Posts Tagged With: Powell

Graves of the Conspirators

Over the last week, I had the opportunity to visit and photograph many of the graves of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Here are some black and white stills of their final resting places.


Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt

Location: Old Arsenal Penitentiary, Washington, D.C.
Period of interment: 1865 – 1867
Pine Boxes B&W

Site of the burial of the executed conspirators

Immediately following their execution, the four conspirators were buried in pine boxes next to the gallows.  In 1867, their bodies, along with the body of John Wilkes Booth, were reburied in a warehouse on the grounds of the Arsenal.  In 1869, President Johnson released the remains to their respective families.  Today, the site of the conspirators’ execution and initial burial location are part of the tennis courts at Fort Lesley McNair in D.C.


John Wilkes Booth

Location: Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD.
Period of interment: 1869 – Present
Booth B&W Grave

After Booth’s body was returned to Washington and an autopsy was preformed, he was initially buried in a gun box beneath the floor of a storage room at the Arsenal. In 1867, he was moved and his remains were placed with those of the other conspirators in a warehouse on the Arsenal grounds. President Johnson released Booth’s body in 1869. Edwin Booth purchased a family lot at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore and had his grandfather, father, three infant siblings, and brother John Wilkes buried together in the plot. John Wilkes Booth is unmarked in the plot.


David Herold

Location: Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Period of interment: 1869 – Present
Herold B&W Grave

The Herold family had owned a burial plot at Congressional Cemetery since 1834. Davy was the seventh person to be buried there when his body was released in 1869. While Davy is unmarked, his sister Elizabeth Jane was later buried right on top of him. Her stone is the farthest right in the plot.


Mary Surratt

Location: Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Period of interment: 1869 – Present
Mary B&W Grave

This basic stone bearing only “Mrs. Surratt”, is a replacement for an earlier stone that bore the same text. It is all that marks the plot of Mary Surratt, her children Isaac and Anna, her son-in-law, and some of her grandchildren.


Lewis Powell (body)

Location: Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Period of interment: 1884 – Present
Grave of Lewis Powell's body Rock Creek Section K, Lot 23

While Lewis Powell’s skull is buried with his mother in Florida, the rest of his body is likely at D.C.’s Rock Creek Cemetery in a mass unmarked grave in Section K, lot 23. A portion of that section is pictured above. Eerily, one of the headstones in that section is marked “Lewis”. For more about the travels of Lewis Powell’s remains, read the middle section of this post.


George Atzerodt

Last confirmed location: Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Period of interment: 1869 – ?
Public Vault Glenwood Cemetery ExteriorPublic Vault Glenwood Cemetery Interior

The location of George Atzerodt’s remains are still a bit of a mystery. It is known that they were placed in the public vault of Glenwood Cemetery (pictured above) after being disinterred from the Arsenal. It was erroneous believed that he was then buried in a family plot at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore. Research facilitated by this website has proven this to be false. It is possible that Atzerodt is buried somewhere at Glenwood but the interment book for that period of time was stolen in the late 1800’s. More research is needed.


Dr. Samuel A. Mudd

Location: St. Mary’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Bryantown, MD
Period of interment: 1883 – Present
Mudd B&W Grave

After Dr. Mudd died in 1883, a tall monument with a stone cross on the top was placed on his grave at St. Mary’s Church. Around 1940, some of Dr. Mudd’s descendants decided to replace the weathered stone. The new stone (pictured above) contained Mrs. Mudd’s birth and death dates as well as the doctor’s.


John Surratt

Location: New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore, MD
Period of interment: 1916 – Present
Surratt B&W Grave

The longest lived of all the conspirators, John Surratt and his family are buried under this plain cross stone bearing only the family name in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery.


Samuel Arnold

Location: Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD
Period of interment: 1906 – Present
Arnold B&W Grave

Samuel Bland Arnold, one of John Wilkes Booth’s schoolboy friends, was involved in the abduction plot but was not in D.C. when the assassination occurred. Sam was the last member of his family to be buried in the plot upon his death in 1906.


Michael O’Laughlen

Location: Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD
Period of interment: 1870 – Present
O'Laughlen B&W Grave

Another childhood friend of Booth’s who was involved in the initial abduction plot, Michael O’Laughlen was sentenced to life in prison at Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas. He died from yellow fever while in jail despite the attentive care he received from his fellow prisoner, Dr. Mudd. He was initially buried on an island adjacent to Fort Jefferson. After his fellow conspirators had been pardoned, O’Laughlen’s body was transported from Florida to Balitmore. He was interred in the family plot on December 14th, 1870.


