June 7, 1865

Wednesday, June 7, 1865

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Proceedings

The court convened at 11 o’clock.[1]

Present: All nine members of the military commission, the eight conspirators, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, Assistant Judge Advocates Bingham and Burnett, and the recorders of the court.

Absent: Reverdy Johnson, Frederick Aiken, John Clampitt, Walter Cox, William Doster, Thomas Ewing, and Frederick Stone.

Seating chart:

The prisoners were seated in the same manner as the day before.

All of the lawyers for the defense were absent when the court opened. The reading of the prior day’s testimony began and was completed at 12 o’clock, before any of the counselors arrived:

“General Hunter, President of the Court, asked if the defense had any witnesses in attendance. Judge Holt said that none of the counsel for the defense were present. General Hunter inquired if it was understood by their absence that they had closed their case. Judge Holt said that probably the counsel were absent from a supposition that the reading of the proceedings would occupy a longer time. The Court was cleared for a short time…”[2]

Eventually, William Doster, Thomas Ewing, and Walter Cox arrived at the courtroom.

“…on the doors being [re]opened, several witnesses were called by Mr. Doster, for defense, but they did not appear”.[3]

Testimony began

George Booz, an African American resident of Charles County, was recalled after previously testifying for the defense on May 27th. Booz reiterated his prior testimony of having seen Dr. Mudd on the farm road between his house and Bryantown on April 15th. Thomas Ewing asked Booz about matters of geography concerning where exactly he saw Dr. Mudd in relation to the main road. Booz replied that he had crossed the main road himself and ascended a hill which is where he encountered Dr. Mudd on the farm road. Booz testified that he had a view of the main road for a distance of a quarter mile in each direction (towards and away from Bryantown) and that he did not see any riders on the road at the time.[4] Like Booz’s earlier statements, the purpose of this testimony was to counter the prosecution witness Becky Briscoe who claimed to have seen Dr. Mudd and David Herold ride back from Bryantown together on April 15th.

Richard Edward Skinner, an African American resident of Charles County, testified that he had been the servant of Mrs. Mary Thomas, the mother of prosecution witness Daniel J. Thomas. Skinner was formerly enslaved by Thomas’ family and had known Daniel Thomas for about thirty years. He testified that Thomas had a bad reputation in his community for telling the truth. Skinner said he had heard other gentlemen in the community say they would not believe Thomas under oath. Skinner also recalled that Thomas was not a loyal Union man at the onset of the war.[5] Ewing used Skinner to help further discredit Daniel Thomas and his claim that Dr. Mudd informed him Lincoln, his cabinet, and all the Union men in Maryland were to be killed.

Break

At the conclusion of Skinner’s testimony, the court decided to take its normal one hour recess for lunch. During this time all of the conspirators were returned to their cells. At 2 o’clock, the court reassembled and testimony was resumed.[6] At this point Frederick Aiken and Frederick Stone appeared in court.

Testimony resumed

John W. Wharton, a merchant operating just outside Fortress Monroe, Virginia, testified that Samuel Arnold had come to work for him starting on April 2nd until his arrest on April 17th. Wharton stated Arnold worked as a clerk in his store and that he was confident Arnold was not absent during the two weeks he worked there. Thomas Ewing, lawyer for Samuel Arnold, asked Wharton how Arnold came to be employed by Wharton and Wharton responded that it was through Arnold’s father and a letter from Arnold himself. Ewing asked Wharton if the letter Arnold had written concerning the job had made any mention of the business he had been previously engaged in. Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham objected to the question, noting that the introduction of the letter into evidence would be the proper manner for learning its contents. Bingham then went on to state that even if the letter was introduced, however, it would be inadmissible. Ewing countered the objection stating that the letter in question had been seized by one of the agents of the government, Major Smith, during the arrest of Samuel Arnold but had since been lost. He sought to prove the evidence of the letter through the testimony of Mr. Wharton. Specifically, Ewing stated that the letter made mention that Arnold had, “abandoned the business in which he had been formerly engaged,” and he insisted that, based on the former latitude he had been given by the prosecution to introduce evidence concerning this letter, he should be able to proceed with his question. Bingham maintained his objection, stating that that part of the letter would be inadmissible since a defendant could not, through writing or oral language, “bar the doors of justice against the power of the government.” The court sustained Bingham’s objection and the questioning of John Wharton came to a close.[7]

Defense lawyer Thomas Ewing then made a motion that the cipher letter found in the waters of Morehead City, NC and entered into evidence on June 5th, be stricken from the record. Ewing explained that he had been absent from the courtroom at the time the cipher letter was introduced after being assured that the testimony concerning it would only deal with the larger Confederate conspiracy the government was pursuing. It was only after seeing the record concerning the cipher this morning that Ewing learned more about it. Ewing stated his belief that the cipher was undoubtedly fictitious, and even if the prosecution thought otherwise, it was still wholly inadmissible under the rules of evidence. As Ewing noted that the note was not signed, its handwriting not proven to be one of the conspirators, it was not shown to be connected to any of the conspirators, nor was it in the possession of any of the conspirators. Ewing stated that the cipher was the declaration of an unknown person not shown to be connected in this conspiracy and therefore the letter was as unconnected with this case as, “the loosest newspaper paragraph that could be picked up anywhere.”[8]

Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham countered that part of the charge and specification against the eight conspirators now on trial was that they had entered into a conspiracy with parties named and others unknown. Bingham then went into a long description of the evidence already presented which formed the foundation for the admission of this cipher. In the end, he stated that this letter was proof of the additional unknown conspirators the charge and specification spoke about. Ewing replied that for such a letter to be admissible it would have to be proven to have been written by a co-conspirator. Bingham stated that based on the other proofs in the case, the prosecution believed that this cipher was written by an otherwise unknown co-conspirator.[9]

Walter Cox, lawyer for Michael O’Laughlen, then joined Thomas Ewing in his motion against the cipher. He reiterated that, originally, the defense team had no objections to the letter because they were under the impression that it would relate to the machinations of agents in Canada with possible connections to authorities in Richmond. Cox made it clear that the defense had never opposed testimony of this kind in order to ferret out the truth. They merely wished to show that their own clients had no involvement with any such Confederate plans. The defense, therefore, did not preview this cipher before it was read into court. After it was read, however, and it was purported to have been written by someone immediately connected with the assassination, that changed the nature of the evidence. Cox agreed that the law allowed the declaration of one conspirator could be used against another conspirator, but he insisted, like Ewing, that the connection must first be made showing that the alleged conspirator making the declaration is actually connected to the conspiracy. Until other evidence proved the author of the cipher’s connection to the conspiracy, Cox stated that it was inadmissible to use it as evidence. Cox reiterated that the letter was not proven to be connected in any way to Booth or any of his associates. Cox criticized Bingham’s explanation as to why the cipher was proper evidence.

According to Cox, Bingham’s logic was that: Booth was engaged in a conspiracy with some unknown persons, this cipher letter comes from an unknown person, and therefore this letter is from somebody connected with the conspiracy and constitutes admissible evidence. Cox referred to this as “chop logic” on the part of the prosecution and reiterated that the rule of law stated that the author of a declaration must be shown first when a letter is entered into evidence.

Cox then went on to explore the idea first mentioned by Thomas Ewing concerning how the cipher was undoubtedly a fabrication. The testimony stated that the letter was picked up out of the water in Morehead City yet the letter was not blurred from its contact with the water. Cox expressed his belief that it had been written and dropped into the water immediately before it was found by government agents, for the very purpose of it being used as evidence. Cox then looked at the text noting that it was dated April 15th, the day after Lincoln was shot. The text stated that “I was in Baltimore yesterday” and that “Pet” assumed to be Booth based on the context of the letter, “had not yet got there.” Since, in context to the letter, “yesterday” would have been April 14th, the day of the assassination, it made no sense that “Pet” would be in Baltimore before his work of assassination had been done. Cox also laughed at the letter’s claim that on the night of April 14th, “We had a large meeting,” when it had been shown that most of the conspirators were fleeing for their lives.[10]

John Bingham, continuing his objection to the motion, noted that the cipher letter and its corresponding testimony could not be struck out or erased by anybody through any motion. He conceded that Ewing could ask the court to disregard it, but stated that the proper time for him to do so would be during his closing arguments. Bingham stated that asking the court to disregard this evidence now was akin to asking the court to try part of the case now and the rest of it later. Bingham also came to the defense of the letter and its contents, attempting to repudiate the words of Walter Cox. Bingham pointed out that the references to Sherman and Grant showed evidence of a conspiracy, one that was not known to anyone in America except the conspirators themselves, on April 15th. Cox then countered that they did not know what day it was written. Bingham stated that Cox, himself, had given credit to the date of written April 15th during his criticisms of the letter. Cox still pointed out that it was not found until the 2nd of May, three weeks after the assassination, when knowledge of the conspiracy was well known to the public. He insisted that the evidence suggested the cipher was a forgery, “written by somebody who possessed himself of sufficient knowledge of the facts charged against the conspirators to enable him to fabricate a letter specious on its face and appearing to have some bearing on the conspiracy itself.”[11]

In his own closing, John Bingham maintained that the contents of the letter proved it was genuine and that it had been in the possession of an unknown conspirator. Bingham believed that all other evidence in the case regarding the larger conspiracy (a large portion of which was later found to be perjury) corroborated the truthfulness of the cipher letter.

In the end, the commission sided with Bingham and overruled Thomas Ewing’s motion to strike the letter from the record.[12] During the course of this excited debate over the cipher letter, “a lady fainted, and was carried out of the court-room.”[13]

Arminius “Minnie” Pole, a thirteen year old resident of Baltimore County, MD, testified that he had seen Samuel Arnold in the neighborhood of Hookstown on March 20th, 27th, and 28th. Pole saw Arnold on the 20th, riding the omnibus (stage coach) towards Hookstown where Arnold’s uncle kept a farm. He saw Arnold at his uncle’s farm on the 27th. On the 28th, Pole saw Arnold riding the stage towards Baltimore.[14] The point of Pole’s testimony was to support Samuel Arnold’s whereabouts during the end of March and to hopefully show that he had disconnected himself from Booth’s plot by that time. Minnie Pole appears to have been the youngest known witness to have testified at the trial, but it is possible Milo Simms, who was uncertain about his age, may have been younger.

