May 30, 1865

Tuesday, May 30, 1865

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Proceedings

The 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.

Absent: Reverdy Johnson

Seating chart:

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

The reading of the prior day’s testimony was completed at 12 o’clock.[2]

Testimony began

Lewis F. Bates, a railroad superintendent living in Charlotte, North Carolina, testified that Confederate President Jefferson Davis was staying at his home on April 19, 1865. Davis spoke a few words to a gathered crowd outside of Bates’ home and, at the conclusion of his remarks, Davis was handed a telegram. The telegram announced that Abraham Lincoln and William Seward had been assassinated. According to Bates, after reading this news to the crowd, Davis responded with the phrase, “If it were to be done, it were better it were well done.” Bates also testified that a day or two later Davis was in conversation with Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge about the assassination of Lincoln, when the CSA President remarked, “…if the same had been done to Andy Johnson…and to Secretary Stanton, the job would then be complete.”[3] This testimony was unrelated to the conspirators on trial but was part of the prosecution’s case to connect the Confederate government to Lincoln’s death.

John C. Courtney, a telegraph operator living in Charlotte, North Carolina, testified that his business had received a telegram from Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge to Confederate President Jefferson Davis on April 19, 1865. Courtney supported the prior testimony of Lewis Bates in stating that the message was delivered to Jefferson Davis at Bates’ home on that date.[4]

The telegram from Breckinridge to Davis, announcing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was entered into evidence as Exhibit 75.

Robert F. Martin, the postmaster of Uniontown, a community of D.C. located south of the Anacostia River, was recalled to the stand after previously testifying the day before. Martin testified that he was mistaken yesterday when he stated that Dr. Mudd, Henry Mudd, Jr., and Dr. Joseph Blandford visited his home on April 4, 1865 for a nearby horse auction. After examining his books, he found that it was Jeremiah Mudd who came to his house on April 4th and that the other three came on April 11th as Henry Mudd, Jr. and Dr. Blandford had testified. Martin was then asked if he saw Dr. Mudd in December of 1864. Martin testified that Dr. Mudd stood by his market stand in D.C. and helped him sell turkeys for a bit on December 24th. Martin supported the testimony of Francis Lucas stating that Dr. Mudd asked Lucas if he could transport a stove he had purchased back down to Bryantown for him. Martin also stated that he also saw Dr. Mudd on March 22, 1865, when the doctor and Thomas Gardiner came up to D.C. for a horse auction that was postponed. He had know recollection of seeing Dr. Mudd at all during the month of January, 1865.[5] Martin’s testimony was to show that Dr. Mudd had legitimate reasons for traveling to D.C. in the months before the assassination and to counter the testimony of Louis Weichmann who mistakenly stated that his introduction to John Wilkes Booth by way of Dr. Mudd occurred in January of 1865. The introduction actually occurred during Dr. Mudd’s trip to D.C. in December but Martin had no knowledge about it.

Thomas Ewing, one of Dr. Mudd’s lawyers, then stated that Jeremiah Dyer, a witness on behalf of Dr. Mudd, wished to retake the stand and make a correction to his earlier testimony. The Commission consented to the request.

Jeremiah Dyer, Dr. Mudd’s brother-in-law, stated that in reviewing his testimony of May 27th he wished to make a correction regarding whether or not he had crossed the Potomac river since the war began. On the 27th he had answered that he had not, but he now stated that he had crossed the river into Virginia in the fall of 1861, after having hid out in the woods by the Dr. Mudd farm. Dyer stated he had been confused by the questioning and thought he was being asked if he had crossed the river since that incident. Dyer testified that he accompanied the Gwynn brothers to Richmond in order to avoid arrest but returned “four or five weeks” later. The prosecution asked Dyer additional questions about his loyalty during the war and his reasons for visiting Dr. Mudd over the last couple of years.[6]

Marcellus P. Gardiner, a farmer living in Charles County, testified that he had heard Dr. Mudd express a desire to sell his land on several occasions over the last two years. Gardiner also testified that he had been at church on April 16, 1865 while Dr. Mudd was there. While the assassination of Lincoln was generally known, Gardiner stated his belief that the identity of the assassin was not yet “generally understood.” When Thomas Ewing, one of Dr. Mudd’s lawyers, attempted to ask Gardiner what Dr. Mudd said about the assassination at church that day, Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham objected to the introduction of Dr. Mudd’s words as evidence. Gardiner was asked to leave the courtroom so that Ewing could explain to the court what he wished to prove through his question. Ewing appealed to the court that he wished to show that Dr. Mudd spoke of the assassination as a “terrible calamity” at church on April 16th. Ewing attempted to connect this declaration to the charge on concealment that Dr. Mudd was facing, the same gambit he tried in the case of Dr. George Mudd the day before. In the end, the commission sustained Assistant Judge Advocate Bingham’s objection and that ended the questioning of Marcellus Gardiner.[7]

Joshua S. Naylor, a resident of Prince George’s County, testified that he had known Daniel J. Thomas, a prior prosecution witness, for many years. Naylor stated that Thomas’ general reputation was poor in the community. He expressed his belief that Thomas, “never tells the truth is a lie will answer his purpose better,’ and that he would not believe Thomas, even under oath.[8] Daniel Thomas had previously testified that Dr. Mudd had mentioned to him in March of 1865 that Lincoln, his cabinet, and all Union men in Maryland were to be killed in a manner of weeks. Naylor was one of many witnesses Dr. Mudd’s defense brought forward to counter Thomas.