Edman Spangler

Location: Old St. Peter’s Church Cemetery, Waldorf, MD
Period of interment: 1875 – Present
Spangler B&W Grave

After his release from Fort Jefferson, Edman Spangler returned to working at John Ford’s different theatres. Eventually he made he way to Charles County Maryland and reunited with Dr. Mudd. Spangler lived on Dr. Mudd’s property doing carpentry work and farming until his death there in 1875. His grave was marked in the 1980’s by the Surratt and Mudd Societies.

References:
The Lincoln Assassination: Where Are They Now?: A Guide to the Burial Places of Individuals Connected to the Lincoln Assassination in Washington, DC by Jim Garrett and Rich Smyth
Betty Ownsbey

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The National Museum of Health and Medicine and the Lincoln Assassination

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is a medical museum located in Silver Spring, Maryland.  The museum has a long history and was originally founded during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum.  Its original purpose was to be a repository for, “all specimens of morbid anatomy, surgical or medical, which may be regarded as valuable; together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed, and such other matters as may prove of interest in the study of military medicine or surgery.” Since its founding to today, the museum has amassed a collection of nearly 25 million medical artifacts.  Though less than 1% of the collection is on display at the Silver Spring facility due to space constraints, the museum is, nevertheless, filled to the brim.  Walking into the museum, guests quickly come face to face with medical oddities and fascinating exhibits.  A wonderful museum in its own right, the NMHM has also become intimately connected with the story Lincoln’s assassination through the years.

A Place to Rest My Bones

Having been founded during the Civil War, the collection grew rapidly during its first few years as surgeons on the field of battle began sending in specimens.  By 1866, the museum was on its third home in Washington, D.C. and required even more space.  Luckily for them, on April 6, 1866, an Act of Congress was passed providing for the purchase of a building “for the deposit and safekeeping of documentary papers relative to the soldiers of the army of the United States and of the Museum of the Medical and Surgical Department of the Army.”  The chosen building was Ford’s Theatre the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination almost a year before.

Ford's Theatre Army Medical Museum Label

The building was closed down by the U.S. government in the aftermath of the assassination.  Though the building was returned to John T. Ford for a time, public outcry and threats to burn the building if it was once again opened as a theater forced the government to seize the building permanently.  At first they rented it from Ford before buying it straight out thanks to the approval of the above mentioned Act of Congress.  The interior of the building was remodeled from a theater into a three story office building.  On December 22, 1866, the top floor of Ford’s Theatre officially became the Army Medical Museum’s fourth home.

Here are some pictures of the interior of the Army Medical Museum when it was held on the third floor of Ford’s Theatre.  Most of these come from the blog “A Repository for Bottled Monsters” which is written by a former archivist of the museum:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By 1887, the museum had once again outgrown its surroundings and moved into a building made solely for its purpose. This brought an end to the Army Medical Museum’s occupation of Ford’s Theatre. In hindsight the move in 1887 proved lucky. Six years later, in 1893, poor workmanship by a crew excavating in the basement of Ford’s caused a structural pier to give way, causing a 40 foot section of all three floors to come crashing down, killing over 20 government clerks and wounding many others.

Booth’s Spine Tingling Return

When it was housed inside Ford’s Theatre, the Army Medical Museum was a popular tourist destination in Washington. The museum saw about 40,000 visitors in 1881 alone.  In 1873, a book was published called, Ten Years in Washington: Life and Scenes in the National Capital as a Woman Sees Them by Mary Clemmer Ames.  In her book, Ms. Ames described a visit to the Army Medical Museum and points out the many oddities on display.  The book also contains this engraving of the museum inside of Ford’s:

Army Medical Museum in Ford's Theatre engraving 1873

As part of her description of some of the artifacts, Ms. Ames states the following:

“Amid the thousands of mounted specimens in glass cases, which reveal the freaks of bullets and cannon-shot, we come to one which would scarcely arrest the attention of a casual observer. It is simply three human vertebra mounted on a stand and numbered 4,086. Beside it hangs a glass phial, marked 4,087, filled with alcohol, in which floats a nebulse of white matter. The official catalogue contains the following records of these apparently uninteresting specimens:

‘No. 4,086. — The third, fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. A conoidal carbine [sic] ball entered the right side, comminuting the base of the right lamina of the fourth vertebrae, fracturing it longitudinally and separating it from the spinous process, at the same time fracturing the fifth through its pedicles, and involving that transverse process. The missile passed directly through the canal, with a slight inclination downward and to the rear, emerging through the left bases of the fourth and fifth laminse, which are comminuted, and from which fragments were embedded in the muscles of the neck. The bullet, in its course, avoided the large cervical vessels. From a case where death occurred in a few hours after injury, April 26, 1865.’

