May 16, 1865

Tuesday, May 16, 1865

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Visit to Ford’s Theatre

At 9:30 am, the court convened unofficially at Ford’s Theatre in order to examine the scene of the crime firsthand. The group, which consisted of the commissioners, the Judge Advocate and his assistants, and members of the press, took a detailed look at the environs of Ford’s both inside and out. Descriptive accounts of the inspection of Ford’s were published in the Evening Star and Washington Chronicle newspapers.

“At half-past nine o’clock this morning, the members of the court, per agreement yesterday, visited Ford’s Theater for the purpose of examining the premises and the localities adjacent figuring in the evidence concerning the assassination.

Company C, (24th) Vet, Reserve Corps, (Maj. Steckner commanding) and which has been on guard duty at the theater since the night of the assassination, were found vigilant at their post.

While the members of the court were waiting in the lobby for the arrival of some of their associates, it was suggested by Assistant Judge Advocate Bingham that the passage in the building adjoining the theater to the south be opened as there was some confusion of statement in the testimony of witnesses as to the point whether there was any entrance to the theater at that side.

The keys were procured and the door opened, when it was found that this passage communicated with the stage and also with the third story of this adjoining building occupied by the brothers Ford as a sleeping apartment. The second story is an adjunct to the theater, communicating with the dress circle, and the room is known as the ‘Promenade Saloon’ of Ford’s, and is elegantly furnished, it will be remembered, with mirrors, carpets, marble tables, &c. The lower story is rented out as a restaurant, and between the restaurant and theater, as above stated, is this passage, which leads directly back to the stage, on a little lower level than the stage.

Returning from an inspection of this passage, the Court proceeded to the theater, passing in by the usual entrance, and thence to the stage. The stage is almost precisely in the condition it was at the moment of the assassination. The scene (third act, ‘American Cousin,’) is set as at that moment, with the red-curtained recess in the center, used by ‘Asa Trenchard.’”[1]

“On entering the theatre, the often described scene, now so lone, with that staleness of appearance which the tinsel of theatrical decoration presents in daylight, brought back to the mind’s eye, from the very force of contrast, the glittering lights, the gleeful audience, the tawdry actors, Dundreary, Trenchard,  the shot, the confusion, the horror, and the agony.”[2]

“The box used by Mr. Lincoln bears the same picture of Washington at its front, and a couple of flags are draped over the box as then, but not the Treasury Guard’s flag, which caught Booth’s spur on that occasion. The green baize stage-cloth has a foot long rent at the point where Booth struck the stage; but whether made by him in his fall is not known.

A close inspection was made of the stage box and its surroundings, and especially the point where the bar was inserted between the wall and the door, whereby access to the box was prevented while Booth was doing his bloody work.

The curious fact, not before remarked, was elicited that the excavation (some three inches in length and one in depth) in the wall, intended to admit the bar, had been covered carefully, at some time previous to the assassination with a neatly fitting piece of wall paper, similar in color to that on the wall, and which had been pasted over the excavation covering it to the sight. This accounts for the fact, not heretofore explained, that such a disfigurement on the wall attracted no attention. This piece of paper – apparently a squarish, oblong slip, judging from the paste-marks – is missing. Measuring the distance from the wall to the angle of the door, the brace must have been some four or five feet in length and prepared with some care to fit exactly. The box is in much the same condition as when the assassination took place, with the exception that the rocking chair used by Mr. Lincoln has been removed.”[3]

“The promenading room opening on the right of the dress circle, closed on the night of the murder, was open yesterday. It contains a few chairs, three improvised military beds, each made by putting together four camp stools; on the pillars and along the walls of the circle hand an occasional knapsack. In the room were a few soldiers – one cleaning a gun, another mending a sock. The loneliness of the place seemed that of death. The very uniforms of the generals, with their gleaming buttons and stars, but intensified the surrounding ashy hue of the scenery and proscenium.”[4]

“The seats in the theatre were covered by a heavy coat of dust, adding something to the general feeling of unpleasantness about the sombre, dimly lit interior of any theatre by day; and which was a thousand times heightened by this occasion by the awful associations now so indissolubly linked with this building.

A close inspection was next made of the rear exit and its approaches, by which Booth escaped. Two doors were found in the rear, one of large size, perhaps fifteen feet by twenty, hung at the top by hinges, and used only for the passing in and out of large articles, stage machinery, &c., &c. This door, which is in the centre of the stage rear, was not open on the night of the assassination. The second door, and the one used by Booth, is at the northeast corner of the stage. It is a small door, not much higher than a tall man’s head, and has a sash and wooden shutter, the sash, however, being unglazed.