William A. Mudd, a distant cousin of Dr. Mudd, testified that he lived about a mile and a quarter away from the doctor. Frederick Stone, one of Dr. Mudd’s lawyers, asked William if he had seen any of the named Confederates that had been testified to by earlier witnesses at the Mudd farm in the last year. William replied that he had not, nor had he seen any men hiding around the doctor’s property. William recollected having seen Bennett Gwynn on horseback talking to the doctor once, but believed it was much earlier in the war and not within the last year.[9] According to William Mudd’s grandson, “William A. Mudd was a rabid Southerner and used to get up on a nail box at Beantown and rave against the Yankees. The listeners would have to drag him off when the Yankee soldiers would be nearby. When the Emancipation Proclamation was made, he procured a gun and walked out towards the road and dared the negroes to leave the place, but the gun was never loaded.”[10]

Break

Following William Mudd’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.[11]

Testimony resumed

Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt stated that he wished to call to the stand Jacob Rittersbach so that he may give testimony against Edman Spangler. Rittersbach had previously testified on May 19th but, according to Holt, the government had become aware of new facts relating to this witness that they wished to bring out. Since the prosecution had closed their cases against the individual conspirators, Holt sought permission from the Commission to re-examine him. Thomas Ewing, Spangler’s lawyer, stated that he had no objection to the request.

Jacob Rittersbach, a stagehand at Ford’s Theatre, was recalled to the stand for the prosecution. He testified that he was on the same side of the stage as Edman Spangler when Lincoln was shot. Rittersbach stated he ran to try to stop John Wilkes Booth from exiting the back door of Ford’s but that Booth struck at him with his knife, causing him to jump back. He claimed to have been the first one to open the back door after Booth but the assassin was already on his horse riding away. It’s worth noting that while Rittersbach claimed he ran after Booth and only backed away because Booth brandished his knife, no other witnesses ever claimed to have seen him doing this. On the contrary, Major Stewart, who had testified on May 20th, was adamant that he was the one who opened the back door of Ford’s first after Booth had passed through. After coming back inside the theater, Rittersbach met back up with Spangler. According to Rittersbach, Edman Spangler slapped him across the mouth and said, “Don’t say which way he went!” Rittersbach testified that he had not said anything to Spangler before being slapped. When he asked Spangler what he meant by slapping him, Spangler allegedly replied with “For God’s sake, shut up!”[12] This testimony by Jacob Rittersbach would prove to be the most damaging to Edman Spangler’s case but it also suffers from a number of issues. In statements Rittersbach gave authorities on April 18th and an undated one in the papers of JAG Holt, he made no mention of Spangler having slapped him. He also failed to mention the incident when he testified on May 19th. It was only after Rittersbach had testified and had been released from prison that he told a detective about it. That is what led him to be recalled on this date. According to Rittersbach the only people he told about the slap were the detective and James J. Gifford, his boss at Ford’s Theatre. However, when James Gifford took the stand on the next day, he denied Rittersbach ever told him about the slap, only that he desired to amend his statement. At the same time, two of Rittersbach’s coworkers at Ford’s Theatre, Louis Carland and James Lamb, would later testify that Rittersbach told them about the slap in the hours following the assassination. Rittersbach told them that Spangler had slapped him because he had stated the man who shot the president was Booth. However in his testimony today, Rittersbach was asked by Thomas Ewing, “What did you say to him first, before he [slapped you and] said that to you” to which Rittersbach replied “I did not say anything to him.”[13] In addition, Rittersbach testified today that he had not heard the name Booth until after he had been slapped by Spangler. In the version of the incident Rittersbach conveyed to Carland and Lamb, Spangler did not state, “Don’t say which way he went,” after slapping Rittersbach but rather, “You don’t know who it is. It may be Mr. Booth, or it may be somebody else.”[14] This alternate language may demonstrate a man not wanting a friend of his to be unfairly slandered by baseless accusations before the true facts are known. It is important to note that no one witnessed the slap that Rittersbach belatedly testified about. Carland and Lamb only testified to what Rittersbach had told them. The truth of what really occurred between Rittersbach and Spangler in the moments after the assassination will likely never be known.

Francis S. Walsh, a pharmacist living in Washington, D.C., testified that he had known David Herold ever since he was a boy. Walsh stated that for almost a year Herold was employed as his clerk and during part of that time lived in his house. Frederick Stone, Herold’s lawyer, asked Walsh to describe Herold’s character. Walsh stated that Herold was, “light, trifling in a great many things.” Upon further questioning, Walsh stated his belief that Herold was easily persuaded and was more of a boy than a man.[15] Given that David Herold was captured in the company of John Wilkes Booth twelve days after the shooting of Lincoln, Frederick Stone had a difficult task in defending his client. In the end, Stone decided his best option was to portray Herold as a simpleton who was completely under John Wilkes Booth’s magnetism and control. Francis Walsh was the first of several witness to testify about Herold’s childishness and malleability. While Herold may have been a bit on the immature side for his 22 years, he was far from a simpleton. He had the most education out of all the conspirators except for Dr. Mudd and demonstrated a keen intellect in his interview with authorities after his capture. Attempting to portray David Herold as mentally inferior and easily molded by Booth was Stone’s best possible gambit, but should not be taken as a truthful portrayal of Herold’s mind.

James C. Nokes, a neighbor of David Herold, testified that he had lived near the Washington Navy Yard since 1827 and had known Herold since the conspirator’s birth. Nokes stated that he had always looked upon Herold as, “a light and trifling boy,” who was unreliable. Nokes agreed with lawyer Frederick Stone that Herold was more easily influenced than most men of his age.[16]

William H. Keilholtz, a next door neighbor of David Herold, testified that he had known Herold for the past 13 years. Frederick Stone, Herold’s lawyer, asked Keilholtz if he had seen Herold during the month of February, 1865. Keilholtz stated that he had, but that he could not state how many days in February he went between seeing Herold. Keilholtz was then asked about Herold’s character to which he expressed that Herold spent more time in the company of boys (18 – 22 year olds) than with men.[17] The question about Herold’s whereabouts in February were to counter the claims of perjurer James Merritt who testified that he had seen Herold in Canada in the middle of February.

