Posts Tagged With: Spangler

Arriving at Fort Jefferson

The Richmond Whig newspaper carried this article on August 4, 1865 covering the arrival of the Lincoln assassination conspirators to their prison of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas:

What surprised me the most about this article is the claim that, upon reaching the island, the prisoners were relieved at finding it, “not so bad a place as they had supposed,” as it had a “fine sea breeze” and was a “very healthy” place.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Early in his memoirs, Sam Arnold accurately describes the Fort thusly:

“Without exception, it was the most horrible place the eye of man ever rested upon, where day after day, the miserable existence was being dragged out, intermixed with sickness, bodily suffering, want and pinching hunger…”

It would have been a fallacy to think that Fort Jefferson was “healthy”  in any sense of the word.  Scurvy, malnutrition, diarrhea, and diseases like yellow fever ran rampant.  The sick were oftentimes quarantined and only aided by a handful of doctors and nurses.  No one enjoyed life on Fort Jefferson.  Especially not Dr. Mudd, Edman Spangler, Samuel Arnold, or Michael O’Laughlen.

Soldiers in quarantine on Fort Jefferson 1899

Richmond Whig, 8/4/1865
Memoirs of the Lincoln Conspirators by Michael Kauffman
Fort Jefferson Historical Structures Report

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Conspirator Canes

Prison life at Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas was a miserable affair.  From the food, to the weather, to the living conditions, it’s hard to imagine that anyone stationed there, guard or prisoner, found the now tropical paradise hospitable.  All those that sailed to the island fort became prisoners.  It appears that when the lives of the inhabitants were not in danger from disease or malnutrition, extreme boredom prevailed. The Lincoln assassination conspirators Dr. Mudd, Edman Spangler, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O’Laughlen fought against this boredom.  The assigned duties given to the men helped in some ways.  Dr. Mudd, while a trained surgeon who would be a nurse in the hospital and an emergency replacement during the Yellow Fever epidemic, spent a considerable amount of time with Edman Spangler in the carpentry shop on the island.  Through three and a half years, he honed his carpentry skills and created several beautiful items that are currently on display at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum in Waldorf, MD.  One set of items that Dr. Mudd became effective at creating were canes.

In addition to these two canes on display at the Mudd house, the good Dr. also created a cane for his cousin Henry A. Clarke.  When Dr. Mudd was struggling to find an attorney willing to take his case during the conspiracy trial, he reached out to his cousin Henry Clarke who owned a Washington coal company.  On May 10th, Col. Henry Burnett sent a letter to Clarke asking if he would be Mudd’s counsel.  Clarke responded back truthfully that he was not an attorney but would be happy to help Dr. Mudd in securing counsel.  By the time Clarke had responded, Dr. Mudd had already secured Thomas Ewing and Frederick Stone for his defense.

The cane Dr. Mudd made for Henry Clarke made its way to Antiques Roadshow a few years ago, and the appraisal for it can be watched here.

Dr. Mudd was not the only conspirator to make canes for family and friends.  His own mentor in the carpentry world, Edman Spangler, also created canes from the wood at Fort Jefferson:

The canes, cribbage boards, shell decorated boxes, and other feats of craftsmanship were all therapeutic ways for Dr. Mudd to feel productive.  Had it not been for these minor, but important, outlets of purposefulness, the Lincoln assassination conspirators could easily have  succumbed to insanity.

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research site by Robert Summers
The Evidence by Steers and Edwards

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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.

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

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Spangler’s Stone

I’m currently driving around Charles County after standing in line at the Maryland DMV for a hour to learn I was just one ID short if getting my license transferred over. I’m posting from my phone so this will be short.

Below is a picture of Edman Spangler’s grave stone. Spangler is buried in the Original (Old) St. Peter’s Cemetery. Of all the conspirators, Spangler is agreed upon as being the most innocent. He had known the Booth family from his time helping to create Junius Brutus Booth’s Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland. He built and attended to the stables behind Ford’s Theatre where Booth kept his horses. And on the night of the assassination Booth called for Spangler to hold his horse. Due to these facts and the mistaken testimony that Spangler had told another theater worker to keep quiet after the assassination, Spangler was tried as an accomplice. Even the military commission’s sentencing of six years in prison shows their relative belief of his innocence in the assassination plot. It seems that Spangler was just made and example of due to his acquaintance with John Wilkes Booth.



Spangler’s grave is located in the back corner of this small cemetery opposite the sign.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Blog at