John H. SURRATT's 1870 Lecture
John H., Jr.
1870 Lecture
Chapter 13.b

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The following was published on Dec. 07, 1870, edition 
of Washington's "Evening Star" newspaper.  


John H. SURRATT, one of John Wilkes BOOTH's closest associates 
and son of the first woman to be hanged by the United States 
Government, escaped the country after Lincoln's assassination.  
He was captured abroad and brought to trial in 1867.  He was 
tried by a civil (as opposed to a military) court.  The case 
ended in a hung jury, and eventually SURRATT went free.  On 
Tuesday, December 6, 1870, SURRATT, then a teacher,  gave a one 
hour, fifteen minute public lecture in a small courthouse in 
Rockville, Maryland, telling his story of the conspiracy.  The 
lecture began at 7:00 P.M., and adults paid fifty cents to 
attend; children paid twenty-five cents.  The text of what 
SURRATT said is as follows:

"Ladies and gentlemen: - Upon entering that door a few moments 
ago the impression on my mind was so strong as to vividly recall 
scenes of three years ago.  I am not unacquainted with court room 
audiences.  I have stood before them before; true, not in the 
character of a lecturer, but as a prisoner at the bar, arraigned 
for the high crime of murder.  In contrasting the two positions I 
must confess I felt more ease as the prisoner at the bar than I 
do as a lecturer.  Then I felt confident of success; now I do 
not.  Then I had gentlemen of known ability to do all my talking 
for me; now, unfortunately, I have to do it for myself, and I 
feel fully capable of performing the task; still I hope you will 
all judge me kindly.  I am not here to surprise you by any 
oratorical effort - not at all - but only to tell a simple tale.  
I feel that some explanation, perhaps, indeed an apology is due 
you for my appearance here this evening.  In presenting this 
lecture before the public I do it in no spirit of self-
justification.  In a trial of sixty-one days I made my defense to 
the world, and I have no need or desire to rehearse it; nor do I 
appear for self-glorification.  On the contrary, I dislike 
notoriety, and leave my solitude and obscurity unwillingly.  
Neither is it an itching for notoriety or fame.  My object is 
merely to present a simple narrative of events as they occurred.  
I stand here through the force of that which has obliged many 
other men to do things quite as distasteful - pecuniary 
necessity, for the supply of which no more available channel 
presented itself.  This is a reason easily appreciated.  So you 
will take it kindly, I trust, and the ground we will have to go 
over together will guarantee sufficient interest to repay your 
kind attention.  In this my first lecture I will speak of my 
introduction to J. Wilkes BOOTH, his plan - its failure - our 
final separation - my trip from Richmond, and thence to Canada - 
then my orders to Elmira - what was done there - the first 
intimation I had of Mr. Lincoln's death, my return to Canada and 
concealment there, and final departure for Europe.  At the 
breaking out of the war I was a student at St. Charles College, 
in Maryland, but did not remain long there after that important 
event.  I left in July, 1861, and returning home commenced to 
take an active part in the stirring events of that period.  I was 
not more than eighteen years of age, and was mostly engaged in 
sending information regarding the movements of the United States 
army stationed in Washington and elsewhere, and carrying 
dispatches to the Confederate boats on the Potomac.  We had a 
regular established line from Washington to the Potomac, and I 
being the only unmarried man on the route, I had most of the hard 
riding to do.  I devised various ways to carry the dispatches - 
sometimes in the heel of my boots, sometimes between the planks 
of the buggy.  I confess that never in my life did I come across 
a more stupid set of detectives than those generally employed by 
the U.S. government.  They seemed to have no idea whatever on how 
to search men.  In 1864 my family left Maryland and moved to 
Washington, where I took a still more active part in the stirring 
events of that period.  It was a fascinating life to me.  It 
seemed as if I could not do too much or run too great a risk.

