Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
<< Back

EDMAN SPANGLER


Library of Congress Photograph
Edman (Ned) Spangler was born on August 10, 1825. He was originally from York, Pennsylvania, but he spent the majority of his life in the Baltimore area. At one time he worked at the Booth family estate at Bel Air, Maryland. During the Civil War, he came to Washington and began working as a carpenter and sceneshifter at Ford's Theatre. He was acquainted with John Wilkes Booth and often took care of Booth's horse when he was at the theater. While working there, Spangler often slept in the theater itself or in a stable in back of the theater.
During the afternoon of Lincoln's assassination, Spangler was asked by Harry Clay Ford to help prepare the State Box for the president. It was alleged at the conspiracy trial that Spangler talked negatively about Lincoln while working in the box. He helped bring in furniture and remove the partition that converted Boxes 7 and 8 into a single box. Later Booth showed up at the theater and invited Spangler and other Ford's stagehands out for a drink. Booth indicated to the employees that he might come back for the evening's performance.

About 9:30 P.M. Booth again appeared at the theater. He dismounted in the alley to the rear of Ford's and shouted for Spangler. When Spangler came out, Booth asked him to hold his horse. Spangler explained he had work to do and asked Joseph Burroughs, another Ford's employee, to do so. Burroughs, whose nickname was "Johnny Peanut," agreed.

Immediately after the assassination, there was a lot of commotion backstage. Jake Rittersback (spelled Jacob Ritterspaugh in many sources), who also worked at Ford's, said he tried to chase after Booth, but that Spangler hit him in the face and said, "Don't say which way he went."

Spangler was arrested on April 17 and booked as an accomplice to John Wilkes Booth. He was tried along with the other charged co-conspirators. Although the evidence against him was questionable, Spangler was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison. Along with Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O'Laughlen, Spangler was sent to Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Key West, Florida.

In 1869 Spangler was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. Eventually Spangler traveled to Dr. Mudd's home. The two men had become friends in prison. Mudd took Spangler in and gave him five acres of land to farm. Spangler performed carpentry chores in the neighborhood. However, Spangler was not in good health and died on February 7, 1875. He was buried in a graveyard connected with St. Peter's Church that was about two miles from Dr. Mudd's home. A grave marker was placed on his gravesite in 1983. (The photograph is from His name Was Mudd by Elden C. Weckesser.)

Nettie Mudd, daughter of Dr. Mudd, said of Spangler:

"He was a quiet, genial man, greatly respected by the members of our family and the people of the neighborhood. His greatest pleasure seemed to be found in extending kindness to others, and particularly to children, of whom he was very fond."

Note: As Dr. Edward Steers, Jr. states on Page 328 of his book entitled Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln there is confusion in many Lincoln assassination books about Spangler’s whereabouts from 1869-1875. It could be that Spangler returned to work for John Ford from 1869-1873 and then went to live at Dr. Mudd's until his death in 1875. I also have a book that indicates Spangler probably spent the entire 1869-1875 period with the Mudds; yet another book indicates Spangler worked at several theaters between Baltimore and Richmond from 1869-1871, and then went to live with the Mudds in 1871.

Writing in American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies author Michael W. Kauffman notes that many years later Harry Hawk, the actor on stage when Lincoln was shot, admitted in an interview that he actually said the words Rittersback (Ritterspaugh) attributed to Spangler. Hawk said that he was scared, dazed, and confused during the uproar and simply wanted to keep out of any trouble.

Regarding Spangler's whereabouts during the 1869-1875 period, Kauffman states that Spangler worked at the Holliday Street Theatre in Baltimore from 1869-1873 before going to live at Dr. Mudd's house after the theater burned down.

Shortly after Spangler's death, Dr. Mudd found a statement in Spangler's tool chest. It was a brief description of Spangler's relationship with Booth. In it, he said he never heard Booth speak of politics, hatred of Lincoln, or Southern pride. He said he heard the shot when it was fired in the theater, and that a man he didn't immediately recognize as Booth run across the stage. He denied aiding Booth in any manner whatsoever. The entire text of Spangler's statement is as follows:

I was born in York County, Pennsylvania, and am about forty-three years of age, I am a house carpenter by trade, and became acquainted with J. Wilkes Booth when a boy. I worked for his father in building a cottage in Harford County, Maryland, in 1854. Since A. D. 1853, I have done carpenter work for the different theaters in the cities of Baltimore and Washington, to wit: The Holiday Street Theater and the Front Street Theater of Baltimore, and Ford's Theater in the City of Washington. I have acted also as scene shifter in all the above named theaters, and had a favorable opportunity to become acquainted with the different actors. I have acted as scene shifter in Ford's Theater, ever since it was first opened up, to the night of the assassination of President Lincoln. During the winter of A. D. 1862 and 1863, J. Wilkes Booth played a star engagement at Ford's Theater for two weeks. At that time I saw him and conversed with him quite frequently. After completing his engagement he left Washington and I did not see him again until the winters of A. D. 1864 and 1865. I then saw him at various times in and about Ford's Theater.

