Mary Surratt Pictures

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11 thoughts on “Mary Surratt Pictures

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  4. John Hewitt

    Just how innocent people would like to believe Marry Surratt is based on what? I believe she was guilty, not just guilty of conspiracy to kidnap as well as assassinate Lincoln, but do belive that she may have been the ringleader calling all the shots. Booth took orders from her.

  5. Laurie Verge

    I’m the director of the Surratt House Museum, and we take no stand as to Mrs. Surratt’s innocence or guilt. We present facts on both sides of the issue and hope that we intrigue our visitors enough to do more reading on the subject and form their own opinions — which you have done.

    On a personal level, I have studied the Lincoln assassination story for over 60 years and have my own opinion of the lady. I think that she was a product of her time, well-educated for a woman, married to a man that never gave her the life she wanted for herself and her children, the daughter of a slaveholder, the wife of a slaveholder, and ultimately the owner of slaves upon her husband’s death in 1862 and until Maryland freed its slaves with a new state constitution in November of 1864 (the Emancipation Proclamation had no legal effect on slavery in that state).

    Her husband was a well-known secessionist who maintained a Confederate safehouse on the courier route between Richmond and DC, and she continued to maintain it after his death and then entertained spies at her boardinghouse upon her move to the city in late-1864. Her son became one of those couriers, and her eldest son had left town on Inauguration Day in 1861 and headed south, where he later joined a Confederate cavalry unit operating out of Texas.

    To me, all of those factors would certainly indicate that she would be ripe for cooperating in the original plot to kidnap the President, especially since her courier son was in on it until the aborted plan in March of 1865. That said, however, I would certainly not brand her as the ringleader giving orders to Booth. That young man was not inclined (especially after the fall of Richmond) to take orders from anyone – least of all a woman!

    Her fatal mistake was continuing to associate with Booth (or to be manipulated by him) after her son left the plot and headed to Canada on another piece of espionage under the leadership of Gen. Edwin G. Lee. By likely having knowledge of the first conspiracy, she became entangled in the web of vicarious liability, an English common law principle that basically means that, when one enters into a conspiracy, one is liable for what any member of that conspiracy might do. The point that sent her to the gallows (and spared Mudd and two others) is that she had contact with Booth and knowingly or unknowingly did a chore for him within hours before the assassination. She may have been his follower, but she was definitely not his leader — and did she know that he intended to commit murder? Under vicarious liability it made no difference whether she knew the plot had changed; she had entered into a conspiracy.

    That final point is something we drive home to the thousands of school children that we get at the Surratt House Museum each year. They might not know the word “conspiracy,” but they sure know what a “gang” is. Our caution to them is to choose their friends wisely.

    And that is my short version of what I think Mrs. Surratt’s role was in all this…

  6. John Hewitt

    Laurie, Thanks for the informative and short narrative. I tend to respect what you have to say with all the years you have been studying it. I was just speculating when I said I thought she was the ring leader. Most likely she was not, but she was aware what was going on with the “gang”, that met in her boarding house, and probably assisted Booth with anything he needed for his plot. It was a simple Conspiracy, Not the Grand Conspiracy some history revisionist claim that it was.

    It’s just too bad that the “Wok & Roll” could not be purchased by the District of Columbia and restored to what it was in 1865. If the Tavern exists, why not the Boardinghouse? They are both apart of History,

    • Laurie Verge

      I definitely agree that she knew what was going on, and even if only on the periphery, she was a mother who knew (or at least suspected) that her son was up to something. However, like mothers of drug dealers today, she wouldn’t rat on her son – even to save her life (which I don’t think would have happened even if John came back from Canada to try and save her). Also, she was definitely a Confederate sympathizer, and my great-grandfather knew her slightly and had heard her cursing the black-hearted Lincoln.

      We have had many people ask us why we don’t buy the old boardinghouse and turn it into a museum. First, the government that owns us has no jurisdiction in DC. Also, it is in Chinatown, which DC is trying to protect as an economic tourist attraction. The National Park Service has enough problems with maintaining the complex around Ford’s Theatre.

      As a sidebar, Surratt House has been on the National Registry of Historic Places since the 1970s. Over the past few decades, we have tried twice to be elevated to Historic Landmark status, only to be turned down twice. The carefully worded rejections basically boil down to, “We have enough buildings as Landmarks dedicated to the assassination of Lincoln [Ford’s and Petersen House]. We don’t need any more.”

  7. John Hewitt

    Interesting thanks. How guilty do you think Louis J Weichman was? He portrays himself as a star witness, and innocent bystander, but he seems like a smarmy character to me. In John Surratt’s 1870 speech he stated that Weichman was guilty and knew of the plot to kidnap Lincoln, and ask for a roll in it. What are your thoughts?

    • Laurie Verge

      I’m on your side on this one also. Weichmann was no dummy, and he had to suspect something was not right – especially after entering the bedroom and seeing the display of weapons and bad humors after the aborted kidnapping in March. However, I don’t think he was ever privy to exactly what was going on – except perhaps if it is true that he was using his position in the War Department to get information on POWs that might be released for the good of the cause.

      My assessment of Weichmann likens him to the little boy at recess that no one wants to choose for their softball game. I think, when he was looking the big guns of the War Department in the face, he decided on self-preservation at any cost.

  8. Dennis D. Urban

    I believe that Weichmann was a “wanna-be” who could not gain the confidence and trust of the entire group so he was out on the edge and never fully brought in. I think to some degree he resented the group for this. In addition, he had no special talents to lend to the plot except for his knowledge of POW numbers which he likely conveyed to John (re: Elmira mission).

    He was a city boy, not a good horseman, and apparently not a skilled marksman. What good would this namby-pamby have been? He knew what was going on by virtue of his friendship with John Surratt and living at the boarding house. I also believe he lied to save his skin and/or was induced to do so by being the star witness who no doubt earned Mary the rope. How he could live with himself after that is beyond my understanding. He, at least, deserved lengthy jail time, if not a greater penalty; a sad historical figure indeed.

  9. chiefden34gmailcom

    I believe that Weichmann was a self-serving “wanna-be” who knew of the various conspiracies by virtue of his relationship with John Surratt and his living in the boarding house. How could he not? He was around it all the time and he was nosey to boot. But he brought nothing tangible to the table. He was neither an accomplished marksman or horseman. His only value was what he knew of the POW numbers at various Union prisons, by virtue of his clerkship, which he likely related to John Surratt (re: Surratt’s trip to Elmira). This namby-pamby was likely threatened to induce him to turn turn states evidence which earned Mary the noose. How could he live with himself after that? Perhaps he was also angry over Anna’s dismissing his affections. He was both an interesting an enigmatic character with no redeeming qualities plus a lack of conviction and honesty. The “little boy at recess” analogy fits perfectly.

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