In the fall of 1864 I was introduced to John Wilkes BOOTH, who, I 
was given to understand, wished to know something about the main 
avenues leading from Washington to the Potomac.  We met several 
times, but as he seemed to be very reticent with regard to his 
purposes, and very anxious to get all the information out of me 
he could, I refused to tell him anything at all.  At last I said 
to him, "It is useless for you, Mr. BOOTH, to seek any 
information from me at all; I know who you are and what are your 
intentions."  He hesitated some time, but finally said he would 
make known his views to me provided I would promise secrecy.  I 
replied, "I will do nothing of the kind.  You know well I am a 
Southern man.  If you cannot trust me we will separate."  He then 
said, "I will confide my plans to you; but before doing so I will 
make known to you the motives that actuate me.  In the Northern 
prisons are many thousands of our men whom the United States 
Government refuses to exchange.  You know as well as I the 
efforts that have been made to bring about that much desired 
exchange.  Aside from the great suffering they are compelled to 
undergo, we are sadly in want of them as soldiers.  We cannot 
spare one man, whereas the United States Government is willing to 
let their own soldiers remain in our prisons because she has no 
need of the men.  I have a proposition to submit to you, which I 
think if we can carry out will bring about the desired exchange."  
There was a long and ominous silence which I at last was 
compelled to break by asking, "Well, Sir, what is your 
proposition?" He sat quiet for an instant, and then, before 
answering me, arose and looked under the bed, into the wardrobe, 
in the doorway and the passage, and then said, "We will have to 
be careful; walls have ears." He then drew his chair close to me 
and in a whisper said, "It is to kidnap President Lincoln, and 
carry him off to Richmond!" "Kidnap President Lincoln!" I said. I 
confess that I stood aghast at the proposition, and looked upon 
it as a foolhardy undertaking.  To think of successfully seizing 
Mr. Lincoln in the capital of the United States surrounded by 
thousands of his soldiers, and carrying him off to Richmond, 
looked to me like a foolish idea.  I told him as much.  He went 
on to tell with what facility he could be seized in various 
places in and about Washington.  As for example in his various 
rides to and from the Soldiers' Home, his summer residence.  He 
entered into the minute details of the proposed capture, and even 
the various parts to be performed by the actors in the 
performance.  I was amazed - thunderstruck - and in fact, I might 
also say, frightened at the unparalleled audacity of this scheme.  
After two days' reflection I told him I was willing to try it.  I 
believed it practicable at that time, though I now regard it as a 
foolhardy undertaking.  I hope you will not blame me for going 
thus far.  I honestly thought an exchange of prisoners could be 
brought about could we have once obtained possession of Mr. 
Lincoln's person.  And now reverse the case.  Where is there a 
young man in the North with one spark of patriotism in his heart 
with would not have with enthusiastic ardor joined in any 
undertaking for the capture of Jefferson Davis and brought him to 
Washington?  There is not one who would not have done so.  And so 

I was led on by a sincere desire to assist the South in gaining 
her independence.  I had no hesitation in taking part in anything 
honorable that might tend toward the accomplishment of that 
object.  Such a thing as the assassination of Mr. Lincoln I never 
heard spoken of by any of the party.  Never!  Upon one occasion, 
I remember, we had called a meeting in Washington for the purpose 
of discussing matters in general, as we had understood that the 
government had received information that there was a plot of some 
kind on hand.  They had even commenced to build a stockade and 
gates on the navy yard bridge; gates opening towards the south as 
though they expected danger from within, and not from without.  
At this meeting I explained the construction of the gates, etc., 
and stated I was confident the government had wind of our 
movement, and the best thing we could do would be to throw up the 
whole project.  Everyone seemed to coincide in my opinion, except 
BOOTH, who sat silent and abstracted.  Arising at last and 
bringing his fist upon the table he said, "Well, gentlemen, if 
the worst comes to the worst, I shall know what to do."

