History

The Testimony Regarding Lewis Powell

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 and continue today with Lewis Powell. The text that follows this paragraph contains the same information that will always be found on a standalone page of the trial project called Lewis Powell Testimony and can be accessed by clicking the picture of Powell 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 Lewis Powell, known as Lewis Payne during almost the entirety of the trial. 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 Lewis Powell, I organized the testimony into four categories, labeled A – D. 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. Lewis Powell’s Association with other Conspirators

The first witness to discuss Lewis Powell at the trial was a prosecution witness who claimed to have seen him in Canada plotting the assassination of Lincoln with Confederate agents. While this testimony was later found to be perjury, the prosecution did work to establish Powell’s connection to the other conspirators, mainly through his lodging at Mrs. Surratt’s boardinghouse two separate times before the assassination. Powell’s subsequent arrest at the Surratt boardinghouse was testified to several times, mostly in regards to Mrs. Surratt. This all worked to show his connection to John Surratt, Mrs. Surratt, and the other conspirators who filtered into her home.

B. Lewis Powell’s Connection to John Wilkes Booth

While going hand-in-hand with the prior descriptor, the prosecution also made sure to establish Powell’s connection with John Wilkes Booth outside of the other conspirators. The horse Powell used and the boots he wore on the night of April 14th belonged to Booth. Booth also took an active role in helping to get Powell accommodations when he was staying in D.C.

C. The Attack of Secretary Seward and his Household

The case against Powell was the strongest out of all of the conspirators. The prosecution brought forth many witnesses to identify Powell as the man who viciously attacked William Seward and other members of his household. To drive the point home, the government even had two of Seward’s doctors testify about the carnage that was wrought by Powell’s gun and knife attack. Powell was even forced to stand up and dress in the blood-stained clothing he wore on the night of April 14th for further positive identification.

D. Debate over Lewis Powell’s Sanity

The only defense that Lewis Powell’s lawyer, William Doster, attempted was that of trying to have his client declared insane. Doster first tried to show this by showing the drastic change in temperament Powell experienced between his service in the Confederacy and his time with Booth. Doster then enlisted medical experts to assess his client. Unfortunately, this plan backfired when four doctors brought in by the prosecution (one of which had been one of Doster’s witnesses) testified that Powell was not mentally insane. Doster tried to spin this to mean that his client was more likely morally insane, but this gambit failed to change the minds of the commissioners.

For the closing argument in defense of Lewis Powell 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: , | 2 Comments

The Execution and Burial of Lewis Powell

Though I have already published a post today about the 155th anniversary of the execution of the four condemned conspirators in the death of Abraham Lincoln, I have another quick one to mark the occasion. Over the last three days I have been in Florida visiting sites connected to conspirator Lewis Powell. Someday in the near future, I will be publishing a very long post all about Lewis Powell’s early life and the post-assassination lives of his parents here in Florida complete with images I have taken during this trip. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you all a video I shot today at Lewis Powell’s grave in Geneva, Florida. In the video, I read accounts of the execution on this day and discuss the post-execution wanderings of Lewis Powell’s skull. I hope you enjoy it.

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The Testimony Regarding Mary Surratt

155 years ago on this day, four of the eight conspirators tried in the death of Abraham Lincoln ascended a hastily constructed set of gallows. Just one week earlier they had been convicted and sentenced to their death but had only learned about their fates the day before. The three men and one woman who climbed those stairs to meet their maker were Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt and Mary E. Surratt. When the drop fell right around 1:25 in the afternoon, Mrs. Surratt became the first woman executed by the federal government.

Over May and June of this year, I presented a day-by-day look at the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators that led to this execution. I tried to make sense of the military trial that saw different witnesses haphazardly take the stand against different conspirators one after another. Today, I’m releasing the first of eight helpful resources that organizes the trial not chronologically as we experienced before, but this time based on the testimony against each of the individual conspirators. 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. For the anniversary of her execution, I have decided to start with the testimony regarding Mary Surratt. The text that follows this paragraph contains the same information that will always be found on a standalone page of the trial project called Mary Surratt Testimony and can be accessed by clicking the picture of Mrs. Surratt 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 Mary Surratt. 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 Mary Surratt, I organized the testimony into seven categories, labeled A – G. 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. John Wilkes Booth and the other Conspirators’ Presence at Mrs. Surratt’s Boardinghouse

In establishing Mrs. Surratt’s connection to John Wilkes Booth’s plot, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Louis Weichmann, one of the lodgers at Surratt’s D.C. boardinghouse. Weichmann testified at length about the presence of Booth and some of the other conspirators at the boardinghouse and how Mrs. Surratt sometimes met with Booth when her son, John, was not at home. The defense tried to show that, as a boardinghouse owner and hospitable woman, Mrs. Surratt’s interactions with Booth and the others was nothing more than politeness.

