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David Edgar HEROLD





Classification: Assassin
Characteristics: Conspiracy
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 14, 1865
Date of arrest: April 26, 1865
Date of birth: June 16, 1842
Victim profile: United States President Abraham Lincoln
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Washington, D.C., USA
Status: Executed by hanging in the Old Arsenal Penitentiary on July 7, 1865
photo gallery

David Edgar Herold (16 June 1842 – 7 July 1865) conspired with John Wilkes Booth to kill United States President Abraham Lincoln.

He was born in Maryland, the son of Adam and Mary Porter Herold. He was the sixth of ten children. His grew up very close to the Washington Navy Yard in a large brick house.

He attended Gonzaga College High School, Georgetown College, and Rittenhouse Academy and worked as a pharmacist and as a clerk for a doctor. He also was an avid hunter. Herold attended Charlotte Hall Academy, where he met John Surratt, who introduced him to Booth.

On the night of April 14, 1865, he guided Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Payne) to the house of Lincoln's Secretary of State William Seward. Inside, Powell attempted to kill Seward, and severely wounded him and other members of his household.

The ensuing commotion frightened Herold and he rode off, leaving Powell to fend for himself. Another conspirator claimed that Herold was to have killed Vice President Andrew Johnson, but this attack was never carried out.

It was at this time that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater. During the assassination, Booth broke his leg. Despite this injury, Booth escaped Washington into Maryland, and by pre-arrangement met up with Herold.

Herold assisted Booth to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, where Booth's leg was set. Herold remained with Booth and continually aided him until the authorities caught up with them. Herold and Booth were surrounded on 26 April 1865, and Booth was shot dead, while Herold surrendered.

Herold was tried before a military tribunal (having already admitted his involvement in the assassination conspiracy, his defense was that he was feeble-minded and under undue influence from Booth), and was hanged in Washington, D.C.. He is interred in the Congressional Cemetery there.


David Edgar Herold was born on June 16, 1842, in Maryland. He was the 6th of 11 children born to Adam and Mary Porter Herold. Two brothers died very young leaving "Davey" the only boy in a family with 8 sisters.

The Herolds moved to Washington, D.C., and they lived in a large brick home at 636 Eighth Street near the Washington Navy Yard. The family was well off financially. David's father was the chief clerk at the Navy Store at the Washington Navy Yard for more than 20 years. David liked to go bird hunting and spent several months every year engaged in that sport. Thus, he was very familiar with the Maryland countryside.

David had studied pharmacy at Georgetown College and had worked for several druggists in Washington. In 1863, while working for Thompson's Pharmacy in the heart of Washington, Herold may have delivered a bottle of castor oil to the White House and personally given it to Abraham Lincoln.

Herold had probably met John Surratt while attending Charlotte Hall Academy in the late 1850's. It is possible that Herold met Booth because of his friendship with John Surratt. It is also possible that the initial meeting took place in 1863 when Booth purchased drugs to treat a growth on his neck. Because Booth was involved in smuggling quinine to the South, it made sense to befriend Herold who had access to medicines.

Additionally, it is likely that Herold was recruited by Booth because of his knowledge of lower Maryland which might be helpful in Booth's plot to kidnap Lincoln and take him south. On the night of Wednesday, March 15, 1865, Herold met with Booth and other conspirators at Gautier's Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the possible abduction of the President. These plans never worked out.

When Booth's plans turned to assassination, "Davey" Herold was assigned to guide Lewis Paine to the Secretary of State's home so Paine could assassinate William Seward. Then Herold was to lead Paine as he escaped from Washington, D.C. When screams came from the Secretary's home, Herold didn't wait for Paine and rode off. He crossed the Navy Yard bridge and escaped from the Washington area.

Somewhere on the road to Surrattsville (now Clinton), Maryland, Herold met up with Booth (probably near Soper's Hill). The two stopped at John Lloyd's tavern and picked up a carbine, Booth's field glasses, and whiskey. From there they road to Dr. Samuel Mudd's home near Bryantown and arrived about 4:00 A.M. Mudd set Booth's broken leg, and the two fugitives left Mudd's on the afternoon of April 15th, 1865.