Emma Herold, David Herold’s 16 year-old sister, testified that her brother was at home between February 15 and 19 of that year. Emma stated that she could fix the dates because she had sent a valentine to her brother which he received on the 15th. She also recounted that on the Sunday after Valentine’s Day, the 19th, David tried to take a pitcher of water from her and had accidentally spilled it on them both. Emma stated that David was definitely at home over the course of those days.[18] The question about Herold’s whereabouts in February were to counter the claims of perjurer James Merritt who testified that he had seen Herold in Canada in the middle of February. Emma Herold and William Keilholtz, the prior witness, later married each other in September of 1870.

Edward Johnson, formerly a general in the Confederate army, was called to the witness stand. Before Johnson could be sworn in, Brigadier General Albion Howe, the member of the military commission pictured above, rose and submitted a motion that Johnson be ejected from the court and declared as an incompetent witness. Howe stated that Johnson had been trained and educated at the National Military Academy and that, after his time at West Point, he had been given a commission in the U.S. Army. Part of the requirements for getting a military commission was taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. Johnson took that oath and rendered his services as a U.S. Army officer. When the Civil War broke out, however, Johnson resigned from the U.S. army and joined the Confederacy. In 1861 then Captain Howe USA fought against then Colonel Johnson CSA at the Battle of Greenbrier River. Howe stated that Johnson’s hands were, “red with the blood of his loyal countrymen…in violation of his solemn oath as a man and his faith as an officer.”[19] Howe considered Johnson’s betrayal of his earlier oath as an officer evidence that Johnson could not be trusted to tell the truth under oath in this courtroom. Brevet Brigadier General James Ekin, one of the other members of the commission, rose and seconded Gen. Howe’s motion. Frederick Aiken, one of Mary Surratt’s lawyers and the one who had called Johnson to the stand, replied that he was not aware that the act of taking up arms against the United States made a person an incompetent witness in the eyes of the law. Aiken noted that Willie Jett, one of the prosecution’s own witnesses, had been a soldier in the Confederacy and had admitted to having never taken the oath of allegiance. Yet there had been no controversy over the inclusion of his testimony. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt then chimed in stating that, based on the law, a witness could only be deemed so infamous as to be declared incompetent if they had been convicted of a crime themselves in a judicial proceeding. Holt stated that while Johnson’s actions could discredit him in the eyes of the court and cause them to doubt his credibility, the rule of law would prevent them from officially declaring him incompetent. When Gen. David Hunter, the president of the commission, stated that the commission would vote on whether to adopt Gen. Howe’s motion to eject Johnson anyway, Gen. Lew Wallace, the only member of the commission with a law background, stated, “for the sake of the character of this investigation, for the sake of public justice, not for the sake of the person introduced as a witness, but for the persons who are at the bar on trial, I ask the general who makes this motion to withdraw it.”[20] Gen. Howe replied that, based on the Judge Advocate General’s statement that Johnson was still legally considered to be a competent witness, he would withdraw his objection.

Edward Johnson, the former Confederate general, was then sworn in. Frederick Aiken asked Johnson if he was familiar with a man named Henry Von Steinaecker who had been the first witness examined at the trial. Von Steinaecker had testified that he had been seduced by Johnson into deserting from the Union to fight for the Confederacy. Von Steinaecker had also testified that, as an officer in Edward Johnson’s staff, he had seen John Wilkes Booth within the Confederate lines discussing the assassination of Lincoln with Johnson’s officers in 1863. Johnson recounted that in May of 1863, he had been approached by Von Steinaecker, a man he did not know, in Richmond who applied for a position on his staff. Von Steinaecker told Johnson that he had once served under Johnson in the U.S. Army and that he had since deserted from the Union. Johnson told Von Steinaecker that he did not have the power to give him a position. Von Steinaecker later approached Johnson a second time saying he was an engineer by education and asked for Johnson to get him an officer’s position on Johnson’s engineer corps. Johnson again turned Von Steinaecker down. After being dispatched to Fredericksburg, Johnson was once again accosted by Von Steinaecker who had followed him. Johnson told Von Steinaecker that he could not give him a position as an officer but if he enlisted as a private in the Confederate army, Johnson would assign him duty in the engineering corps. Von Steinaecker enlisted and Johnson kept his word, assigning him to work in the engineering corps. Johnson made it clear that Von Steinaecker was never commissioned an officer, merely a private. Johnson also adamantly denied that he had ever seen John Wilkes Booth. The former general testified that he had never even heard Booth’s name prior to the assassination. When asked if the subject of Lincoln’s assassination had ever been discussed among his officers or others, Johnson stated he had never heard anything of the kind.[21]

Mrs. Mary Jenkins, a neighbor of David Herold, was a renter of a property owned by the Herold family in Washington. Mrs. Jenkins testified that she knew David Herold was in D.C. on February 18, 1865 because that was the day he picked up her rent payment.[22] The purpose of this testimony was to counter the statements of perjurer James Merritt who claimed to have seen Herold in Canada around the middle of February.

Mrs. Elizabeth Potts, another neighbor and renter of a D.C. property owned by the Herolds, testified that she saw David Herold on February 19th when he came to pick up her rent. Mrs. Potts didn’t have the money for Herold at that time and sent her payment to his house the next day.[23] Like the prior witness, Mrs. Potts’ testimony was to establish David Herold was in D.C. during the middle of February and not in Canada.