This door is immediately in the rear of the passage between the slips and the walls on the north side of the stage, and it was quite perceptible that the scenes had been carefully set previous to the assassination by some accomplice of Booth, so as to afford much more than the usual facility of egress. Emerging to the paved alley, over the rough pebbles of which Booth spurred his horse on the fatal night, a large rough carpenters’ bench strikes the eye prominently and is presently pointed our as the bench on which Pea-nut John lay and drowsed while holding Booth’s horse. A half dozen soldiers were now seated upon it, occupying their time with carving ingenious toys from wood as relics of the place. Further down the alley to the right is a sort of tumbledown shanty, used by Booth to stable his horse.

Immediately adjacent to the door through which Booth passed to the alley are a flight of steps descending to the room under the stage. North of the stage and on the same level with the stage is the Green Room, and the room reserved for theatrical stars, the latter room being now occupied by the military guard as an office. Behind the slides at the scene shifters stand was hanging a slip of paper, uppermost of a series of similar slips, what appeared to be stage directions for setting the scenes of a play named curiously enough, ‘The Rebel Chieftain.’

The Court having made a minute investigation of the premises, serving to give a clear idea of all the different bearings of the case, so far as this locality was concerned, proceeded in ambulance, under escort of a detachment of the 6th West Virginia cavalry, to the Commission Rooms, Penitentiary Building.”[5]


The conspirators were taken into the court room at around 10:00 am as usual but the court was not called to order until 10:30 am due to the late arrival of the commissioners.[6]

Present: All nine members of the military commission, the eight conspirators, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, Assistant Judge Advocates Bingham and Burnett, the recorders of the court, lawyers Frederick Aiken, John Clampitt, Walter Cox, William Doster, Thomas Ewing, and Frederick Stone.

Absent: Reverdy Johnson

Seating chart:

After the session of the court closed the day before, some minor work was done in the courtroom on the platform where the conspirators sat. The railing was extended to cover the entire width of the courtroom. A small gate was installed in the railing in front of the door from which the conspirators entered and exited the room from their cells. In addition, a small platform was created on the other side of the door. Today, Mary Surratt was placed on this platform in the corner of the room. She was in line with the other conspirators, with only the door and a guard sitting in front of it separating her from her closest neighbor on the bench, David Herold:

“Mrs. Surratt is placed this morning in company with her fellow-prisoners, the line of raised seats having been extended for that purpose. Thus the eight prisoners are now on the platform.”[8]

“Mrs. Surratt is no longer honored with a seat on the floor of the room, but has a place on a raised platform, like the other accused, being separated from the line of male prisoners by the door leading to the cells. She seemed much broken down. The other conspirators gave no visible signs of emotion.”[9]

The male conspirators sat in the same positions as the day before:

“The prisoners were brought in as follows: First, Arnold, accompanied by a guard; Mudd, with a guard; Spangler, with a guard; O’Laughlin, with a guard; Atzerodt, with a guard; Payne, with a guard; Herold, with a guard. These were all seated in the prisoners’ box on the west side of the room, the guard occupying a seat by the side of each prisoner.”[7]

The conspirators would maintain this seating arrangement without alteration for over a month.

General David Hunter, president of the commission, brought forth a motion from one of the other commissioners that the daily reading of the prior day’s testimony be dispensed with. He stated that the counsel was provided with an official copy of the proceedings, given ample time to review it, and would still be allowed to object to any part they felt was incorrect.

Col. Tompkins then added that the daily testimony was also accurately published in the papers.

Gen. Ewing, counsel for Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Edman Spangler, noted that while the defense was given official copies of the record by the court reporters, it was usually a day or more behind. That being said, since the proceedings were being accurately published in the newspapers Ewing did not object to the proposal so long as the witnesses who gave testimony were detained for two days after their testimony in case the defense wanted to recall them.

When General Hunter then asked Judge Advocate Holt about this arrangement, Holt gave the following reply:

“I do not wish to embarrass the Court, certainly, by any suggestions of mine. I am as anxious for the dispatch of business as anybody can be; but, if this precedent is now established, it will be, I think, not only the first one which has been set in the military service, but the first in the civil service. I never, in my whole life, have been in connection with any court, the proceedings of which were not read over in the hearing of the court itself, before they were declared by the court to be accurate and complete. Although I have as much confidence in the accuracy of our reporters as anybody can have, I think it would be a dangerous example to set…If it shall be known hereafter, in connection with this trial, that the Court departed from the usage of the service, and did not even have its own record read over, but trusted simply to the reporters for accuracy, it might go very far to shake the confidence of the country in the accuracy of these reports, and would certainly leave an opening for criticism.”[10]

General Foster then gave his opinion that he, too, thought the daily reading of the record should proceed, “for the purpose of correction.”