Until April 26th the two were on the run. On that date, they were surrounded by Union cavalry while sleeping in a tobacco barn on the farm of Richard Garrett near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold gave up, but Booth was shot and killed after the barn was set on fire.

During the trial Herold had no chance whatsoever. He had been seen with Booth during the 12 days after the assassination and was in the barn when Booth was captured and killed. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang along with Lewis Paine, Mary Surratt, and George Atzerodt. In jail he was visited by his mother and many of his 8 sisters shortly before the execution. Often described as a half-wit, in reality he was not.

Herold was hanged on July 7, 1865. Of the four who were executed, he is the only one for whom no last words were recorded.

David Herold was buried at the Congressional Cemetery, on the banks of the eastern branch of the Potomac River.


Biographic Sketch of David Herold

David Herold was the sixth of eleven children born to the chief clerk at the Navy Store at the Washington Navy Yard.  Herold met John Surratt while attending Charlotte Hall Academy, and through Surratt in 1863 Herold was introduced to John Wilkes Booth.

David Herold's Role in the Conspiracy

David Herold accompanied Lewis Powell to the home of Secretary of State William Seward on the night of April 14.  While Powell entered the Seward home and made his knife attack on the Secretary, Herold waited outside with his horse.

(According to co-conspirator George Atzerodt, Booth had chosen Herold to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood Hotel.  It is believed to be Herold's gun, bowie knife, and map of Virginia that were discovered by investigators in a room at the Kirkwood rented by Atzerodt.  Whether Atzerodt's story is entirely accurate and why, if so, Herold did not carry out his attack on Johnson is unknown.)

After the attack on Seward, Herold crossed the Navy Yard Bridge and made his way into Maryland, where he met up with the injured John Wilkes Booth.  Herold and Booth's escape route took them to the home of John Lloyd in Surrattsville, where they picked up carbines, and then to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, where Booth found treatment for his broken leg.  A pursuing party of soldiers finally caught up with Herold and Booth at Garrett's farm in northern Virginia in the early morning of April 26.  Faced with the prospect of being shot or dying in a burning barn, Herold surrendered.  

David Herold on Trial

There was never any serious question about the outcome of the military trial with respect to Herold.  Apprehended with the President's assassin and the apparent mastermind of the conspiracy to destabilize the federal government, Herold would be hanged.  To make matters worse, Herold had bragged about the crime, telling Willie Jett as he crossed the Rappahannock, "We are the assassinators of the President."

Herold's attorney, Frederick Stone, placed whatever slender hopes for saving Herold's life he had convincing the Military Commission that Herold was a simple man, barely an adult, who fell under the spell of the sophisticated John Wilkes Booth.  Stone presented testimony of friends who described him as "easily persuaded and led" and "boyish in every respect."  William Keilotz, for example, said, "I consider his character very boyish.  I see him often in the company of boys; he is very fond of their company, and he never associates with men."  James Nokes called Herold "a light and trifling boy" who was "easily influenced."  Nokes added that he had "never heard him enter into any argument on any subject in the world."  Dr. Charles Davis agreed, calling Herold "a boy; he is trifling, and always has been."  Davis testified that "nature had not endowed him with as much intellect as the generality of people possess."  Finally, Dr. Samuel McKim said of Herold: "In mind, I consider him about eleven years of age."

Stone argued to the Commission that Herold "was only wax in the hands of a man like Booth."  Booth, he said, "exercised unlimited control over this miserable boy, body and soul, he found him unfit for the deeds of blood and violence; he was cowardly; he was too weak and trifling; but he still could be made useful."  Stone found significance in one of Booth's final statements, made about Herold: "I declare, before my Maker, that this man is innocent."

The Commission remained unpersuaded.  Herold was sentenced to death.  He died with three fellow conspirators on the gallows in Washington on July 7, 1865.


Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, one of the last major events in the American Civil War, took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln was shot while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre with his wife and two guests.

