Posts Tagged With: Conspiracy

Photographing the Conspirators

Reader littlecoco7 posed the following question under the Quesenberry post:

“This has nothing to do with this topic, but I would like to know out of all the conspirators who had their picture taken from Alexander Gardner, how come there was no photo of Mary Surratt taken?”

Thanks so much for the question littlecoco7.  The mug shots of the conspirators are very valuable resources to us now.  For George Atzerodt, Michael O’Laughlen, and Edman Spangler, these few shots consist of our entire photographic record of their lives.  While engravings and drawings were made of them during their time in the court room, we have yet to find other photographs of these individuals.  Even those who we do have additional images of, the mug shots are unique in showing them as they were almost immediately after the crime was committed.  Before delving into your question as to why Mary Surratt (and Dr. Mudd for that matter) were not photographed with the rest, let’s look into how and when the conspirators were photographed.

The best resource for information about the images of the conspirators is the team of Barry Cauchon and John Elliott.  These talented gentlemen are in the process of writing a highly anticipated book regarding the incarceration of the Lincoln conspirators.  One of my links on the side of this blog is to Barry Cauchon’s blog, “A Little Touch of History” while the pairs’ Facebook page about their book, “Inside the Walls” is here.  Barry and John presented some of their findings at the 2011 and 2012 Surratt Society Lincoln Assassination Conferences.  Their research was remarkable to say the least.  To keep their excited fan base content while waiting for the final publication of their book, they produced two supplementary booklets about their talking points.  The most recent one that they sold at the 2012 conference was entitled, “13 Days Aboard the Monitors” and delved into the mug shot photo sessions and the hoods worn by the conspirators.   All the information in this post can be found in this terrific booklet and is currently available for purchase through Barry and John and the Surratt House Bookstore.

Through the research of Barry Cauchon and John Elliott we believe that three photograph sessions occurred while the conspirators were imprisoned aboard the monitors Saugus and Montauk.  The first set of images were all taken of a standing Lewis Powell wearing the clothes he was found in and the clothes he was wearing when he attack Secretary Seward.  There were a total of six pictures taken on this day, April 18th.

Carte-de-visites of two of the six photographs taken of Powell on April 18th.

At this point in time, only two of the conspirators were being housed on the monitors; Michael O’Laughlen and Lewis Powell.

Gardner came back to photograph the conspirators on April 25th.  By this point all of the main conspirators except for Booth and Herold had been arrested.  Gardner photographed Powell again, along with Michael O’Laughlen, George Atzerodt, Edman Spangler, Sam Arnold and Hartman Richter.  Richter was a cousin of George Atzerodt’s and was hiding George in his house when the authorities caught up with him.  While Richter would be cleared of any involvement in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln, in these early days of the investigation he was locked up and photographed with the main gang.

One of two O’Laughlen photographs from April 25th

One of two Spangler photographs from April 25th

One of four Powell photographs from April 25th

One of two Arnold photographs from April 25th

One of two Atzerodt photographs from April 25th

One of two Richter photographs from April 25th

Finally, on April 27th, Gardner returned for his last photograph session.  Here he took pictures of the recently captured Davy Herold and another conspirator Joao Celestino.  Celestino was a Portuguese ship captain with an intense hatred for William Seward.  It was thought he was involved with the attempt on the Secretary’s life but was later released as no evidence existed to connect him to Booth’s plan.

One of three Herold photographs from April 27th

One of three Celestino photographs from April 27th

It has also been written that Gardner and his assistant took one photograph of the autopsy of John Wilkes Booth.  The single print of the event was apparently turned over the War Department but has never been found.  If it was taken, it was either destroyed shortly thereafter, or still remains undiscovered somewhere today.

In the wee hours of April 29th, the conspirators on were transferred off of the monitors and into the Old Arsenal Penitentiary.