Some hard words and even threats then passed between him and some 
of the party.  Four of us then arose, one saying, "If I 
understand you to intimate anything more than the capture of Mr. 
Lincoln I for one will bid you goodbye."  Everyone expressed the 
same opinion.  We all arose and commenced putting our hats on.  
BOOTH perceiving probably that he had gone too far, asked pardon 
saying that he "had drank too much champagne." After some 
difficulty everything was amicably arranged and we separated at 5 
o'clock in the morning.  Days, weeks and months passed by without 
an opportunity presenting itself for us to attempt the capture.  
We seldom saw one another owing to the many rumors afloat that a 
conspiracy of some kind was being concocted in Washington.  We 
had all the arrangements perfected from Washington for the 
purpose.  Boats were in readiness to carry us across the river.  
On day we received information that the President would visit the 
Seventh Street Hospital for the purpose of being present at an 
entertainment to be given for the benefit of the wounded 
soldiers.  The report only reached us about three quarters of an 
hour before the time appointed, but so perfect was our 
communication that we were instantly in our saddles on the way to 
the hospital.  This was between one and two o'clock in the 
afternoon.  It was our intention to seize the carriage , which 
was drawn by a splendid pair of horses, and to have one of our 
men mount the box and drive direct for southern Maryland via 
Benning's bridge.  We felt confident that all the cavalry in the 
city could never overhaul us.  We were all mounted on swift 
horses, besides having a thorough knowledge of the country, it 
was determined to abandon the carriage after passing the city 
limits.  Upon the suddenness of the blow and the celerity of our 
movements we depended for success.  By the time the alarm could 
have been given and horses saddled, we would have been on our way 
through southern Maryland towards the Potomac river.  To our 
great disappointment, however, the President was not there but 
one of the government officials - Mr. [Salmon P.] Chase, if I 
mistake not.  We did not disturb him, as we wanted a bigger 
chase than he could have afforded us.  It was certainly a 
bitter disappointment, but yet I think a most fortunate one for 
us.  It was our last attempt.  We soon after this became 
convinced that we could not remain much longer undiscovered, and 
that we must abandon our enterprise.  Accordingly, a separation 
finally took place, and I never saw any of the party except one, 
and that was when I was on my way from Richmond to Canada on 
business of quite a different nature - about which, presently.  
Such is the story of our abduction plot.

Rash, perhaps foolish, but honorable I maintain in its means and 
ends; actuated by such motives as would under similar 
circumstances be a sufficient inducement to thousands of southern 
young men to have embarked in a similar enterprise.  Shortly 
after our abandonment of the abduction scheme, some dispatches 
came to me which I was compelled to see through to Richmond.  
They were foreign ones, and had no reference whatever to this 
affair.  I accordingly left home for Richmond, and arrived there 
safely on the Friday evening before the evacuation of that city.  
On my arrival I went to [the] Spotswood Hotel, where I was told 
that Mr. Benjamin, the then Secretary of War of the Confederate 
States, wanted to see me.  I accordingly sought his presence. He 
asked me if I would carry some dispatches to Canada for him.  I 
replied "yes." That evening he gave me the dispatches and $200 in 
gold with which to pay my way to Canada.  That was the only money 
I ever received from the Confederate government or any of its 
agents.  It may be well to remark here that this scheme of 
abduction was concocted without the knowledge or the assistance 
of the Confederate government in any shape or form.  BOOTH and I 
often consulted together as to whether it would not be well to 
acquaint the authorities in Richmond with our plan, as we were 
sadly in want of money, our expenses being very heavy.  In fact 
the question arose among us as to whether, after getting Mr. 
Lincoln, if we succeeded in our plan, the Confederate authorities 
would not surrender us to the United States again, because of 
doing this thing without their knowledge or consent.  But we 
never acquainted them with the plan, and they never had anything 
in the wide world to do with it.  In fact, we were jealous of our 
undertaking and wanted no outside help.  I have not made this 
statement to defend the officers of the Confederate government.  
They are perfectly able to defend themselves.  What I have done 
myself I am not ashamed to let the world know.  I left Richmond 
on Saturday morning before the evacuation of that place, and 
reached Washington the following Monday at 4 o'clock P.M., April 
3d, 1865.  As soon as I reached the Maryland shore I understood 
that the detectives knew of my trip South and were on the lookout 
for me.  I had been South several times before for the secret 
service but had never been caught.  At that time I was carrying 
the dispatches Mr. Benjamin gave me: in a book entitled "The Life 
of John Brown." During my trip, and while reading that book, I 
learned, to my utter amazement, that John Brown was a martyr 
sitting at the right hand of God.  I succeeded in reaching 
Washington safely, and in passing up Seventh street met one of 
our party, who inquired what had become of BOOTH.  I told him 
where I had been; that I was then on my way to Canada, and that I 
had not seen or heard anything of BOOTH since our separation.  In 
view of the fact that Richmond had fallen, and that all hopes of 
the abduction of the President had been given up, I advised him 
to go home and go to work.  That was the last time I saw any of 
the party.  I went to a hotel and stopped over that night, as a 
detective had been to my house inquiring of the servant my 
whereabouts.  In the early train next morning, Tuesday, April 4, 
1865, I left for New York, and that was the last time I was ever 
in Washington until brought there by the U.S. Government a 
captive in irons, all reports to the contrary 

