May 18, 1865

Thursday, May 18, 1865

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Prior to the court convening on this day, two of David Herold’s sisters presented a pass to meet with their brother. Herold was brought into the court room and talked with his sisters until 9:45 a.m.

Court convened at 10 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, the recorders of the court, lawyers Frederick Aiken, John Clampitt, Walter Cox, William Doster, Thomas Ewing, and Frederick Stone. Reverdy Johnson also appeared in court again today.

Seating chart:

“The Court met at 10 o’clock this morning, and the prisoners were brought in and placed in the same positions relatively as on yesterday [R to L, Arnold, Mudd, Spangler, O’Laughlen, Atzerodt, Powell, Herold, Surratt, with a guard between each one]. In consequence of the heat, the door in their rear, leading to their cells, was left open, but well guarded.”[2]

The reading of the prior session’s testimony began. The reading of testimony was completed at about 12:40 p.m.[3]

Testimony began

Albert R. Reeve, a telegraph operator from New York, testified that on March 23, 1865 John Wilkes Booth was at the St. Nicholas Hotel in New York and wrote out a telegram in his presence. The telegram was directed to the Surratt boarding house in Washington and was addressed to “Wickman” meaning Louis Weichmann. The text of the telegram was: “Tell John to telegraph number and street at once. J. Booth”. Reeve sent the telegram as directed. On the stand Reeve was shown exhibit No. 1, John Wilkes Booth, and correctly identified him as the man who sent the telegram.[4] This message to Weichmann, really meant for John Surratt, was to learn the address of the Herndon House in D.C. so that conspirator Lewis Powell could find it when he came to Washington.[5]

The telegram from John Wilkes Booth to Louis Weichmann was entered into evidence as Exhibit 40.

Louis J. Weichmann, a lodger at Mary Surratt’s D.C. boardinghouse and former classmate of John Surratt’s, was asked about the telegram A. R. Reeve had just finished testifying about. Weichmann stated he received the telegram and, after passing along its message to John Surratt, was told “don’t be so damned inquisitive,” when he asked about it. Weichmann also testified about a day in mid-March when he saw Mrs. Surratt very distressed and later witnessed John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and Lewis Powell at the Surratt boarding house. The men had been out riding and had returned very much agitated over something that had occurred. This event corresponded to March 17th when Booth and his conspirators made a failed attempt to abduct President Lincoln. Frederick Aiken and Reverdy Johnson, lawyers for Mrs. Surratt, then cross-examined Weichmann asking him questions about his earlier testimony regarding the ride he took with Mrs. Surratt to her tavern on the day of the assassination. Further testimony was given in regards to Weichmann attending a performance starring John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre on March 18, his learning about a Confederate blockade runner name Sarah Slater from Mrs. Surratt, and the way in which Weichmann came to assisting the government in their manhunt for Booth and the other conspirators after the assassination.[6]

During Weichmann’s testimony, he submitted the part of the telegram he had received from John Wilkes Booth. This paper was annexed to the telegram Reeve had submitted and included as Exhibit 40.


At 1:20 p.m. the court took a recess for lunch during which time the conspirators were returned to their cells. At 2 o’clock, the court reassembled and Louis Weichmann resumed his testimony.[7]

Testimony resumed

Louis J. Weichmann resumed his testimony and was asked by Fredrick Aiken about his acquaintance with Henri B. Ste. Marie and Augustus Howell, two men broke the Union lines and went South during the war. Howell taught Weichmann a cipher so that he could write letters in code. Aiken asked Weichmann about when his suspicions were raised about the nature of these characters and of the conspirators who visited Mrs. Surratt’s boardinghouse. Aiken also asked Weichmann whether the conspirators were at ease in his presence. The purpose of Aiken’s cross-examination was to extract, “from his own lips certain treasonable practices, sayings, and professions of his own, for the purpose of impairing his credibility as a witness, and relieving much of the weight of his testimony against,” Mary Surratt.[8] Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham regularly objected to Aiken’s form of questioning, leading Aiken to stop for the moment stating that, “We propose to make him our own witness at a subsequent stage of the trial. We are not very tender of him, at any rate.”[9] After Aiken was done, Thomas Ewing inquired about the timeline regarding some of the events Weichmann has testified to and also the witness’s introduction to Dr. Mudd.[10]

John Greenawalt, proprietor of the Pennsylvania House hotel, was recalled by the prosecution having testified the day before. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt asked Greenawalt to describe the color of the mustache of the man who checked into the Pennsylvania House with George Atzerodt on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. Greenawalt replied the mustache and his whiskers were black and that he wore a slouch hat.[11] The prosecution was still under the erroneous belief that Michael O’Laughlen was the man who slept with Atzerodt that night.

