The Conspiracy Trial: Day by Day
It is impossible to read or conduct any research on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln without coming across references to the 1865 trial of the conspirators. Eight of John Wilkes Booth’s alleged accomplices were tried by military commission from May 9 to June 30, 1865. The court sat for a total of 39 sessions and, during that time, they heard the words of 347 unique witnesses. The proceedings in Washington that spring transfixed the nation. Many of the major newspapers across the country reproduced the daily testimony being brought out in that small room on the grounds of the Old Arsenal Penitentiary.
With a few exceptions, the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators met 6 days a week, Monday – Saturday, for 8 weeks. In this project, each day of the trial is broken up into its own entry. Clicking on a date will provide you with the proceedings of that day and the summarized testimony given. Descriptions of the conspirators, visitors, and first-hand accounts of its participants are also included for each day when such material is available.
For ease of use, each day begins with a Table of Contents that allows you to click on a specific witness or conspirator to jump straight to their corresponding testimony or description further down on the page. The start of each witness’s summarized testimony contains a hyperlink to their full testimony in case you want to read it for yourself. In addition, if the witness or lawyer makes reference to a previous witness or testimony, links have been included for easy reference.
The purpose of this project is to provide an educational resource into the daily proceedings of the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators and, by doing so, to support learning opportunities about this momentous event in our history.
Trial Week 1
Trial Week 2
Trial Week 3
Trial Week 4
Trial Week 5
Trial Week 6
Trial Week 7
Trial Week 8
Click on the images below
to see the testimony relating
to each individual conspirator.
This project would not have been possible without the support and help of Michael Kauffman, Bob Bowser, Dr. Michael Di Giacomo, Betty Ownsbey, Tom Bogar, Bob Summers, Jim Garrett, Bill Binzel, Colleen Puterbaugh, Jane Westenfeld, Adam Selzer, Travis Ramirez, and illustrator Jackie Roche.
This project is also greatly indebted to William Edwards, whose transcription of the trial testimony was the foundation for this project, and for the work of late assassination author Art Loux whose book, John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day, served as its inspiration.
If you are interested in seeing a bibliography of the different sources used in assembling this project, please click here.
 This total of 347 unique witnesses comes from counting how many individual people testified regardless of how many times they were recalled. Many of witnesses at the trial were called to the stand multiple times and across multiple days. 347 also includes the testimonies of 4 individuals who never physically entered the courtroom but had their testimonies included in the record in written form. If one were to count how many times a physical witness took the stand, regardless of whether that person had testified before, the number of total witnesses grows to 443.