The United States, as you will remember, tried to prove me 
presence in Washington on the 15th of April, the day on which Mr. 
Lincoln met his death.  Upon arriving in New York, I called at 
BOOTH's house, and was told by the servant that he had left that 
morning suddenly, on the ground of going to Boston to fulfill an 
engagement at the theater.  In the evening of the same day I took 
the cars for Montreal, arriving there the next day.  I put up at 
the St. Lawrence Hotel, registering myself as "John Harrison" 
such being my first two names.  Shortly afterwards I saw General 
Edward G. Lee, to whom the dispatches were directed, and 
delivered them to him.  Those dispatches we tried to introduce as 
evidence on my trial, but his Honor Judge Fisher ruled them out, 
despite of the fact that the government had tried to prove that 
they had relation to the conspiracy to kill Mr. Lincoln.  They 
were only accounts of some money transactions - nothing more or 
less.  A week or so after my arrival there, General Lee came to 
my room, and told me he had a plan on foot to release the 
Confederate prisoners then in Elmira, N.Y.  He said he had sent 
many parties there, but they always got frightened, and only half 
executed their orders.  He asked me if I would go there and take 
a sketch of the prison, find out the number of prisoners, also 
minor details in regard to the number of soldiers on guard, 
cannon, small arms, etc.  I readily accepted these new labors, 
owing to the fact that I could not return to Washington for fear 
of the detectives.  The news of the evacuation of Richmond did 
not seem to disturb the General much in his plan, as he doubtless 
thought then that the Confederacy wanted men more than ever, no 
one dreaming that it was virtually at an end.  I was much amused 
at one expression made use of by an ex-reb with regard to the 
suddenness of its demise: "D---n the thing, it didn't even 
flicker, went right out." In accordance with Gen. Lee's order, I 
went to Elmira, arriving there on Wednesday, two days before Mr. 
Lincoln's death, and registered at the Brainard House, as usual 
as "John Harrison."  The following day I went to work, and made a 
complete sketch of the prison and surroundings.  About 10 o'clock 
on Friday night I retired, little thinking that on that night a 
blow would be struck which would forever blast my hopes, and make 
me a wanderer in a foreign land.  I slept the night through, and 
came down the next morning little dreaming of the storm then 
brewing around my head.  When I took my seat at the table around 
9 o'clock A.M., a gentleman to my left remarked: "Have you heard 
the news?"  "No, I've not," I replied.  "What is it?"  "Why 
President Lincoln and Secretary Seward have been assassinated."  
I really put so little faith in what the man said that I made a 
remark that it was too early in the morning to get off such jokes 
as that.  "It's so," he said, at the same time drawing out a 
paper and showing it to me.  Sure enough, there I saw an account 
of what he told me, but as no names were mentioned, it never 
occurred to me for an instant that it could have been BOOTH or 
any of the party, for the simple reason that I never had heard 
anything regarding assassination spoken of during my intercourse 
with them.  I had good reason to believe that there was another 
conspiracy afloat in Washington, in fact we all knew it.  One 
evening, as I was partially lying down in the reading-room of the 
Metropolitan Hotel, two or three gentlemen came in and looked 
around as if to sure that no one was around.  They then commenced 
to talk about what had been done, the best means for the 
expedition, etc.  It being about dusk, and no gas light, and 
partially concealed behind a writing desk, I was an unwilling 
listener of what occurred.  I told BOOTH of this afterward, and 
he said he had heard something to the same effect.  It only made 
us all the more eager to carry out our plans at an early day for 
fear some one should get ahead of us.  We didn't know what they 
were after exactly, but we were all well satisfied that their 
object was very much the same as ours.  Arising from the table I 
thought over who the party could be, for at that time no names 
had been telegraphed.  I was pretty sure it was none of the old 
party. I approached the telegraph office in the main hall of the 
hotel for the purpose of ascertaining if J. Wilkes BOOTH was in 
New York.  I picked up a blank and wrote "John Wilkes BOOTH," 
giving the number of the house.  I hesitated a moment, and then 
tore the paper up, and then wrote one "J.W.B.," with directions, 
which I was led to do from the fact that during our whole 
connection we rarely wrote or telegraphed under our proper names, 
but always in such a manner that no one could understand but 
ourselves.  One way of BOOTH's was to send letters to me under 
cover to my quondam friend, Louis J. Weichman.