Upon hearing the opinion of JAG Holt and one of his fellow commissioners, Commission President Hunter changed his mind regarding the proposal to dispense with the daily reading of the prior day’s testimony. He removed his motion and for the rest of the trial the lengthy reading of the record would continue as before.

Reading of the prior day’s testimony began.

During the reading of the testimony, David Stanton, a witness from yesterday, asked to amend his testimony:

“In the amendment, his answer to the question, ‘Did he (O’Laughlen) ask in regard to General Grant?’ now read, ‘I meant to say that the man did ask for General Grant,’ in lieu of, ‘I don’t recollect that he did.’ Mr. Stanton also added that the man referred to said he was a lawyer and knew Mr. Stanton very well.”[11]

These alterations in Stanton’s testimony run counter to what he had testified the day before, which makes them questionable. Two witnesses who would testify later in the day would contain these details, so perhaps Stanton knew of their upcoming testimony and wanted to better align his prior testimony with theirs. Despite the newspaper mentions, Stanton’s testimony was not amended in the official trial proceedings.


The reading of the testimony took all morning and was still not complete when the court took a break for lunch at 1:15 pm. After the court reconvened at 2:00, the reading of the testimony took until 2:30 to complete.[12]

William Doster, acting on behalf of his Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt, asked permission from the court to withdraw his clients’ earlier “Not Guilty” pleas. This was allowed. Doster then presented a plea against the jurisdiction of the court, in the same manner that had been attempted in the cases of the other conspirators on previous days. JAG Holt replied once again that the military commission had the proper jurisdiction to try this case. The courtroom was cleared while the commission deliberated on this matter. When it reconvened, JAG Holt announced that the commission had overruled Powell and Atzerodt’s pleas. The two men’s pleas of “Not Guilty” to the charge and specification were then re-entered.[13]

Judge Advocate General Holt then swore in Robert R. Hitt to act as an additional official reporter of the commission in order to assist Benn Pitman and the others.

Testimony began

Joseph “Peanut John” Burroughs, a Ford’s Theatre errand boy and concessions worker, testified about having held John Wilkes Booth’s horse on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. Peanut John was called by Spangler and told to hold Booth’s horse for him since Spangler had to attend to his duties moving the scenes. While holding the horse, Peanut John sat and laid down on a carpenter’s bench located outside of the back door of the theater. John Wilkes Booth ran out of the back door after shooting the President and grabbed his horse from Peanut, knocking him back with the butt of his knife and a kick. Peanut John also testified about having assisted in setting up the President’s box on the afternoon prior to the assassination. He stated that Edman Spangler made some disloyal sentiments about Lincoln and General Grant at the time. The defense asked Peanut John questions about his whereabouts and duties before and during the performance. Peanut John supported the fact that Spangler was never out in front of the theater to his knowledge, counteracting the testimony of Sgt. Dye from the day before. Peanut John also testified about the small stable John Wilkes Booth kept in the back alley of Ford’s Theatre which was constructed and tended to by Edman Spangler.[14]

Mary Ann Turner, an African American resident of Washington, lived in Baptist Alley behind Ford’s Theatre. She testified about having seen Booth riding his horse behind the theater in the hours before Lincoln’s assassination. Specifically, Turner recalled having seen Booth ride up to the theater at, “between seven and eight” o’clock during which time Edman Spangler and Ford’s property master, James Maddox, came out and conversed with Booth. Turner did not see Booth’s later escape from Ford’s but heard the noise of a horse exiting the alley. In the excitement that followed, she came out of her house and confronted Spangler, who had exited the back door with several others. “Mr. Ned, you know that man Booth called you?” Mrs. Turner said to him. “No, I know nothing about it,” Spangler replied before exiting out the alley.[15]