James Walker, an African American employee of the Pennsylvania House hotel, testified about his interactions with George Atzerodt during the early morning hours of April 15th. Walker stated that Atzerodt first came to the hotel on horseback at around 12:30 am, got a drink, and then departed. He returned at around 2:00 am without his horse and Walker had to let him into the hotel, which was locked at that hour. Walker reiterated much of what John Greenawalt, his boss, had testified to the day before regarding Atzerodt’s renting of a room with another man and how both men left early in the morning. Walker was asked by William Doster, Atzerodt’s lawyer, if he recognized the coat found in Atzerodt’s rented room at the Kirkwood House. Though Walker often cleaned off Atzerodt’s clothes for him, he did not recognize the coat. Walker was also asked if he ever saw any weapons on Atzerodt. He stated he had witnessed Atzerodt carrying a knife and pistol in the days prior to the assassination. Walker was shown the knife recovered from the Kirkwood House but could not identify it as the one he saw. He was then shown a different knife which Walker believed looked closer to the one he had seen.[12]

This second knife shown to Walker, soon to be identified by the next witness, was entered into evidence as Exhibit 41.

William Clendenin, a clerk in the Third Auditor’s office of the Treasury, identified Exhibit 41, a knife thought to have belonged to George Atzerodt. Clendenin stated that he was walking down F Street on the morning of the assassination when he saw an African American woman pick up something from a street gutter. After making an inquiry, the woman handed the knife and sheath she had found. At that point a woman who occupied a third story residence of a nearby building called out of her window that she had seen the knife and had asked the other woman to go and get it, but now she did not want it in her house. Clendenin offered to take the knife to the police for her, which he did.[13] Fun fact: William Clendenin’s father was George Clendenin, the superintendent of Glenwood Cemetery in D.C.. At times, William worked as a carpenter at his father’s cemetery. In 1869, Glenwood Cemetery would receive the remains of George Atzerodt after the conspirator’s execution. There is strong evidence that Atzerodt was buried in Glenwood but his final disposition is unknown because Clendenin’s father got into legal trouble with the cemetery and absconded with some of the cemetery’s record books which were never returned.

James L. McPhail, the provost marshal for Baltimore, testified that he visited with George Atzerodt while the conspirator was imprisoned. William Doster, Atzerodt’s attorney, objected to McPhail’s testimony stating that a confession made under duress or inducement was not admissible. McPhail stated that he made no promises to Atzerodt and only met with him due to the appeals of Atzerodt’s brother and brother-in-law who were both employed by McPhail. The JAG declared that merely being detained and in irons did not constitute duress. Doster’s objection was overruled by the court and McPhail gave his testimony. During their conversation, Atzerodt told McPhail that he had thrown away his knife into the gutter on F street. In addition, Atzerodt also told McPhail that he had pawned his gun for $10 and that the articles found in the Kirkwood House were not his but belonged to conspirator David Herold.[14]

Willie Randolph Keim, a Union lieutenant formerly with the 85th Pennsylvania Infantry, testified about spending the night at the Pennsylvania House in the same room as George Atzerodt. Keim arrived at the hotel after Atzerodt and was assigned the same room as Atzerodt and Samuel Thomas. Keim stated that after he entered the room at about 4 o’clock in the morning he passed a few words with Atzerodt, asking the conspirator if he had heard about the assassination of Lincoln. Atzerodt replied that he had and that it was an awful affair. When Keim woke up at around 7 o’clock, he noticed Atzerodt had already left. Keim had roomed with Atzerodt on a previous occasion and during that time saw his knife. Keim stated the knife he had seen in Atzerodt’s possession was “about that size” as Exhibit 41 but he couldn’t identify it with certainty.[15]