‘No. 4,087.— A portion of the spinal-cord from the cervical region, transversely perforated from right to left by a carbine [sic] bullet, which fractured the laminse of the fourth and fifth vertebrae. The cord is much torn and is discolored by blood. From a case where death occurred a few hours after injury, April 26, 1865.’

Such are the colorless scientific records of the death wounds of John Wilkes Booth. All that remains of him above the grave finds its perpetual place a few feet above the spot where he shot down his illustrious victim.”

After John Wilkes Booth was killed at the Garrett farm, his body was brought back to Washington and deposited aboard the ironclad ship, the U.S.S. Montauk. It was there that Booth’s autopsy was performed. The body was thoroughly identified and the section of Booth’s vertebrae, through which Boston Corbett’s pistol ball had passed, was removed. In addition, an inspection of Booth’s broken leg was made and, for some reason, his thoracic cavity was opened. Shortly after the autopsy was performed, Booth’s body was taken to the Arsenal Penitentiary and secretly buried. In 1869, Booth’s body and the bodies of the executed conspirators were released to their families.  Booth’s vertebrae along with a piece of his spinal cord, however, found their way into the collection of the Army Medical Museum and were in the collection by 1866 according to one of the museum’s collection catalogs. John Wilkes Booth’s vertebrae and spinal cord were publicly on display at Ford’s Theatre in 1873 when Ms. Ames visited. Here is an 1873 engraving of the bones that she included in her book:

Booth's Vertebrae drawing Ten Years in Washington

The vertebrae and spinal cord of John Wilkes Booth are still part of the collection of the National Museum of Health and Medicine though they are not currently on display at the Silver Spring facility.  Here is a picture of the specimens taken a few years ago by the AP:

Booth vertebrae spine AP

I am hoping to make an appointment to view the vertebrae and piece of spinal cord in person and to look through the NMHM’s records regarding this artifact.  Hopefully a follow up will be posted at a later date. UPDATE: Click here to read about my research visit with John Wilkes Booth’s vertebrae.

When Powell Lost his Head

At the same time that John Wilkes Booth was assassinating President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, conspirator Lewis Powell was attacking William Seward, the Secretary of State, in his home.  Powell stabbed and bludgeoned five people in the Secretary’s home, but, miraculously, they all survived their brushes with death.  Powell was tried with the other conspirators and executed on July 7, 1865.  His body was immediately buried next to the gallows on the Arsenal Penitentiary grounds.

9 The Pine Boxes

In 1867, Powell’s body was disinterred and reburied in a trench that was dug inside a warehouse on the Aresnal property.  There he was joined by the bodies of fellow conspirators John Wilkes Booth (minus his vertebrae), David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt.  The trench also contained the remains of Andersonville Prison commandant Henry Wirz who had been executed for his wartime crimes in November of 1865.  In the waning hours of Andrew Johnson’s presidency in February of 1869, Johnson finally consented to the release of the conspirators’ bodies to their respective families.  The bodies of Booth, Herold, Surratt, Atzerodt, and Wirz were all claimed and reburied by their families.  Powell’s family, who had previously tried to claim the remains and had been denied, were not made aware that they could now take possession of their kin.  For a year, Powell’s body remained the only one still buried on the Arsenal grounds.  Finally, in February of 1870, an undertaker named Joseph Gawler (who also handled the reburial of David Herold) took possession of Powell’s body and had it buried secretly in one of D.C.’s cemeteries.  1870 newspaper accounts stated that, “family and friends could find his grave by contacting him [Gawler] as he had a record of where he is buried.”  The Powell family, who had moved a few times in Florida since Lewis’ death, apparently never heard the news.

