May 8, 1865

Monday, May 8, 1865

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Despite the orders calling for the assembly of the commission on this date, not all of the members of the commission were present in Washington or made it to the courtroom.

Brevet Brigadier General Cyrus Comstock wrote the following entry in his diary:

“On military commission for trial of conspirators. Hunter president. Wish I could get off. They ought to be tried by military civil courts — the commission is what is yet worse — a secret one I believe. Met at penitentiary but did nothing as two members were absent.”[1]

One of the commission members absent from the courtroom on this first day was Brevet Major General August Kautz. While Kautz had been in Washington since May 5th and was informed he would be on the commission, when the day came he was unsure where he was to report.

On May 8th, Kautz wrote the following entry into his diary:

“I was unable to ascertain anything about where the Commission was to meet and consequently there was no business done. I subsequently learned that there had been a room fitted up adjoining the Penitentiary near the Arsenal.”[2]

Though the commission did not officially convene, the accused conspirators were presented with a copy of the charge and specification against them while in their prison cells.

General John Frederick Hartranft, the man who had charge of the conspirators during their imprisonment, wrote:

“I received copies of the charges and Specifications against the prisoners with directions to serve each of the accused with a copy of the same. I accordingly served the same between the hours of 6 and 10 P.M. personally – in each case I had the hood removed, entered the cell alone with a lantern – delivered the copy, and allowed them to read it, and in several instances, by request, read the copy to them, before replacing the hood.”[3]

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[1] Merlin Sumner, ed, The Diary of Cyrus B. Comstock (Dayton: Morningside, 1987), 317.
[2] August V. Kautz, May 8, 1865 diary entry (Unpublished diary: Library of Congress, August V. Kautz Papers).
[3] 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), 85.


3 thoughts on “May 8, 1865

  1. John

    This is excellent. Thank you for your research and dedication to sharing.

  2. Paul Hancq

    Agree. I’m liking this so far!

  3. Pingback: The Trial Today: May 8 | BoothieBarn

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