So, why didn’t Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd get their pictures taken?  In short, they were not photographed because they weren’t there and their complicity in the affair had yet to be determined.  Though Mary Surratt had been arrested when Powell showed up at her boardinghouse at the most inopportune time, she was not imprisoned on the iron clads.  Instead, she and her household were sent to the Old Capitol Prison merely as questionable suspects.  The same held true for Dr. Mudd who joined others involved in Booth’s escape like Colonel Samuel Cox, Thomas Jones, and Thomas Harbin, at the Old Capitol Prison.  In the initial stages of the investigation, Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd were not seen as conspirators.  It was not until more and more evidence arose pointing towards their foreknowledge and association with the assassin that they were treated less like witnesses and more like accomplices.

References:
A Peek Inside the Walls – “13 Days Aboard the Monitors” by Barry Cauchon and John Elliott

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Shooting Booth

While Boston Corbett has entered history as the man who avenged Abraham Lincoln in the morning hours of April 26th, 1865, Booth had another bullet enter his body some time before that date.  This shooting was courtesy of his own manager and agent, Matthew W. Canning.

Matthew W. Canning

By 1860, John Wilkes Booth had started to tire of playing supernumerary parts.  The pay was very small, and he longed to be recognized as a talented actor.  His brother, Edwin Booth, was being lauded as his father’s creative heir and was enjoying life as a bona fide star.  While lacking the training his older brother received through his father’s tutelage, Wilkes believed himself to be on par with his famous brother.  He set out for his own “star” tour.  The theatrical star system of the day allowed the lead actor and actress to receive a part of the profits for each performance, rather than a small set salary for the season that the stock actors received.  Being the son of the great tragedian Junius Brutus Booth and brother to the successful Edwin, Wilkes had an easier time than most finding himself an agent.  Despite his amateurish experience, his Booth name was guaranteed to bring in patrons.  Wilkes was invited to play as a star by a former Philadelphia lawyer turned theatrical manager, Matthew Canning.

Matthew W. Canning was in the process of building his own theatre in Montgomery, Alabama and saw the benefits of having a Booth as his star.

Before his own theatre opened, however, the Canning Dramatic Company toured the southern states starting in Columbus, Georgia.  The other actors in the company included the sisters Maggie, Mary, and Emma Mitchell and Samuel Knapp Chester, a man Booth later would attempt to include in his conspiracy.  Perhaps to save the Booth name for his own theatre’s success, Canning continued to bill John Wilkes Booth under his stage name, “J. B. Wilkes”.  While the lineage of the Canning Dramatic Company’s lead was becoming less and less of a secret with the press and the public, during the troupe’s entire run in Columbus, “Mr. Wilkes” was the star.

Mr. Wilkes’ first performance as a star occurred on October 1, 1860, playing Romeo to Maggie Mitchell’s Juliet.  His time in Columbus proved a success, with newspapers speaking of the company being, “much superior” from Canning’s last troupe and citing that, “Mr. Wilkes and Miss Mitchell are highly complimented.”  For an actor who had a shaky start as a stock player, Booth’s first star tour was everything he could have hoped for.  Until the night of October 12th that is, when Canning shot Booth.

The exact details on how the shooting occurred are varied.  A newspaper of the day, stated, “Mr. John Wilkes Booth was accidentally shot in the thigh at Cook’s Hotel.  Mr. Booth and Mr. Canning were practicing with a pistol, when it went off in Mr. Canning’s hand as he was letting down the hammer, inflicting a flesh wound in Mr. Booth’s thigh.”  A more amusing, though less likely account comes from The Mad Booths of Maryland by Stanley Kimmel: “The night he was to play Hamlet another actor was with him in his dressing room when Canning entered and jokingly threatened to shoot both of them.  The gun unexpectedly exploded and Wilkes ‘was shot in the rear.’”

The most reliable account, while written years after the fact and probably embellished with age, comes from Matthew Canning himself.  On January 19th, 1886 George Alfred Townsend, better known as GATH, published an interview he had with Matthew Canning in the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“No doubt your readers smile at me for having so often in this correspondence brought up incidents concerning John Brown and Booth, the assassin.  The fact is that I have just got off my hands a piece of literary work concerning these parties, which has taken so much investigation that I have at times discharged my findings into correspondences.  I shall not have the amiable defect of Lot’s wife in ever looking behind me, and therefore, these notes will end with the work for which they were obtained.