Henry Kyd Douglas, formerly a major in the Confederate army, testified that he had served on the staff of Gen. Edward Johnson. Douglas was asked about Henry Von Steinaecker, the witness who claimed that John Wilkes Booth had been among officers of the Stonewall Brigade planning the assassination of Lincoln. Douglas stated that Von Steinaecker had been a private in the Second Virginia Infantry. Douglas stated that he was not acquainted with John Wilkes Booth nor was he aware of any secret meetings in his camp discussing the assassination of Lincoln. At the end of his testimony, Douglas asked to make a statement to the court, which was allowed. Douglas stated that the implication had been made against the men of the Stonewall Brigade that they were somehow involved in the assassination of Lincoln. Douglas replied that, as a man who had climbed the ranks of the brigade from private to Major, he wished to speak of the brigade’s integrity. He stated that, in his eyes, their gallantry as soldiers, “forbid them from being at all implicated with, or cognizant of any such act as the assassination of Mr. Lincoln.”[24] Henry Kyd Douglas had been held in an adjoining room of the courtroom since May 24th and later wrote about the trial in his memoirs.

Oscar Heinrichs, formerly a captain in the Confederate corps of engineers, testified that he had been on the staff of Gen. Edward Johnson. Heinrichs was asked about Henry Von Steinaecker and essentially supported the earlier testimony of Gen. Johnson. According to Heinrichs, Pvt. Henry Von Steinaecker was assigned duty working as a draftsman under Heinrichs. Von Steinaecker was never a commissioned officer and never received the pay of an officer. Heinrichs denied Von Steinaecker’s claim that John Wilkes Booth was seen among Johnson’s staff in 1863, stating he had never met Booth. He also stated he never heard of any secret meetings where the assassination of Lincoln took place.[25]

Joseph T. Knott, the barkeeper at the Surratt tavern, testified about seeing John M. Lloyd on April 14th in the vicinity of Mrs. Surratt’s buggy. According to Knott, Lloyd had been “tight” in liquor on that day and in the days prior to that. Knott only saw Lloyd and Mrs. Surratt in passing on that day and did not hear any of the words they spoke to one another. Knott also testified that Bennett Gwynn was present and helped John M. Lloyd and Louis Wiechmann in fixing Mrs. Surratt’s buggy.[26] The defense hoped that by having Knott testify about John M. Lloyd’s drunkenness it would help demonstrate that his testimony about Mrs. Surratt was unreliable.

John Zadoc Jenkins, Mary Surratt’s brother, testified that he was at Surrattsville when Mary Surratt and Louis Weichmann rode up on April 14th. Jenkins stated that his sister showed him the letter she had received from George Calvert asking her to settle the debts that were owed to him (Exhibit 68). Mrs. Surratt told her brother that was her reason for traveling to her tavern on that day. Jenkins testified that John M. Lloyd was very much intoxicated when he rode up. Jenkins went on to be a character witness for his sister stating Mary Surratt had never spoken a disloyal word in his presence and made no remark regarding any plot against the President. On the contrary, according to Jenkins, Mrs. Surratt frequently served milk and tea to Union troops when they were passing by her tavern and cared for some government horses. Jenkins supported the idea that his sister had poor eyesight, especially at night. Under cross examination by the prosecution, Jenkins was asked about a conversation he had with a man named Andrew Kaldenbach on May 17th, the day prior to Jenkins’ arrest. The prosecution essentially accused Jenkins of having threatened Kaldenbach if he took the witness stand against his sister. Jenkins testified that while he had a bit of an argument with Kaldenbach on May 17th, he did not threaten him in anyway. According to Jenkins, when he heard Kaldenbach had testified against his sister (which he had not) Jenkins stated he would read the testimony in the papers. He also stated, in a sarcastic manner, how appropriate it was for Kaldenbach to testify against Mary Surratt given how she had essentially helped to raise some of Kaldenbach’s children. The prosecution also asked questions about Jenkins’ loyalty during the war, which he claimed was always with the Union.[27]

Anna Surratt, Mary Surratt’s 22 year-old daughter, testified that she, along with her mother and the rest of her household, had been arrested on April 17th and that she had been held at the Old Capitol Prison ever since. Frederick Aiken, one of Mary Surratt’s lawyer, asked Anna about her mother’s vision. Anna replied that Mrs. Surratt’s eyesight was bad and had been so for quite some time past. Anna stated that her mother often failed to recognize those she knew well, especially on dark days. Aiken asked about the photographs of John Wilkes Booth and Confederate officers that had been found at the Surratt boarding house. Anna replied that the images of the Confederate officers had belonged to her late father and were among the last things given to her before his death. The picture of Booth, she explained, was hers. She recounted that she and Honora Fitzpatrick, one of Mrs. Surratt’s boarders, saw Booth’s image in a gallery and that each of them bought one. According the Anna, when her brother, John Surratt, saw the photo of Booth, he told her to tear it up and throw it into the fire. That is why she had hidden it behind another image. Anna testified that while George Atzerodt had made appearances at her D.C. home, he generally asked about Louis Weichmann. She added that her mother did not care much for Atzerodt and did not want him staying at her house overnight, thought she apparently consented one time. Anna gave a little testimony about Lewis Powell having stayed at the boardinghouse on at least two occasions but did not go into much detail. When discussing her mother’s actions on the day of the assassination, Anna stated that her mother had already been talking about traveling to her tavern in Maryland since the day before. She testified that she thought her mother’s carriage was already ready to go when John Wilkes Booth came to the boardinghouse that morning. Aiken asked about the whereabouts of Anna’s brother, John Surratt. She replied she had not seen him since about two weeks before the assassination. Aiken’s final questions to Anna were very direct ones asking her if she had ever heard any discussions at her mother’s house about a plot to assassinate the President. While she replied, “No, sir” to this series of inquiries, the questions greatly affected her state of mind and she began to show signs of agitation.[28] The Evening Star newspaper recorded the scene:

