Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
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Library of Congress Photograph
Mary Surratt, 42, the first woman to be hanged by the United States government, is the body hanging at the left. Virtually everyone expected her sentence to be commuted by President Andrew Johnson, but it was not. From the left, after Mary Surratt, hang the bodies of Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt. Roughly 1,000 people, viewing from windows, walls, the courtyard, and buildings, witnessed the affair. Because such a large number of people wished to view the execution, tickets had been issued to limit the actual number in the courtyard.

At approximately 1:26 P.M., July 7, 1865, the signal was given. The two soldiers underneath the gallows knocked away the supporting posts with long poles, and the trap doors snapped downward. The bodies of the four victims dropped about five to six feet and then came up with a sharp jerk at the end of each rope. After the hanging about 25 minutes elapsed, and the bodies were cut down. Doctors then examined them as they lay on top of their coffins which were really just crude gun boxes. The bodies (with hanging-caps still on) were buried in shallow graves next to the gallows. Pieces of the gallows were soon distributed as souvenirs.

In 1867 the remains of Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold were removed from the shallow graves in the prison yard. They were placed in a storage building nearby. In February 1869 President Andrew Johnson issued an order allowing the bodies to be released to their respective families. Family members claimed all bodies with the lone exception of Lewis Powell. For more details, please see the September 2000 issue of the Surratt Courier.

Today Ft. Lesley McNair occupies the grounds of the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in Washington, D.C. where the hangings took place. The building in which the accused were tried still stands. It is called Grant Hall. The scaffold where the executions took place would today stand near the back of the tennis courts.

LEFT: The hanging of the four convicted conspirators.
RIGHT: Contemporary Smithsonian photograph of the tennis courts at Ft. McNair.


Inside the Walls is the creation of John Elliott, a Lincoln conspirator researcher who is currently writing a book on the subject.

Four previews of the book have already been published. For more information please CLICK HERE.

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