Grave Thursday: Hartman Richter

Each week I am highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.

Ernest Hartman Richter


Burial Location: Neelsville Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Germantown, Maryland


Hartman Richter's grave

Connection to the Lincoln assassination:

Ernest Hartman Richter, often known as just Hartman Richter in assassination literature, was the first cousin of conspirator George Atzerodt. Richter’s mother’s maiden name was Christanna Maria Atzerodt, the sister of George’s father, Johann. Like his cousin, Hartman Richter was born in Germany. In 1844, the Atzerodts and Richters immigrated to the United States  where they settled in Montgomery County, Maryland. Johann Atzerodt and his brother-in-law Frederick Richter invested in a farm in what is now Germantown, Maryland, and the families lived there together for some time. After a few years, Atzerodt sold his interest in the farm to his brother-in-law and moved his family to Westmoreland County, Virginia.

After the assassination of Lincoln, conspirator George Atzerodt escaped Washington City and headed north towards this former family home, now owned by his uncle and cousin. Atzerodt arrived at the Richter farm on April 16th and was welcomed in with open arms. George stayed about the home for several days until the early hours of April 20th, when Union soldiers came knocking at the door. It was George’s cousin, Hartman Richter who answered the soldiers knock that morning. I’ll let Sgt. Gemmill, the lead officer who arrived at the Richter home, explain what happened next:

“I went to the house of a man named Richter, I think, and asked him if there was a man there named [Atwood]. I had two men with me at the time. I understood him to say that he was his cousin but [he] had left and gone to Frederick. One of my men understood the same, but the other did not. I then told him I would search the house. He then said there was a man in the house. He commenced telling me a yarn and I was suspicious of him. I then searched the house and went up to his room. There were three men in one bed, two of them young men by the name of Nichols living in the neighborhood, who did not explain how they came there; but as my orders were to arrest Atzerodt alone, I did not arrest them [Note: the two Nichols men were the brothers of Hartman Richter’s wife]. When the door opened the two of them awoke. He [Atzerodt] did not awake or at least pretended not to till I went up to the bed. I asked him his name. He gave me a name which I though was Atwood, but I heard it indistinctly as he spoke with a German accent and I was not certain about it.”‘

Despite Sgt. Gemmill having orders to only arrest Atzerodt, Richter’s attempt to hide his cousin’s presence in the home was very suspicious and led Gemmill to return to the Richter home. “I told his cousin to get ready, as I wanted him to go with me. He said he did not want to go; that he did not know what he was arrested for. Atzerodt never asked me a question in relation to the cause of his arrest, although he was in my custody several hours.”

Hartman Richter was taken down to Washington and imprisoned aboard the USS Saugus just like his cousin. Richter also has the distinction of having his mug shot photograph taken just like the main conspirators. From time to time you’ll find people who mistake Richter’s mug shot photographs for ones of Dr. Mudd. Dr. Mudd was never placed, or photographed, on the monitors.

Richter, like the conspirators, was transferred to the Old Arsenal Penitentiary where he would be imprisoned until May 13th. By that date it had been well determined that Richter had no knowledge of his cousin’s involvement in the plot against Lincoln. He was transferred to the more “minimum security” prison, the Old Capitol Prison, where some of the other “suspicious but not evidently guilty” persons were held. On May 30th, Richter was released from jail completely.

Ernest Hartman Richter far outlived the cousin he tried to protect, dying on February 21, 1920. He is buried in the Neelsville Presbyterian Church Cemetery, in Germantown, Maryland, not too far from the site of his former home. Check out the Maps page for more details. For more images of Hartman Richter and the other “non-conspirator” who had mug shot photographs taken, visit the Fake Conspirators Gallery.

GPS coordinates for Ernest Hartman Richter’s grave: 39.1958242, -77.2431242

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Grave Thursday: Hartman Richter

  1. Julie Witt

    Resembles George. One can tell they’re related.

  2. Ken Ritchey

    I have really enjoyed your weekly postings about the final resting places of those somehow involved with the assassination. Thank you!