Yesterday I saw Matthew Canning, who started with Booth on a starring tour as his manager, and he said to me as follows: ‘Edwin Booth asked me to give his brother Wilkes a star.  He was not, strictly speaking, a star: he was a member of my stock company and played as a star, but of course he did not get the profits a star would receive.  I had a little circuit in the Southern States, with Montgomery for its chief center, and I was building a theater down there when I happened to shoot John Booth.  I can tell you about that curious incident.  Booth was one of the best shots in the profession, and his special passion was his physical training and strength.  That may have led him into the crime in the way he committed it.  When I took him out he was quite a young fellow, and had been known in the profession before as Mr. Wilkes.  I made it a point with Edwin Booth that he should play under his family name, as it would draw me money.  We were at Columbus, Ga., and my theater was not finished and had given me a great deal of trouble.

‘I went into my room one day, and he said to me: ‘Now, you must let me nurse you.  You are fagged out.’ I told him I only wanted to go to sleep.  I laid down on the bed and was in a doze when he saw my pistol in my rear pocket.  Every body carried weapons down in that country, and so did I.  Seeing the pistol, Booth yielded to his passion for arms, and he drew it out of my pocket.  I could feel it glide from me, but was in that state that I did not resist or rise.  Although he had just said that I wanted rest and sleep, he pointed the pistol at an iron mark on a wall opposite and discharged it right there in the room.  Of course I sprang up, complaining that he excited me by that explosion.  He then said he wanted another shot, and I objected; but he seemed to have his mind on firing again to show his accuracy of aim.  The pistol had got rusted, and when I gave him a cartridge to put in it, it would not fit easily.  He took his knife and began to scrape the pistol and the cartridge, and while in the act of doing it, down came the lock in my hand and discharged the pistol, and the ball struck him in the side, barely missing the femoral artery and it lodged in his body.  We thought he would die, but he recovered in a few weeks.”

The wound Booth received from Canning was not just a flesh wound as the newspaper stated and would lay him up for some time.  Starting from the night of the accident until Booth’s return, the lead roles were played by John W. Albaugh, Canning’s stage and acting manager.  This gave Albaugh the opportunity to act alongside Mary Mitchell, the woman who would later become his wife.

On October 19th, seven days after Booth was shot, Canning scheduled a benefit in his honor where he would receive most of the proceeds of the show.  It is likely Canning was attempting to assuage his guilt for shooting and disabling his lead actor.  Unfortunately, inclement weather in Columbus kept even the heartiest of theatre-goers away on the 19th, and so the benefit was rescheduled for the next day.  This was the company’s last day in Columbus and they performed Julius Caesar.  Booth’s injury kept him from performing in the whole play but, as a gesture of thanks for the city that supported him and celebrated him in his first starring engagement, Booth took the stage and recited Mark Anthony’s pivotal, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” speech.

From Georgia, the Canning Dramatic Company travelled to Montgomery, Alabama to perform in Matthew Canning’s own, appropriately named, Montgomery Theatre.  Though advertisements promised “Mr. John Wilkes” would make his debut on the 23rd of October, the night came and went without his appearance on stage.  The notoriously agile and active player was still not physically healed enough to perform.   He would not make his Montgomery debut until October 29th when he played the role of Pescara in The Apostate.

Though his wound forced him to be a little more reserved than his normal acting habits, the Montgomery audiences supported this young and talented actor.  When Booth played Hamlet, Canning’s theatre was filled to the brim with patrons.  Everyone came to see the son of Junius Brutus Booth, rival of Edwin Booth, and most agreed that, while he needed some refinement, he carried his father’s torch well.  During all of this time, however, John was still billed as “Mr. Wilkes”.

It does not appear that the transition from “Mr. Wilkes” to “J. Wilkes Booth” was instigated by John.  In fact, his star billing as “Mr. Wilkes” for weeks shows that he wanted to be celebrated for his own abilities.  In the end, John did not take the Booth name back; rather it was justly given to him.  The first billing of him as J. Wilkes Booth occurred on December 1st, when Maggie Mitchell presented a benefit in his honor.

His fellow actors had conferred his Booth name upon him and, after receiving such admiration in his first tour, he believed it to have been rightly bestowed.  He had proven himself worthy of the name Booth and would keep it for the rest of his career.