Washington Briscoe, a clerk residing in D.C., testified that he ran into George Atzerodt in the hours after the assassination of Lincoln as the conspirator was riding a horse drawn car. Briscoe had grown up in Charles County, Maryland and knew Atzerodt from there. Atzerodt did not notice Briscoe until the clerk started talking to him, asking him if he had heard of Lincoln’s assassination. Atzerodt replied that he had heard the news and then asked Briscoe if he could sleep with him in his store that night. Briscoe told Atzerodt he did not own the store and could not give him permission. Atzerodt rode the car with Briscoe all the way to the Navy Yard and got off with him, still asking if he could spend the night. After being rebuffed multiple times, Atzerodt stated that he would go back to the Pennsylvania House to sleep. Briscoe saw Atzerodt get back on the car and depart.[16]

Rev. William Henry Ryder, pastor of St. Paul’s Universalist Church in Chicago, testified that, after the fall of Richmond, he was given permission to visit the capital of the Confederacy. As an active member of the Sanitary Commission, Rev. Ryder was seeking out materials and papers from the Confederacy that he could take back to Chicago and sell to benefit wounded soldiers. Rev. Ryder walked around the Confederate Capitol building picking up papers and putting them in a box. After returning to Chicago, Rev. Ryder discovered that one letter he had picked had been written by Confederate senator Williamson S. Oldham to President Jefferson Davis on February 11, 1865. In the letter, Oldham discusses his support for a plan to burn Union transport ships and towns with an unnamed combustible material. The purpose was to, “devastate the country of the enemy, and fill his people with terror and consternation.”[17] This testimony had nothing to do with the conspirators on trial but was used by the prosecution to show that acts of black flag warfare were being contemplated in the South.

The letter discussing the proposal to burn Union ships and towns found by Rev. Ryder was entered into evidence as Exhibit 42.

John Potts, chief clerk of the War Department, was asked to look at the letter found by Rev. Ryder and just entered into evidence. Potts testified that he was very familiar with the handwriting of Jefferson Davis as he had served as clerk when Davis was the Secretary of War under President Pierce. Potts stated his belief that the letter contained an endorsement (pictured below) written in Davis’ own hand in which Davis asked Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin to meet with General Thomas A. Harris, “to learn what plan he has for overcoming the difficulty heretofore experienced.”[18]

Nathan Rice, a former War Department clerk, testified in the same manner as the previous witness, John Potts, stating his belief that the endorsement found on the note regarding the proposed burning of Union ships and towns was written by Jefferson Davis.[19]

Joshua T. Owen, formerly a brigadier general in the Union army, was shown the same letter the last few witnesses had testified about. In the letter, it is said that a “Professor McCullough” was the one responsible for the development of the combustible material that was to be used to burn Union transports and ships. Owen testified that he had known Professor McCullough (whose real name was Richard Sears McCulloch) when at Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. Owen stated McCulloch was a noted chemist and was known to have traveled to Richmond during the war.[20]

Abram B. Olin, an associate justice for the D.C. Supreme Court, testified about having visited Ford’s Theatre on Sunday, April 16th. Olin had taken down some of the witness statements from those present at Ford’s on the night of Lincoln’s assassination and decided to go and make an examination of the Presidential box for himself. Clara Harris, who had been present with the Lincolns that night, came with Olin and showed him the proper arrangement of the furniture in the box. Olin examined the portion of the vestibule where John Wilkes Booth cut into the wall in order to secure a tight fit for the brace he put on the outer door. He also examined the door to the box that had a hole cut into it and the lock. Olin stated that the lock was broken and any amount of pressure would open the door. The only cross-examination that occurred during Olin’s testimony was Frederick Aiken and William Doster rhetorically asking Olin if the civil courts in D.C. were in operation, reiterating their objection to the military trial.[21]

Major Henry R. Rathbone, a guest of the Lincolns at Ford’s Theatre on the night of the assassination, was recalled by the prosecution having previously testified on May 15th. Rathbone was asked about outer door to the Presidential box being barred close by Booth. Rathbone testified that after grappling with Booth, he went to the outer door to get help but that a piece of wood was pinned against the outer door and the wall. He was not able to remove the bar until those on the other side stopped pushing on the outer door. Rathbone was shown a piece of wood and asked if it was the same one used as the bar but he was not able to identify it.[22]

Isaac G. Jaquette, a clerk in the Quartermaster General’s Office, was present at Ford’s Theatre on the night of the assassination. After Lincoln’s removal to the Petersen House, Jaquette gained entry into the Presidential box where you found the piece of wood Booth had used to bar the door laying on the ground near the outer box door. Jaquette testified that he took the bar home, hoping to keep it as a relic. It was later reclaimed by the authorities.[23]

The wooden bar found by Isaac Jaquette on the floor of the Presidential box was entered in evidence as Exhibit 43.