The defense then announced that they had no more witnesses present in the courtroom today. Judge Advocate General Holt replied that the prosecution had some witnesses they could call in rebuttal provided the defense was done with part of their case. Specifically, Holt asked Frederick Aiken if Mary Surratt’s defense were through with their testimony impeaching the character of Louis Weichmann. Aiken replied that his defense had concluded that part of Mrs. Surratt’s case. Holt then started to call witnesses for the prosecution’s rebuttal.[15]

John Ryan, a clerk in the Auditor’s Office in D.C., testified that he had known Louis Weichmann casually for less than a year. The two had conversed frequently when they ran into each other but Ryan admitted he had not been a visiting friend to Weichmann. Ryan stated that from all of his interactions with Weichmann, he considered Weichmann to be an honest and upright man. Ryan recounted how, after the fall of Richmond, Weichmann expressed his joy at the success of the Union and the restoration of the country that was to come. During cross-examination, Ryan reiterated that Weichmann always held fine reputation as far as he knew but Ryan did admit that he had his own “private opinion of [Weichmann’s] testimony and of his connection with this affair, but I presume that is not relevant testimony nor what I have heard said relative testimony.”[16]

Francis J. D. Stith, a clerk in the War Department, testified that he had known Louis Weichmann for about 16 months. Both Stith and Weichmann worked in the Commissary-General of Prisoners office at the War Department. Stith stated that Weichmann always maintained a good reputation in the department as a truthful and honest man. Stith also stated that Weichmann voluntary joined an association of clerks to act in the defense of the capital if circumstances ever called for it. During cross-examination by Frederick Aiken, Stith stated that he had no relation to Weichmann outside of the office. In addition, Stith admitted that while inclusion in the volunteer organization was not exactly compulsory, it was understood that refusal to join might result in termination of a clerk’s position. Aiken also asked Stith of instances where Weichmann expressed distaste for having to perform drills and wear blue pantaloons as a part of this company of volunteers. Stith claimed he had no knowledge of any such complaints.[17]

James P. Young, a clerk in the office of the Quartermaster’s Department in D.C., testified that he has been acquainted with Louis Weichmann since 1856, when both men attended Central High School of Philadelphia together. According to Young, Weichmann spent two or three years at that school before moving on to a school in Maryland. The two men became reacquainted when Young moved to D.C. and started working for the Quartermaster’s department. Young stated that he always knew Weichmann to be a truthful and honest man and that Weichmann often expressed loyalty to the Union cause. Young stated that Weichmann was a member of the Union League, a patriotic fraternal society. During cross examination, Frederick Aiken asked Young how he knew Weichmann was a member of the Union League. Young stated that he was a member and that Weichmann had given him signs, known only to members, that had convinced him he was also a member. Aiken asked specifically what sort of signs proved Weichmann was a member. This caused an objection by Assistant Judge Advocate Bingham as being immaterial. Aiken pressed that if the sign was all the evidence Young could provide to prove Weichmann’s membership in the league than he felt it necessary to push the matter. This resulted in a rare rebuke from one of the members of the court, General Robert Foster.

Foster objected to Aiken wasting the court’s time on this matter. Aiken expressed that he had no wish to expose the secrets of the Union League and that if there was a written record attesting to Louis Weichmann’s membership that would suffice. John Bingham replied that Young had already stated that he saw Weichmann in Union League rooms and that, along with the aforementioned signs, were enough. Aiken waived the question.[18]

Patrick T. Ransford, a clerk in the War Department, testified that he has been acquainted with Louis Weichmann since September of 1864. Both men worked for the War Department but in different branches. Ransford stated that Weichmann’s reputation for integrity and truth has always been considered good as far as he knew. Ransford stated that he could not speak to Weichmann’s loyalty because he never had much conversation with him on political matters. Ransford stated they were always on friendly terms.[19]

John T. Holohan, a lodger at Mrs. Surratt’s D.C. boardinghouse, testified that he and his wife Eliza had been living at Mrs. Surratt’s since February. Holohan stated that he had seen both George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell at the boardinghouse but that he did not know either one of their real names at the time. Lewis Powell was known as Mr. Wood during his stay. Holohan admitted he was out of the house a lot and mainly only saw the residents and guests during meals. He stated his belief that Atzerodt was visiting with John Surratt. Holohan also saw John Wilkes Booth visit the boardinghouse and chat with Mrs. Surratt and the other ladies of the household. Mrs. Surratt never had any trouble seeing him or identifying him during this residence in her house and Holohan said he never heard anything about her eyesight. On a date about three weeks prior to the assassination, Holohan saw Mrs. Surratt help a woman into a carriage with John Surratt. Based on the testimony of Louis Weichmann, Holohan had reason to believe that woman was a Confederate spy by the name of Sarah Slater. According to Holohan, the last time he saw John Surratt was on April 3rd, when Surratt woke him up early to ask if he would exchange some of Surratt’s gold for greenbacks. Surratt told him he was travelling to New York and needed cash. After the exchange was complete, Surratt left and Holohan hadn’t seen him since.[20]