Lincoln's assassin, actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, had also plotted with fellow conspirators, Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt to kill William H. Seward (then Secretary of State) and Vice President Andrew Johnson respectively. Booth hoped to create chaos and overthrow the Federal government by assassinating Lincoln, Seward, and Johnson. Although Booth succeeded in killing Lincoln, the larger plot failed. Seward was attacked, but recovered from his wounds, and Johnson's would-be assassin fled Washington, D.C. upon losing his nerve.

Original kidnapping plot

Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding general of all the Union's armies, suspended the exchange of prisoners-of-war in March 1864. This decision cut off a badly needed source of reinforcement for the outnumbered, manpower-starved South. John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, formulated a plot to kidnap Lincoln and take him south, to hold him hostage and force his government to resume its earlier policy of exchanging prisoners.

Booth had organized a circle of conspirators to help him in attempting this. He recruited Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O'Laughlen, Lewis Powell a.k.a. "Lewis Paine" and John Surratt. In time, John Surratt's mother, Mary Surratt, left her tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland, and moved to a house in Washington, where Booth became a frequent visitor. Prosecutors would later point out that this move coincided with Booth's need to have a base of operations in the city.

In the fall of 1860, John Wilkes Booth reportedly became a Knights of the Golden Circle initiate in Baltimore. Booth attended Lincoln's second inauguration on March 4, 1865, as the invited guest of his secret fiancée Lucy Hale, the daughter of John P. Hale, soon to be United States Ambassador to Spain. Booth remarked afterwards, "What an excellent chance I had, if I wished, to kill the President on Inauguration day!"

On March 17, 1865, Booth told his conspirators that Lincoln would be attending a play, Still Waters Run Deep, at Campbell Military Hospital. He assembled his team in a restaurant at the edge of town, evidently intending that they should soon join him on a stretch of road nearby and ambush the president on his way back from the hospital. But after going out to check on Lincoln, Booth returned with the news that Lincoln had not gone there after all. Instead, the president was at the National Hotel attending a ceremony in which the officers of the 142nd Indiana were presenting their governor with a captured Confederate Battle Flag. Ironically, Booth lived at the National.

On April 11, 1865, Booth attended a speech outside the White House in which Lincoln gave support for the idea of voting rights for black people. Furious at the prospect, Booth changed to a plan for assassination: "That is the last speech he will ever give."

Planning the assassination

Three days prior to his assassination, Abraham Lincoln related a dream he had to his wife and a few friends. According to Ward Hill Lamon, one of the friends who was present for the conversation, the president said: "About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers, 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin.' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since."

Meanwhile, the Confederacy was falling apart. On April 3, Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, fell to the Union army. On April 9, the Army of Northern Virginia, the first army of the Confederacy, surrendered to the Army of the Potomac at Appomatox Court House. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the rest of his government were in full flight. Although many Southerners had given up hope, Booth continued to believe in his cause.

On April 14, Booth's morning started at the stroke of midnight. Lying wide awake in his bed at the National Hotel, he wrote his mother that all was well, but that he was "in haste." In his diary, he wrote that "Our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done."

Abraham Lincoln's day started well for the first time in a long time. Hugh McCulloch, the new Secretary of the Treasury, remarked on that beautiful, bright morning: "I never saw Mr. Lincoln so cheerful and happy." No one could miss the difference. For months the President had looked pale and haggard. Lincoln himself told people how happy he was. This caused the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln some concern as she believed that saying such things out loud was bad luck. Lincoln paid her no heed. Lincoln met with his Cabinet that day and later had a brief meeting with Vice President Johnson, the first between the two since Johnson had shown up drunk to take the vice presidential oath on Inauguration Day.

At around noon while visiting Ford's to pick up his mail, Booth overheard that the President and General Grant would be attending the Ford Theatre to watch Our American Cousin that night. Booth determined that this was the perfect opportunity to do that something "decisive" for which he was looking. Booth knew the theater's layout, having performed there several times, as recently as the previous month. Booth believed that if he and the others could kill the President, Grant, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward, at the same time, he could upend the Union government for a long-enough time so that the Confederacy could mount a resurgence.