B. Mrs. Surratt’s Trips to her Tavern in Surrattsville on April 11th and April 14th

The other key witness against Mary Surratt was the tenant of her tavern property in Maryland, John M. Lloyd. Lloyd testified about Mrs. Surratt traveling down to Southern Maryland on April 11th and telling him that weapons hidden at the tavern would be needed soon. On April 14th, the day of Lincoln’s assassination, Mary traveled to her tavern with a package she had been given by Booth. She gave that package to Lloyd and allegedly told him to, “have the shooting irons ready, a party will call for them tonight.” Mrs. Surratt’s defense brought evidence to show that Mrs. Surratt was attempting to settle some debts during this period of time and that was the reasons she made these journeys.

C. The Reputations of Louis Weichmann and John M. Lloyd

As the two key witnesses against Mrs. Surratt, the defense made a great effort to show the questionable reliability of Weichmann and Lloyd. Evidence was presented to suggest that Weichmann may have been disloyal (or even part of Booth’s plot), while Lloyd was portrayed as a drunk of dubious trustworthiness.

D. The Reputations of Defense Witnesses Joseph Knott and John Zadoc Jenkins

In the same way that the defense attacked the credibility of two prosecution witnesses, the prosecution spent a lot of time attacking the character and loyalty of two defense witnesses, one of whom was Mrs. Surratt’s brother.

E. Pictures of John Wilkes Booth and Confederate Generals Found in Mrs. Surratt’s Boardinghouse

During the manhunt for Booth, Mrs. Surratt’s house was searched multiple times and during one of these searches images of Confederate leaders and a hidden photograph of John Wilkes Booth was found in Mrs. Surratt’s room. The prosecution wanted to use this to show Mrs. Surratt’s disloyalty. The defense got Mrs. Surratt’s daughter, Anna, to testify that the photographs belonged to her.

F. The Arrest of Lewis Powell at the Surratt Boardinghouse

Conspirator Lewis Powell, who had attacked Secretary of State William Seward, had been arrested at the Surratt boardinghouse on April 17th, while detectives were there searching and making plans to take Mrs. Surratt and the rest of the household into custody. During this arrest, Mrs. Surratt denied ever having seen Powell before. It was later shown that Powell had stayed at the boardinghouse for a few days. The defense attempted to show that Mrs. Surratt suffered from bad eyesight in an attempt to explain her lack of identification.

G. Mrs. Surratt’s Loyalty and Christian Character

Mary Surratt’s defense called several individuals to testify about her reputation as a good, Christian woman and about times where she had demonstrated pro-Union attitudes. The purpose was to persuade the commissioners that Mrs. Surratt was not capable of being involved in such a plot as the assassination of Lincoln.

For the closing arguments in defense of Mary Surratt 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. For example, many of the witnesses were asked about Mary Surratt’s eyesight in the course of their other testimonies. Still, the attempt has been made to determine the most applicable category for each witness’s overall testimony.

Categories: History | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

The Trial Today: Epilogue

If you have followed along during these last two months as the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators project was published day by day, I would like to congratulate you! You have essentially reenacted and relived the same experience of those who lived through May and June of 1865. During those two months, the whole country was transfixed by the daily newspaper updates regarding the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. By coming to this site and reading the testimonies and arguments from each day, you have shared in that experience.

But this project was much more than just a reading of the trial transcript. It contextualized and clarified the different testimonies explaining how they related to each conspirator. This project brought in the diaries, articles, memoirs, and recollections of those who had actually been present in the room where it happened. Taken altogether, you now have a better understanding of the trial of the Lincoln conspirators than practically anyone from 1865, save for those select few who took part in the proceedings.

I hope you all have enjoyed this chronological exploration into the trial of the Lincoln conspirators and feel that the investment of time has been worthwhile. As I noted when I introduced this project, my goal was to make the trial of the conspirators more accessible and understandable to everyone (including myself). It’s a key part of understanding the complexity of Lincoln’s death, but is too often overlooked because of its own intimidating complexity.

The old proverb asks the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” with the answer being, “One bite at a time.” According to a trial statistics sheet found in the collection of commission member Lew Wallace, the testimony in the trial constituted 4,300 handwritten pages, “making a solid file of [manuscript] somewhat over 26 inches high”. In addition to the testimony, the pages of arguments in the case numbered 700, putting the whole trial at around 5,000 handwritten pages. William Edwards’ ebook version of the trial transcript which I utilized and summarized for this project clocks in at over 1,400 pages. Finally, the text alone for the project on this site is equivalent to over 300 pages. If you’ve read through all of the pages in this trial project you have, metaphorically, eaten an over 300 page elephant, one bite at a time.

While the daily updates regarding the conspiracy trial will now cease, I still have a few more posts scheduled for the future in order to make the project even more user friendly and accessible. I have gone through and created an index for each conspirator. These indexes provide descriptions and links to all of the testimony relating to that specific conspirator. In this way, those who are interested in looking only at the testimony concerning Dr. Mudd, for instance, can go to the standalone Dr. Mudd Testimony page which will give them links to all the applicable testimony concerning him. Specific conspirator index pages will be released sequentially in the coming weeks so stay tuned for that.