Frederick Aiken, lawyer for Mrs. Surratt then cross-examined Holohan, putting forth questions regarding the conduct of Louis Weichmann. Aiken asked whether George Atzerodt visited the house in order to visit with Weichmann, but Holohan said he did not know. Holohan did state that based on comments Mrs. Surratt had made to him, it was clear that she did not care for Atzerodt. The household apparently made fun of him behind his back. Aiken asked if Lewis Powell interacted with Weichmann during the former’s brief stay at the house. Again, Holohan said he did not know. Aiken then pressed Holohan regarding the incident he had just testified to about Mrs. Surratt assisting Confederate agent Sarah Slater into a carriage. Aiken asked if Holohan might not be mistaken and that Mrs. Surratt was actually at church on the morning when Ms. Slater departed. This resulted in a rebuke from John Holohan who stated, “Mr. Aiken, you know me very well; well enough to know that I am not a man to tell an untruth. You have known me for several years…I have told you that I saw Mrs. Surratt there that morning, and she could not have been at church if she was there.”

Aiken then asked Holohan whether Louis Weichmann gave himself up or was under arrest when he went to the Metropolitan Police Force on April 15th. Both Assistant Judge Advocates Bingham and Burnett objected to the question. John Bingham stated that the question was not competent evidence while Col. Henry Burnett stated that since nothing related to this topic was brought out by the prosecution’s questions, such a question was not relevant cross-examination. Aiken replied that Weichmann had said he was not under arrest and since Holohan had accompanied him to the police station, the question was valid. Burnett countered that if Aiken had wanted to contradict Weichmann concerning his status after the assassination, then he should have called Weichmann as his own witness. Burnett continued by saying that Aiken had informed the court that he had finished his work in trying to discredit Weichmann and that why called forth Holohan merely as rebutting testimony. Aiken waived the question and then asked Holohan if he accompanied Weichmann up to Canada following the assassination and a question about who were the first people to enter the Surratt boardinghouse after the assassination. Both of these questions were objected to by the prosecution and so Aiken waived them. Aiken then asked questions regarding Holohan’s impression of Weichmann’s loyalty. Holohan stated that he had never heard any political discussions while he was at the Surratt boardinghouse. Aiken asked Holohan if he ever overheard anything regarding the proposed assassination of the President and his cabinet. Holohan stated he never had and if he had, he would have alerted the authorities.

Aiken then began to ask Holohan about Weichmann’s condition when the authorities first arrived at the boardinghouse in the hours after Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre. Aiken wanted to know if Weichmann was fully dressed when the authorities arrived. Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham objected to the question stating it was unimportant. Aiken replied it was very important. When Henry Burnett asked why, Aiken replied Weichmann being fully clothed would, “show you that he was ready to take his flight, to run away.” To this, Henry Burnett strenuously objected, repeating again that very little of Aiken’s questions were proper cross-examination since they were not based on any evidence brought out by the prosecution during their questioning of Holohan. Frederick Aiken replied that while Col. Burnett spoke truthfully regarding how his cross-examination did not follow the strictest rules of evidence, he claimed the defense had not objected when the prosecution had made similar “legal or illegal” examinations of defense witnesses:

“We feel that it is our right, owing to the range which the government have taken in their examination of witnesses, to be allowed the same room, the same wide range, the same permission to make examinations over fields that are not legitimate in evidence for the purpose of throwing around and bringing to full view before the Court, everything that will add strength to the position of the accused in their defense and to shield them from the crime with which they are charged.”[21]

Col. Burnett replied that it was the desire of the government to give the accused every opportunity to present their defense and that the arm of the government had been used to call forth witnesses. Burnett criticized Aiken for not calling Holohan as his own witness noting that Holohan had been in Washington the whole time and was even a personal acquaintance of the defense attorney. He also criticized Aiken for telling the court that his case against Weichmann was concluded only to use this witness to raise new questions which the government would not have a chance to meet. If such a manner of proceeding would be allowed, than the trial would never end. Lastly, Burnett dismissed Aiken’s argument claiming the prosecution had made similarly illegal examinations:

“It is certainly a very weak argument for the counsel to say that he permitted illegitimate matter, and therefore that illegitimate matter should be permitted for him. It is his duty under his oath to see that his client has the rights of law; and it is an admission that I certainly would not make to this Court, that I had not maintained the rights of my client. He is to blame and no one else, if such has been the case, which I most certainly deny. This case we conduct according to the rules of law.”[22]

Fredrick Aiken, accepting defeat, waived his question and ended his cross-examination of Holohan.