“Mr. Aiken: Q- Did you ever hear it discussed by any member of the family to capture the President of the United States? A. No, sir. I did not: where is mamma? Mr. Ewing: Q- What year did your brother leave college? A. In 1861 or 1862, the year my father died, (sotto voce – ‘where is mamma.’)…The girl here kept nervously glancing towards the dock and tapping the stand with her foot impatiently.”[29]

Due to the massive number of visitors in the courtroom, there were many women standing in front of the prisoner’s dock. That, along with Mrs. Surratt’s habit of resting herself on the railing of the dock, made it so that Anna could not see her mother among the throngs of people in the courtroom. As Anna’s emotions began to overtake her, an escort was requested while Thomas Ewing, Dr. Mudd’s lawyer, asked Anna a few more questions to keep her from breaking down entirely. The Evening Star continued in its description of the scene:

“The counsel, Mr. Ewing, with an evident desire to keep her occupied till the usher came to lead her through the crowd to the witness’ room, said to her: Q. Is Surrattsville on the road between Washington and Bryantown? By this time the usher had arrived, and the Court told her that she could go. As she arose she answered the question in the affirmative, adding in a quick, sharp voice, ‘where is mamma?’ Mr. Aiken came forward, and telling her that she would soon see her mamma, again led her on into the anteroom adjoining the court… [The scene] would have harrowed the feelings of the women who crowded forward with eager faces and devouring eyes to witness the departure of the sorrow-stricken child from the presence of the court. As Miss Surratt was leaving the stand, a member of the court handed her a small white handkerchief which she had dropped. She snatched it from him quickly and rudely, without a word of thanks. No cross examination was had of this witness, and when, with reportorial curiosity, we asked the reason why, the most temperate and dry of the Judge Advocates simply told us that it would have been cruel, the girl having a greater load of sorrow upon her than she could bear.”[30]

John Somerset Leaman, a carpenter from Montgomery County, Maryland, testified that he had known the conspirator George Atzerodt since he was a boy. Leaman recounted how, on April 16th, he had eaten Easter lunch at the home of a neighbor named Hezekiah Metz. Atzerodt was also at the lunch, he having recently arrived in the neighborhood from D.C. Prior to the meal, Leaman jokingly asked Atzerodt if he was, “the man who killed Abe Lincoln?” Atzerodt jokingly answered “yes” before answering Leaman’s other questions about the news out of Washington. When Leaman asked if it were true that General Grant had been killed, Atzerodt replied that he did not suppose it was so. Later, at lunch, Leaman’s brother asked Atzerodt the same question about General Grant being killed. Atzerodt replied that “No: I do not suppose he was. If he was killed, he must have been killed by a man that got on the same train or the same car.”[31] The reason William Doster, Atzerodt’s lawyer, called Leaman to the stand was to counter the earlier testimony of Hezekiah Metz. As a prosecution witness, Metz had stated that, at lunch, Atzerodt replied to the question about Grant being killed with the response of, “if the man that was to follow him had followed him, it was likely to be so.”[32] Leaman’s testimony shows that Atzerodt’s words were far more innocuous than what was later attributed to him.

James E. Leaman, a resident of Montgomery County and the brother of the prior witness, testified that he was also at Easter lunch with Atzerodt on April 16th. The younger Leaman sat right next to Atzerodt during the meal. Leaman supported the testimony of his older brother by saying that Atzerodt responded to the question about General Grant’s possible assassination with “if it is so, someone must have got on the same train of cars that he did.” James Leaman also testified that in the yard after lunch Atzerodt made a comment about getting more trouble than he could ever get shut off. Leaman assumed that this comment was in reference to Atzerodt’s failed attempts to flirt with Hezekiah Metz’ 17 year-old daughter at the meal.[33]

Samuel McAllister, the bookkeeper at the Pennsylvania House hotel in D.C., was recalled to the stand after previously testifying for the prosecution on May 26th. McAllister testified that George Atzerodt had called at his hotel on the evening of April 14th at around 10 o’clock and requested one of the hotel’s porters to hold his horse. McAllister did not take enough notice of whether Atzerodt was excited or not. William Doster, Atzerodt’s attorney, then asked McAllister about George Atzerodt’s reputation for courage. This question was objected to by Assistant Judge Advocate John Bingham as being inconsequential. Doster responded by saying that it was his intention to show that Atzerodt was a, “constitutional coward; that, if he had been assigned the duty of assassinating the Vice President, he never could have done it; and that, from his known cowardice, Booth probably did not assign him to any such duty.” After learning that Doster wished to prove his client a coward, Assistant Judge Advocate Bingham withdrew his objection. Unfortunately for Doster, McAllister did not know Atzerodt well enough to speak of his courage or lack thereof.[34]

Washington Briscoe, a clerk residing in D.C., was recalled to the stand after previously testifying for the prosecution on May 18th. Briscoe had known George Atzerodt from their shared residence in Port Tobacco, Maryland. Briscoe testified that Atzerodt was known as “a man of not much courage,” and agreed with Doster that Atzerodt was “considered remarkable for cowardice.”[35]

James Keleher, the proprietor of a livery in Washington, testified that he rented George Atzerodt a horse on April 14th. Keleher stated that Atzerodt did not hesitate in putting down his name when renting the horse and willingly gave references of people in Maryland and Washington who could vouch for him. By the time Keleher returned to the stables the next morning, Atzerodt’s rented horse had been returned.[36] The defense’s purpose of calling of Keleher to the stand is not perfectly clear. Perhaps Doster was hoping that the routine nature of Atzerodt’s renting and return of Keleher’s horse demonstrated that Atzerodt was not considered an active agent in the conspiracy against Lincoln and the others.