Booth had free access to the theater at all times, and made himself very familiar with all persons connected with it. He had a stable in the rear of the theater where he kept his horses. A boy, Joseph Burroughs, commonly called "Peanut John," took care of them whenever Booth was absent from the city. I looked after his horses, which I did at his request, and saw that they were properly cared for. Booth promised to pay me for my trouble, but he never did. I frequently had the horses exercised, during Booth's absence from the city, by "Peanut John," walking them up and down the alley. "Peanut John" kept the key to the stable in the theater, hanging upon a nail behind the small door, which opened into the alley at the rear of the theater. Booth usually rode out on horseback every afternoon and evening, but seldom remained out later than eight or nine o'clock. He always went and returned alone. I never knew of his riding out on horseback and staying out all night, or of any person coming to the stable with him, or calling there for him. He had two horses at the stable, only a short time. He brought them there some time in the month of December. A man called George and myself repaired and fixed the stable for him. I usually saddled the horse for him when "Peanut John" was absent. About the first of March Booth brought another horse and a buggy and harness to the stable, but in what manner I do not know; after that he used to ride out with his horse and buggy, and I frequently harnessed them up for him. I never saw any person ride out with him or return with him from these rides.

On the Monday evening previous to the assassination, Booth requested me to sell the horse, harness, and buggy, as he said he should leave the city soon. I took them the next morning to the horse market, and had them put up at auction, with the instruction not to sell unless they would net two hundred and sixty dollars; this was in accordance with Booth's orders to me. As no person bid sufficient to make them net that amount, they were not sold, and I took them back to the stable. I informed Booth of the result that same evening in front of the theater. He replied that he must then try and have them sold at private sale, and asked me if I would help him. I replied, "Yes." This was about six o'clock in the evening, and the conversation took place in the presence of John F. Sleichman and others. The next day I sold them for two hundred and sixty dollars. The purchaser accompanied me to the theater. Booth was not in, and the money was paid to James J. Gifford, who receipted for it. I did not see Booth to speak to him, after the sale, until the evening of the assassination.

Upon the afternoon of April 14 I was told by "Peanut John" that the President and General Grant were coming to the theater that night, and that I must take out the partition in the President's box. It was my business to do all such work. I was assisted in doing it by Rittespaugh and "Peanut John."

In the evening, between five and six o'clock, Booth came into the theater and asked me for a halter. I was very busy at work at the time on the stage preparatory to the evening performance, and Rittespaugh went upstairs and brought one down. I went out to the stable with Booth and put the halter upon the horse. I commenced to take off the saddle when Booth said, "Never mind, I do not want it off, but let it and the bridle remain." He afterward took the saddle off himself, locked the stable, and went back to the theater.

Booth, Maddox, "Peanut John," and myself immediately went out of the theater to the adjoining restaurant next door, and took a drink at Booth's expense. I then went immediately back to the theatre, and Rittespaugh and myself went to supper. I did not see Booth again until between nine and ten o'clock. About that time Deboney called to me, and said Booth wanted me to hold his horse as soon as I could be spared. I went to the back door and Booth was standing in the alley holding a horse by the bridle rein, and requested me to hold it. I took the rein, but told him I could not remain, as Gifford was gone, and that all of the responsibility rested on me. Booth then passed into the theater. I called to Deboney to send 'Peanut John' to hold the horse. He came, and took the horse, and I went back to my proper place.

In about a half hour afterward I heard a shot fired, and immediately saw a man run across the stage. I saw him as he passed by the center door of the scenery, behind which I then stood; this door is usually termed the center chamber door. I did not recognize the man as he crossed the stage as being Booth. I then heard some one say that the President was shot. Immediately all was confusion. I shoved the scenes back as quickly as possible in order to clear the stage, as many were rushing upon it. I was very much frightened, as I heard persons halloo, "Burn the theater!" I did not see Booth pass out; my situation was such that I could not see any person pass out of the back door. The back door has a spring attached to it, and would not shut of its own accord. I usually slept in the theater, but I did not upon the night of the assassination; I was fearful the theater would be burned, and I slept in a carpenter's shop adjoining.

I never heard Booth express himself in favor of the rebellion, or opposed to the Government, or converse upon political subjects; and I have no recollection of his mentioning the name of President Lincoln in any connection whatever. I know nothing of the mortise hole said to be in the wall behind the door of the President's box, or of any wooden bar to fasten or hold the door being there, or of the lock being out of order. I did not notice any hole in the door. Gifford usually attended to the carpentering in the front part of the theater, while I did the work about the stage. Mr. Gifford was the boss carpenter, and I was under him.

SOURCE OF SPANGLER'S STATEMENT: pp. 322-326 of The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd by Nettie Mudd (Linden, Tennessee, Continental Book Company, 1975).
Others Tried By The Military Commission
Samuel Arnold
Samuel Arnold (sentenced to life)
George Atzerodt
George Atzerodt (sentenced to hang)
David Herold
David Herold (sentenced to hang)
Dr. Samuel Mudd
Dr. Samuel Mudd (sentenced to life)
Michael O'Laughlen
Michael O'Laughlen (sentenced to life)
Lewis Paine
Lewis Powell (sentenced to hang)
Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt (sentenced to hang)

This is not a commercial website. None of the photographs and artwork exhibited herein are being sold by the webmaster. Some photographs and artwork are believed to be in the public domain. Any copyrighted photographs and artwork are used in the context of this website strictly for educational, research and historical purposes only, under the "Fair Use" provisions of the Copyright Act, (US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use Section 107). Anyone claiming copyright to any of the posted photographs or artwork please inform the webmaster of such and it will be duly noted or removed.

Questions, comments, corrections or suggestions can be sent to
R. J. Norton, the creator and maintainer of this site. All text except reprinted articles was written by the webmaster, ©1996-2014. All rights reserved. It is unlawful to copy, reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or hard copy, including reproducing on another web page, or in any information or retrieval system without the express written permission of the author. The website was born on December 29, 1996.

Web design by Andrew Patel.