Joe Simms, an African-American stagehand at Ford’s Theatre, was recalled for the prosecution having previously testified on May 15. Simms was asked about the decorations that were put up in the Presidential box in advance of the Lincolns’ visit on April 14th. Simms testified that he had spent much of the day putting up bills for that night’s performance and had just returned to take a meal up in the flies when he was called by Harry Clay Ford. Ford instructed Simms to go and get the red rocking chair that was kept in Ford’s living quarters attached to the theater and bring it to the box. Simms completed this task and then left. While the prosecution asked many questions regarding whether Edman Spangler was present while the box was being decorated, Simms stated that he did not witness him at all.[24]

John J. Toffey, a lieutenant with the Veteran Reserve Corps, was recalled by the prosecution having testified the day before. Toffey had visited General Augur’s stables since his prior day’s testimony and had observed the horse in the government’s custody. He testified that it was the same horse he had found galloping around Lincoln Hospital without a rider on the night of the assassination. Toffey clarified that not only was the horse blind in one eye, but that it was entirely missing its right eye.[25] This horse was the one purchased by John Wilkes Booth from one of Dr. Mudd’s neighbors in 1864 and used by conspirator Lewis Powell used on the night of Lincoln’s assassination.

William Eaton, a detective with the D.C. provost marshal, testified that on the night of Lincoln’s assassination he searched John Wilkes Booth’s room at the National Hotel and took possession of Booth’s trunk and papers. He then took the papers to the provost marshal’s office where they were examined.[26]

William H. Tyrrell, a lieutenant with the D.C. provost marshal, also searched John Wilkes Booth’s room at the National Hotel. Tyrrell testified about taking possession of Booth’s trunk and papers from William Eaton. The prosecution then asked Tyrrell to read one of the letters written to Booth that was found in his room. The letter, dated March 27, 1865, chastised Booth for his recent behavior in calling the writer to Baltimore but not waiting for him to arrive. The letter also stated the writer’s hesitation in recent events stating that, “the undertaking is becoming more complicated,” and that Booth should, “go and see how it will be taken in R_[ichmon]_d.” The letter was written from Hookstown, Maryland and signed, “Your friend, Sam.”[27] As subsequent witnesses will testify to, this letter was written by conspirator Samuel Arnold, who left Booth’s plot after the conspirators’ failure to abduct President Lincoln.

The “Sam letter”, found in John Wilkes Booth’s hotel room, was entered into evidence as Exhibit 44.

William McPhail, the brother and employee of Maryland provost marshal James McPhail, testified that he was familiar with the handwriting of conspirator Samuel Arnold from when Arnold wrote out a confession on April 18. He was shown the “Sam letter” that had just been entered into evidence and stated that, while the writing was a bit heavier in some places, he believed it was Samuel Arnold’s handwriting.[28]

James L. McPhail, the provost marshal for Baltimore, was recalled by the prosecution having testified earlier in the day. Like his brother before him, McPhail was given the “Sam letter” and asked to look at the handwriting. McPhail stated, “I think it is the writing of Mr. Arnold.”[29]

Littleton P. D. Newman, a resident of Baltimore County, testified that in September of 1864 he was at a neighbor’s farm helping to thresh wheat and that Samuel Arnold had also been hired on to help with the task. While they were working, a letter was brought to Arnold who opened it and found it contained either a “twenty or fifty dollar note”. When Newman asked about the money and the letter, Arnold replied that something big would take place one of these days and that Newman would hear about it.[30]