That same afternoon Booth went to Mary Surratt's boarding house in Washington, D.C. and asked her to deliver a package for him at her tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland. He also asked her to tell her tenant who resided there to have the guns and ammunition that Booth had previously stored at the tavern ready to be picked up that evening. She complied with Booth's request and, along with Louis J. Weichmann, her boarder and son's friend, she made the trip. This exchange would lead directly to Mary Surratt's execution three months later.

At 7 o'clock that night Booth met with his fellow conspirators. Booth assigned Powell to kill Seward, Atzerodt to kill Johnson, and David E. Herold to guide Powell to the Seward house and then lead him out of the city to rendezvous with Booth in Maryland. Booth would shoot Lincoln with his single-shot derringer and then stab Grant with a knife. They were all to strike simultaneously, shortly after 10 o'clock. Atzerodt wanted nothing to do with it, saying he had signed up for a kidnapping, not a killing. Booth told him he was too far in to back out.

Booth shoots President Lincoln

Contrary to the information Booth read in the newspaper, General and Mrs. Grant had declined the invitation to see the play with the Lincolns. Several other people were invited to join them, until finally Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris (daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris) accepted the invitation.

The President and First Lady arrived at Ford's Theatre after the play began, Lincoln had been delayed at the White House by Missouri Senator John B. Henderson who successfully appealed for a pardon for George S.E. Vaughn who had thrice been convicted of espionage for the Confederates and was sentenced to die. It was Lincoln's last official act as President. The couple were led to the presidential box, where Lincoln was seated in a rocking chair on the left-hand side. The show was briefly paused to acknowledge the presence of the President and First Lady, who were applauded by the audience.

At about 9:00 p.m., Booth arrived at the back door of Ford's Theatre, where he handed the reins of his horse over to a stagehand named Edmund Spangler. Spangler was busy, so he asked Joseph Burroughs, known as "Peanuts," for the snacks he once sold in the theater, to hold the horse. As an actor at Ford's Theatre, Booth was well known there and he knew his way around. He entered a narrow hallway between Lincoln's box and the theatre's balcony, and barricaded the door. At that point, Mrs. Lincoln whispered to her husband, who was holding her hand, "What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?" The president replied, "She won't think anything about it." Those were the last words ever spoken by Abraham Lincoln. It was about 10:15 p.m.

The box was supposed to be guarded by a policeman called John Frederick Parker who, by all accounts, was a curious choice for a bodyguard. During the intermission, Parker went to a nearby tavern with Lincoln's footman and coachman. It is unclear whether he ever returned to the theatre, but he was not certainly not at his post when Booth entered the box.

Booth knew the play, and waited for the right moment, one where actor Harry Hawk would be onstage as "cousin Asa", where there would be laughter to muffle the sound of a gunshot, when Hawk said to the insufferable Mrs Mountchessington, "Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!" Booth raced forward and shot the president in the back of the head. Lincoln slumped over in his rocking chair, unconscious. Mary reached out and caught him, then screamed. Rathbone jumped from his seat and tried to prevent Booth from escaping, but Booth stabbed the Major violently in the arm with a knife. Rathbone quickly recovered and tried to grab Booth as he was preparing to jump from the sill of the box. Booth again stabbed at Rathbone, and then attempted to vault over the rail and down to the stage. His riding spur caught on the Treasury flag decorating the box, Booth jumped on the stage and landed awkwardly on his left foot, fracturing his left fibula just above the ankle. He raised himself up and, holding a knife over his head, yelled, "Sic semper tyrannis!" the Latin Virginia state motto, meaning "Thus always to tyrants." Other accounts state that he also uttered "The South is avenged!" He then ran across the stage, and went out the door onto the horse he had waiting outside. Some of the men in the audience chased after him, but failed to catch him. Booth struck "Peanuts" Burroughs in the forehead with the handle of his knife, leaped onto the horse, kicked Burroughs in the face with his good leg, and rode away. He headed toward the Navy Yard Bridge to meet up with Herold and Powell.