Mary Jane Anderson, an African American resident of Baptist Alley behind Ford’s Theatre, testified in much the same way as Mrs. Turner. Anderson stated that on the evening of the assassination, at about, “7 or 8 o’clock”[16] Booth rode up to the back of Ford’s Theatre and called inside for Edman Spangler. When Spangler appeared he told him to get James Maddox. Mrs. Anderson saw these men converse for a bit before the horse was handed off and the men went inside the theatre. The horse was not visible to Mrs. Anderson from her home but she occasionally heard it stomping and being walked around by someone she did not know. According to her testimony, the horse was waiting in the alley for about an, “hour and a half”. At one point, Mrs. Anderson testified about seeing the back door of Ford’s open, but no one was passing in or out of it. Ten minutes later, Mrs. Anderson claimed to have seen Booth emerge from the open back door “with something in his hand glittering.” Booth jumped on his horse and rode down the alley. In the excitement that followed, Mrs. Anderson stated she approached Edman Spangler in the alley and stated, “Mr. Spangler that gentleman called you,” to which Spangler replied, “No, he did not.” In addition to this testimony, Mrs. Anderson claimed she saw John Wilkes Booth in Baptist Alley on the afternoon of the 14th conversing with a young lady. Mrs. Anderson got the impression from his gesturing that he was giving the young woman a description of their environs.[17] It turns out that Mrs. Anderson’s identification of Booth in the alley conversing with a woman was incorrect. What she actually witnessed was the actor Ned Emerson rehearsing with actress May Hart. Emerson bore a strong resemblance to John Wilkes Booth with both men sporting similar mustaches. This false identification resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of May Hart for a time.[18] The timeline and details of both Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Anderson’s testimonies are a bit off. It is known that Booth entered the alley multiple times on the day of the assassination before finally entering the theater to kill Lincoln. The ladies’ identification of James Maddox being one of those who joined Booth outside the theater points to the idea that they were recalling one of Booth’s earlier visits to the theater that night.[19] It’s possible that each woman (along with Margaret Rozier, another resident of the alley who gave a statement but did not testify) witnessed certain pieces of Booth’s time in the alley and then filled in the missing pieces with somewhat inaccurate assumptions. Still, their testimony established Edman Spangler’s connection with Booth, his willingness to help Booth on the night of the assassination, and his denial of having done so after the crime was committed.

William A. Browning, the private secretary of Andrew Johnson, testified about arriving at the Kirkwood House hotel between 4 and 5 o’clock on the evening of April 14th and discovering a note had been left in his box by John Wilkes Booth. The note said, “Don’t wish to disturb you. Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth”. Browning thought nothing of the note for he had a very minor acquaintance with Booth from when the actor played in Nashville. Browning had dinner with the Vice President at the Kirkwood where they were both staying before going out for the evening. He returned to the hotel after Lincoln’s assassination and immediately thought the note in his box was actually intended for Vice President Johnson, one of Booth’s targets.[20]

John Wilkes Booth’s note, left at the Kirkwood House hotel, was entered into evidence as Exhibit 29.

Major Kilburn Knox, an employee of the War department, testified about being present at Secretary Edwin Stanton’s home on the evening of April 13th during the grand illumination of the city. Knox spoke of encountering a man on the steps of the Secretary’s house. While fireworks were being shot off, the man twice asked if the Secretary was in, to which Major Knox replied he was. Knox stated that the man said he was a lawyer and knew Stanton well. Knox believed that the man must have been drunk since Secretary Stanton and General Grant were both standing on the steps as well watching the fireworks. The man made his way into the house after the fireworks had ended and was then asked to leave by the Secretary’s nephew, David, which he did. Knox identified the man as Michael O’Laughlen, stating, “I feel perfectly certain,” that O’Laughlen was the man he encountered.[21] Knox’s testimony echoed that of David Stanton’s from the day before, yet countered the claims of O’Laughlen’s friends who claimed the conspirator was with them during the illumination.

Sgt. John C. Hatter, an employee of the Adjutant General’s office, was on guard at Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s house on the evening of April 13th. Hatter testified that at around 9:00 pm, while a marine band was playing outside of the home, a man matching Michael O’Laughlen’s description stepped up onto the steps of the house and asked if General Grant was inside. Hatter then told the man that he had no business in entering to see the General and told him to step back down off of the steps, which he did. This encounter took place an hour and a half before the events Major Knox described and, at the time, Secretary Stanton and General Grant were both inside the house. Both Sergeant Hatter and Major Knox were taken to identify Michael O’Laughlen while he was in prison.[22]

Dr. Robert King Stone, one of Abraham Lincoln’s physicians, testified about his tending to the President in his final hours. Dr. Stone was not present at Ford’s Theatre but arrived at the Petersen House to tend to Lincoln at the request of Mrs. Lincoln. Though the prognosis was already well established, Dr. Stone concurred with the other physicians that Lincoln’s wound was fatal. He was among the doctors present when Lincoln died at 7:22 am on April 15th. Dr. Stone was also present at the autopsy of the president, where the bullet was removed from Lincoln’s brain. On the stand, Dr. Stone identified the bullet based on the fact that he had etched the initials “A. L.” into it.[23]

The bullet that killed the President was entered into evidence as Exhibit 30.