SURRATT Lecture Cont.
SURRATT lecture continued (conclusion)

Doubtless you all know who Louis J. Weichman is.  They were sent 
to him because he knew of the plot to abduct President Lincoln.  
I proclaim it here and before the world that Louis J. Weichman 
was a party to the plan to abduct President Lincoln.  He had been 
told all about it, and was constantly importuning me to let him 
become an active member.  I refused, for the simple reason that I 
told him that he could neither ride a horse nor shoot a pistol, 
which was a fact.  These were two necessary accomplishments for 
us.  My refusal nettled him some; so he went off, as it 
afterwards appeared by his testimony, and told some government 
clerk [Captain Gleason] that he had a vague idea that there was a 
plan of some kind on hand to abduct President Lincoln.  This he 
says himself: that he could have spotted every man on the party.  
Why didn't he do it?  Booth was sometimes rather suspicious of 
him, and asked me if I thought he could be trusted.  Said I, 
"Certainly he can.  Weichman is a Southern man," and I always 
believed it until I had good reason to believe otherwise, because 
he had furnished information for the Confederate government, 
besides allowing me access to the government records after office 
hours.  I have very little to say of Louis J. Weichman.  But I do 
pronounce him a base-born perjurer; a murderer of the meanest 
hue! Give me a man who can strike his victim dead, but save me 
from a man who, through perjury, will cause the death of an 
innocent person.  Double murderer!!!!  Hell possesses no worse 
fiend than a character of that kind.  Away with such a character.  
I leave him in the pit of infamy, which he has dug for himself, a 
prey to the lights of his guilty conscience.

I telegraphed Booth thus:
"J.W.B., in New York:
"If you are in New York telegraph me.
"John Harrison, Elmira, N.Y."