Death of President Lincoln

Mary Lincoln's and Clara Harris' screams and Rathbone's cries of "Stop that man!" caused the audience to understand that this was not part of the show, and pandemonium broke out in Ford's Theatre. Charles Leale, a young Army surgeon on liberty for the night and attending the play, made his way through the crowd to the door at the rear of the Presidential box. It would not open. Finally Rathbone saw a notch carved in the door and a wooden brace jammed there to hold the door shut. Booth had carved the notch there earlier in the day and noiselessly put the brace up against the door after entering the box to kill Lincoln. Rathbone shouted to Leale, who stepped back from the door, allowing Rathbone to remove the brace and open the door.

Leale entered the box to find Rathbone bleeding profusely from a deep gash that ran the length of his upper left arm. Nonetheless, he passed Rathbone by and stepped forward to find Lincoln slumped forward in his chair, held up by Mary, who was sobbing. Lincoln had no pulse and Leale believed him to be dead. Leale lowered the President to the floor. A second doctor in the audience, Charles Sabin Taft, was lifted bodily from the stage over the railing and into the box.

Taft and Leale cut away Lincoln's blood-stained collar and opened his shirt, and Leale, feeling around by hand, discovered the bullet hole in the back of the head by the left ear. Leale removed a clot of blood in the wound and Lincoln's breathing improved. Still, Leale knew it made no difference: "His wound is mortal. It is impossible for him to recover."

Leale, Taft, and another doctor from the audience named Albert King quickly consulted and decided that while the President must be moved, a bumpy carriage ride across town to the White House was out of the question. After briefly considering Peter Taltavull's Star Saloon next door, they chose to carry Lincoln across the street and find a house. The three doctors and some soldiers who had been in the audience carried the President out the front entrance of Ford's.

Across the street, a man was holding a lantern and calling "Bring him in here! Bring him in here!" The man was Henry Safford, a boarder at William Petersen's boarding house opposite Ford's. The men carried Lincoln into the boarding house and into the first-floor bedroom, where they laid him diagonally on the bed because he was too tall to lie straight.

A vigil began at the Petersen House. The three physicians already in attendance were joined by Surgeon General of the United States Army Joseph K. Barnes, by Major Charles Henry Crane, by Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, and by Dr. Robert K. Stone. Crane was Barnes' assistant and Stone was Lincoln's personal physician.

Robert Lincoln and Tad Lincoln arrived. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton came and took charge of the scene. Mary Lincoln was so unhinged by the experience of the assassination that Stanton ordered her out of the room by shouting, "Get that woman out of here! I don't ever want to see that woman in here again!" While Mary Lincoln sobbed in the front parlor, Stanton set up shop in the rear parlor, effectively running the United States government for several hours, sending and receiving telegrams, taking reports from witnesses, and issuing orders for the pursuit of Booth.

Nothing more could be done for the President. At 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln died. He was 56 years old. Mary Lincoln was not present at the time of his death. The crowd around the bed knelt for a prayer, and when they were finished, Stanton said "Now he belongs to the ages." There is some disagreement among historians as to Stanton's words after Lincoln died. All agree that he began "Now he belongs to the..." with some stating he said "ages" while others believe he said "angels."

Powell attacks Secretary Seward

Booth had assigned Lewis Powell to murder Secretary of State William H. Seward. At this time, Seward was bedridden due to a carriage accident. On April 5, Seward was thrown from his carriage, suffering a concussion, a jaw broken in two places, and a broken right arm. Doctors improvised a jaw splint to repair his jaw, and on the night of the assassination he was still restricted to bed at his home in Lafayette Park in Washington, not too far from the White House. Herold guided Powell to Seward's residence on Booth's orders. Powell was carrying an 1858 Whitney revolver which was a large, heavy and popular gun during the Civil War. Additionally, he carried a silver-handled bowie knife.

Powell knocked at the front door of the house a little after 10:00 p.m.; William Bell, Seward's butler, answered the door. Powell told Bell that he had medicine for Seward from Dr. Verdi, and that he was to personally deliver and show Seward how to take the medicine. Having gained admittance, Powell made his way up the stairs to Seward's third floor bedroom. At the top of the staircase, he was approached by Seward's son and Assistant Secretary of State Frederick W. Seward. Powell told Frederick the same story that he had told Bell at the front door. Frederick was suspicious of the intruder, and told Powell that his father was asleep.