Sgt. Silas T. Cobb, a Union soldier, testified about being in charge of the Navy Yard Bridge on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. Cobb detailed his interaction with the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who rode up on horseback asking for permission to cross the bridge out of Washington. Since Booth was riding ahead of the news of what he had done, Cobb allowed him to pass after a short conversation. Cobb also testified about a second man who sought to cross the bridge, shortly after Booth. This man was also allowed to cross the bridge, but Cobb did not identify him among the lineup of conspirators. Even after the court asked David Herold to stand, Cobb said the second man was somewhat similar in height and appearance, but he did not actually identify Herold. Lastly, Cobb briefly testified about a third man (stableman John Fletcher) who rode up asking after the second man (Herold), but who did not cross the bridge.[24]

The Navy Yard Bridge in 1862

Thomas Polk Gardner, a lumber merchant, was travelling into Washington on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. He testified about seeing two separate men riding very fast near Good Hope Hill outside of D.C. The first man stopped and asked him if he had seen a horseman in front of him to which Gardner replied he had not. This rider also asked him about the location of one of the roads that branched off of this one before riding on. Another man riding fast appeared about five or ten minutes after the first. Rather that talking to Gardner, this man called out to some teamsters on the side of the road near Gardner if a lone horseman had already passed this way. On receiving an affirmative reply, the second man rode off.[25] Based on the description of the horses and the prior testimony of Sgt. Cobb, these two men are assumed to have been John Wilkes Booth followed by David Herold, who were both fleeing the city. Booth and Herold would meet just a bit further down the road near Soper’s Hill before riding together to the Surratt Tavern.

William T. Kent, a clerk in the Paymaster General’s office, attended Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. After the President was shot, Kent managed to make his way into the Presidential box. He provided his penknife to Dr. Leale who used it to cut open the President’s shirt. After leaving the theater, Kent realized he had lost his keys and thought they may have stumbled out of his pocket when he was in the theater box. Kent returned to the theater and was granted permission to search for his keys. While examining the box, Kent stumbled upon the derringer used by Booth to shot President Lincoln. Kent identified the pistol in court and testified about the circumstances regarding how he came to find it.[26]

The derringer found in the box at Ford’s Theatre was entered into evidence as Exhibit 31.

Scene from The Prisoner of Shark Island where Lt. Lovett discovers Booth’s name in the boot.

Lt. Alexander H. Lovett, a soldier with the 9th Veteran Reserve Corps, was part of the manhunt for Booth and his conspirators. Lovett testified about his interactions and interviews with Dr. Mudd in the days following the Lincoln assassination. He recalled first talking with the doctor on April 18th about the two visitors Dr. Mudd had reported having on the morning of April 15th. Dr. Mudd described the medical attention he provided to one of the men and how the two left before too long. Dr. Mudd insisted they were both strangers to him. This interview between Lovett and Mudd lasted about an hour as Dr. Mudd. Lovett testified that this interview convinced him that the two men who had visited Dr. Mudd’s were Booth and Herold. On April 21st, Lovett went back to the Mudd farm on orders to bring Dr. Mudd to the nearby village of Bryantown for further questioning. When he arrived at the Mudd farm this time and informed the doctor that he and his men were going to search the house, Dr. Mudd then stated that the boot he had cut off the injured man’s leg had been found. Examining the boot in the Mudd house, the name “J. Wilkes” was discovered inside. Dr. Mudd continued to insist that the two men were strangers to him. As Dr. Mudd was escorted back to Bryantown, Lovett showed a picture of Booth to Mudd, and the doctor said that the photograph did not look like Booth. He then admitted that he had known John Wilkes Booth and had taken him around the area in the fall of 1864. Lovett was cross examined heavily by Thomas Ewing and Frederick Stone, Dr. Mudd’s attorneys. Lovett was also asked a few questions by Frederick Aiken, Mary Surratt’s lawyer, about the arrest of John M. Lloyd.[27]

The boot, which was removed from John Wilkes Booth’s leg by Dr. Mudd and recovered by Lieutenant Lovett, was entered into evidence as Exhibit 32.