Eaton G. Horner, a detective on the staff of Baltimore provost marshal James McPhail, testified about arresting conspirator Samuel Arnold on the morning of April 17th at Fortress Monroe in Virginia. Horner testified that some weapons were found on Arnold’s person. Thomas Ewing, Arnold’s attorney, then attempted to have Horner relate the confession Arnold made to Horner about the weapons and the original abduction scheme against the president. This was objected to by defense lawyers Walter Cox and Frederick Stone who worried such a confession would be a detriment to their own clients. They noted the legal rule at the time that forbade the accused from testifying and stated that the confession would not be considered admissible evidence under the law. Both assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham and Thomas Ewing countered the objection noting other legal precedent which would allow the confession to be heard but that it could not be used as evidence against any of the other conspirators. The military commission overruled the objection and Horner testified that Arnold confessed to have attended a meeting in Washington with John Wilkes Booth and many of the other conspirators. The meeting regarded the proposed abduction of President Lincoln from a theater and his conveyance to the South. Booth got angry at Arnold during the meeting and threatened to shoot him. Arnold told Horner that he withdrew from the arrangement after that and that Booth instructed him to sell the weapons. He also stated that Booth had a letter of introduction to Dr. Mudd in Charles County.[31]

Daniel J. Thomas, a resident of Charles County, testified that in March of 1865 he was at a neighbor’s home with Dr. Samuel Mudd. According to Thomas, after some discussion about the war seeming to come to a close soon, Dr. Mudd made a remark that the South would never be subjugated under the abolitionist doctrine of Lincoln and his cabinet and that they, and all Union men in Maryland, would be killed in six or seven weeks. A significant amount of cross examination occurred on the part of the Frederick Stone and Thomas Ewing, Dr. Mudd’s lawyers. Thomas stated that he told at least two named individuals about Dr. Mudd’s words before the assassination and that he had written a letter to the provost marshal of the region about it but had received no reply. Thomas’ testimony was a bit disjointed with the witness stating that Dr. Mudd said the words both in seriousness and in a laughing manner. Thomas also conflictingly stated that he thought Dr. Mudd was joking, and yet still apparently felt compelled to write to the provost marshal.[32] Later in the trial, Dr. Mudd’s defense would produce a multitude of witnesses to speak to Thomas’ unreliability and effectively prove Thomas’ recollections to be untrustworthy.

John Happ, a D.C. telegraph clerk, testified about having transmitted a telegram for John Wilkes Booth on March 13, 1865. The telegram was addressed to Michael O’Laughlen in Baltimore and ordered him to come to Washington at once.[33]

The telegram, sent by John Wilkes Booth to Michael O’Laughlen on March 13, 1865 was entered into evidence as Exhibit 45.

Edward C. Stewart, a telegraph operator at the Metropolitan Hotel in D.C., testified about having transmitted a telegram for John Wilkes Booth on March 27, 1865. This telegram was also addressed to Michael O’Laughlen in Baltimore and told O’Laughlen to “get word to Sam” and to come to Washington “with or without him” in two days.[34]

This telegram, sent by John Wilkes Booth to Michael O’Laughlen on March 27, 1865, was entered into evidence as Exhibit 46.

At the conclusion of Edward Stewart’s testimony, the commission adjourned at 6:15 pm. David Herold was allowed to stay in the courtroom for a few minutes after the rest of the conspirators were taken out where he conversed with Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt and his lawyer Frederick Stone. Herold desired to write out a confession of sorts which he was given permission to do the next morning before the trial began.[35]


From General Kautz’ diary:

“We had a long day of it and very warm, but the atmosphere cooled under the influence of a heavy rain in the evening…The evidence was quite interesting today and the room was crowded with visitors.”[36]

Newspaper Descriptions

“The prison, as before stated, is closely guarded: the guard being alternately relived. The officers in charges of the prison are Major Gen. Hartranft, Assistant Provost Marshal General commanding; Col. Dodd, 211th Pa.; Lt. Col. McCall, 200th Pa.; Lt. Col. Frederich, 209th Pa.; Capt. Watts, A. A. G.; Capt. C. Rath, and Lieut. D. H. Geissinger, Aids-de-Camp. These officers are constantly on duty at the prison some of them always being on duty in the portion of the building occupied by the prisoners, in which a strong guard is posted.”[37]

“On the prisoners entering the room it is the custom for such of them as wish to communicate with their counsel to stand up and give intimation of the fact by sign, whereupon the counsel indicated advances to the rail and holds conversation with the prisoner.”[38]

“As the morning grows on the heat in the room becomes oppressive. Water is passed to the thirsty prisoners in a large dish of tin.”[39]

“Proofs of Arnold’s complicity were furnished to-day, and also his confession, implicating Booth, Atzerodt, O’Laughlin and Surratt. According to Horner’s statement, Arnold said that the part assigned to himself in the kidnapping was to throw the President out of the theater box [sic] after the lights had been turned out, so that the rest could carry him off in a carriage. At this statement the prisoners all relaxed into a broad smile for the first time since the trial began.”[40]