Thomas Ewing, lawyer for Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Edman Spangler, then announced that he had a few questions to ask John Holohan. Noting that his questions were not of a proper cross-examination, he requested to treat Holohan as his own, properly called, witness. Col. Burnett agreed, noting that the prosecution would therefore have a chance to rebut any testimony given.

Acting now as Thomas Ewing’s defense witness, John T. Holohan was asked if he knew Judson Jarboe. Holohan stated that he knew a man named Mr. Jarboe but did not know his first name. Holohan had never seen Mr. Jarboe at the Surratt boardinghouse. Ewing asked Holohan to describe the location and appearance of Mrs. Surratt’s boardinghouse on H St. Holohan also testified that he had never heard of Dr. Mudd and that he was never at the boardinghouse to his knowledge. Ewing’s purpose in asking these questions was to counter the testimony of Rev. William Evans who claimed to have seen Dr. Mudd go into the Surratt boardinghouse on March 2nd at the same time James Judson Jarboe was leaving. Ewing then asked Holohan if Weichmann gave himself up after the assassination. Col. Burnett interjected that Holohan need not answer that. Ewing countered and stated that the testimony of Louis Weichmann was strong evidence that he was either a co-conspirator or many of the statements he made were untrue. Ewing wished to show through his questions that Weichmann acted as if he considered himself implicated in the crime. Col. Burnett reiterated his earlier argument that cross examination could only be in connection to testimony already brought out and his criticism that the defense had already claimed to have closed their case against Weichmann. Ewing pointed out that he had not stated anything in regard to being done with Weichmann, that it had been Frederick Aiken who had claimed to be concluded on that point on behalf of his client. Additionally, Ewing reminded Burnett that, prior to starting his questions, he had asked permission from the prosecution to call Holohan as his own witness and, therefore, he was not currently cross-examining him.

Assistant Judge Advocate Col. Henry Burnett countered that he had witnessed Aiken pass a paper to Ewing which contained questions. Burnett railed against the impropriety shown by Aiken and Ewing in attempting to circumvent the legitimate objections brought by the prosecution by using a fellow defense counsel in this way.  Thomas Ewing replied that he had a keen sense of propriety and that Burnett’s reprimand was entirely unnecessary. He had made Holohan his own witness and it was of no issue to the prosecution where he got his questions. Though he did not feel that he was required to explain, Ewing stated that he had given the questions to Aiken to start with and that Aiken gave them back to him when he was prevented from asking them. Ewing reiterated that his case against Weichmann was not done nor had he claimed it to be. Col. Burnett did not relent, stating that since it was through the permission of the prosecution that Holohan was allowed to be called as a defense witness for Ewing, he now withdrew any such courtesy based on Ewing and Aiken’s conduct. Ewing then addressed Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt and asked if he withdrew consent.

Holt, somewhat surprisingly sided against his own assistant Judge Advocates and maintained that the witness had been given to the defense. Col. Burnett and John Bingham then found themselves trying to convince Joseph Holt that Holohan had only been given to Ewing by consent and that they now withdrew that consent. Ewing continued to prod the Judge Advocate and his assistants regarding the nature of his witness. Joseph Holt eventually stated with finality that it was understood by the court that John Holohan had become Thomas Ewing’s witness.[23]

Having won this hard fought victory, Thomas Ewing then proceeding to explain to the court that his reason for questioning Holohan in this way, as opposed to Weichmann himself, was to prove that Weichmann was a guilty party in the plot against Lincoln. If he is successful in doing so, it would go a long way towards impairing the value of Weichmann’s testimony. Ewing wished to show that Weichmann occupied the position as a co-conspirator and attempted to clear himself by being State’s witness against the others. John Bingham still maintained his objection to the question regarding whether Weichmann turned himself to the authorities. Bingham stated that no one other than Weichmann could prove or disprove Ewing’s claims. In addition, Bingham stated that Weichmann had testified about being taken into custody and that nobody doubted it. Asking Holohan about it would not lay any such foundation as Ewing intended. Bingham stated that if Ewing desired to lay such a foundation against Weichmann, it would have to start with a cross-examination of Weichmann about the issue. While Ewing won the battle over keeping Holohan as a witness, the court agreed with Bingham’s objection and Ewing was prevented from asking Holohan about Weichmann’s arrest.[24]

Not ready to give up, Ewing continued his questioning of John Holohan. Holohan testified that he traveled with Weichmann up to Canada (a question that had been objected to when Frederick Aiken had asked it earlier). Holohan also stated that Weichmann was good deal excited during conversations about the assassination after it had taken place. Ewing asked about the detectives who came to the Surratt boardinghouse in the hours after the assassination and, as Aiken had tried to do earlier, asked about the condition Weichmann was in when they arrived. Holohan stated that he did not know whether Weichmann was fully dressed or in his night clothes when the authorities first arrived and he let them inside. Holohan reported that he had taken Weichmann down to the headquarters of police superintendent A. C. Richards. On the morning of April 15th after breakfast. Ewing asked if Holohan knew Weichmann was going to be arrested but this was objected to by Assistant Judge Advocate Bingham and the question was waived. Bingham and Burnett asked Holohan a few more questions in cross-examination until he was finally allowed to leave the stand.[25]