Joshua Lloyd, a detective with the D.C. Provost Marshal, testified about having been sent into Maryland in pursuit of the assassins. Lloyd was with Lt. Lovett when Lovett made his two visits to the Mudd farm on April 18th and 21st. While Lloyd recounts some of the same details as Lt. Lovett’s testimony, he contradicts Lovett in several places. On the stand, Lloyd claimed that on their first meeting, Dr. Mudd completely denied any men came to his house at all on the morning of the 15th. In addition, Lloyd stated that on their second visit, the boot was brought forth by Mrs. Mudd before the doctor arrived back at home. According to Lloyd it was being confronted with the boot that motivated Dr. Mudd to admit that two men had been at his house and later that he had meet Booth in 1864.[28] Detective Lloyd’s testimony regarding Dr. Mudd’s denial of visitors is not only at odds with Lt. Lovett’s testimony, but also with his own earlier written report. On April 30th, Lloyd wrote that upon first being questioned as to whether he had seen any strangers pass by his farm recently Dr. Mudd stated, “I have not.” However, when pressed directly, “if two men came to his house about 4 o’clock on Saturday morning April 15th. He answered ‘yes’.”[29] It appears that, on the stand, Lloyd tried the incriminate Mudd by repeatedly recounting his initial denial of having seen any strangers and then refusing to mention Mudd’s subsequent admission.

Col. Henry H. Wells, the Provost Marshal for the Union defenses south of the Potomac, testified about his involvement in the interrogation of Dr. Mudd. Wells was stationed in Bryantown on April 21st and ordered Dr. Mudd to be brought in for questioning. Over the course of several hours that day and the next, Wells interviewed Dr. Mudd. At the trial, Wells testified at length regarding what Dr. Mudd told him in these interviews making it clear that Dr. Mudd, “did not seem unwilling to answer a direct question that I asked; but I discovered almost immediately, that, unless I did ask the direct question, important facts were omitted.”[30] Dr. Mudd told Wells much the same story that he had told Lt. Lovett while being escorted to Bryantown – that two men unknown to him sought medical assistance in the early morning hours of April 15th, he treated them, unsuccessfully looked for a conveyance to help the wounded man, learned about Lincoln’s assassination in Bryantown and returned to his farm to find the pair departing. Dr. Mudd also told Wells that the picture shown to him did not much resemble the man but that, on reflection, he believed the man must have been Booth due to the evidence of the boot. He also admitted to having met Booth in the fall of 1864, but that he had not seen him since. Wells also testified that on Sunday, April 23rd, he traveled to Dr. Mudd’s farm where the doctor showed him the lay of the land and the route the two fugitives took when they departed.[31] During Wells testimony he was asked to look at a piece of paper and testified that it was a copy of one of the statements made by Dr. Mudd. It is unclear if this statements was a copy of Dr. Mudd’s handwritten statement or the one that Wells wrote that was signed by Dr. Mudd. The statement was not entered into evidence.[32]

At the conclusion of Col. Wells’ testimony the commission adjourned at around 6:00 o’clock.[33]


From General Kautz’ diary:

“The Court met informally at Ford’s Theatre where we witnessed the scene of the President’s assassination. An accomplice seemed to have been absolutely necessary to enable Booth to accomplish his purpose. We then met at the Court room and sat until half past six.”[34]

From General Kautz’ later memoirs:

“On the 16th the Court met informally at the Theatre where Mr. Lincoln was shot, before going to the Court room, in order to acquaint ourselves with the scene of the assassination. This was the only change from the daily routine.”[35]

Newspaper Descriptions

“[The conspirators] all presented the same appearance as yesterday.”[36]

“The negro testimony introduced to-day caused some snuffing among the prisoners, but there has been none more straightforward. It abounded in that graphic description and that warmth of manner which is characteristic of the race.”[37]

Mrs. Surratt

“During the reading of the record, Mrs. Surratt sat with her hands and forearms resting on the railing, on which she bowed her face, seldom raising her head, and then to hold her forehead on her hand, with elbow on the rail. She now appears much downcast, her features showing unmistakable signs of mental wear and tear.”[38]

“Mrs. Surratt stood up, leaning on the railing, with her head resting on her right hand. Occasionally during the reading she rested her head on the railing, and remained in that position for some time.”[39]

“Mrs. Surratt studiously avoided observation, seemed much depressed, and much of the time leaned forward on the wooden railing which has, during the night been extended to the wall and behind which she now sits with the rest.”[40]

“She continues very much dejected, and most of the time has her head concealed in her hand.”[41]

Lewis Powell

“Payne sits fiercely erect as on yesterday, his eyes wandering around the room. He apparently pays little attention to the proceedings”[42]

“Payne sat erect, his head thrown back against the wall, having a bold, defiant, villainous look.”[43]