Samuel Smith, a stable boy at Keleher’s stables, testified that he was on duty when Atzerodt’s horse was returned. Smith stated his belief that the horse was returned at around 11 o’clock but admitted that the stables’ clock “is not going”. When Doster asked Smith if he had ever seen George Atzerodt, Smith surprised the defense attorney by answering no. The stables only possessed a dim light during the night and so Smith did not get a good enough view of the rider who returned the horse to identify him. Also, while Smith stated his belief that the returned horse had not been ridden very hard, he admitted that in the dim light his only evidence for that was the way the horse felt.[37]

Samuel McAllister, the bookkeeper at the Pennsylvania House hotel in D.C., was recalled to the stand for the second time on this date. William Doster asked McAllister if he had ever seen weapons in the possession of George Atzerodt. McAllister stated that Atzerodt had requested he hold a knife and a pistol in his desk for a time. Doster then showed McAllister Exhibits 23 and 10, the knife and pistol found in Atzerodt’s rented room at the Kirkwood House hotel. McAllister stated that neither of those weapons matched the ones he had held for Atzerodt. Doster then presented McAllister with Exhibits 66 and 41, the gun Atzerodt pawned and the knife found in the gutter. McAllister stated that those two looked a great deal like the ones he had held for Atzerodt. McAllister was then shown Exhibit 9, the coat found in the Kirkwood House room, and asked if he had ever seen Atzerodt wear it. McAllister was of the opinion that Atzerodt never wore a coat of that kind in his presence and instead wore a dark gray or loose gray overcoat.[38] Through his questioning, Doster was attempting to show that many of the incriminating articles found in George Atzerodt’s rented room did not belong to his client. The knife found under the sheets of the Kirkwood House room likely belonged to David Herold[39], while the coat contained handkerchiefs for John Wilkes Booth’s niece and David Herold’s brother-in-law.

[Elizabeth] Jane Herold, one of David Herold’s sisters, was called by William Doster as a defense witness for his client, George Atzerodt. Doster presented Jane with Exhibit 9, the coat found in Atzerodt’s rented room at the Kirkwood House hotel. He asked Jane if her brother ever owned the coat. She replied that she did not think so. Doster then showed Jane Exhibit 15, the handkerchief monogramed with the letter H, and asked if that belonged to her brother. Again, Jane replied that it did not.[40] Doster was likely hoping that Jane would give affirmative answers to his questions, thus helping him prove the coat did not belong to Atzerodt but to Herold. While it is possible that Jane was telling the truth and that neither the coat nor the H handkerchief belonged to her brother, one of the other handkerchiefs found in the coat bore the name “F. M. Nelson.” Frederick Massena Nelson was married to Jane’s elder sister Mary. If Doster had asked about this handkerchief he may have been a bit more successful.

Capt. Frank Munroe, a captain in the United States Navy, testified that he had charge of the conspirators in the days after the assassination when they were confined on the ironclad warships the U.S.S. Saugus and Montauk. After only two questions, William Doster interrupted his examination of Munroe and announced his desire to submit an application to the court on behalf of his client, George Atzerodt. Before allowing it to be read to the court, Assistant Judge Advocates John Bingham and Henry Burnett insisted on reading the application. The prosecution examined the application, and then explained that Atzerodt was requesting that the confession he gave to Capt. Munroe aboard the Saugus be read by the captain as testimony in his favor. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt stated that the government had introduced no evidence in connection to Atzerodt’s confession and thus it could not be used in his defense. Doster stated that Atzerodt requested this course of action because he desired to make a full statement of his guilt and innocence and because he was unable to call any of the other conspirators as witnesses. JAG Holt replied that the other conspirators were precluded from testifying for the same reason Atzerodt’s confession could not be read, because any testimony from a defendant is considered incompetent. Doster closed his argument on the matter by stating, “I am very well aware that the rule of law is against me. I ask it entirely as a matter of fairness and liberality, appealing solely to the liberality of the Court.” JAG Holt responded with, “It is greatly to be deplored that the counsel will urge upon the Court propositions which they know to be contrary to law.” Accepting defeat, Doster announced that he had no more witnesses to call.[41]

After Doster’s failed attempt to get Capt. Munroe to testify about Atzerodt’s confession, the court adjourned at around 5 o’clock.[42]


Recollections

From General Kautz’ diary:

“The usual proceedings today. One of the neighbors complained of my escort taking up a position in front of his house to await departure for the Court; quite a silly complaint I thought but I arranged for the escort to join me on the avenue…The weather continues beautiful.”[43]

Henry Kyd Douglas, the former Confederate soldier who had been kept in one of the rooms adjacent to the courtroom since May 24 and testified on this day, later recalled his impression of the trial and its visitors in his memoirs:

“When I stood at the door, looking in at the proceedings, I saw another scene which reminded me of the French Revolution. Ladies of position, culture and influence enough to be admitted sat about the Court, near the Judges, talked to the prosecutors, and with scowls and scorn, white teeth and scorching eyes, augmented the general horror. I never felt as wicked in my life as when, on the stand an unwilling witness, I saw the gaze of their watchful eyes upon me; they glared at me as if they thought I had taken a hand in a murder which I thought the direst calamity that could have befallen the South.”[44]


Newspaper Descriptions

“The court room, which is about thirty-five feet long by twenty-five wide, the ceiling about twelve feet from the floor, with two windows on the east front and two on the north front, from the large crowd in the room is very warm and suffocating. The windows being small, and having flat iron bars both perpendicular and horizontal, admit but little air.”[45]

“The prisoners seem to have taken an extra wash since yesterday, and present much the tidiest appearance they have thus far on the trial.”[46]

John B. Hubbard, John E. Roberts and Charles E. Fellows, of Col. Baker’s detective force, are in attendance, enforcing order and courteously attending to their appropriate duties.”[47]

