Abraham Lincoln's Assassination
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Library of Congress Photograph
Michael O'Laughlen was born in June 1840 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was one of John Wilkes Booth's earliest friends as the Booth family lived across the street from the O'Laughlens. O'Laughlen learned the trade of manufacturing ornamental plasterwork. He also learned the art of engraving. At the outbreak of the Civil War O'Laughlen joined the Confederate Army but was discharged in June 1862. He returned to Baltimore and joined his brother in the feed and produce business.
O'Laughlen was one of Booth's first recruits. In the fall of 1864 O'Laughlen agreed to become a co-conspirator in the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. O'Laughlen began spending time in Washington with Booth picking up his expenses. On the night of March 15, 1865, O'Laughlen met with Booth and other conspirators at Gautier's Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the possible abduction of the president. Basically, the plan was to abduct Lincoln and take him to Richmond for the purpose of making the Union government exchange prisoners with the Confederacy.

Booth learned that Lincoln was scheduled to attend a matinee performance of the play Still Waters Run Deep at the Campbell Hospital on the outskirts of Washington on March 17, 1865. Booth, O'Laughlen, and the other co-conspirators planned on intercepting the president's carriage. However, Lincoln changed plans at the last minute, and this plan fell through. O'Laughlen returned to Baltimore.

Late in March Booth proposed another kidnap plan. This time Lincoln was to be captured at Ford's Theatre, handcuffed, and lowered by rope to the stage. Then the president would be taken to Richmond. O'Laughlen was assigned to put the gas lights out at the theatre. However, Booth was not able to convince his co-conspirators that this plan was feasible.

According to O'Laughlen, this was the end of his plotting with Booth. However, O'Laughlen did return to Washington, D.C. the day before the assassination. It is unclear whether this was due to the conspiracy or simply to spend time with friends in Washington which was in the midst of a large celebration due to the Union victory. At the trial, there was conflicting testimony about O'Laughlen's movements on the day of the assassination. Whatever the case, O'Laughlen voluntarily surrendered on Monday, April 17th.

O'Laughlen was tried along with Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Arnold, Edman 'Ned' Spangler, and Dr. Samuel Mudd. The government attempted to prove he had stalked Ulysses S. Grant on the nights of April 13 and April 14 with the intent to kill and murder. This was not proven, but there was no doubt O'Laughlen was a willing conspirator through late March. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

O'Laughlen was sent to Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas with Spangler, Arnold, and Mudd. He contracted yellow fever on September 19, 1867. Four days later, he seemed to be feeling better. He was up and about. But suddenly he collapsed, and Dr. Mudd tended to him most of the night. Dr. Mudd tried his best to save him, but O'Laughlen became yet another victim of the yellow fever outbreak that swept through the prison.

The photograph to the left is the conspirators' cell at Fort Jefferson.

On February 13, 1869, President Andrew Johnson issued an order that O'Laughlen's remains be turned over to his mother. His body was then sent north to Baltimore. He was buried in Baltimore in Greenmount Cemetery. John Wilkes Booth and Samuel Arnold were also buried in the same cemetery.
The photograph of the conspirators' cell came from Samuel Bland Arnold: Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator edited by Michael W. Kauffman.
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)
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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