The Testimony Regarding Edman Spangler

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 Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen and continue today with Edman Spangler. The text that follows this paragraph contains the same information that will always be found on a standalone page of the trial project called Edman Spangler Testimony and can be accessed by clicking the picture of Spangler on The Trial homepage. The organized testimony regarding the other conspirators will be published later this week.


The following table shows all of the testimony given at the Lincoln conspiracy trial concerning Edman Spangler. 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 Edman Spangler, 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. A Mustachioed Edman Spangler was in Front of Ford’s Theatre During “Our American Cousin”

One of the stranger claims testified to at the trial was that a man slightly resembling Spangler was seen out in front of Ford’s Theatre while the show was going on. This man, along with two others (one of whom may have been Booth) were very interested in the time and peeking in and out of the theater. The man who testified about this was unsure if Spangler was the right man since the man he saw had a mustache. Spangler’s lawyer, Thomas Ewing, brought forth defense witnesses to show that Spangler was at his post backstage practically all evening and never wore a mustache, effectively countering this bizarre scenario.

B. Edman Spangler’s Friendship with Booth

In order to convince the commissioners that Spangler was involved in Booth’s plot they had to establish his friendship and association with the assassin. This was easily enough done through employees at Ford’s Theatre who saw the two together. Spangler had helped to set up a stables for Booth in the alley behind the theater and they often took drunks together. Thomas Ewing countered that Booth was friendly to all the employees at Ford’s and that Spangler was too much of a drudge to have been trusted by Booth with knowledge of his plot.

C. Edman Spangler (Briefly) Held Booth’s Horse at Ford’s Theatre

When John Wilkes Booth arrived at the back door of Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, he sent word for Spangler to come out and see him. Spangler did so and was informed by Booth that he wanted him to hold his horse. Though Spangler quickly passed the task off to another employee before returning to his own responsibilities as a scene shifter, this act of assistance was the most overt act of conspiracy the government could thoroughly prove. Ewing did not attempt to refute that event this happened, merely associated it with Spangler’s friendship with Booth and ignorance of what Booth was planning to do.

D. Edman Spangler had made Preparations for Lincoln’s Assassination

While the holding of Booth’s horse was damaging, the government sought to prove that Spangler was involved in other ways in preparing for Lincoln’s assassination. The prosecution cast a wide net in their attempt to prove this possibility. They saw conspiracy in a length of rope found in Spangler’s belongings and implied Spangler had made alterations to the Presidential box earlier on April 14. To counter this, Ewing spent a lot of time finding witnesses who testified that the rope found was pointless, and that Spangler did very little work helping to decorate the box on April 14th. He also proved that the locks to the box, which were determined to have been broken, had failed a month before Lincoln attended the theater. Ewing also showed how Spangler made no attempt to flee or change his routine in the days between Lincoln’s death and his arrest.

E. Edman Spangler Aided Booth Immediately after the Shooting

Two prosecution witnesses testified that immediately after the shooting of Lincoln, Edman Spangler provided a measure of aid to the fleeing assassin. One shakily claimed that Spangler shut the back door of Ford’s Theatre immediately after Booth had passed through, thus slowing down his capture. Another witness, one of Spangler’s coworkers, claimed Spangler slapped him across the face ordering, “Don’t say which way” the assassin went. Ewing brought forth defense witnesses to show that Spangler was no where near the door when Booth exited and that the coworker’s story seemed to change with every retelling.

For the closing argument in defense of Edman Spangler please click here.

Please remember that the Relevant Testimony descriptor is not meant to be definitive. In many instances, a witness might cover material from more than one category. For example, many of the workers at Ford’s Theatre, like John DeBonay during his last time on the stand, were asked about many aspects of Spangler’s character and whereabouts on April 14th. Still, the attempt has been made to determine the most applicable category for each witness’s overall testimony.

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