladly put them on your article.   I like sharing my pictures.  Thanks.  

  • Prince Georges Co., MD
  • abt 1855

Contributor: llighthse
Created: September 2, 2009 · Modified: September 6, 2010

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