After hearing voices in the hall, Seward's daughter Fanny opened the door to Seward's room and said, "Fred, father is awake now," and then returned to the room, thus revealing to Powell where Seward was located. Powell started down the stairs when suddenly he jolted around again and drew his revolver, pointing it at Frederick's forehead. He pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. Panicking, Powell smashed the gun over Frederick's head continuously until Frederick collapsed. Ironically, he could have just fired it again, but when he beat Frederick, it destroyed the handgun beyond repair. Fanny, wondering what all the noise was, looked out the door again. She saw her brother bloody and unconscious on the floor and Powell running towards her. Powell ran to Seward's bed and stabbed him repeatedly in the face and neck. He missed the first time he swung his knife down, but the third blow sliced open Seward's cheek. Seward's neck brace was the only thing that prevented the blade from penetrating his jugular. Sergeant Robinson and Seward's son Augustus tried to drive Powell away. Augustus had been asleep in his room, but was awakened by Fanny's screams of terror. Outside, Herold also heard Fanny's screaming. He became frightened and ran away, abandoning Powell.

Secretary Seward had rolled off the bed and onto the floor by the force of the blows where he could not be reached by Powell. Powell fought off Robinson, Augustus, and Fanny, stabbing them as well. When Augustus went for his pistol, Powell ran downstairs and headed to the front door. Just then, a messenger named Emerick Hansell arrived with a telegram for Seward. Powell stabbed Hansell in the back, causing him to fall to the floor. Before running outside, Powell exclaimed, "I'm mad! I'm mad!", untied his horse from the tree where Herold left it, and rode away alone.

Fanny Seward cried "Oh my God, father's dead!" Sergeant Robinson lifted the Secretary from the floor back onto the bed. Secretary Seward spat the blood out of his mouth and said "I am not dead; send for a doctor, send for the police. Close the house." Seward's wounds were ugly, but Powell's wild stabs in the dark room did not hit anything vital. The Secretary survived the attacks and continued as Secretary of State throughout Johnson's presidency.

Atzerodt fails to attack Andrew Johnson

Booth had assigned George Atzerodt to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson who was staying at the Kirkwood Hotel in Washington. Atzerodt was to go to the Vice President's room at 10:15 p.m. and shoot him. On April 14, 1865, Atzerodt rented room 126 at the Kirkwood directly above the room where Johnson was staying. He arrived at the Kirkwood at the appointed time and went to the bar downstairs. He was carrying a gun and a knife. Atzerodt asked the bartender, Michael Henry, about the Vice President's character and behavior. After spending some time at the hotel saloon, Atzerodt got drunk and wandered away down the streets of Washington. Nervous, he tossed his knife away in the street. He made his way to the Pennsylvania House Hotel by 2 a.m., where he checked into a room and went to sleep.

Earlier that day, Booth stopped by the Kirkwood Hotel and left a note for Johnson that read "I don't wish to disturb you. Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth." This message has been interpreted in many different ways throughout the years. One theory is that Booth, afraid that Atzerodt would not be successful in killing Johnson, or worried that Atzerodt would not have the courage to carry out the assassination, tried to use the message to implicate Johnson in the conspiracy.

Booth and Herold flee

Within half an hour of his escape on horseback from Ford's, Booth was over the Navy Yard Bridge and out of the city, riding into Maryland. Herold made it across the same bridge less than an hour later and reunited with Booth. After retrieving weapons and supplies previously stored at Surattsville, Herold and Booth went to Samuel A. Mudd, a local doctor who determined that Booth's leg had been broken and put it in a splint. Later Mudd made a pair of crutches for the assassin.

After spending a day at Mudd's house, Booth and Herold hired a local man to guide them to Samuel Cox's house. Cox in turn led them to Thomas Jones, who hid Booth and Herold in a swamp near his house for five days until they could cross the Potomac River.

