Though sentenced to 6 years in prison (a relative slap on the wrist compared to the execution and life sentences conveyed on the other accused), alleged conspirator Edman Spangler was blessed with the support of a man who continued to fight for his freedom – John Thompson Ford. Ford always believed his employee was completely innocent of any wrong doing. John T. Ford fought valiantly to help Spangler secure his freedom and even put up his own money to publish his defense testimony. While imprisoned on the Dry Tortugas, Spangler wrote the following letter to Ford, which was accompanied with several boxes, to thank him for his continued help:
“Mr. John T. Ford
I have again sent a box to your care, containing articles to be distributed to my and my roomates friends, which please deliver as directed. You will find a box marked for yourself, also a Cribbage board for yourself, Harry and Dick, each bearing labeled the name to whom they are for. I also send a box for my sister which please forward as directed thereon. Please notify O Laughlins and Arnolds family of the articles for them, which are a small box, directed to each of their familys, and also Cribbage boards apiece for each. Dr. Mudd sends a Cribbage Board which please deliver to his friend Mr. Dyer. Upon the receipt of the box please notify me of it. I trust you will be pleased with the things as I have endeavored to my utmost to make them so. The gift tis true is not much, but a heart of gratitude prompts the bearing of the gift.
We are all well with the exception of Arnold who looks very badly, but receives every kindness both from the officers and soldiers of the Command, which he is grateful for, and which we appreciate. I trust something soon will turn up, for my good and the good of all of us. I see by the papers the prosecution against Surratt are looking for a woman in N.Y. as a witness in his trial – perhaps it is Mrs. Hudspeth, whom Arnold has mentioned to me to write you of, as you know something in regard to her former testimony as told him by his and O Laughlins counsel. Please forward me the National Intelligencer as we are devoid of any paper matter. I have never received the Baltimore Sun since here, and as O Laughlin has that sent, I would be thankful if you would send me the above named paper. I am making a portable ladies writing desk and wish to know the initials of the name you wish placed on it, as the desk is intended for you. Trusting you will still remember me, and this will find you well, I close awaiting your reply.
Though the exact date of this letter is not given, it is assumedly written in mid 1867, before or during John Surratt’s trial but before Michael O’Laughlen’s death from Yellow Fever in September.
This letter provides us with a good view of the boredom that must have permeated the daily lives of the imprisoned conspirators at Fort Jefferson. With nothing else to do, Spangler was a veritable factory of cribbage boards and other carpentry items, spending his days keeping himself busy and purposeful. The desire for newspapers was strong and it appears each issue of the Baltimore Sun provided by the O’Laughlens was a treasured commodity to all the men. It was this desire for news that led Michael O’Laughlen to disobey Dr. Mudd’s advice when the former was suffering from Yellow Fever. As Dr. Mudd wrote of O’Laughlen’s illness:
“He had passed the first stage of the disease and was apparently convalescent, but, contrary to my earnest advice, he got out of bed a short time after I left in the morning, and was walking about the room looking over some periodicals the greater part of the day. In the evening, about five o’clock, a sudden collapse of the vital powers took place, which in thirty-six hours after terminated his life. He seemed all at once conscious of his impending fate, and the first warning I had of his condition was his exclamation, “Doctor, Doctor, you must tell my mother all!” He called then Edward Spangler, who was present, and extending his hand he said, “Good-by, Ned.” These were his last words of consciousness.”
Due to the continued persistence of people like John T. Ford and the Mudd family, the three remaining Lincoln assassination conspirators, Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Edman Spangler, would secure their pardons in the final days of Andrew Johnson’s presidency in 1869.