May 1, 1865

Monday, May 1, 1865

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President Andrew Johnson released the following orders:

“Executive Chamber

Washington City, May 1, 1865

Whereas the Attorney General of the United States hath given his opinion:

That the persons implicated in the murder of the late President, Abraham Lincoln, and the attempted assassination of the Honorable William H. Seward, Secretary of State, and in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate other officers of the Federal Government at Washington City, and their aiders and abettors, are subject to the jurisdiction of, and lawfully triable before a Military Commission.

It is ordered:

1st that the Assistant Adjutant General detail nine competent military officers to serve as a commission for the trial of said parties and that the Judge Advocate General proceed to prefer charges against said parties for their alleged offenses, and bring them to trial before said military commission; that said trial, or trials, be conducted by the said Judge Advocate General, and as Recorder thereof, in person, aided by such Assistant, or Special Judge Advocates as he may designate, and that said trial be conducted with all diligence consistent with the ends of justice, the said commission to sit without regard to hours.

2nd That Brevet Major General Hartranft be assigned to duty as Special Provost Marshal General for the purpose of said trial, and attendance upon said commission, and the execution of its mandates.

3rd That the said commission establish such order, or rules of proceeding as may avoid unnecessary delay, and conduce to the ends of public justice.

Andrew Johnson”[1]

Though not written specifically in the order, it appears that the understanding was that the commission would not be formed until after the funeral train procession for Abraham Lincoln was complete in order to give prospective commissioners who were travelling with Lincoln’s remains time to return to Washington.


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[1] Benn Pitman, ed, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators (New York: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865), 17.

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