  3. Dennis D. Urban

    While not a grave site, the ruins of the Clopper Mill where George spent Saturday night prior to going on to Hartman’s place on Easter Sunday morning still exist. This site is passed by thousands of folks each day without realizing the site is there. Last summer the Montgomery County Historical Society published an article about George’s travels from Washington City to Richter’s farm complete with an old photo of the mill and Richter’s farmhouse. Neither still exist but their locations are easily identified.

    • With the help of our Montgomery County guide, Jim Garrett, Kate and I got to see the different sites relating to George’s escape back in January of 2015. I did my best to include the different GPS coordinates for the sites that no longer stand on my Maps page.

      As Laurie points out, the ruins of Clopper Mill are still pretty substantial. Here are two pictures of the site from our trip in January of 2015:

      I also have a couple pictures of some men sleeping at the Clopper Mill who may be related to George in some way. When I get home and dig through my files, I’ll post the pictures of those suspicious people..

  4. Laurie Verge

    I believe that there are still substantial parts of some of the walls of the old mill still standing.

    • Laurie Verge

      I meant to also comment that I’m surprised that Hartman Richter is buried in a Presbyterian Cemetery (a denomination more associated with the Scottish) instead of a more traditional Lutheran (German heritage) one.

  5. Wade Kirby

    I just love your blog,…and send congrats to you!

  6. This man whose picture was taken by Alexander Gardner on the Saugus (as shown above in the two photographs) has a dark goatee beard with a thin beard line on the lower cheek jaw.

    Note also, he has a dark coat with a V shaped collar and baggy sleeves. He has thick, wavy dark hair and a flared nose. The V collar is distinctive having a light coloured braided edge. He has a white shirt and a light coloured waistcoat. He also has light coloured trousers.

    If you study the picture of the man hung next to Adzerodt you will see he also has thick, wavy dark hair. He has a long dark coat, a white shirt and light coloured baggy trousers. And his V shaped collar is also braided. He is short in stature and is a thin man. The only difference is – he is fully shaven.

    There is also a likeness to the drawing done by General Lew Wallace in the court room. Here Wallace gives us a man with a flared nose and a thin wispy goatee beard plus a thin growth on his lower cheek jaw.

    In the Lew Wallace oil painting however he gives us a small man with a full goatee beard, portraying him even more like the man on the Saugus.

    In the hanging picture we see a small man with no resemblance to Herold whatsoever.
    The 23 year old Herold was a stout man who could hardly fasten all the buttons on his waistcoat and is bursting at the shoulders of his dusty coat.

    The man who surrendered from the barn always denied he was Herold. Lt. Ruggles said he first gave his name as ‘Boyd’ when he met him at the Rappahannock River.

    Colonel Baker in his book 2 years later called ‘Herald’- the dupe. Indeed there are enough duplicate pictures of Herold to open a photographic studio.

    And take your pick on his name: Is it David Herold, David E. Herold, David Edgar Herold, David Harold or David C. Harold as put on the wanted posters in error and still quoted by Harper’s press weeks later?

    Therefore the unknown man quoted as ‘Name not disclosed. [Identified as Hartman Richter]’on the Saugus is more likely not Richter.

    Instead, could this man be ‘Boyd’ from the name he first gave to Ruggles at the river? It was changed to Herold, after his capture from the barn.

    Is this then, the man they hung instead of Herold?

  7. Julianne

    This doesn’t make sense, because on the morning of the conspirators execution, the families of the condemned were allowed to visit them in their cells. Many accounts agree that Herold’s sisters (he had several sisters I remember from the books I’ve read about the Lincoln conspirators) visited Herold in his cell. They were grieving and distressed, just as Anna Surratt grieved for her mother Mary Surratt.

    If it was a different man in David Herolds place, his sisters would have known. He looked thinner because obviously he had been on the run with Booth, (they had to beg for food in the accounts) then was imprisoned for two months, so of course he would have lost weight by the time of the hanging.