The location of Powell’s remains from 1870 onward is a little fuzzy, but an extremely probable series of events was determined by Lewis Powell’s biographer, Betty Ownsbey, in an article she wrote for the October 2012 edition of the Surratt Courier entitled, “And Now – The Rest of the Story: The Search for the Rest of the Remains of Lewis “Paine” Powell“.  Using newspaper sources and cemetery records, it appears that Powell was originally transported from the Arsenal and interred in Graceland Cemetery.  At some point between 1870 and 1884 Powell was removed from Graceland and placed in Holmead Cemetery.  Not long after he was placed there, Holmead Cemetery was discontinued as it was considered a public health hazard.  The land was slated to be sold and developed in January of 1885.  Families with means disinterred their loved ones from Holmead and reburied them elsewhere.  All the unclaimed bodies still left in Holmead were exhumed in December of  1884 and dumped into a mass grave at nearby Rock Creek Cemetery.  Joseph Gawler was one of the undertakers who assisted with this endeavor.  By 1884 it had been almost 20 years since Lewis Powell’s death and it must have been very clear to Gawler that no one was coming for the body and that he was not going to be paid for the work he had done keeping track of it over the years.  It is with a very high likelihood that Gawler added Lewis Powell’s remains to the mass grave at Rock Creek and his body is there today in Section K, Lot 23.

The assumed resting place of Lewis Powell's body, Section K, Lot 23 in D.C.'s Rock Creek Cemetery

The assumed resting place of Lewis Powell’s body, Section K, Lot 23 in D.C.’s Rock Creek Cemetery (approximate location)

While Lewis Powell’s body may be at Rock Creek Cemetery, his head definitely isn’t.  The conspirators were not embalmed upon their deaths and through their subsequently reburials, their bodies were consistently exposed to oxygen which accelerated their decay.  The connective tissues of Powell’s head and neck, likely damaged by his hanging in 1865, would have quickly decomposed away separating his head from the body.  According to newspaper accounts, a few of the conspirator’s heads were separated from their bodies when they were disinterred in 1869.  Almost 20 years of decomposition later would have essentially stripped the bone of all tissues.  Therefore, when Joseph Gawler or his associates opened Powell’s casket at Holmead in 1884, it would have been a very easy task for them to collect the skull and take it.  That is exactly what occurred for on January 13, 1885, the Army Medical Museum added a new artifact to their collection.  Numbered 2244, the anonymous donation was entered into their catalog as a, “Skull of a white male.” A short description followed:

“P. Hung at Washington, D.C., for the attempted assassination of Secretary of State, W. H. Seward, in April, 1865.”

Powell's skull entry Army Medical Museum catalog

The museum, still located inside of Ford’s Theatre in 1885, now held the remains of not only the assassin of President Lincoln, but the would be assassin of his Secretary of State.

Lewis Powell's Skull Ownsbey

Unlike John Wilkes Booth’s vertebrae and spinal cord, Lewis Powell’s skull is no longer in the collection of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.  In 1898, the skull was transferred, along with many Native American remains, to the Smithsonian Institution.  For about 94 years the skull sat in storage in the Smithsonian’s Anthropology department.  In 1990, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act became law.  The act required any institutions that accepted federal funding to return Native American cultural items, including remains, to their appropriate tribes.  In adherence to this law, the Smithsonian began the process of going through their collections.  In 1993, a government anthropologist named Stuart Speaker, who had once worked at Ford’s Theatre, discovered Lewis Powell’s skull among a collection of Native American remains.  Assassination researchers Michael Kauffman, Betty Ownsbey, and James O. Hall were brought in to help identify the skull:

Authors Michael Kauffman and Betty Ownsbey with Lewis Powell's skull

Authors Michael Kauffman and Betty Ownsbey with Lewis Powell’s skull

On November 11, 1994, one hundred and twenty-nine years after his death, a part of Lewis Powell was finally buried by his living relatives.  His skull rests today at Geneva Cemetery in Geneva, FL, next to the grave of his mother.

Relics of a Martyr

If you were to take a  visit to the National Museum of Health and Medicine today, you would come across an exhibit case entitled, Lincoln’s Last Hours.