James A. McDevitt, a detective with the Metropolitan Police Force, was called as a prosecution witness in rebuttal. McDevitt stated that he and another detective arrived at the Surratt boardinghouse at around 2 o’clock in the morning on April 15th looking for John Surratt. Louis Weichmann opened the door wearing a shirt that was unbuttoned and without shoes. McDevitt believed that the amount of time that elapsed between him ringing he bell and Weichmann answering the door would have been enough for Weichmann to put those clothes on. McDevitt stated that he arrested Weichmann the next day when he and Mr. Holohan came to Superintendent A. C. Richards’ office. McDevitt recounted how he and another office took Weichmann up to Canada in pursuit of John Surratt in the days after the assassination and that he believed Weichmann had plenty of chances to escape there if he had so desired. McDevitt stated that the group in Canada found John Surratt’s name in a hotel register in Montreal. Aiken asked McDevitt what disclosures Weichmann made after his arrest. McDevitt stated he did not make a confession involving himself, but told the detective the names of other persons. When Aiken probed for McDevitt to give the names of these other persons, Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham stated that McDevitt need not state what Weichmann said. When Aiken tried at the matter a different way, McDevitt replied, “I am not at liberty to answer.”[26]

John Zadoc Jenkins, Mrs. Surratt’s brother, was recalled to the stand after previously testifying for the defense on May 30th. After Jenkins’ original testimony the prosecution had brought forth witnesses casting doubt on Jenkins’ loyalty during the Civil War and so Aiken recalled Jenkins to answer to these charges. Jenkins stated that shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, he requested and received a United States flag to put up. A report then came in that secessionist sympathizers were plotting to tear it down, so Jenkins and a few other Union men gathered some weapons and sat in protection of the flag for a night and a day to dissuade the vandals. Jenkins also recounted that he came to Washington on one occasion to take a former resident of Prince George’s County back down to vote for the Union ticket because he had not been removed from the voter rolls yet. Jenkins claimed he had always been a loyal supporter of the government. When asked about his vote in the most recent congressional election, Jenkins admitted that he did vote for the Democratic ticket but that it was the very first time he had ever supported them. Jenkins also admitted that while he had suffered for the loss of his slaves, that he had never complained about it and that, when Maryland declared its new state constitution abolishing slavery he had wished for his slaves to go. During cross examination, Jenkins denied having threatened his neighbor Andrew Kaldenbach.[27]

Andrew Kaldenbach, a resident of Prince George’s county, was called as a prosecution witness in rebuttal to John Z. Jenkins. Kaldenbach stated that on the evening of May 17th he and Jenkins were at the Surratt tavern when an argument between them ensued which resulted in Jenkins calling Kaldenbach a liar. Jenkins stated that if he found out the lies he had heard attributed to Kaldenbach about him were true, he would give him a whipping. Following that, Jenkins stated that if Kaldenbach testified against him or anyone connected with him, he would still give Kaldenbach a whipping. Kaldenbach stated that Jenkins never said Mrs. Surratt’s name in relation to this threat. He also reiterated that, as far as he had known, Jenkins had always related himself to be a Union man. Kaldenbach also admitted that Jenkins had been drinking at the time and was not quite sober but also not quite drunk. During cross-examination, Frederick Aiken asked Kaldenbach what had started the argument between the men. Kaldenbach stated that he could not recall. Aiken got Kaldenbach to state that his own son had joined the Confederate army during the war, but Kaldenbach insisted that his son had made his own mind up and went on his own. Aiken also got Kaldenbach to state that Mrs. Surratt had always been neighborly towards him and his family and that she had temporarily cared for some Union horses that had escaped.[28]

