OTD: The Padded Hoods are Removed

On this date, June 10th, in 1865, the Lincoln assassination conspirators received relief from their dreadful padded hoods.

Padded hoods

From the early days of their incarceration, the bulk of the assassination conspirators were forced to wear hoods. Originally, the hoods were of made of canvas. All the main conspirators as we know them, excepting Dr. Mudd and Mary Surratt, had to wear these hoods. The hoods were placed on their heads in order to prevent communication among the conspirators while aboard the monitors and then continued while they were imprisoned in the Arsenal Penitentiary. On May 1st, Dr. George Porter, who was under the command of the prison’s superintendent, General Hartranft, made an examination of the prisoners and suggested that, “the hoods be paded.” Though it has been written that this recommendation was caused by the so called “suicide attempt” on the part of Lewis Powell, it is also possible that Dr. Porter was hoping a padded hood might be of better comfort to the prisoners. As it turns out, Dr. Porter’s order caused even more grief to the Lincoln assassination conspirators.

On May 8th, the padded hoods had been made and were placed on the conspirators. Sam Arnold remembered these hoods with distinct displeasure:

It fitted the head tightly, containing cotton pads, which were placed directly over the eyes and ears, having the tendency to push the eyeballs back in the sockets. One small aperture allowed about the nose through which to breathe, and one by which food could be served to the mouth, thence extending also from the crown of the head backwards to the neck. The cords were drawn as tight as the jailor in charge could pull them, causing the most excruciating pain and suffering, and then tied in such a manner around the neck that it was impossible to remove them.

A padded hood on display at the Quincy and Adams County Historical Society in Quincy, IL. A padded hood on display at the Quincy and Adams County Historical Society in Quincy, IL

When the conspirators were brought into the court room for the first time on May 9th, even the members of the military commission were taken aback at their torturous appearance. After observing the disgust of the commission, General Hartranft made sure, from that day forward, that the padded hoods were removed before the conspirators were brought into the trial room. Nevertheless, they were still required to wear the padded hoods when not in court.

As time passed, General Hartranft began to take pity on the suffering conspirators due to their padded hoods. On June 6th, Hartranft formally requested the padded hoods be removed from all the conspirators excepting Lewis Powell. This request was finally carried out on June 10th.

Padded hood in he collection of the Chicago Historical Society attributed to Lewis Powell

Padded hood in the collection of the Chicago Historical Society attributed to Lewis Powell CHS 1920.1271

The removal of the hoods was a godsend to the conspirators and greatly benefited their quality of life. Less than a month later however, four of the conspirators would receive a new hood. The insides of these July 7th execution hoods would be the last view Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt would ever see.

A Peek Inside the Walls – 13 Days Aboard the Monitors by John “Jeff” Elliott and Barry Cauchon

Categories: Uncategorized | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “OTD: The Padded Hoods are Removed

  1. Richard

    Thanks for the post. I did not realize that Dr. Mudd did not have to wear the hood.
    I have been to the Chicago Historical Society to see Lincoln’s bed, but do not recall Powell’s hood being on display.

  2. Tammy

    Richard I thought Lincoln’s bed was burned in the Chicago fire.

    • Tammy,

      Richard is referring to the bed on which Lincoln died from the Petersen House. It was purchased by a Chicago candy manufacturer named Charles Gunther, who later sold his collection to the Chicago Historical Society. The bed is in the Chicago History Museum.

      • Tammy

        Oh ok. Thats one more thing I learned about Abe Lincoln. Thanks.

  3. Anthony Classick

    I took t hat long trip to Chicago to see the Lincoln things they had and nothing was on display but
    things I had no interest in, mostly paintings and old photos.

    • The Chicago History Museum has the Petersen House bed on display along with a reproduction (though they have they original) of the horse shoeing lithograph that was in Lincoln’s death chamber. They also have a bust from the St. Gaudens statue of Lincoln in the museum. The actual statue is a stone’s throw from the museum. They probably have other Lincoln things on display, but that’s what I recall seeing. They definitely have more in their collection that is not on display.

  4. I grew up with the name Chicago Historical Society and still cannot get used to the new title.

    • Roger,

      I think the Chicago Historical Society still exists. I think they just changed the name of the museum to the Chicago History Museum.

  5. The conspirators were all affected by the hooding and Powell was actually traumatized by it. According to Sgt. John Peddicord who hooded Powell on the Montauk, the young conspirator wept when he was first hooded.

  6. Richard Sloan

    Great pics of the padded hoods. I didnt know any of them still existed! Wow! The St. Gaudens statue of Lincoln reminds me of something somebody may find of interest. When St. Gaudens was a little boy, he waited on line and saw Lincoln’s open casket in the City Hall in NYC! The reportr I read somewhere said that he saw him there twice. No details on how that could have happ’d, unless his family was so influential. Anyone have any clue about his family?

  7. Brock Vead

    So why did Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd not have to wear the hoods?

    • jett

      my understanding, it was because of a similar reason only Paine and Atzerodt—had their legs weighted with heavy iron balls. in short the commission treated the prisoners unequally based on their prejudice. Payne and Atzerodt were deemed the most dangerous assassins. Surrate was given preferential treatment as a woman and dr Mudd was given leniency in respect for his profession.

    • Brock,

      It appears that Mrs. Surratt and Dr. Mudd were saved from having to wear the hoods due to the lateness in which it was determined that they were conspirators rather than just witnesses. The other conspirators had been identified as conspirators shortly after their arrests and held on the iron clad warships at anchor in the Anacostia River. The hoods were put on them in there in order to prevent them from talking to others in the smaller spaces. When they were transferred over to the Old Arsenal Penitentiary, it appears the hoods were maintained. Mrs. Surratt and Dr. Mudd, on the other hand, were held at the Old Capitol Prison when they were arrested and were held more as witnesses. However, when as the investigation continued and the government felt they had more evidence against these two, they were likewise moved to the Old Arsenal. Since Dr. Mudd did not come with a hood, it appears he was not forced to get one. Same thing for Mary Surratt, but her sex may have played a big role in that as well.

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