By mid-December, Booth’s time with Canning’s company was up.  He returned to Philadelphia to rest at the home his brother Edwin had rented for their mother and siblings.  Asia wrote to a friend on December 16th that, “John Booth is at home.  He is looking well but his wound is not entirely healed yet – he still carries the ball in him.”  With Canning as his agent, Booth accepted starring engagements in northern cities like Albany and Portland, Maine.  Eventually, he would become a hugely successful star and become his own agent, no longer needing Matthew Canning’s services.  Before that occurred however, the two men shared another experience that involved Booth shedding some blood:

The following is the continuation of GATH’s 1886 interview with Canning:

“Somewhere about 1862 I was playing Booth in Washington City, and he began to have a boil on the side of his neck.  It grew more and more inflamed, and at last was discernible from the house, and on his fine, youthful skin it made a bad impression.  So I said to him one morning: ‘Come here, John, and take a ride with me.  It is none of your business where I am going.’ I drove him to the house of Dr. May, a surgeon, and took him in there.  May looked at his neck and said: ‘Why, this is a tumor.  You will have to submit to an operation to be relieved of it.’ Booth said he would sit right down there and have it cut out.  The doctor said to him: ‘Young man, this is no trifling matter.  You will have to come when we are ready for you, when I have an assistant here.’

‘No,’ said Booth, ‘You can cut it out right now.  Here is Canning, who will be your assistant.’ He threw himself across a chair and leaned his head on the chair-back so as to throw up his neck.  ‘Now cut away,’ said he.  The doctor told me that if I was to assist in the operation that I must pull back the skin or flesh as he cut.  The first wipe he made with his knife nearly made me fall on the floor fainting.  The black blood gushed out, and he seemed to have cut the man’s neck partly off.  Booth did not move, but his skin turned as white as the wall.  The doctor continued to cut, and notified me that I was a remarkable assistant for an amateur.  Meantime my stomach was all giving away.  The first thing that happened was I rolled over and fell on the floor, and Booth from loss of blood reeled and fell off the chair.  When he came to the doctor told me that I was not as much of an assistant as he thought I was going to turn out to be.  Booth was laid up for about a month…”

This impromptu surgery left a discernible scar upon Booth’s neck.  That scar would be identified by Dr. May during Booth’s autopsy and is one of the many details that prove that Booth did not escape.

Dr. John Frederick May

As stated, Booth and Canning would part ways when Booth felt comfortable on his own.  Though occasionally Booth would still contact Canning to help him make engagements.  Matthew Canning’s last meeting with Booth occurred in December of 1864.

During that time, Canning was in Philadelphia, as the agent to Vestvale, the actress.  Booth was in the city as well and asked Canning for a favor.  At that time, Canning was a bit perturbed at Booth as he had made several engagements on his behalf that Booth had cancelled.  As we know now, Booth’s mind was no longer on acting but on his “oil speculations” i.e. kidnapping President Lincoln.  He had already gained the support of two of his childhood friends, Michael O’Laughlen and Samuel Arnold, for the endeavor.  His next target was a friend from his initial days with Canning.  Booth wanted Samuel Knapp Chester in his conspiracy.

Samuel Knapp Chester

During their conversations, Booth spoke to Canning about his recent visit with Chester in New York.  He found out truthfully, that Chester was unhappy at his current theatre in New York, but lacked the ability to change it.  Chester was not a star like Booth and had a harder time finding engagements.  Booth had revealed to Chester his idea to kidnap Lincoln and ferry him into the open arms of the Confederacy.  Chester had refused to join his plot, but Booth was not a man to give up easily.  He hoped that assisting Chester in his career would motivate him to reconsider.  So, under the guise of a helpful friend, Booth asked Matthew Canning to convince John T. Ford to engage him at one of his theatres.  Ford owned theatres in Baltimore and Washington, which would bring Chester closer physically into the realm of the conspiracy.  Booth, desperate to get on Chester’s good side promised Canning he would, “give [him] anything if he would see Ford.”  After some convincing, Canning agreed to do what he could.  At first Ford was hesitant but a recent party had cancelled on him and so Chester was hired to take their place.  Canning wrote to Booth of his probable success in finding Chester a job at Ford’s.  He received a telegram back from Booth stating, “Don’t fail to hush that matter at once.”  This response puzzled Canning.  Did Booth mean to stop pursuing it because Chester had reconsidered?  He wrote Booth asking for clarification.  Booth responded back with, “The telegraph operator is an ass, he telegraphed ‘don’t fail to hush the matter’ when I wrote ‘fail to push the matter.’”