The operator, after looking it over, said, "Is it J.W.B.?" to 
which I replied, "Yes."  He evidently wanted the whole name, and 
had scarcely finished telegraphing when a door right near the 
office, and opening on the street, was pushed open, and I heard 
someone say, "Yes, there are three or four brothers of them, 
John, Junius Brutus, Edwin, and J. Wilkes Booth."  The whole 
truth flashed on me in an instant, and I said to myself, "My God! 
What have I done?" The dispatch was still lying before me, and I 
reached over and took it up for the purpose of destroying it, but 
the operator stretched forth his hand and said, "We must file all 
telegrams."  My first impulse was to tear it up, but I pitched it 
back and walked off. The town was in the greatest uproar, flags 
at half mast, bells tolling, &c., &c.  Still I did not think that 
I was in danger, and determined to go immediately to Baltimore to 
find out the particulars of the tragedy.  But here I wish to say 
a few words concerning the register of the Brainard House.  When 
my counsel, by my own direction, went to seek that register, it 
could not be found.  Our inability to produce it on the trial 
naturally cast a suspicion over our "alibi".  For weeks, 
months, did we seek to find its whereabouts, but to no purpose.  
Every man who was connected with the hotel was hunted up and 
questioned.  Every register of the hotel before and after the one 
which ought to contain my name was to be found, but the most 
important one of all was gone.  Now the question is what became 
of that register?  The U.S. Government, by one of its witnesses, 
Doctor McMillan, knew in November, 1865, that I was in Elmira at 
the time of the assassination.  They knew it, and they naturally 
traced me there to find out what I was doing.  That some of the 
government emissaries abstracted that register, I firmly believe, 
or perhaps it is stored away in some of the other government 
vaults, under charge of some judge high in position, but this is 
only a surmise of mine.  But the circumstance involves a mystery 
of villainy which the All Seeing God will yet bring to light.  
The dispatch I sent to Booth also from Elmira it was impossible 
to find.  We had the operator at Washington during my trial, but 
he said the original was gone though he had a copy of it.  In 
telegraph offices they are compelled to keep all dispatches 
filed.  Of course we could not offer this copy in evidence, 
because the original alone would be accepted, and that had been 
made away with.  So sure was the government that they had 
destroyed all evidence of my sojourn in Elmira, that in getting 
me in Washington in time for Mr. Lincoln's death they brought me 
by way of New York City, but so completely were they foiled in 
this that in their rebutting testimony they saw the absolute 
necessity of having me go by way of Elmira, and they changed 
their tactics accordingly.  That was enough to damn my case in 
any man's mind.  This is a strange fact, but nevertheless true 
that the government having in its possession this hotel register 
as well as my dispatch to Booth and knowing moreover by one of 
its witnesses that I was in Elmira, yet tried to prove that I was 
in Washington on the night of Mr. Lincoln's death, giving orders 
and commanding in general as they were pleased to say.  The 
gentlemen in Elmira, by whom I proved my "alibi", were men 
of the highest standing and integrity whose testimony the United 
States government could not and dare not attempt to impeach.  I 
left Elmira with the intention of going to Baltimore.  I really 
did not comprehend at that time the danger I was in.  As there 
was no train going South that evening I concluded to go to 
Canandaigua and from there to Baltimore  by way of Elmira and New 
York.  Upon arriving at Canandaigua on Saturday evening I learned 
to my utter disappointment that no train left until the Monday 
following, so I took a room at the Webster House, registering my 
self as "John Harrison."  The next day I went to church, I 
remember it being Easter Sunday.  I can here safely say that the 
United States government had not the remotest idea that I stopped 
anywhere after I left Elmira. They thought, when I left there, I 
went straight through to Canada.  It was a very fortunate thing 
for me that I could not leave Canandaigua.  Now mark, ladies and 
gentlemen, if you please, my name was signed midway of the hotel 
register, with six other parties before and after.  There was no 
doubt as to the genuineness of my signature, because the very 
experts brought by the United States to swear to my signatures in 
other instances, swore also that that was my handwriting.  After 
all this register was ruled out by Judge Fisher, because he was 
well aware if he admitted it my case was at an end.  I could not 
be in two places at once, though they tried to make me so.  
Listen to his reason for so ruling: "The prisoner might have 
stepped down from Canada to Canandiagua during his concealment 
and signed his name there for the purpose of protecting himself 
in the future."  It was a likely idea that the proprietor of a 
hotel would leave a blank line in the register for my especial 
benefit.  Need I say that the ruling was a most infamous one, and 
ought to damn the Judge who so ruled as a villain in the minds of 
every honest and upright man.  Had Judge Fisher been one of the 
lawyers for the prosecution, he could not have worked harder 
against me than he did.  But, thanks to him, he did me more good 
than harm.  His unprincipled and vindictive character was too 
apparent to everyone in the court room.  I could not help smiling 
at the time to think of the great shrewdness and foresight he 
accorded me by that decision.  At times, really, during my trial, 
I could scarcely recognize any vestige of my former self.  
Sometimes I would ask myself, "Am I the same individual? Am I 
really the same John H. SURRATT?"  When that register was 
produced in court, the Hon. Judge Pierrepont, the leading counsel 
for the United States, became exceedingly nervous, especially, 
when Mr. Bradley refused to show it to him, and he tore up 
several pieces of paper in his trembling fingers.

He evidently saw what a pitiful case he had, and how he had to 
make the dupe of his precious, worthy friend, Edwin M. Stanton.  
At the time of my trial the proprietor of the Webster House, in 
Canandaigua, could not find the cash book of the hotel, in which 
there should have been an entry in favor of "John Harrison" for 
so much cash.  When he returned to Canandaigua, my trial being 
then ended, he wrote Mr. Bradley that he had found the cash book, 
and sent it to him.  It was then too late.  My trial was over.  
If we had had that cash book at the time of my trial it would 
have been proved beyond a doubt that I was in Canandaigua and not 
in Washington city.