“[With the exception of O’Laughlin and Mrs. Surratt, all the prisoners joined in the laugh which the idea of Arnold’s catching Mr. Lincoln in his arms naturally induced.]”[41]

Mrs. Surratt

“Mrs. Surratt, after fanning herself quite earnestly for a season, leans forward and buried her face in her elbows on the rail.”[42]

“Mrs. Surratt sat with her head resting on the railing in front of her, in which position she sat nearly the whole time.”[43]

“Mrs. Surratt paid no attention to anything going on to-day…”[44]

“Mrs. Surratt still seems much downcast, and has passed most of her time with her head leaning upon the railing in her front, or upon one of her hands. She no longer takes any interest in the testimony or what is passing around, and seems only to care to hide her face. She has a palmleaf fan to-day, but uses it very little.”[45]

Lewis Powell

“Payne maintains the same stolid indifference that has characterized his appearance throughout.”[46]

David Herold

“Herold is in the grinning mood this morning, and the silly simper upon his countenance affords a visible contrast to the sombre face of Mrs. Surratt, his neighbor to the right.”[47]

“Herold puts his slippered feet on the rail and seems to be admiring their proportions.”[48]

“…Harrold was as thoughtless as usual.”[49]

“Harold continues light-hearted, and laughs heartily at any little incident calculated to produce a smile.”[50]

During the testimony of Det. McPhail, when William Doster was asking about contents of George’s room which included pieces of evidence said to belong to Herold:

“[Herold’s counsel objected to the questions Atzerodt’s counsel was asking. Laughter.]”[51]

George Atzerodt

“Atzeroth appears very uneasy while the testimony is being taken pertaining to his case.”[52]

Dr. Mudd

“Mudd appeared in his shirt-sleeves, from the same cause (the heat)”[53]

Samuel Arnold

“Arnold wears to-day a light working jacket, the others are costumed as usual.”[54]

“Saml. Arnold appears entirely unconcerned, although he generally watches the testimony carefully. When his letter to Booth, in which he backed out of the murder plot, after having evidently had cognizance of it, was read, he stood up and watched eagerly everything said or done, but beyond a look of anxiety, there was no expression on his face. He consulted freely with Ewing, who appears to be counsel for all the prisoners. He trembled, however, several times later in the afternoon, when the testimony involved him.”[55]

Michael O’Laughlen

“The confinement seems to wear most on O’Laughlin and Mrs. Surratt.”[56]

Edman Spangler

“Spangler and Mudd exhibit the same careworn and haggard looks…”[57]


“Among the spectators present this morning is Miss Emma Turner, the vocalist, and two or three other ladies. [Andrew] McCullum, an artist of Harper’s Weekly, is busy with a sketch of the scene in the court room [pictured below].”[58]

“The court-room was not so full during the morning session, many of the visitors not coming in until the conclusion of the reading of the testimony…some eight or ten ladies were present as visitors this morning.”[59]

“The court room was pretty well crowded this afternoon, some half a dozen ladies having found their way in, and a number of witnesses being allowed in the room before and after their testimony had been given.”[60]

“Among the visitors…were [ex-Wisconsin] Governor [Alexander] Randall and Major [Augustus] Seward.”[61]

“Master Tad Lincoln was among the spectators of the conspiracy trial this afternoon.”[62]

Adolphe de Chambrun, a member of the French legation stationed in D.C., visited the court room on this day. He wrote about his experiences in a letter home to his wife:

“My dear soul, all these days my mind has been absorbed by the trial of Mr. Lincoln’s assassins and also of Payne, Mr. Seward’s assailant. The debates are extraordinarily lengthy and, as it is customary to allow the cross-examination of witnesses by the defense, it makes the work of one who, like myself, is obliged to follow the dialogue closely, quite complicated. Yesterday I attended the session of the military commission, which got together all the actors and reconstructed the scene. Admission is very difficult and I had to get tickets. Faverney [Comte de Moreau-Faverney, second secretary] of our Legation, and his wife, also wished very much to be present and, as I knew all the participants, I took them with me. Mme. Faverney was so much interested that I felt obliged to remain there the whole day myself.