James Judson Jarboe, a resident of Prince George’s County, was called by Thomas Ewing as a defense witness. Ewing asked Jarboe if he was acquainted with Dr. Mudd. Jarboe stated he had never seen him before. Ewing also asked whether Jarboe had ever visited Mrs. Surratt boardinghouse on H St. Jarboe denied ever going to Mrs. Surratt’s, though he had an acquaintance with her and her son, John. Jarboe stated he hadn’t seen Mrs. Surratt for a period of years until her recent arrest. The purpose of Ewing’s questions was to counter the testimony of Rev. Evans who claimed to have seen Dr. Mudd visit the Surratt boardinghouse at the same time Jarboe was leaving. During cross-examination, Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham asked Jarboe about his familiarity with John Surratt. Jarboe stated he had seen Surratt in D.C. sometime in March in the company of some men he did not recognize. Jarboe did not believe any of the conspirators in the court room were the men he saw Surratt with. Bingham asked Jarboe how he came to see Mrs. Surratt after her arrest. Jarboe admitted that he had also been arrested and was help at the same prison as Mrs. Surratt for a time. Bingham inquired why Jarboe had been arrested and Jarboe first stated he did not know before explaining that he had been asked questions about a man named Boyle who had killed a man named Captain Watkins. Jarboe was under the impression the authorities thought he had helped to hide Boyle from the authorities, which he denied. Bingham asked about Jarboe’s loyalty during the war including asking him if he had wished for the success of the Confederacy. After a few questions of this sort, Thomas Ewing interjected that the witness had the privilege of declining to answer and that he felt the prosecution should not indulge in this line of questioning. Bingham countered that if Jarboe felt his answers would incriminate him, than he had the right to refuse them. Jarboe responded with, “I hardly know what would criminate me here,” which resulted in laughter from the crowd in the court room.[29] Bingham then delved into asking Jarboe about an assault that occurred during the election in Prince George’s four years ago which resulted in the death of a man. Jarboe responded “Are you going to try me for that?…I have been tried for that same offense twice,” which, once again, resulted in laughter. John Bingham refused to let up, continuing to ask questions to Jarboe about the incident where a man was killed at the polls. Jarboe replied to many of the questions in an ambiguous manner stating he had answered such questions in other courts. Eventually, Jarboe refused to give any response to Bingham’s questions of whether he had a hand in the murder, whether he was present at the time of the murder, and what the murdered man’s name was. Thomas Ewing then broke in and asked Jarboe if there was anything he wished to say to the court regarding the matter Bingham was pressing him on. Jarboe stated that he has elsewhere answered those questions and was tried on them in another court. Ewing asked him what the result of that trial was and, even though Bingham objected to the question, Jarboe still stated that he had been acquitted.[30]

James A. McDevitt, a detective with the Metropolitan Police Force, was recalled to the stand by his own request after previously testifying earlier in the day. McDevitt stated that he had made a mistake earlier when he said he had found John Surratt’s name in a hotel register in Montreal. He wanted to correct the record to state that he had found the name John Harrison in the hotel register and that the name Surratt was not there at all. When asked about Surratt’s handwriting, McDevitt admitted that while he had three letters attributed to John Surratt in his office, they were all in different handwriting. McDevitt announced that none of the party that searched for Surratt in Canada were familiar with his handwriting.[31]

John C. Thompson, owner of the T.B. Hotel in Prince George’s County, was called a defense witness for Mrs. Surratt. Thompson stated that he had known John Zadoc Jenkins, Mrs. Surratt’s brother, since 1860 or 1861. Thompson had always viewed Jenkins as a loyal, Union man.[32] This John C. Thompson should not be confused with the John C. Thompson who was the son-in-law of Dr. William Queen and testified regarding Dr. Mudd and John Wilkes Booth on May 26th nor the John L. Thompson who testified on June 5th about John Zadoc Jenkins. They are all different John Thompsons.

Dr. Joseph H. Blandford, Dr. Mudd’s brother-in-law, was recalled to the stand after previously testifying on May 29th, June 3rd, and June 6th. This time Dr. Blandford was asked about his knowledge of Mrs. Surratt’s brother, John Zadoc Jenkins. Dr. Blandford stated that he had always known Jenkins to be a loyal man who supported the Union. Dr. Blandford noted that Jenkins was largely avoided in the early months of the war by people who did not support the government because of his views. When asked about the loyalty of Andrew Kaldenbach, the witness who had testified against Jenkins earlier in the day, Dr. Blandford stated that while he did not know anything contrary regarding Kaldenbach’s loyalty, he did know that Kaldenbach and Jenkins were opposed in their political leanings.[33]

Anna Surratt, Mrs. Surratt’s 22 year old daughter, was recalled for the defense having previously testified on May 30th. Frederick Aiken, Mrs. Surratt’s lawyer, presented Anna with Exhibit No. 52, a card containing the Virginia state seal and the motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis” that had been found at the Surratt boardinghouse. Anna stated that the card belonged to her and that she had received it from a lady about two and half years ago. Aiken hoped this would explain the presence of the card in the room Mrs. Surratt and Anna shared. Thomas Ewing, then asked Anna a few question for the benefit of his client, Dr. Mudd. Anna stated that she never saw or heard of Dr. Mudd ever being at her mother’s house. She also reiterated that James Judson Jarboe had also never been to their D.C. home. This line of questioning was to further discredit Rev. Evans who claimed to have seen both Jarboe and Mudd at the Surratt boardinghouse in the company of Anna Surratt. Perhaps due to the nature of the last time Anna Surratt was on the witness stand and the toll it took on her, the prosecution did not cross examine her at all.[34]

After Anna Surratt’s testimony, the court adjourned at around 5 o’clock. As the other conspirators were led out, Mary Surratt was allowed to stay for a short while in order to talk with her daughter.[35]


Recollections

From General Kautz’ diary:

“Each day is like the preceding. The usual time was spent in the Commission room…The weather was quite warm.”[36]

Gen. Lew Wallace, another member of the commission, had the habit of sketching and drawing while the court was taking place. He drew portraits of all of the accused except for Mrs. Surratt. While most of his drawings are undated, his portrait of George Atzerodt bears today’s date.