On Monday when I was leaving Canandaigua I bought some New York 
papers.  In looking over them, my eye lit on the following 
paragraph which I have never forgot, and don't think I ever will.  
It runs thus: "The assassin of Secretary Seward is said to be 
John H. SURRATT, a notorious secessionist of Southern Maryland.  
His name, with that of J. Wilkes Booth, will forever lead the 
infamous role of assassins."  I could scarcely believe me senses.  
I gazed upon my name, the letters of which seemed to sometimes to 
grow as large as mountains and then to dwindle away to nothing.  
So much for my former connection with him I thought.  After fully 
realizing the state of the case, I concluded to change my course 
and go direct to Canada.  I left Canandaigua on Monday 12 M., 
going to Albany arriving there on Tuesday morning in time for 
breakfast.  When I stepped on the platform at the depot at St. 
Albans I noticed that one of the detectives scanned every one, 
head and foot, as well as the rest.  Before leaving Montreal for 
Elmira, I provided myself with an Oxford cut jacket and a round-
top hat, peculiar to Canada at that time.  I knew my trip to 
Elmira would be a dangerous one, and I wished to pass myself off 
as a Canadian, and I succeeded in so doing, as was proved by my 
witnesses in Elmira.  I believe that costume guarded me safely 
through St. Albans.  I went in with others, and moved around, 
with the detectives standing there most of the time looking at 
us.  Of course I was obliged to talk as loud as anybody about the 
late tragedy.  After having a hearty meal I lighted a cigar and 
walked up town.  One of the detectives approached me, stared me 
directly in the face, and I looked him quietly back.  In a few 
moments I was speeding on my way to Montreal, where I arrived at 
two o'clock in the afternoon, going again to the St. Lawrence 
Hotel.  Soon after I called on a friend, to whom I explained my 
former connection with Booth, and told him I was afraid the 
United States government would suspect me of complicity in the 
plot of assassination.  He advised me to make myself scarce.  I 
immediately went to the hotel, got my things, and repaired to the 
room of a friend.  When my friend's tea-time came I would not go 
to the table with him, but remained in the room.  The ladies 
wanted to know why he didn't bring his friend to tea with him. He 
replied that I didn't want any.  One of the ladies remarked, "I 
expect you have got Booth in there." "Perhaps so," he answered 
laughingly.  That was rather close guessing.  At night-fall I 
went to the house of one who afterwards proved to be a most 
devoted friend.  There I remained until the evening of the next 
day, when I was driven out in a carriage with two gentlemen, 
strangers to me.  One day I walked out and saw Weichman on the 
lookout for me.

He had little idea I was so near.  One night about 11 o'clock, my 
friend, in whose house I was, came to me and said, in a smiling 
way: "The detectives have offered me $20,000 if I will tell them 
where you are." "Very well," said I, "give me one half, and let 
them know."  they suspected this gentleman of protecting me, and 
they had really made him the offer.  One day about 12 o'clock, I 
was told that they were going to search the house, and that I 
must leave immediately, which I did.  They searched it before 
morning.  This gentleman was a poor man, with a large family, and 
yet money could not buy him.  I remained with this gentleman 
until I left Montreal, within a week or so afterwards.  The 
detectives were now hunting me very closely, and would doubtless 
succeeded in capturing me, had it not been for a blunder on the 
part of my friend Weichman.  He had, it appears, started the 
detectives on the wrong track, by telling them that I had left 
the house of Mr.Porterfield in company with some others, and was 
going north of Montreal.  Soon that section was swarming with 
detectives.  I was not with that party, but about the same time, 
I too, left Montreal in a hack, going some 8 or 9 miles down the 
St. Lawrence river, crossing that stream in a small canoe.  I was 
attired as a huntsman.  At 3 o'clock Wednesday morning, we 
arrived at our destination, a small town lying south of Montreal.  
We entered the village very quietly, hoping no one would see us.  
It has been asserted over and over again, and for the purpose of 
damning me in the estimation of every honest man that I deserted 
her who gave me birth in the direst hour of her need. Truly would 
I have merited the execration of every man had such been the 
case.  But such was not the case.  When I left Montreal there was 
no cause for uneasiness on my part, and upon my arrival in the 
country I wrote to my friends in Montreal to keep me posted in 
regard to the approaching trial, and to send me the newspapers 
regularly.  I received letters from them frequently, in all of 
which they assured me there was no cause of anxiety; that it was 
only a matter of time, and it would all be well.  After a while 
papers did not come so regularly, and those that did, spoke very 
encouragingly.  A little while afterwards, when they came, 
sentences were mutilated with ink and pen.