NMHM Lincoln's Last Hours exhibit

This exhibit contains several artifacts relating to the death and autopsy of President Lincoln.  The items on display include the Nélaton probe used on the dying president to trace the path and depth of his wound, a snippet of his hair taken at his deathbed, fragments of his skull taken at his autopsy, a shirt cuffed stained with Lincoln’s blood, and  the bullet that ended his life.  The exhibit case also contains a plate that was given to Surgeon General Barnes by William Seward as a thank you for tending to his wounds at the hands of Lewis Powell.  Here is a slideshow of the artifacts on display:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Most of these Lincoln relics did not come into the collection of the medical museum until around WWII. Prior to that, the pieces were held by the War Department as the bullet which killed the president had actually been an exhibit at the trial of the conspirators in 1865. In 1940 the bullet, skull fragments, and probe were transferred from the Judge Advocate General’s office to the newly created “Lincoln Museum”. This museum was housed inside of Ford’s Theatre and contained Osborn Oldroyd’s collection of Lincolniana. While the Lincoln Museum kept most of the items given to them by the JAG office (including the murder weapon), they decided against retaining these, almost literal, blood relics of Abraham Lincoln. They were transferred from Ford’s to the Army Medical Museum. Further research is needed to determine exactly when they entered the collection but it is likely that, for the briefest of time, these pieces of Abraham Lincoln were housed at Ford’s Theatre.

Conclusion

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is a modern treasure that tells the story of America’s medical past, present, and future. If you get a chance, visit the NMHM.  They are a free museum open every single day (except Christmas) from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. During its lifetime, the museum has crossed paths with the Lincoln assassination story several times.  It was the first museum to be housed inside of Ford’s Theatre, it reunited a piece of the assassin with one of his conspirators at the scene of the crime, and, today, it displays relics of our 16th President.

References:
National Museum of Health and Medicine History
A Repository for Bottled Monsters
NMHM’s Flicker page
Ten Years in Washington: Life and Scenes in the National Capital as a Woman Sees Them by Mary Clemmer Ames
Alias “Paine”: Lewis Thornton Powell, the Mystery Man of the Lincoln Conspiracy by Betty Ownsbey
And Now – The Rest of the Story: The Search for the Rest of the Remains of Lewis “Paine” Powell” by Betty Ownsbey, Surratt Courier, Oct. 2012
Army Medical Museum Collection, Anatomical Section IV Logbook (MM 8759-3)
The Lincoln Assassination: Where are They Now? A Guide to the Burial Places of Individuals Connected to the Lincoln Assassination in Washington, D.C. by Jim Garrett and Richard Smyth

A very special thanks to Betty Ownsbey for talking me through the saga of Lewis Powell’s burials and for providing the pictures of his skull.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

John Wilkes Booth in the Woods: Part 4

Part 4 of my series, John Wilkes Booth in the Woods, is now edited and uploaded!

 

In an effort to keep all the videos together and in one easily accessible place, I’ve created a new page here on BoothieBarn for the series.

You can access the John Wilkes Booth in the Woods page a few different ways:

1. I’ve added a link to the page on the menu bar at the very top of the site:

JWB Woods top Menu

2.  You can find a link to it listed on the side of the site under the “Pages” header:

JWB Woods Pages

3. Easiest of all, clicking the following picture will take you right to the page.  I’ll be sure to include this image in future posts about the series:

John Wilkes Booth in the Woods

As more videos are completed I’ll add them to the John Wilkes Booth in the Woods page and write a quick post to let you all know a new video is up. Thank you for your continued support and patience.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Gallery – Seward Assassination Attempt

“Crashing into a wall, Powell sought to disengage [Frederick’s] iron hold.  Together they maneuvered toward the secretary’s room, and Powell crashed against the heavy door with his shoulder.  His own weight, combined with that of his clinging adversary, burst the door wide open, and together they stumbled across the threshold…The enraged intruder now drew his knife, and, stumbling into Robinson, sent the man reeling across the floor with a quick slash on his forehead…Powell frantically thrust Fanny Seward aside and bounded upon the old gentleman’s bed.  Placing his left hand on Seward’s chest, he struck repeatedly with the knife.  As the secretary was supported by a framework backrest, the weapon glanced off the metal in a shower of sparks…” -Betty Ownsbey in “Alias Paine”

The newest Picture Gallery here on BoothieBarn highlights illustrations and images relating to the other attack on an elected offical that occurred on April 14th, 1865: the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Henry Seward by Lewis Thornton Powell.  Click here to see the new Seward Assassination Attempt Picture Gallery!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

OTD: Lewis “Paine” Takes the Oath

On this date, January 13th, in 1865, Lewis Thornton Powell took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States government under the alias “Lewis Paine”. This was the first documented time that Powell used this alias, having previously been under the command of John Singelton Mosby in the service of the Confederacy.  While this first Oath of Allegiance no longer exists, Powell would sign another oath in March of 1865, after being arrested as a spy at the home of the Branson sisters in Baltimore.  In this oath he signs his name “L. Paine”.