Despite being grateful to Booth for getting him a new engagement, Samuel Chester remained unmoved in his views on the kidnapping plot.  He would have nothing to do with it.

After Booth assassinated Lincoln, everyone relating to him was rounded up, including Matthew Canning.  Canning had the luck of being arrested in Philadelphia by a former actor turned solider with whom he was friendly.  Canning immediately wrote out a statement regarding his history with Booth.  While arrested on the night of April 15th, Canning was allowed to retrace his footsteps and collect signed affidavits to his recent whereabouts in the presence of Capt. John Jack, the former actor.  Only after all of this was done was Canning sent to Washington.  He was placed in the Old Capitol Prison and shared a room with John Ford.  His thorough paperwork helped him and he was released from prison on April 28th upon taking the oath of allegiance.

Canning died on August 30th, 1890 at the age of sixty.  He was a theatrical manager and agent to the end, dying in a New York hotel room while managing his “The Blue and the Gray” acting company.  His body was shipped back to his native Philadelphia and he was buried in Woodlands Cemetery there.

While Canning may have felt guilty in 1860 for accidentally shooting his star and main attraction, after the events of April 1865 he may have adopted the same “what if” beliefs as another veteran actor:

“‘If’ that shot had been fatal he would not have lived to plunge his country into the depths of despair and mourning, nor crushed with most poignant anguish those who loved him best; he would not have lived to ‘pour the sweet milk of concord into hell’, to fire the shot that shook the foundation rock upon which his country lived.”

References:
GATH’s Special Dispatch to the Enquirer – Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan 19, 1886
Lust for Fame: The Stage Career of John Wilkes Booth by Gordon Samples
The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence by William Edwards and Ed Steers
“Right or Wrong, God Judge Me”: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper
The Mad Booths of Maryland by Stanley Kimmel
Article images from GenealogyBank.com
Matthew Canning’s handwritten affidavits are available on Fold3.com in the Turner/Baker papers (must be a paying member to view)
The article containing the ending quote is here.
An additional article recounting Matthew Canning’s arrest is here.

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Samuel Arnold’s Confession

The following is Samuel Arnold’s full confession that he gave following his arrest on April 17th.  This account is copied from William Edwards’ book The Lincoln Assassination – The Rewards Files.  Mr. Edwards is the author behind the trilogy of primary sources regarding the assassination.  The Evidence, The Court Transcripts, and The Rewards Files, are all essential materials for those studying the assassination.  They contain the bulk of the government’s microfilmed records and are priceless to the researcher.  The Evidence can be bought as both a physical book (the Surratt House Museum offers the best value on this) and as a non-searchable ebook.  The Trial Transcript can be purchased as a searchable ebook.  The Rewards Files were previously released on a CD-ROM  (still available through the Surratt House Museum) and will shortly be released as an ebook through Google Books. EDIT: The book is now available for purchase here.

I have previously written my support of Edwards’ Trial Transcripts and I will certainly let you all know when The Reward Files are available for download.  In the meantime, Arnold’s confession provides some of the most reliable information about the original abduction conspiracy:

