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BellaOnline's Today in History Editor


Mary Surratt

Guest Author - Vance Rowe

Mary Surratt owned a tavern in what is now known as Clinton, Md. When her husband died, she moved to Washington and bought a row house there which she later turned into a boarding house because of financial trouble. The house was just a few blocks from Fordís theater, where Lincoln was shot in the back of the head. The boarding house was a spot where co-conspirators and confederate sympathizers, including John Wilkes Booth met to discuss the assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Johnson and the Secretary of State William Seward. The boarding house was a sort of base of operations for Booth and his co-conspirators. Before the plans for the assassination were developed, there was a plan to kidnap the president and to use him as leverage for the release of confederate prisoners. John Surratt, Maryís son, was a co-conspirator in the kidnapping plot. He was a suspected co-conspirator in the assassination of Lincoln but fled the country before he could be arrested.

On the day of the assassination of President Lincoln, Booth had asked Mary Surratt to bring a package to the tavern she owned in Clinton, Maryland, which was then known as Surattsville, Maryland. She no longer worked at the tavern but leased it to a man named John Lloyd who was also a former Washington police officer. She ran into Lloyd on her way back home and told him to have whiskey and weapons ready for Booth and co-conspirator David Herold when they visited the tavern later that night. It was later discovered that the package she delivered to the tavern had weapons in it. When Lloyd was first questioned by authorities, he denied that Booth and Herold were ever at the tavern but then later admitted what Mary Surratt had told him to do and who to expect.

A man named Louis Weichmann was with Surratt when she delivered the package and was released from custody when he testified against Mary Surratt. Weichmann later said that he was coerced to testify against Surratt and another co-conspirator named Lewis Powell, who was hanged with Surratt, told police that Mary Surratt was innocent of the charges against her.

Since the federal government had never executed a woman before, many people believed that President Andrew Johnson would have stayed the execution. The execution was delayed until the afternoon and soldiers were placed on every block between the White House and Fort McNair so the message could be relayed that Mary Surratt was pardoned by the president. The message never came and it was today in history, July 7, 1865, that Mary Surratt became the first woman to be executed by the U.S. Government. Fort McNair was the place that the hangings took place and a few web sites claim that the ghost of Mary Surratt haunts her boarding house where she was arrested, the grounds of Fort McNair and the site of her tavern in Clinton, Maryland which is now a historical landmark.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Vance Rowe. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Vance Rowe. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lane Graciano for details.


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