Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
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Samuel Arnold

LEFT: Library of Congress photograph taken in 1865; RIGHT: photograph taken in 1902. Source: Samuel Bland Arnold: Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator edited by Michael W. Kauffman.
Samuel Arnold was born in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. on September 6, 1834. He was the second son of Mary Jane and George Arnold, Sr. Later the Arnold family moved to Baltimore, and Samuel attended St. Timothy's Hall, a military academy. He and John Wilkes Booth were schoolmates.


George Arnold, Sr. and Mary Jane Bland Arnold

Arnold joined the Confederate Army during the Civil War but was discharged for health reasons. He returned to Baltimore, and in the late summer of 1864, was recruited by Booth to be part of the plot to kidnap President Lincoln.

Being unemployed and bored, Arnold eagerly accepted the plan. On the night of Wednesday, March 15, 1865, Arnold met with Booth and other conspirators at Gautier's Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the possible abduction of the president. Two days later Arnold was involved in a plan to kidnap Lincoln on the road to the Campbell Hospital. There the president had planned to attend a performance of the play Still Waters Run Deep. Lincoln changed plans at the last minute, and this plan fell through. (It is likely John Surratt embellished the story of this kidnapping attempt in his 1870 lecture. In reality Lincoln remained in Washington to speak to the 140th Indiana Regiment from the balcony of the National Hotel.) After this failure, Arnold returned to Baltimore but ended up taking a clerk's job in Old Point Comfort, Virginia. On March 27, he wrote Booth a letter requesting that Booth desist from his plans and indicating, at least temporarily, he (Arnold) would be separating himself from Booth's gang.

Arnold was working at this job in Virginia when he was arrested on April 17, 1865. He admitted his part in the plot to kidnap Lincoln. However, his co-workers supported Arnold's contention that he was in Virginia at the time of the assassination. Still, the U.S. government charged him with conspiracy, and he went to trial along with Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Ned Spangler, Dr. Samuel Mudd, and Michael O'Laughlen.

Arnold was found guilty by the Military Commission and sentenced to life. With Mudd, Spangler, and O'Laughlen, he was sent to Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.

Photograph of the conspirators' cell at Fort Jefferson. Source: Samuel Bland Arnold: Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator edited by Michael W. Kauffman.

Arnold was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson on March 1, 1869. Arnold's petition for release was signed by Maryland Governor Oden Bowie as well as Baltimore's mayor, police commissioner and many others. In all over 200 people signed the request. Nowadays a copy of Arnold's pardon is in the Maryland Historical Society.

After his release he wrote a long statement admitting his role in the plot to kidnap Lincoln. However, he denied playing any role whatsoever in the plot to assassinate him.

On September 21, 1906, Samuel Arnold died of pulmonary tuberculosis (at the time called “galloping consumption”). Arnold was 72 years old when he passed away. He had undergone surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital but died two days later. Arnold was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore. John Wilkes Booth and Michael O'Laughlen were also buried in the same cemetery.

For much more information on Samuel Arnold see the fascinating book Samuel Bland Arnold: Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator edited by Michael W. Kauffman. Kauffman's book is the source of the pictures of Samuel Arnold's parents. The link to the Philadelphia Inquirer article came from Betty Ownsbey. Betty, thank you!
Others Tried By The Military Commission
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)
Edman Spangler
Edman Spangler (sentenced to 6 years)
Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt (sentenced to hang)

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