“The prison fare here is pretty much the same as the soldiers ration, consisting of bread, meat and coffee, with sometimes beef soup. They have three meals per day, supplied to them separately in their cells.”[48]

Mrs. Surratt

“Mrs. Surratt still sits with her head against the wall, her veil down and her face hidden behind the large fan.”[49]

Here are some addition descriptions of Anna Surratt’s testimony before the commission:

“[Anna Surratt] appeared to be about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and was tall and straight in figure, with light brown hair, confined in a net and combed away from her forehead, keen steel gray eyes, thin and pointed nose, fine and compressed lips and narrow chin. She wore a black silk dress, silk mantle, white straw hat, and black lace veil, and gave her evidence in a swift and passionate voice, showing slight embarrassment and much feeling. She looked round the court room several times while testifying, evidently searching for her mother, and when she rose to leave the stand, repeated her search, and not seeing her, turned to the members of the commission and then to the spectators, and asked once or twice in tremulous tones, ‘Where is mother?’ ‘Where is my mother?’ The scene was very affecting, many of the ladies present shedding tears. Mrs. Surratt sat in her usual corner, and must have heard the inquiry, but between mother and daughter were several officers and a great crowd of spectators, and the young woman left the room, probably unaware that her mother was in it.”[50]

“When Miss Surratt was placed on the stand in defense of her mother, a death like silence prevailed. She is a tall, spare young lady, about twenty years old, of light complexion, and wears a black alpaca dress, with black silk sack, and straw jockey hat…During a pause in the examination witness looked wildly around in every direction, and said, ‘Where’s ma.’ The examination was resumed, and her mind became again occupied in answering questions, but she was evidently very much agitated; and when she was told ‘that is all,’ and received an intimation given her that her examination was ended, she remained seated, looking anxiously around the room. Mr. Aiken, counsel for Mrs. Surratt, anticipated such a crisis, and stepped quickly up to the witness, and, taking her gently by the arm, hurried her out into an ante-room, avoiding to let her see her mother passing out within three feet of her, through a narrow passage-way left between the crowd of ladies who throng around Mrs. Surratt’s seat. The mother bent her head upon the railing and wept audibly as the daughter passed by. She was closely veiled and seemed to avoid observation by bowing her head and covering her face with her hands. The two had not seen each other since the day they were arrested. The daughter was taken down stairs to the witness’ room where she burst into a violent paroxysm of grief; but for Mr. Aiken’s judicious intervention this would undoubtedly have taken place in the court-room.”[51]

Witness Henry Kyd Douglas also described the scene of Anna Surratt’s testimony in his later memoirs. Notable is Douglas’ claim that he acted as the usher who helped get Anna from the witness stand:

“On the same day Miss Annie E. Surratt was put upon the stand as witness for her mother. It was a pitiable scene. She was tall, slender, fair, handsome; for her to stand the stare of the cruel, stony eyes riveted upon her was a trying ordeal. She must have known that her testimony made no impression on that tribunal, and toward the close of it she began to show signs of a collapse. The veins and muscles of her neck seemed swollen and she gave evidence of great suffering. General Hartranft was about to go to her, but knowing her horror of him as her mother’s jailor, he, with delicate consideration, asked me to bring her from the stand. I brought her out, passing just in front of her mother, and as she reached my room she fell forward and fainted. The door was shut quickly, a doctor called, and at his instance General Hatranft and I carried her below, to his room. There she had a spasm and began to tear out her beautiful hair and to rend her dress. Women arriving, she was left with them and the doctor, who succeeded after a while in quieting and putting her to sleep.”[52]

David Herold

“[Herold exhibited some feeling while his sister was on the witness stand, and his eyes were observed to fill with tears.]”[53]

George Atzerodt

“When the witnesses were called to prove his cowardice, the prisoner [Atzerodt] bowed down his head in very shame at this aspersion upon his manhood. His countenance at best is the most formidable of the whole party, indicating low, groveling instincts, but when he crouched down as if praying for the floor to open and cover him from human sight, his appearance was perfectly detestable and wild beyond conception.”[54]

Samuel Arnold

“Arnold stood up, leaning against the rail, during some time of the morning session.”[55]

Michael O’Laughlen

“O’Laughlin, for the first time, seems to be in tolerable spirits, and with face cleanly shaven (save the portion covered by mustache and goatee) and with his eye raised to meet the spectators, has not a bad countenance.”[56]

Edman Spangler

“Spangler also looks infinitely brighter and cleaner than heretofore. He shows more sensibility in countenance, singularly enough, when the evidence bears upon his own case than any other prisoner when similarly the subject of the evidence. On one occasion, when testimony was offered tending to implicate him, he was heard to say, ‘God is the best judge of my innocence;’ adding a moment after, ‘I wish I were better acquainted with him!’”[57]

During Jacob Rittersbach’s testimony:

“Spangler listened with close interest to this testimony, and shook his head in denial of the witness’s words very noticeably.”[58]


Visitors

“The Court was crowded as usual by twelve o’clock. Every inch of standing room was occupied, a greater part of the audience being ladies.”[59]

“Visitors of both sexes continue to crowd the Court-room almost to suffocation.”[60]

“Among those present this morning was Mr. [Matías] Romero, the Mexican Minister, who occupied a seat near the Court’s table.”[61]

“At two o’clock the Commission reassembled, the court room jammed in every portion, some of the spectators even taking position inside of the court railing.”[62]

“Two of [Herold’s] sisters were on the stand in his behalf. Both were dressed in black, and appeared composed but diffident. The older one, about twenty years of age, was a pleasant and intelligent young woman; the younger one, some four or five years her junior, bore in her face many of the marks of inefficiency noticeable in Herold’s face.”[63]