Capture of Herold and death of Booth

Booth and Herold remained on the run until April 26, when Union soldiers tracked them down to a farm belonging to Richard Garrett. The Garretts had locked Booth and Herold in their barn. Herold surrendered himself after the soldiers arrived, but Booth refused to come out. The soldiers then set fire to the barn. A soldier named Boston Corbett then crept up behind the barn and shot Booth in the neck, paralyzing him. Booth was dragged out on to the steps of the barn. A soldier dribbled water onto his mouth. He then told the soldier "Tell my mother I died for my country." Writhing in agony, he asked a soldier to lift his hands and whispered "Useless...Useless." Booth died on the porch of the Garrett farm two hours after Corbett had shot him.

Flight and capture of the other conspirators

Powell was unfamiliar with Washington, and without the services of his guide David Herold, Powell wandered the streets for three days before finding his way back to the Surratt house on April 17. He found the detectives already there. Powell claimed to be a ditch-digger hired by Mary Surratt, but she denied knowing him. They were both arrested. Atzerodt hid out in a farm in Georgetown, but was tracked down and arrested on April 20. The rest of the conspirators were arrested before the end of the month, except for John Surratt, who made his way to Europe and Africa before he was finally apprehended in November 1866. Surratt was later tried for Lincoln's murder; but an eyewitness placed him in Elmira, New York on the day of the assassination, and the jury could not reach a verdict. Surratt was released and lived the rest of his life, until 1916, a free man.

Conspirators' trial

In the turmoil that followed the assassination, scores of suspected accomplices were arrested and thrown into prison. All the people who were discovered to have had anything to do with the assassination or anyone with the slightest contact with Booth or Herold on their flight were put behind bars.

Among the imprisoned were Louis J. Weichmann, a boarder in Mrs. Surratt's house; Booth's brother Junius (playing in Cincinnati at the time of the assassination); theatre owner John T. Ford, who was incarcerated for 40 days; James Pumphrey, the Washington livery stable owner from whom Booth hired his horse; John M. Lloyd, the innkeeper who rented Mrs. Surratt's Maryland tavern and gave Booth and Herold carbines, rope, and whiskey the night of April 14; and Samuel Cox and Thomas A. Jones, who helped Booth and Herold escape across the Potomac.

All of those listed above and more were rounded up, imprisoned, and released. Ultimately, the suspects were narrowed down to just eight prisoners, seven men and one woman:[64] Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlen, Lewis Powell, Edmund Spangler, and Mary Surratt.

The eight suspects were tried by a military tribunal. The transcript of the trial was recorded by Benn Pitman and several assistants, and was published in 1865. The fact that they were tried by a military tribunal provoked criticism from both Edward Bates and Gideon Welles, who believed that a civil court should have presided. Attorney General James Speed, on the other hand, justified the use of a military tribunal on grounds that included the military nature of the conspiracy and the existence of martial law in the District of Columbia. (In 1866, in the Ex parte Milligan decision, the United States Supreme Court banned the use of military tribunals in places where civil courts were operational.) The odds were further stacked against the defendants by rules that required only a simple majority of the officer jury for a guilty verdict and a two-thirds majority for a death sentence. Nor could the defendants appeal to anyone other than President Johnson.

The trial lasted for about seven weeks, with 366 witnesses testifying. Louis Weichmann, released from custody, was a key witness. The verdict was given on June 30 and all of the defendants were found guilty. Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt were sentenced to death by hanging; and Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O'Laughlen were sentenced to life in prison.

Mudd escaped execution by a single vote, the tribunal having voted 5-4 to hang him. Edmund Spangler was sentenced to imprisonment for six years. Oddly, after sentencing Mary Surratt to hang, five of the jurors signed a letter recommending clemency, but Johnson refused to stop the execution. (Johnson later claimed he never saw the letter.

Surratt, Powell, Herold, and Atzerodt were hanged in the Old Arsenal Penitentiary on July 7, 1865. Mary Surratt was the first woman hanged by the U.S. government. O'Laughlen died in prison of yellow fever in 1867. Mudd, Arnold, and Spangler were pardoned in February 1869 by President Johnson.