“To Whom it May Concern,

Know that I, Saml B. Arnold, about the latter part of August or first part of September 1864, was sent for by J. Wilkes Booth, who was a guest at Barnum Hotel, City of Baltimore Md. to come to see him. Had not seen the same J. Wilkes Booth since 1852, when we both were schoolmates together at St. Timothy’s Hall, President L. Van Bokelin then having said Hall as place of tuition. Reception warm calling for wine and cigars conversing a short time upon our former school boy days. We were interrupted by a knock at the door, when Michael O’Laughlen was ushered in. After a formal introduction, we sat sipping our wine, and then smoke a cigar. During smoking he having heard previously of my feelings or sentiments, he spoke in glowing terms of the confederacy and of the number of surplus prisoners in the hands of the United States, and then ensued the proposition by J. Wilkes Booth and which he J. Wilkes Booth thought could be accomplished viz; Kidnapping President Lincoln as he frequently went unguarded out to Soldiers Home, and he thought he could be picked up, carried to Richmond, and for his exchange produce the exchange (for the President) of all the prisoners in the Federal hands. He, J. Wilkes Booth the originator asked if we would enter into it. After the painting of the chance of success in such glowing colors, we consented viz; Michael O’Loughlin and myself. Secrecy bound not to divulge it to a living soul. Saw him no more. Yes I saw him again and then he J. Wilkes Booth left to arrange the business north. First to New York then to the Oil region, from there to Boston and finally to Canada. Was to be back in a month. Received a letter which I destroyed stating he was laid up with Eryeocippolis in the arm and as soon as he was able, he would be with us. Months rolled around, he did not make his appearance until some time in January. In his trunk he had two guns (maker unknown), cap cartridges which were placed in the gun stock (Spencer Rifle I think called) revolver, knife belts, cartridge boxes, cartridge caps, canteen, all fully fixed out which were to be used in case of pursuit, and two pairs handcuffs to handcuff the President. His trunk being so heavy he gave the pistols knives and handcuffs to Michael O’Laughlen and myself to have shipped or bring to Washington to which place he had gone. Bought horse buggy, wagon and harness leaving the team &c. to drive on to Washington. Started from Baltimore about twelve or one o’clock after having shipped the box containing the knives, handcuffs and pistols, arriving in Washington at seven or half past seven. Met him on the street as we were passing theater. We alighted, took a drink and he told us of the theater plan slightly, saying he would wait till we put the horse away and tell us more fully. He had previously as I now remember spoken of the chance in the theater if we could not succeed in the other at Soldiers Home. We went to theater that night, he J. Wilkes Booth telling us about the different back entrances and how feasible the plan was. He, J. Wilkes Booth, had rented a stable in rear of the theater having bought two horses down the country, one in stable behind theater and the other at livery. Met him next day went to breakfast together. He was always pressed with business with a man unknown and then only by name, John Surratt. Most of his Booth’s time was spent with him. We were left entirely in the dark. Michael O’Loughlen and myself rented a room in D Street 420 No. Obtained meals at Franklin House cor of 8th and D St. and there lived for nearly two months, seeing him perhaps three or four times per week and when seen always but a short time still pressing business aleays on hand viz. John Surratt.

