Surratt, Mary Eugenia

Surratt, Mary Eugenia

(sərăt`), 1820–65, alleged conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, hanged on July 7, 1865. A widow (her maiden name was Jenkins) who had moved from Surrattsville (now Clinton), Md., to Washington, D.C., she kept the boardinghouse where John Wilkes BoothBooth, John Wilkes
, 1838–65, American actor, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, b. near Bel Air, Md.; son of Junius Brutus Booth and brother of Edwin Booth. He made his stage debut at the age of 17 in Baltimore.
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 hatched his unsuccessful plot to abduct the President and his successful assassination plan. After Lincoln's assassination eight alleged accomplices in Booth's crime were tried (May 10–June 29, 1865) before a special military tribunal. Hanged with Mary Surratt and unquestionably guilty were Lewis Thornton Powell (or Payne), David E. Herold, and George A. Atzerodt. Samuel Arnold and Michael O'Laughlin, Confederate ex-soldiers from Maryland who had taken part in the attempted abduction but not in the assassination, were sentenced to life imprisonment, as was Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who had set Booth's broken leg. Edward Spangler, a stagehand at Ford's Theater, charged with abetting Booth's escape, was given six years. Mary Surratt's son, who had participated in the abduction plot, was tried (June 10–Aug. 10, 1867) before a civil court. Although the jury stood eight to four for acquittal, he was not released from prison until June, 1868. The hanging of his mother is generally considered to have been a gross miscarriage of justice. The prosecution, headed by Judge Advocate General Joseph HoltHolt, Joseph,
1807–94, American public official, judge advocate general of the U.S. army (1862–75), b. Breckinridge co., Ky. He became a widely known lawyer and political speaker in the old Southwest.
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, never established that Mary Surratt even knew (although she might have known) of the abduction plot, and it now seems certain that she was not a party to the assassination plans. Booth's diary and other evidence that might have cast doubt on the prosecution's case were suppressed by the government, and it is generally believed that some of the testimony against Mary Surratt was false. She has appealed to many writers and is the subject of several dramas, such as John Patrick's Story of Mary Surratt (1947).


See D. M. De Witt, The Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt (1895, repr. 1970); H. J. Campbell, The Case for Mrs. Surratt (1943); G. W. Moore, The Case of Mrs. Surratt (1954).

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Surratt, Mary Eugenia (b. Jenkins)

alleged assassination conspirators; born in Waterloo, Md. Mrs. Surratt was widowed in 1864 and she opened a boarding house in Washington, D.C. It was here that John Wilkes Booth allegedly plotted the assassination of President Lincoln with his colleagues; her young son John, who had served as a message runner for the Confederacy, was alleged to have been involved in some way. Following Lincoln's assassination, John escaped to Canada while his mother was arrested and tried (May 10–June 30, 1865) for participating in the conspiracy. Although she insisted she had no part in the plot, she was hanged on July 7, 1865 (along with three others). John returned to the U.S.A. and was acquitted by a civil court in 1867. He later was a freight agent for the Baltimore Packet Company.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.