Mudd's culpability

The degree of Dr. Mudd's culpability remained a controversy for over a century after his death. Some, including Mudd's grandson Richard Mudd, claimed that Mudd was innocent of any wrongdoing and that he had been imprisoned merely for treating a man who came to his house late at night with a fractured leg. Over a century after the assassination, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both wrote letters to Richard Mudd agreeing that his grandfather committed no crime.

However others, including authors Edward Steers, Jr. and James Swanson, point out that Samuel Mudd visited with Booth three times in the months before the failed kidnapping attempt. The first time was November 1864 when Booth, looking for help in his kidnapping plot, was directed to Mudd by agents of the Confederate secret service. In December, Booth met with Mudd again and stayed the night at his farm. Later that December, Mudd went to Washington and introduced Booth to a Confederate agent he knew—John Surratt.

Additionally, George Atzerodt testified that Booth sent supplies to Mudd's house in preparation for the kidnap plan. Mudd lied to the authorities who came to his house after the assassination, claiming that he did not recognize the man who showed up on his doorstep in need of treatment and giving false information about where Booth and Herold went. He also hid the monogrammed boot that he had cut off Booth's injured leg behind a panel in his attic, but the thorough search of Mudd's house soon revealed this further evidence against him. One hypothesis is that Dr. Mudd was active in the kidnapping plot, likely as the person the conspirators would turn to for medical treatment in case Lincoln were injured, and that Booth thus remembered the doctor and went to his house to get help in the early hours of April 15.


Abraham Lincoln was the first American President to be assassinated. His assassination had a long-lasting impact upon the United States, and he was mourned around the country. As a result of his assassination, there were attacks in many cities against those who expressed support for Booth. On the Easter Sunday after Lincoln's death, clergymen around the country praised Lincoln in their sermons. Millions of people came to Lincoln's funeral procession in Washington, D.C. on April 19, 1865, and as his body was transported 1,700 miles (2,700 km) through New York to Springfield, Illinois. His body and funeral train were viewed by millions along the route. Among those who viewed the funeral procession was future president Theodore Roosevelt.

After Lincoln's death, Ulysses S. Grant called him, "Incontestably the greatest man I ever knew." Southern-born Elizabeth Blair said that, "Those of southern born sympathies know now they have lost a friend willing and more powerful to protect and serve them than they can now ever hope to find again." Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President following Lincoln's death. Johnson became one of the least popular presidents in American history. He was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1868 but the Senate failed to convict him by one vote.

William Seward recovered from his wounds and continued to serve as Secretary of State throughout Johnson's presidency. He later negotiated the Alaska Purchase, then known as Seward's Folly, by which the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. The town of Seward, Alaska and Alaska's Seward Peninsula are named after him.

Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris married two years after the assassination, and Rathbone went on to become the US consul to Hanover, Germany. However, Rathbone later went mad and, in 1883, shot Clara and then stabbed her to death. He spent the rest of his life in a German asylum for the criminally insane.

John Ford tried to reopen his theater a couple of months after the murder but a wave of outrage forced him to cancel. In 1866, the federal government purchased the building from Ford, tore out the insides, and turned it into an office building. In 1893, the inner structure collapsed, killing 22 clerks. It was later used as a warehouse, then it lay empty until it was restored to its 1865 appearance.

Ford's Theatre reopened in 1968 both as a museum of the assassination and a working playhouse. The Presidential Box is never occupied. The Petersen House was purchased in 1896 as the "House Where Lincoln Died;" it was the first piece of real estate ever acquired by the federal government as a memorial.[citation needed] Today, Ford's and the Petersen House are operated together as the Ford's Theatre National Historic Site.

The Army Medical Museum, now named the National Museum of Health and Medicine, has retained in its collection several artifacts relating to the assassination. Currently on display are the bullet that hit Lincoln, the probe used by Barnes, pieces of Lincoln's skull and hair, and the surgeon's cuff stained with Lincoln's blood. The chair in which Lincoln was shot is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan.

Abraham Lincoln was honored on the centennial of his birth when his portrait was placed on the U.S. one-cent coin in 1909. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was opened in 1922.



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