Michael O’Laughlen and myself drove out occasionally the horse liveried at Nailor’s Stable drove always (but once) in the city and Georgetown. The once excepted across Eastern Branch Bridge when we went upwards of five miles and returned I suppose. That was the only time I ever went over the Bridge. How often J. Wilkes Booth crossed I cannot state, but from his own words often. Thus was Michael O’Laughlens time spent and mine for the most part down at Ruhlman’s Hotel and Lichau House on Pennsylvania and Louisiana Avenues in drinking and amusements with other Baltimoreans besides ourselves congregating there all of whom knew nothing of our business but selling oil stock. Oil stock was the blind for them as well as my family. During the latter part of March while standing on Ruhlman’s and Lichau’s porch between 11 & 12 o’clock PM a young man name unknown, as I cannot remember names, about 5 feet 5 or 6 inches high thick set, long nose, sharp chin, wide cheek, small eye, I think grey, dark hair, and well dressed, color don’t remember, said called Michael O’Laughlen aside and said J. Wilkes Booth wish to see us both at Gaither’s Saloon on Avenue. I was there for the first time introduced to him, but forgot his name. We walked up together, Michael O’Laughlen, this unknown and myself were ushered into the presence of J. Wilkes Booth who introduced me to John Surratt, Atzerodt (alias Port Tobacco) (alias) Mosby making in all seven persons. J. Wilkes Booth had stated to Michael O’Laughlen to bring me up in good humor (still always in the dark). Then commenced the plan. Each had his part to perform. First I was to rush in the box and seize the President whilst Atzerodt “alias” Port Tobacco and J. Wilkes Booth were to handcuff him and lower him on the stage whilst Mosby was to catch him and hold him until we all got down. Surratt and unknown to be on the other side of Bridge to facilitate escape, afterwards changed to Mosby and Booth to catch him in box throw him down to me on stage, O’Laughlen and unknown to put gas out. Surratt, Atzerodt “alias” Port Tobacco to be on the other side of Bridge. I was opposed to the whole proceeding, said it could not be done or accomplished if even which was of itself an impossibility to get him out of the box and to the Bridge. We would be stopped by sentinel. Shoot the sentinel says Booth. I said that would not do for if an alarm was given then the whole thing was up. As for me I wanted a shadow of a chance. M. O’Laughlen wanted to argue the same thing, whereupon J. Wilkes Booth remarked, you find fault with everything concerned about it. I said no I wanted to have a chance and I intended to have it, that he could be the leader of the party but not my executioner. Whereupon J. Wilkes Booth remarked in a stern commanding and angry voice, do you know you are liable to be shot your oath.[sic] I told him the plan a basis had been changed and a compact broken, on the part of one is broken by all. If you feel inclined to shoot me you have no further to go. I shall defend myself. This if I remember arightly was on a Thursday or a Friday night. When I said Gentlemen if this is not accomplished this week I forever withdraw from it. Staid up till about 6 or 7 o’clock AM Friday or Saturday and then to bed, remained indoors till twelve. I arose and went to get my breakfast. M. O’Laughlen and myself room together both arose at the same time and were always together in a measure. About two or three o’clock J. Wilkes Booth called at Lichau House to see O’Laughlen. What passed I know not. I told him I wanted to see him. Says he speak out. Well John what I said last night I mean if not done this week I withdraw. Went to bed about 7 ½ o’clock PM. Next day twas to be accomplished on the 7th Street road, it failed. Sunday I staid in Washington and Monday or Tuesday I returned to the city of Baltimore and thence to Hookstown. J. Wilkes Booth in meantime went to New York and returned during week, Saturday I think. Said he wished to see me on very urgent business. Father sent for me. I came from country and he had gone to Washington, whereupon I wrote him the letter published. Richmond authorities as far as I know knew nothing of the conspiracy. The letter was written after my return to country, after finding he could not wait to see me in Baltimore. During week I came in City again. Met M. O’Laughlen who asked me to go to Washington to finally arrange his affairs. I went in the morning Friday, returning same day. Cut loose forever from it. Received a letter J. H. Wharton at Fort Monroe giving me employment; went to country got my clothing and Saturday first day of April left Baltimore for Fort Monroe at which place I have remained, never corresponding with Booth or seeing him from above named date to the present writing. The groundwork was to kidnap the President without any violence none other were included therein. He never to me said he would kill him, further than this I know nothing and am innocent of having taken any part whatever in the dark deed committed.

The plan of escape was place Mr. Lincoln in the buggy purchased for that purpose, cross Eastern Branch Bridge, Surratt and Atzerodt “alias” Port Tobacco to pilot them to where a boat was concealed, turn horses loose, place the President in the boat and cross the Potomac to Virginia Shore and thence to make our way to Richmond. Surratt knew the route and was to act as pilot.

A box painted black like unto a sword box was sent to Booth from Hotel by a Porter there, to our room. Next day transferred in wagon, O’Laughlen acting pilot to some place. I was not present. After giving box to driver went to Georgetown and O’Laughlen had the full charge of it. M. O’Laughlen said he took it to a Mr. Heard and from thence the unknown carried it to his house, took guns out and carried them to Peedee. This latter clause Booth told me.