You can view all of Wallace’s drawings on the entry for June 26.


Newspaper Descriptions

“Perhaps few among the spectators are aware of the amount of labor requisite to present each morning these proceedings of the previous say with such literal exactness, carefully written out, and with manifold copies prepared for the counsel for the defense. The credit of these official reports is due to Mr. Sutton and the Messrs. Murphy, of the Senate. The work performed by the busy fingers of these accomplished reporters, in photographing upon paper every syllable of the day’s proceedings, is but a part of the labor to be accomplished. Then follows the tedious night work of copying out the full report from the abbreviated sign marks. By eight o’clock every morning Mr. Sutton sends to the War Department the complete report of the previous days proceedings; and these manifold copies are taken in time for the use of the counsel for the defense at the time of the opening of the court each day.”[37]

Mrs. Surratt

“Mrs. Surratt appeared very feeble to-day, so much so that she had almost to be lifted into her chair. The lady visitors show very little consideration for her feelings, crowding around her closely and making many impudent remarks in her hearing, which by no means add to her serenity of mind; then, too, she is so thickly veiled as to threaten herself with asphyxia; and being seated in a corner where scarcely a breeze can reach her, her situation is by no means pleasant.”[38]

“It was rumored to-day that she [Mrs. Surratt] intended making a confession soon as to her participation in the plot, but her counsel being asked if such was the fact, he replied that there was no truth in it; that she would make no confession, as she had none to make.”[39]

Dr. Mudd

“Mr. Ewing is laboring very hard for his client [Dr. Mudd], but his witnesses are proving scarcely anything. The labors of the counsel suggested to one of the reporters of the Press the following impromptu:

Though a shoe-black might clean Booth’s boot of its mud,
He’d never attempt to clear it of blood;
And the laundress will fail in her labor, I ween,
Howe’er strong her endeavor, to wash this Mudd clean.”[40]

“Dr. Mudd leaned over the railing and held an interview of several minutes with his counsel.”[41]


Visitors

“The number of spectators was much smaller than usual. There would, however, be more comfort in this, if it were not for the horrid reflection that the absentees had fallen sick or died from too frequent self-exposure to the unsavory and unwholesome air of the court-room.”[42]

“During the intermission the air of the room received an addition to its odor from the bread and cheese, sandwiches, etc. which some of the spectators munch in order that they may be sustained throughout the day’s proceedings.”[43]

“At two o’clock the Commission reassembled, when there was a large crowd present, the majority being ladies. Miss Surratt was again in Court to-day, sitting near her mother.”[44]

“The weather was very warm, the room was crowded as usual, and one lady swooned, which caused a momentary excitement, but did not interrupt the proceedings.”[45]


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[1] John F. Hartranft, The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators: Their Confinement and Execution, as Recorded in the Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft, ed. Edward Steers, Jr. and Harold Holzer (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2009), 118.
[2] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[3] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[4] William C. Edwards, ed., The Lincoln Assassination – The Court Transcripts (Self-published: Google Books, 2012), 993 – 995.
[5] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 995 – 996.
[6] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[7] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 996 – 997.
[8] Ibid., 997 – 998.
[9] Ibid., 998 – 1000.
[10] Ibid., 1000 – 1001.
[11] Ibid., 1001 – 1004.
[12] Ibid., 1004.
[13] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[14] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 1004 – 1005.
[15] Ibid., 1005.
[16] Ibid., 1005 – 1007.
[17] Ibid., 1007 – 1008.
[18] Ibid., 1008 – 1011.
[19] Ibid., 1011 – 1012.
[20] Ibid., 1012 – 1015.
[21] Ibid., 1015 – 1019.
[22] Ibid., 1019 – 1020.
[23] Ibid., 1020 – 1024.
[24] Ibid., 1024.
[25] Ibid., 1024 – 1026.
[26] Ibid., 1026 – 1029.
[27] Ibid., 1029 – 1031.
[28] Ibid., 1031 – 1033.
[29] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 8, 1865, 8.
[30] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 1033 – 1042.
[31] Ibid., 1042 – 1043.
[32] Ibid., 1043 – 1044.
[33] Ibid., 1044 – 1045.
[34] Ibid., 1045 – 1046.
[35] Hartranft, Letterbook, 118.
[36] August V. Kautz, June 7, 1865 diary entry (Unpublished diary: Library of Congress, August V. Kautz Papers).
[37] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[38] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 8, 1865, 1.
[39] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 8, 1865, 1.
[40] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[41] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[42] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[43] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[44] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 7, 1865, 2.
[45] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 8, 1865, 1.
The drawing of the conspirators as they were seated on the prisoners’ dock on this day was created by artist and historian Jackie Roche.

1 Comment

One thought on “June 7, 1865

  1. Pingback: The Trial Today: June 7 | BoothieBarn

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