  8. Dennis D. Urban

    The reason I believe Richter is buried in a Presbyterian cemetery is simply because there was no Lutheran congregation nearby. At the time the Richters moved to the area, I have seen it written that the closest Lutheran church was in Frederick, 20 miles away. It seems unusual that there was not a Lutheran church in Rockville which was much closer than Frederick. Another close cemetery was part of the Catholic congregation at St. Rose of Lima, just a few hundred yards from the Clopper Mill. However, for obvious reasons, no respectable Lutheran would want themselves buried in a Catholic cemetery so they opted for the Presbyterian cemetery located at what is called the Neelesville Presbyterian Church just a very few miles from the Richter farm. That cemetery is actually closer to the Richter farm than the cemetery at St. Rose.

  9. Laurie Verge

    Good logical thinking, Dennis. I do find it strange that there was a lack of Lutheran churches and cemeteries in a county that was getting major German migration, however.

    As for no Lutheran wanting to be in a Catholic cemetery: No Catholic congregation would want a non-Catholic in their blessed ground. This is one of the issues we have had in trying to locate the grave of Mary Surratt’s husband. No records seem to exist as to where he is buried, but many historians have decided that he must have been buried in the closest Catholic cemetery (five miles away in Piscataway, Maryland) since that is where Mary went to church – when her husband would take her.

    Surratt descendants tell me that Mr. Surratt never converted to the Catholic Church and, in fact, hated it. We know they were married in a private home. The descendants believe that he was buried in a private Jenkins graveyard on what is now Joint Base Andrews.

    The base was constructed during WWII and encompassed at least three villages. Back in the early-1980s, I contacted a base historian who had been there from the beginning. He told me that they documented as many graves as they could and moved them at families’ discretions. No Surratt was recorded. Ninety years later, one could expect no tombstone due to rotting or other reasons.

  10. Dennis D. Urban

    Laurie, I have read before of John Surratt’s (Mary’s husband) aversion to the Catholic Church. If Mary was so devout and given John’s history of fathering a son out of wedlock, one has to wonder why Mary hooked up with John. But such things still happen today. Elizabeth Trindal, in her bio of Mary, mentions the name of the private home in which they were married as opposed to any Catholic Church.

    I have to agree that John was probably not buried in a local Catholic cemetery for the valid reason you mentioned. I would tend to agree with the Surratt descendants that John was buried in a private Jenkins family cemetery. But I also ask if anything is known of John Surratt’s family to indicate if they had a significant presence in the area and thus there could have been a local Surratt family graveyard?

    • Laurie Verge

      The earliest records of the Surratts in the colonies are in Maryland in the late-1600s. At that time, they were much farther south on the border of what became Charles and Calvert (then Prince George’s County) – near what we call Horsehead today. There surely must have been a cemetery where the family buried their dead – either private on their lands, or at St. Paul’s Baden, the closest Anglican Church.

      Later in the 1700s, a branch of the family started migrating to Pennsylvania and also North Carolina. However, by the War of 1812, there was still one part of the Surratts here with 6-7 young men who fought for the Maryland and District militias. By the Census of 1820, however, there is only one Surratt left in the entire state of Maryland, and he is described as a seven-year-old boy being raised by the Neales, foster parents with no children of their own. They were also Anglican, and I believe they attended St. John’s Broad Creek. I do not know where Mr. Neale is buried.

      Mrs. Neale was much younger than her husband (I always suspected she was John Surratt’s real mother, perhaps widowed by the War of 1812, but no proof). Mary Surratt managed to convert her mother-in-law to the Catholic faith on the woman’s death bed. The priest who officiated wrote a comment to the effect that he wasn’t sure the conversion “would take” since the woman had lived as an Anglican for so many years. I do not know where she is buried either, but perhaps at St. Ignatius Oxon Hill, the church that Mary Surratt helped establish. That is where her own mother was buried in 1878. More searching to do.

      There is a great book on burials in Prince George’s County, Maryland, called Stones and Bones. Hopefully, they are listed there.

  11. Pingback: Grave Thursday: John Somerset Leaman | BoothieBarn

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