The Testimony Regarding David Herold

Over May and June of this year, I presented a day-by-day project documenting the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators. To further support usability of this project for students and researchers, I am releasing individualized tables of the testimony given at the trial relating to each conspirator. Rather than having to look through the entirety of the trial to gain an understanding of the specific evidence against a single person, all of the relevant testimony regarding each conspirator has been organized into an easily accessible and hyperlinked table. I have previously released the testimony regarding Mary SurrattLewis Powell and continue today with David Herold. The text that follows this paragraph contains the same information that will always be found on a standalone page of the trial project called David Herold Testimony and can be accessed by clicking the picture of Herold on The Trial homepage. The organized testimony regarding the other conspirators will be published over the next month.

The following table shows all of the testimony given at the Lincoln conspiracy trial concerning David Herold. Clicking on any of the witnesses’ names will take you to their corresponding testimony in the chronological Trial project.

The default arrangement of the witnesses in the table is by Relevant Testimony. This organizes the witnesses based on what specific aspect of the conspirator’s case was discussed. In the case of David Herold, I organized the testimony into five categories, labeled A – E. Descriptions of what each category means can be found after the table. The tabs on the bottom of the table allow you to view the witnesses arranged by Date and Alphabetically by last name.

Mobile users: Due to the smaller screen size on mobile devices, you will likely have to scroll left and right on the table to see the Relevant Testimony column.

Relevant Testimony descriptions:

A. David Herold’s Whereabouts in February of 1865

One of the prosecution’s perjured witnesses, James Merritt, claimed to have seen David Herold in Canada around the middle of February, 1865. This testimony was meant to connect Herold (and Booth) to Confederate agents in Canada in order to prove a connection between the Confederacy and Lincoln’s death. Herold’s defense then brought witnesses to show that Herold was at home in D.C. during the month of February.

B. David Herold Associating with the Conspirators

In establishing Herold’s role as a member of Booth’s conspiracy against the President, the prosecution had witnesses place David Herold with the other conspirators in the months prior to Lincoln’s assassination. There was no countering these associations except from Dr. Mudd’s defense since no prior relationship between Herold and Mudd could be drawn.

C. Escaping with John Wilkes Booth

The largest part of the government’s case against Herold was that he had escaped and assisted John Wilkes Booth during the twelve day manhunt following Lincoln’s assassination. Herold’s defense made no attempt to counter the way in which Herold aided and abetted the assassin after the fact.

D. Evidence in George Atzerodt’s Rented Room at the Kirkwood House Hotel Belonged to Herold

This aspect of the case against Herold actually came from one of the other defense attorneys. In attempting to downplay his own client’s involvement in the assassination plot, William Doster implied that some of the physical objects (such as a knife and coat) found in George Atzerodt’s rented room belonged to Herold. The actual prosecution did pursue this matter, preferring that evidence be used against Atzerodt.

E. David Herold was Boyish and Easily Influenced

Aside from countering the claim that Herold had been to Canada, the only actual defense attempted by Frederick Stone was to convince the court that his client was immature for his age and easily influenced. In this way, Stone hoped to save Herold from the gallows by showing that he was merely clay in the hands of the charismatic and manipulative John Wilkes Booth.

For the closing argument in defense of David Herold please click here.

Please remember that the Relevant Testimony descriptor is not meant to be definitive. In some instances, a witness might cover material from more than one category. Still, the attempt has been made to determine the most applicable category for each witness’s overall testimony.

Categories: History | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Testimony Regarding David Herold

  1. Richard Sloan

    I am surprised to see such a fine signature in the Nat’l Hotel register for Atzerodt. I would have expected “Old Plug Tobacco” ‘s signature to have been a little less “refined” if you know what I mean.
    By the way, I just screened my newly acquired recording of the 1956 TVer, “The Day Lincoln Was Shot.” Herold, Paine, and Atzerodt are the only conspirators depicted. Only the actor portraying Atzerodt looked historically correct. In fact, he always wore a partially unbuttoned and disheveled shirt beneath his shabby jacket, looking very much as he did on the scaffold!

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