One visitor to the trial today was named Elizabeth Wade. Her brother was George S. Koontz, an agent for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad who would later testify at the trial of John Surratt. Mrs. Wade wrote a letter to a friend about the visit. Given that Mrs. Wade states she was present at the trial on three different days, her comments about Anna Surratt sitting in the courtroom likely are from one of her subsequent visits:

“My brother procured a pass from Gen Hunter for us that admitted us to the entire trial. I was present three days, and I thought it was very interesting. I heard considerable evidence for and against the prisoners. amongst the witnesses examined while I was there was Mrs Surratt’s daughter and brother and Herolds sisters (two of them). I did not admire Miss Surratt, she was not as modest as the assassin. I may say required; after her testimony was given instead of retiring from the court room she remained and listened to the trial, not even veiled: her Mother has been described as course and plain; as soon as I saw her I was surprised; she was what I pronounce a handsome woman; I don’t mean perfectly beautiful but I think she was one who might have been remarked. Herold’s sisters appeared very genteel and lady like, evidently well raised.”[64]


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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), 110.
[2] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[3] William C. Edwards, ed., The Lincoln Assassination – The Court Transcripts (Self-published: Google Books, 2012), 712 – 714.
[4] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 714.
[5] Ibid., 714 – 718.
[6] Ibid., 718 – 721.
[7] Ibid., 721 – 722.
[8] Ibid., 722 – 725.
[9] Ibid., 725 – 726.
[10] Dr. Richard D. Mudd, The Mudd Family of the United States: Volume II (Saginaw, MI: Self-published, 1951), 1290.
[11] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[12] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 726 – 731.
[13] Ibid., 730.
[14] Ibid., 829.
[15] Ibid., 731 – 732.
[16] Ibid., 732.
[17] Ibid., 732 – 733.
[18] Ibid., 733 – 734.
[19] Ibid., 734.
[20] Ibid., 735.
[21] Ibid., 735 – 739.
[22] Ibid., 739.
[23] Ibid., 739 – 740.
[24] Ibid., 740 – 741.
[25] Ibid., 741 – 742.
[26] Ibid., 742 – 744.
[27] Ibid., 744 – 752.
[28] Ibid., 752 – 756.
[29] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 31, 1865, 1.
[30] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 31, 1865, 1.
[31] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 756 – 758.
[32] Ibid., 279.
[33] Ibid., 758 – 759.
[34] Ibid., 759 – 760.
[35] Ibid., 760.
[36] Ibid., 760 – 763.
[37] Ibid., 763 – 764.
[38] Ibid., 764 – 765.
[39] Trial of John H. Surratt in the Criminal Court for the District of Columbia, Hon. George P. Fisher Presiding. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1867), 177.
[40] Edwards, Court Transcripts, 765.
[41] Ibid., 765 – 767.
[42] Hartranft, Letterbook, 110.
[43] August V. Kautz, May 30, 1865 diary entry (Unpublished diary: Library of Congress, August V. Kautz Papers).
[44] Henry Kyd Douglas, I Rode with Stonewall (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, 1961), 327.
[45] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[46] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[47] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 31, 1865, 1.
[48] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[49] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[50] Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA), May 31, 1865, 1.
[51] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 31, 1865, 4.
[52] Douglas, Stonewall, 330.
[53] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[54] The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 31, 1865, 4.
[55] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[56] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[57] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[58] Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA), May 31, 1865, 1.
[59] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[60] New-York Tribune (New York, NY), May 31, 1865, 1.
[61] Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[62] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 30, 1865, 2.
[63] Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA), May 31, 1865, 1.
[64] Thomas F. Schwartz, “Grief, Souvenirs, and Enterprise following Lincoln’s Assassination,” Illinois Historical Journal 83, no. 4 (1990): 264.
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 Comments

6 thoughts on “May 30, 1865

  1. Pingback: The Trial Today: May 30 | BoothieBarn

  2. Richard Sloan

    You have obviously spent a great deal of time collating all of this material for us. You are really making us eyewitnesses to the proceedings as no one else ever has. The photos of faces trial exhibits is astounding. I realize that Pitman’s transcript has already been reproduced on almost a dozen occasions. Have you thought to see this all published in another book about the trial? Years ago a friend of mine was thinking of doing so, but he never got around to it. It has never been done before. The expressions and reactions of the accused are at times reported in the T.B. Peterson account. Have you been checking it out for inclusion in your fascinating day by day account? Or are these observations pretty much the same as the ones you are providing us with? Keep up the great work!

    • Richard,
      I’m glad you are enjoying the project. I have been asked by a few others about turning this into a book, but it really is not designed to work that way. The aspects of the project you are enjoying the most like the images and one click access to the exhibits and original testimony, only work as an online resource. Without the interactivity allowed by the internet, this project would take up too many printed pages and would be just as intimidating as reading through the entire transcript yourself. Plus, my goal is for this to be a resource that anyone can use. Putting it in a book form would limit the amount of people who could access it.
      As I mentioned in one of my previous comments to you, the descriptions you like so much from the T. B. Peterson and Bros. version of the trial come from the editions of the Philadelphia Inquirer, because the Peterson brother’s transcript is just copied issues of the Inquirer. I consulted issues of the Inquirer while making this project so, yes, some of the observations you are seeing are the same ones included in the Peterson transcript.

  3. Gene C

    A busy day of testimony.
    You’ve done a great job here Dave, .
    I have a copy of the trial, but with the length of it and small print, I will likely never read it.
    Thank you for your research and making all this information easier to read and comprehend.
    It is obvious you have spent a lot of time and effort on this.
    You are a very good teacher.

  4. jett

    the more of this trial that i read, the more i am convinced of it’s utter sham. i’m curious to see how the “court” deemed the death penalty as appropriate for any of those on trial.

  5. Pingback: The Confessions of George Atzerodt | LincolnConspirators.com

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