Lewis Powell's Oath of Allegiance

Paine Signature

Powell would use the name Paine (misspelled Payne) throughout the trial of the conspirators until his execution in July for his attempt on Secretary Seward’s life. His devoted use of this alias over his real name made him a very elusive figure in the assassination for decades.  The modern research of his biographer, Betty Ownsbey, has uncovered many previously unknown aspects of his life.  Ms. Ownsbey will be speaking about Lewis Powell at the Surratt Society’s 14th Annual Lincoln Assassination Conference on March 16th, 2013.  Call the Surratt House Museum at (301) 868–1121 for more information and to sign up to attend the conference.

Powell by Lew Wallace

References:
Alias “Paine”: Lewis Thornton Powell, the Mystery Man of the Lincoln Conspiracy by Betty Ownsbey (1993)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 4 Comments

Woe for the Powells

Lewis Powell as an infant with his mother Patience. From Betty Ownsbey's Alias Paine.

Lewis Powell as an infant with his mother Patience. From Betty Ownsbey’s Alias Paine.

After the events of April 14th, 1865, there were many ramifications for those related to the conspirators.  I’ve often highlighted the hardships of the Booth family in dealing with John Wilkes’ horrible act.  The fact that Edwin Booth managed to continue his successful theatrical career after such a tragedy demonstrates the power of his acting ability.  He gives a wonderful foil to his brother and his many years after in the spotlight allows us to really study his brother’s effect on his and his family’s life.  For the families of the other conspirators, however, such a study is not possible.  Edwin Booth was a newsworthy individual and the historical record speaks volumes about him.  The other families affected all too often just faded  away into obscurity.  Therefore, I find this brief newspaper article regarding the Powell family’s grief to be quite poignant.  After their son Lewis attacked Secretary of State Seward and his household, the Powells carried a similiar stigma as the Booth family.  Just because history did not fervently document their struggles with their kin’s actions does not make their suffering any less real.

Woe for the Powells New York Herald 8-2-1865

References:
Alias “Paine” by Betty Ownsbey
New York Herald – August 2, 1865
Lewis Payne – Pawn of John Wilkes Booth by Leon Prior

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 9 Comments

The Seward Site: Then and Now

When Booth was committing his deed at Ford’s Theatre on 10th Street, Lewis Powell was simultaneously entering a residence in Lafayette Square with malevolent intent.  His mark was Secretary of State William H. Seward, an integral member of Lincoln’s cabinet and political team.  Powell’s house-wide knife attack would wound five but none fatally.

The house the Secretary of State occupied was a stone’s throw from the White House.  Commissioned by Commodore John Rodgers, the building would serve as the home of many important politicians like James Blaine, James Paulding, Roger Taney, and William Worth Belknap.  When the White House was being renovated in 1845, President Polk used the house for his temporary residence.

In 1894, the Rodgers House was sadly demolished.  The Lafayette Square Opera House was built on the house’s site.

In 1906, the theater was bought by new owners and became The Belasco Theater.  The theater saw the likes of Al Jolson and Will Rodgers perform within its walls.  As times changed, the Belasco converted into a movie theater, but its career as such was short lived.  In 1940, the federal government bought the Belasco and nearby buildings.  The inside of the theater was remodeled and used as office and storage space, not unlike Ford’s Theatre had been.  During WWII, the building was reopened as a social club for Armed Forces members called The Stage Door Canteen.  Aside from a temporary revival as a military club during the Korean War, the building was used as offices for the USO.

Finally, in the 1964, the end came for the old Belasco building.  The old theater was razed in order to create the Federal Court of Claims building.  The Court of Claims still resides on the property.

While the house that was a silent witness to the assault of Secretary of State Seward is long gone from Lafayette Park, the history of the site is not forgotten.  While slightly hidden within the courtyard of the Federal Court of Claims building, there is a plaque to remember not only Lewis Powell’s presence on the site, but the other individuals and businesses that were once the President’s neighbors.

References:
Library of Congress

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 10 Comments

Photographing the Conspirators

Reader littlecoco7 posed the following question under the Quesenberry post:

“This has nothing to do with this topic, but I would like to know out of all the conspirators who had their picture taken from Alexander Gardner, how come there was no photo of Mary Surratt taken?”