Saml. B. Arnold

Baltimore April 18th 1865

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The Nine Lives of Sam Arnold

Samuel Bland Arnold was born on September 6, 1834 to Benedict “George” and Mary (Bland) Arnold.  In his early days, he and his brother William attended St. Timothy’s Hall, a military academy in Catonsville, MD.  St. Timothy’s was a firm school requiring the students to wear steel-grey uniforms and maintain strict military discipline.  In 1852, Sam and Billy became introduced to a fellow student, John Wilkes Booth.  Booth was not the best of students, fighting against the regimental nature of the school.  The death of John’s father in November of 1852 put an end to his time at St. Timothy’s.  Sam, on the other hand learned well from his time at the academy.  When John Wilkes Booth was developing his career as an actor, Sam signed up for service in the Confederate States of America.  He joined the First Maryland Infantry in 1861 before he was discharged for illness.  He later joined another brother, George, who was serving in the Nitre and Mining Bureau in Georgia.  He left this position in early 1864 to care for his ailing mother in Baltimore.  In August of 1864, John Wilkes Booth happened to run into his old schoolmate, William Arnold in Washington, D.C.  William said that his brother Sam, a veteran of the CSA, was also in D.C. at the time, and he arranged a meeting with him and Booth.

The two old schoolmates quickly rekindled their friendship over drinks.  During their meeting, another of Booth’s childhood friends, Michael O’Laughlen, appeared, having been invited by Booth.   After a bit, Booth brought the two men into his confidence about his plan to abduct President Lincoln and hold him for ransom.  Arnold and O’Laughlen, both influenced by and sharing in Booth’s dream for a drastic turn in the war, pledged themselves to help Booth fulfill his goal.  This support in the kidnapping plot and an ambiguous letter from Sam found in Booth’s room would prove his undoing.  After the assassination, Sam Arnold was sentenced to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas.

Fast forward 37 years later.  Arnold was pardoned in 1869 after four years of the most grueling imprisonment possible.  From his day of release, he lived a quiet, reserved life away from public eye.  He denied interviews at every turn.  Then on October 7th, 1902, Sam Arnold died…kind of:

As this article states, Arnold had promised to release a statement regarding his involvement upon his death.  As of a few days later, however, no newspapers had been able uncover any such statement.  The reason for this was discovered by another newspaper that reported the following:

Yes, it appears that the Samuel Arnold that died on October 7th was not the Sam Arnold involved in the conspiracy.  Rather he was just a man that shared the same name as the conspirator.  As Osborn Oldroyd had written, the real Sam Arnold had already died.  He did so quietly and without any statement having been released upon his death.  And so the world was left without ever hearing the words of the last Lincoln conspirator tried by military tribunal in 1865.

All of this breaking news about Sam Arnold’s death proved confusing to a 68 year-old resident of Friendship, MD.

As he read the many obituaries about the Lincoln conspirator, he saw how the newspapers continually perpetrated the same misconceptions and injustices of years past.  Finally, he had seen enough.  This man decided to change his previous arrangement regarding telling his story.  The real, and very much alive, Samuel Bland Arnold decided to release his account:

Arnold’s account became a daily column for two weeks in many national newspapers.  Most of his account detailed his imprisonment at Dry Tortugas.  In 1995, author Michael Kauffman reprinted the account as the book Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator.  It is an essential, albeit biased, version of the conspiracy that led to Lincoln’s assassination.

The real Sam Arnold actually died on September 21, 1906 at the home of his sister-in-law Helen Arnold.  He is buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore.  His nondescript “Arnold” stone rests in the same cemetery as John Wilkes Booth and Michael O’Laughlen, recreating his visit with the two men so many years before.

Post Script – Even after the mistakes that were made when the other Sam Arnold died, the press still made mistakes when the real one passed on.  For example, did you know the conspirators were imprisoned in Hawaii?

References:
My Thoughts Be Bloody by Nora Titone
American Brutus by Michael Kauffman
Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator by Michael Kauffman
Newspaper accounts retrieved from Genealogybank.com

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On this date: April 7th, 1865

Booth had a meeting with Samuel Knapp Chester.

While in New York, Booth met with his fellow actor and friend Samuel Knapp Chester for drinks.  Earlier in the conspiracy, Booth consistently tried  to involve Chester in the kidnapping plot.  Chester continually refused to participate.  Booth went as far as to send Chester $50 as a demonstration of the money to be had in the endeavor, but Chester returned it.  During this meeting, a week before the assassination, Booth lamented his previously missed chance, “What an excellent chance I had to kill the President, if I had wished, on inauguration-day!”  Samuel Knapp Chester would be arrested and used as a witness for the prosecution during the conspiracy trial.

References:
The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President…(Vol 1) edited by Benjamin Perley Poore (1865)

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