“Payne was extremely vigilant, bending forward eagerly to catch a glimpse at the newspapers which the counsel read in front of the dock, as if anxious to see what the world thinks of him.”[44]

“Payne is still the same erect, bold and brutal cut-throat. He never displays any evidence of fear or of hope. His tall form, his large neck and head, are the most striking features in the room…Payne to-day expressed hopes of not being hung, but I cannot see the slightest grounds for belief that a single one of the eight can escape death.”[45]

David Herold

“Herold, the next on the platform, separated from Mrs Surratt by the gateway to the door, leading to the cells, looks quite as dirty and uncombed as on yesterday.”[46]

“During the reading of the testimony of yesterday Herold sat with his eyes fixed on Mr. D. F. Murphy, the reader.”[47]

“Harold, who sits next, seems to be getting perfectly reckless, and laughs a good bit.”[48]

George Atzerodt

“Atzerodt, who sits next, leans forward with the iron stocks on his wrists resting on his knees, and from the motion of his mouth it would appear that he is taking comfort from an ample quid of tobacco.”[49]

“Atzerodt sat in a stooping position, gazing about the room.”[50]

Dr. Mudd

“Dr. Mudd is clothed in a black suit, with a clean white shirt, and apparently pays more attention to the trial than any of his fellow prisoners – his eyes mostly resting on the person speaking. He appears more restless than heretofore, and with hectic on his cheeks.”[51]

“Mudd, like Spangler, was also gazing upon the floor; occasionally he would look through the window at the end of the prisoners’ dock, facing Four-and-a-half street.”[52]

“The testimony to-day was upon the flight of Booth. It mainly bore very hard upon Dr. Mudd, who was uneasy and fidgety. His counsel, Ewing, was disposed to pettifog, but made no points in defense of his client.”[53]

Samuel Arnold

“Arnold, who is seated next to the window, and who has rather an intelligent pleasant face, gives many a wistful glance at the sunny landscape.”[54]

“Arnold, who sat in the corner, was sitting in a stooping position, with his head thrown back in the corner, and gazing on the reader.”[55]

Michael O’Laughlen

“O’Laughlin, haggard and pale, and with widely spreading black hair, occasionally buried his face in his hands. He too affords himself the solace of ‘short-cut.’ [tobacco]”[56]

“O’Laughlin sat with his head thrown back, occasionally rubbing his beard, and gazing upon the various persons in the room.”[57]

“O’Laughlin was very much agitated to-day for the first time, when identified by Major Knox as having come rudely into the house of Secretary Stanton on the evening preceding the murder of Mr. Lincoln. He changed color, swayed from side to side, breathed hard, perspired freely, and chewed his tobacco with great energy.”[58]

During the testimony of Major Kilburn Knox:

“Q. Do you see among the prisoners at the bar any persons you saw there on that occasion?
A. Yes; I recollect hat one (pointing to O’Laughlin, who, on the direction of the Court, stood up.)”[59]

Edman Spangler

“The heavy purple-hued face of Spangler affords no clue to his thoughts if he thinks at all.”[60]

“On reentering the court room the prisoners were brought into the dock, and many eyes instinctively turned towards Spangler, who sat down listlessly and leaned back against the wall, staring vacantly.”[61]

“Spangler sat with his head bowed, and gazing upon the floor, with his hands resting upon his knee.”[62]

“There he sits, with dark shirt and dark coat on.”[63]

During the testimony of Mary Ann Turner:

“Q. Do you recognize Ned among the prisoners at the bar?
A. Yes; I recognize him as sitting there (pointing to Spangler, who, on direction of the Court, stood up.)”[64]


“The Court-room was not crowded to-day, but several distinguished persons were present… Sergt. Boston Corbett, who shot Booth, and [George] Robinson, the soldier who saved, Mr. Seward, were present to-day.”[65]

“The correspondents and reporters were not as numerous as yesterday, there being seated at the table Messrs. Gobright, Gilbert and Smith of the Associated Press; Messrs. Noyes and Croggon of the Star; Mr. Cazauran of the Chronicle, and the representatives of the National Republican.”

“Among those present this morning was Major John Hay, the Assistant Private Secretary of our late President.”[66]

“Among the visitors in the Court Room… were Bishop [Matthew] Simpson, of the Methodist Church, with several other Ministers, Bishop [Charles] McIlvaine, of the Episcopal Church, Brigadier General [Charles] Ewing and Major Hay, Mr. Lincoln’s Secretary.”[67]

A pass to the trial of the conspirators bearing this date was made out to a “Major Moore” and was signed not only by General Hunter, the president of the commission, but also Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. This special pass granted the bearer admittance for the entirety of the trial.[68] It is believed that “Major Moore” was Major William G. Moore, a clerk in the War Department. William Moore had been part of the official entourage who witnessed John Wilkes Booth’s autopsy on April 27, 1865. Exactly when and if Moore used this pass is unknown.