Imagine an oblong hall; at one end a barrier, extending from one side to the other, separates the spectators by a few yards from the bench of the accused. Mrs. Surratt is first in line. She seems completely subdued but, from time to time, darts a glance of hatred toward the judges. A few feet off, a solider is placed in order to prevent communication between her and the one next to her. Each of the prisoners is in irons, hands and feet chained, so that there is a great show of strength and all precautions are taken to prevent these horrible wretches from killing their judges. In the center of the hall two large tables are installed, covered with green baize. The military commissioned is seated at one; reporters and stenographers at the other. The lawyers are grouped between the Commissioners’ table and the barrier which separates them from the accused.

As I have told you, great liberty is permitted the lawyers for the defense. They interrogate the witnesses quite as they please. But I noticed that certain questions brought forth unexpected answers which were disastrous to their clients, so that they themselves abandoned a system which reacted against them. One of these wretches, the perfect type of villain, is Payne, assailant of the Sewards, father and son. He was recognized by the four house servants as being the man who inquired for the Secretary, penetrated into his bedroom and dealt the blow. At sight, it is impossible not to believe in his guilt. The others are all ignoble-looking or else possess faces utterly devoid of character.”[63]

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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), 99.
[2] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[3] Daily Constitutional Union (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[4] William C. Edwards, ed., The Lincoln Assassination – The Court Transcripts (Self-published: Google Books, 2012), 289 – 290.
[5] Michael W. Kauffman, American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004), 190.
[6] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 290 – 298.
[7] Daily Constitutional Union (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[8] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 298.
[9] Ibid., 304.
[10] Ibid., 298 – 306.
[11] Ibid., 306.
[12] Ibid., 306 – 309.
[13] Ibid., 309 – 310.
[14] Ibid., 310 – 313.
[15] Ibid., 313 – 315.
[16] Ibid., 315 – 317.
[17] Ibid., 317 – 319.
[18] Ibid., 319.
[19] Ibid., 319 – 320.
[20] Ibid., 320.
[21] Ibid., 320 – 322.
[22] Ibid., 322 – 323.
[23] Ibid., 323.
[24] Ibid., 324 – 327.
[25] Ibid., 327.
[26] Ibid., 327 – 328.
[27] Ibid., 328 – 329.
[28] Ibid., 329 – 330.
[29] Ibid., 330.
[30] Ibid., 330 – 331.
[31] Ibid., 331 – 339.
[32] Ibid., 339 – 348.
[33] Ibid., 348 – 349.
[34] Ibid., 349 – 351.
[35] Hartranft, Letterbook, 100.
[36] August V. Kautz, May 18, 1865 diary entry (Unpublished diary: Library of Congress, August V. Kautz Papers).
[37] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[38] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[39] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[40] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 19, 1865, 1.
[41] Daily Constitutional Union (Washington, D.C.), May 19, 1865, 2.
[42] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[43] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[44] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 19, 1865, 1.
[45] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[46] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[47] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[48] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[49] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 19, 1865, 1.
[50] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[51] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[52] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[53] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[54] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[55] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[56] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[57] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[58] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[59] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[60] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 19, 1865, 4.
[61] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 19, 1865, 2.
[62] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 18, 1865, 2.
[63] Adolphe de Chambrun, Impressions of Lincoln and the Civil War: a Foreigner’s Account (New York: Random House, 1952), 135 – 136.
The drawing of the conspirators as they were seated on the prisoners’ dock on this day was created by artist and historian Jackie Roche.


5 thoughts on “May 18, 1865

  1. Pingback: The Trial Today: May 18 | BoothieBarn

  2. jett

    i find the appearance of Tad Lincoln fascinating. who arranged this? who was his escort? what prompted his visit. what is the point? It’s sounds very unusual on many levels to me.

    • I wish I had more information for you but all I have is the notice from the paper that Tad was there. I agree that it seems a bit unusual that Tad would have attended the trial but I have no reason to doubt it occurred.

  3. On p. 224 of “Lincoln’s Sons” Ruth Painter Randall writes, “On May 18 a newspaperman noted that ‘Master Tad Lincoln was among the spectators at the conspiracy trial this afternoon.'” The author goes on to write, “It is painful to think of the turmoil in his passionate young heart as he looked at those who had plotted with the murderer of his father.”

    Thus, young Tad was at both the conspiracy trial and the trial of John Surratt in 1867. (Tad testified briefly.)

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

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