As I stated in the beginning, I have been working on this project for over two years – reading, researching, collecting, summarizing, writing and assembling. I have been told numerous times in the comments and elsewhere that I should publish this as a book. However, I feel that this project, as envisioned, would not work as a book. What makes this project valuable as an online feature is how so much of the testimony can be hyperlinked in order to provide readers access to the original transcripts and documents with ease. The project also links to previous testimony and outside resources and references. In my mind, a traditional book would fail to provide the interactivity that makes this project unique. Not to mention that if this project was turned into a book, at over 300 pages long, it would likely appear just as daunting and inaccessible to the general public as the original trial transcripts. I designed this project to be a helpful guide for students of the Lincoln assassination and would rather it be widely accessible to all on the internet rather than in the hands of only the select few who would want to purchase it in book form.

With that being said, I am still very proud of this project which was, in my eyes, the equivalent of writing a book. I appreciate all of the kind words that you have left for me in the comments and in emails over the past two months. If you really enjoyed this project and want to help support me in future research on this site, I would like to ever so shamelessly direct you to the new Donation button I have put up here on LincolnConspirators.com. The button can be found at the end of this paragraph as well as on the side menu (bottom menu for mobile users). As is obvious from my real world job as an elementary school teacher, I don’t do any of this for the money. Still, I know the content that I create for this site is informative and valuable. If you have the desire and the financial means to help me continue to research, learn, and share, I would be truly grateful. I can’t promise another big, book-sized research project anytime soon as I still have another year to go in my Master’s program, but I’m constantly looking for new information which I share here and on my Twitter account. Even small donations add up and help me in the purchasing of books, articles, and the annual renewals of expensive research subscription sites like Ancestry, Fold3, GenealogyBank, Newspapers.com, and others. Your donations will also help to pay for the upkeep of this site to ensure that LincolnConspirators.com will continue for years to come.

I truly hope you have enjoyed learning about the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Remember that the entire project will always be accessible by clicking on “The Trial” on the top menu or by visiting www.LincolnConspirators.com/the-trial. Thank you again for all of your support.

Sincerely,

Dave Taylor

Categories: History, News | Tags: | 23 Comments

The Trial Today: June 30

Here’s a sample of what occurred on this day in the Lincoln conspiracy trial:

  • The commissioners and judge advocates reconvened to finish up their deliberations
  • The sentencing for Dr. Mudd was decided
  • Five of the nine commissioners signed a recommendation for clemency for Mrs. Surratt
  • The findings and sentences of the court were given to the Judge Advocate General for final approval by President Johnson
  • The military commission established to try the Lincoln assassination conspirators adjourned for the last time

The June 30, 1865 entry for the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators is now released and has more information. Please click here to access it. You can also access it through The Trial homepage.


Throughout May and June of 2020, I am publishing a day by day chronology of the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. This includes almost daily posts announcing the release of what happened at the conspiracy trial 155 years ago. For more information about the creation of this project please click here.

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The Trial Today: June 29

Here’s a sample of what occurred on this day in the Lincoln conspiracy trial:

  • Only the nine commission members and three judge advocates were permitted in the courtroom for the deliberations
  • Following the rules of courts-martial, the commissioners discussed and voted on the guilt or innocence of the eight conspirators
  • The commission determined the findings and sentences for all of the conspirators except for Dr. Mudd
  • John Atzerodt visited with his condemned brother in his cell

The June 29, 1865 entry for the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators is now released and has more information. Please click here to access it. You can also access it through The Trial homepage.


Throughout May and June of 2020, I am publishing a day by day chronology of the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. This includes almost daily posts announcing the release of what happened at the conspiracy trial 155 years ago. For more information about the creation of this project please click here.

Categories: History | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Trial Today: June 28

Here’s a sample of what occurred on this day in the Lincoln conspiracy trial:

  • Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham (left) presented his verbose closing argument against all of the conspirators
  • Defense lawyer Thomas Ewing tried to read a paper to the court pointing out Bingham’s errors but was denied
  • The public and press left the courtroom for the final time as the next two days of deliberation were done behind closed doors
  • One of the soldiers assigned as a messenger to the court later gave his impression of the conspirators

The June 28, 1865 entry for the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators is now released and has more information. Please click here to access it. You can also access it through The Trial homepage.


Throughout May and June of 2020, I am publishing a day by day chronology of the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. This includes almost daily posts announcing the release of what happened at the conspiracy trial 155 years ago. For more information about the creation of this project please click here.

Categories: History | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Trial Today: June 27

Here’s a sample of what occurred on this day in the Lincoln conspiracy trial:

  • The final five witnesses of the trial testified including more perjured testimony
  • An 1864 advertisement offering to kill Lincoln, Seward, and Johnson for $1,000,000 was entered into evidence
  • The government presented their argument defending the use of a military trial
  • Mary Surratt was still too sick to attend the court today and so she stayed behind a closed door in her makeshift cell next to the courtroom

The June 27, 1865 entry for the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators is now released and has more information. Please click here to access it. You can also access it through The Trial homepage.


Throughout May and June of 2020, I am publishing a day by day chronology of the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. This includes almost daily posts announcing the release of what happened at the conspiracy trial 155 years ago. For more information about the creation of this project please click here.

Categories: History | Tags: | Leave a comment

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