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[1] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[2] Washington Weekly Chronicle (Washington, D.C.), May 20, 1865, 6.
[3] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[4] Washington Weekly Chronicle (Washington, D.C.), May 20, 1865, 6.
[5] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[6] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[7] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[8] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[9] Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA), May 17, 1865, 1.
[10] William C. Edwards, ed., The Lincoln Assassination – The Court Transcripts (Self-published: Google Books, 2012), 186.
[11] The World (New York, NY), May 17, 1865, 4.
[12] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[13] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 186 – 187.
[14] Ibid., 187 – 195.
[15] Ibid., 195 – 196.
[16] William C. Edwards and Edward Steers, Jr., ed, The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 11.
[17] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 196 – 200.
[18] Thomas A. Bogar, Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors ad Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre (Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, 2013) 136.
[19] Michael W. Kauffman, American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004) 219 – 220.
[20] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 200 – 201.
[21] Ibid., 201 – 203.
[22] Ibid., 203 – 206.
[23] Ibid., 206 – 207.
[24] Ibid., 207 – 210.
[25] Ibid., 210 – 211.
[26] Ibid., 211 – 212.
[27] Ibid., 212 – 222.
[28] Ibid., 222 – 229.
[29] William C. Edwards, ed., The Lincoln Assassination: The Reward Files (Self-published: Google Books, 2012), 261.
[30] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 232.
[31] Ibid., 229 – 237.
[32] Ibid., 229.
[33] 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), 98.
[34] August V. Kautz, May 16, 1865 diary entry (Unpublished diary: Library of Congress, August V. Kautz Papers).
[35] August V. Kautz, Reminiscences of the Civil War (Unpublished manuscript: Library of Congress, August V. Kautz Papers).
[36] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[37] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 17, 1865, 1.
[38] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[39] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[40] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 17, 1865, 1.
[41] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 17, 1865, 4.
[42] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[43] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[44] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 17, 1865, 1.
[45] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 17, 1865, 4.
[46] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[47] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[48] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 17, 1865, 4.
[49] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[50] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[51] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[52] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[53] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 17, 1865, 4.
[54] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[55] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[56] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[57] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[58] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 17, 1865, 1.
[59] Washington Weekly Chronicle (Washington, D.C.), May 20, 1865, 6.
[60] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[61] Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA), May 17, 1865, 1.
[62] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[63] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 196.
[64] Washington Weekly Chronicle (Washington, D.C.), May 20, 1865, 6.
[65] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 17, 1865, 1.
[66] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 16, 1865, 2.
[67] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 17, 1865, 2.
[68] Edwin Stanton, Pass to the Military Commission, May 16, 1865 (Dr. Blaine Houmes Collection).
The drawing of the conspirators as they were seated on the prisoners’ dock on this day was created by artist and historian Jackie Roche.


6 thoughts on “May 16, 1865

  1. Pingback: The Trial Today: May 16 | BoothieBarn

  2. jett

    i am curious, and questioning testimony concerning the “door prop post” booth used to secure the door during the assassination. i understand someone (spangler?) fashioned the brace( “must have been some four or five feet in length”) from a ford theatre’s music stand. that does not sound feasible, nor does it match photos i have seen of the “door prop post.” does anyone know the whereabouts of the real “Post” and it’s size? hopefully dave can shed some light on this.

    • The wooden bar used to brace the vestibule door leading to the Presidential box is housed at the Ford’s Theatre Museum. It is fairly long, about a yard, I’d say. The post will be entered into evidence tomorrow (May 18th).

      • jett

        looking forward to that. so testimony as to it’s size is inaccurate. i want to know who was responsible for the cutting and fitting of the post, and hiding, (with wall paper) its point of attachment to the wall. that would have taken much consideration and time. i wonder if anyone knows the whereabouts of toys, that soldiers carved, from pea-nut’s resting bench. that is a fascinating revelation that soldiers were busy tampering with evidence (making keepsakes) during the trial. thank you for your reply and this awesome piece of history.

  3. Pingback: Formerly Enslaved Voices in the Lincoln Assassination Trial |

  4. Jill Ward

    My Father James William Lovett Sr. Was Lt. Alexander Lovett nephew. Are there any photographs of Lt.Lovett? Sincerely. Jill Ann Lovett Ward

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