“You know best, Captain” The Executed Conspirators in Lincoln’s Assassination

On June 27, 2017, I was fortunate enough to return to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in order to speak to their volunteers and members of the public. The topic of my talk revolved around the four conspirators who were executed for their involvement in John Wilkes Booth’s plot against Lincoln. The following is a video of that talk that the ALPLM was kind enough to put on YouTube:

In the process of researching and writing this speech I consulted many excellent books. Specifically, I’d like to point out the vital scholarship of Betty Ownsbey in her book on Lewis Powell and the research of Kate Clifford-Larson in her book about Mary Surratt. These texts are a wealth of information and proved invaluable in preparing for this speech. I would also like to thank Betty Ownsbey and Dr. Blaine Houmes for allowing me to use some of their images in this speech.

The day before the speech I gave a radio interview to WTAX, the local Springfield station, about the speech and my interest in the Lincoln assassination. It’s only about 5 minutes long and can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/news-radio-wtax/6-26-17-dave-taylor-lincoln-assassination-expert-podcast

I’d like to thank the folks at the ALPLM for allowing me to come back and speak to their volunteers. I must admit that I definitely feel a strong sense of pride at being able to tell people that I’ve spoken at the Lincoln library. I had an amazing time touring the museum and being taken into the vault to see their treasures.

I hope you all enjoy the speech.


EDIT: For ease of access I’m also going to embed the video of my prior speech for the ALPLM in which I discussed John Wilkes Booth’s history:

Categories: History, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on ““You know best, Captain” The Executed Conspirators in Lincoln’s Assassination

  1. Steve Holley

    Brilliant! Thanks for a great presentation. Not to throw more historical investigation your way, but has there been any research done on the families of the conspirators in the aftermath of the assassination. We probably have more information on Booth’s family…Mudd’s family…and Surrat’s family…but, what about Herold’s mother and sisters??? Spangler, Arnold, McLaughlin? I’m wondering how life was for them after their loved one’s execution or imprisonment. Keep up the good work of research and presentation.

    • Laurie Verge

      I agree, Steve, that this would be a wonderful topic, AND I would like to invite Dave at this very moment to speak on it at the 2019 Surratt Conference!

      PS: We already have him lined up to speak on The Death of Abraham Lincoln: Reactions from a Divided Nation at the 2018 Conference on the weekend of April 6-8, 2018, in Clinton, Maryland. This will be the 19th annual conference sponsored by Surratt House Museum and its wonderful volunteer affiliate, the Surratt Society (over 1500 member worldwide).

      • Laurie,

        I’d love to research and speak about the families of the conspirators in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination. I heartily accept your offer to present on it in 2019!

    • Steve,

      I agree with Wade and Laurie that you had suggested a very interesting topic of research and one that I would love to explore further. I know of a few stories off the top of my head but I think it is a topic I would like to flesh out more. Stay tuned!


  2. Wade Kirby

    Congradulations, on another job well done. What a fascinating talk, and I’m so glad it’s preserved. Let us know of any results from the above question from Steve Holley. That’s a good one, and I’d be interested to hear of any results.

    • Thank you very much, Wade. I’m also very grateful that the ALPLM records their presentation and makes them publicly available.

  3. Candace Serviss

    I was unable to attend but thank you for being able to view it…

  4. William

    Dave, my wife and I are so happy we were able to attend. You gave a great presentation. Your expertise on the subject is clear! I hope you go back year after year and that we have the opportunity to see you and Kate again.

  5. Diane

    Just completed watching your video at the Lincoln Library. Absolutely wonderful!! Your presentation was Interesting and humorous. Great Q & A.

  6. We were able to visit the ALPL last summer and yes, took photos with Booth statue. We also took Escape tour in 2015. (I’d do this again-I met you at lunch stop). New insights heard here and the full presentation is excellent. I hope I am lucky enough to hear a presentation in person. Boothie Barn is an excellent blog/website!!

    • The ALPLM is tremendous. It’s easily the best museum I’ve ever visited. You were lucky you got to see Mr. Booth before he made his escape!

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. Dave Heiby

    The video was excellent and informative.


    Dave Heiby

  8. Dave:

    I listened to your speech and your radio interview with great interest. Inasmuch as you continue to believe in the single conspiracy theory of the assassination and the attempted assassinations that occurred on April 14, 1865, in Washington (Booth and his action team only), and inasmuch as I, as you well know, do not accept that theory, but believe strongly in the theory of the complicity of the Confederate Government and its Secret Service Bureau, and inasmuch as you and I remain friends despite our differences of opinion on this and other issues relating to this subject of common interest, it occurred to me that it might be interesting–indeed, I should say VERY interesting–if we debated the issue, formally and publicly. Accordingly, I hereby respectfully challenge you to a debate on the issue before a forum and an audience of your choosing. I propose an intercollegiate style debate, i.e. a proposition to be debated, with one of us taking the affirmative on the proposition and the other the negative. I propose the following proposition: RESOLVED, that the Confederate Government and the Confederate Secret Service Bureau were complicit in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the attempted assassinations of other Federal officeholders that occurred on the night of April 14, 1865, in Washington, D.C. I will take the affirmative and you will take the negative. I propose a half hour each to develop our arguments, with 20 minutes each for rebuttal and ten minutes each for conclusions. That will be a total of two hours for the entire debate. I propose, further, that the audience can then vote, if they wish to and if you are agreeable to it, as to who, in their judgment, won the debate. As I said, the forum is for you to choose, but I would suggest that the Annual Conference of the Surratt Society would be a fine one. I will present the idea to Laurie and see how she feels about it.

    Please let me know if you accept my challenge, and, if so, where and when and before whom you prefer to hold the debate.

    Thank you.


    • John,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found my speech and radio interview to be interesting. I am afraid, however, that I’m going to have to decline your debate offer. I am content with the fact that we share different views regarding the Confederate government’s involvement in Lincoln’s assassination. As I mentioned in my first speech at the ALPLM and as I tell all of the people who take my John Wilkes Booth escape route tours, John Wilkes Booth certainly had flirtations with the Confederate government that cannot be dismissed. But, I think we can both agree that there is no reliable “smoking gun” that places the death of Lincoln at the Confederacy’s feet. I know you have assembled a large list of circumstantial evidence linking them, but you and I have contrary opinions on the reliability of circumstantial evidence and how appropriate it is to use such evidence to draw ever greater conclusions. So, I am content with the knowledge that we will continue to disagree.


  9. Dave:

    Thanks for your prompt response.

    I naturally regret that you did not accept my challenge to debate the issue of conspiracy in the events of April 14, 1865, at a forum and before an audience of your choosing. I believe it would have been very interesting and that we and the audience would surely have learned from it. Whenever it suits you, please let me know what you mean by “flirtations”. As for smoking guns, my book contains at least two of them, which, coupled with all the other eyewitness, material and circumstantial evidence, puts the issue beyond any reasonable doubt, in my opinion. I will add that this opinion is now shared by Tidwell, Hall, Gaddy, Hanchett, Current, Sears and Winkler, at least, some of whom, as you know, are now deceased. It is also affirmed by almost all of the 38 reviews of the book currently on Amazon.

    Good luck to you.


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