Thanks so much for the question littlecoco7.  The mug shots of the conspirators are very valuable resources to us now.  For George Atzerodt, Michael O’Laughlen, and Edman Spangler, these few shots consist of our entire photographic record of their lives.  While engravings and drawings were made of them during their time in the court room, we have yet to find other photographs of these individuals.  Even those who we do have additional images of, the mug shots are unique in showing them as they were almost immediately after the crime was committed.  Before delving into your question as to why Mary Surratt (and Dr. Mudd for that matter) were not photographed with the rest, let’s look into how and when the conspirators were photographed.

The best resource for information about the images of the conspirators is the team of Barry Cauchon and John Elliott.  These talented gentlemen are in the process of writing a highly anticipated book regarding the incarceration of the Lincoln conspirators.  One of my links on the side of this blog is to Barry Cauchon’s blog, “A Little Touch of History” while the pairs’ Facebook page about their book, “Inside the Walls” is here.  Barry and John presented some of their findings at the 2011 and 2012 Surratt Society Lincoln Assassination Conferences.  Their research was remarkable to say the least.  To keep their excited fan base content while waiting for the final publication of their book, they produced two supplementary booklets about their talking points.  The most recent one that they sold at the 2012 conference was entitled, “13 Days Aboard the Monitors” and delved into the mug shot photo sessions and the hoods worn by the conspirators.   All the information in this post can be found in this terrific booklet and is currently available for purchase through Barry and John and the Surratt House Bookstore.

Through the research of Barry Cauchon and John Elliott we believe that three photograph sessions occurred while the conspirators were imprisoned aboard the monitors Saugus and Montauk.  The first set of images were all taken of a standing Lewis Powell wearing the clothes he was found in and the clothes he was wearing when he attack Secretary Seward.  There were a total of six pictures taken on this day, April 18th.

Carte-de-visites of two of the six photographs taken of Powell on April 18th.

At this point in time, only two of the conspirators were being housed on the monitors; Michael O’Laughlen and Lewis Powell.

Gardner came back to photograph the conspirators on April 25th.  By this point all of the main conspirators except for Booth and Herold had been arrested.  Gardner photographed Powell again, along with Michael O’Laughlen, George Atzerodt, Edman Spangler, Sam Arnold and Hartman Richter.  Richter was a cousin of George Atzerodt’s and was hiding George in his house when the authorities caught up with him.  While Richter would be cleared of any involvement in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln, in these early days of the investigation he was locked up and photographed with the main gang.

One of two O’Laughlen photographs from April 25th

One of two Spangler photographs from April 25th

One of four Powell photographs from April 25th

One of two Arnold photographs from April 25th

One of two Atzerodt photographs from April 25th

One of two Richter photographs from April 25th

Finally, on April 27th, Gardner returned for his last photograph session.  Here he took pictures of the recently captured Davy Herold and another conspirator Joao Celestino.  Celestino was a Portuguese ship captain with an intense hatred for William Seward.  It was thought he was involved with the attempt on the Secretary’s life but was later released as no evidence existed to connect him to Booth’s plan.

One of three Herold photographs from April 27th

One of three Celestino photographs from April 27th

It has also been written that Gardner and his assistant took one photograph of the autopsy of John Wilkes Booth.  The single print of the event was apparently turned over the War Department but has never been found.  If it was taken, it was either destroyed shortly thereafter, or still remains undiscovered somewhere today.

In the wee hours of April 29th, the conspirators on were transferred off of the monitors and into the Old Arsenal Penitentiary.

So, why didn’t Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd get their pictures taken?  In short, they were not photographed because they weren’t there and their complicity in the affair had yet to be determined.  Though Mary Surratt had been arrested when Powell showed up at her boardinghouse at the most inopportune time, she was not imprisoned on the iron clads.  Instead, she and her household were sent to the Old Capitol Prison merely as questionable suspects.  The same held true for Dr. Mudd who joined others involved in Booth’s escape like Colonel Samuel Cox, Thomas Jones, and Thomas Harbin, at the Old Capitol Prison.  In the initial stages of the investigation, Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd were not seen as conspirators.  It was not until more and more evidence arose pointing towards their foreknowledge and association with the assassin that they were treated less like witnesses and more like accomplices.

References:
A Peek Inside the Walls – “13 Days Aboard the Monitors” by Barry Cauchon and John Elliott

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.