I protested against such action, and for some time I received no 
papers at all.  I became very uneasy, and wrote for publication 
an article signed by myself, which I sent to Montreal to be 
forwarded for publication in the New York "World".  It is 
needless to say it never went.  Things continued in this way for 
some time, until I could stand the suspense no longer.  I 
determined to send a messenger to Washington for that purpose, 
and secured the services of an intelligent and educated 
gentleman.  I started him off immediately, I paying all expenses.  
I gave him a letter to a friend of mine in Washington, with 
instructions to say to him to put himself in communication with 
the counsel for the defense, and to make a correct report to me 
as to how the case stood; if there was any danger; and also, to 
communicate with me if my presence was necessary, and inform me 
without delay; with an urgent request that he would see and 
inquire for himself how matters stood.  He left me, and God alone 
knows the suspense and anxiety of my mind during the days of his 
absence.  I imagined and thought all kinds of things; yet I was 
powerless to act.  At last he returned, and so bright and 
cheerful was his countenance that I confess one-half of my fears 
were dispelled.  He represented everything as progressing well, 
and brought me the message from the gentleman in Washington to 
whom I had sent him:

"Be under no apprehension as to any serious consequences.  Remain 
perfectly quiet, as any action on your part would only tend to 
make matters worse.  If you can be of any service to us, we will 
let you know; but keep quiet."

These were the instructions I received from my friend in 
Washington, in whom I felt the utmost reliance, and who I thought 
would never deceive me.  He also sent me copies of the 
"National Intelligencer", containing evidence for the 
defense.  I certainly felt greatly relieved, though not entirely 
satisfied.  This news reached me sometime in the latter part of 
June, just before the party of gentlemen of whom I have spoken 
arrived.  They, too, assured me there was no cause for fear.  
What else could I do but accept these unwavering assurances?  
Even had I thought otherwise, I could not have taken any action 
resulting in good.

Just on the eve of my departure to join a party of gentlemen on a 
hunting excursion, while I was waiting at the hotel for the 
train, the proprietor handed me a paper, and said, "Read that 
about the conspirators."

Little did the man know who I was, or how closely that paragraph 
bore upon me or mine.  That paper informed me that on a day which 
was then present, and at an hour which had then come and gone, 
the most hellish of deeds was to be enacted.  It had been 
determined upon and carried out, even before I had intimation 
that there was any danger.  It would be folly for me to attempt 
to describe my feelings.  After gazing at the paper for some time 
I dropped it on the floor, turning on my heel, and going directly 
to the house where I had been stopping before.  When I entered 
the room, I found my friend sitting there.  As soon as he saw me, 
he turned deadly pale, but never uttered a word.  I said, "You 
doubtless thought you were acting a friend - the part of a friend 
- towards me, but you have deceived me.  I may forgive you, but I 
can never forget it."

"We all thought it for the best, Charley," he commenced to say, 
but I did not stay to hear more.  I went to my room, remained 
there until dark, and then signified my intention to leave the 
place immediately.  I felt reckless as to what should become of 

After visiting Quebec and other places, with the reward of 
$25,000 hanging over my head, I did not think it safe to remain 
there, and so I concluded to seek an asylum in foreign lands.  I 
had nothing now to bind me to this country, save an only sister, 
and I knew she would never want for kind friends or a good home.  
For myself, it mattered little where I went, so that I could roam 
once more a free man.  I then went on a venture, and now, ladies 
and gentlemen, I go forth again on a venture.  Gladly would I 
have remained hidden among the multitude, but the stern 
necessities arising from the blasting of my earthly prospects 
have forced me to leave my solitude and to stand again before the 
public gaze as the historian of my own life.  One mitigation to 
its distastefulness in this and my first attempt, however, is the 
kindness with which I have been received, and the patience with 
which I have been listened to, for which I return you, ladies and 
gentlemen, my sincere and heartfelt thanks."

The above transcript was carried in the December 7, 1870, edition 
of Washington's "Evening Star" newspaper.  The paper then added 
these words: "The lecture concluded, the band played "Dixie," and 
a concert was improvised, the audience not separating till a late 
hour, during which time SURRATT was quite a lion among the ladies 
present."  Twenty-four days later, SURRATT attempted to give a 
second lecture (this time in Washington, D.C.), but enraged 
citizens forced its cancellation.

End of file!

The Conspirators Index
b. d.
John W.
John W.
Pursuit, Death & Burial
Trial of the Assassins
Samuel B.
George T.
Samuel A.
Lewis T.
Edward "Ned"
Mary E. (Jenkins)
Mary E. (Jenkins)
Genealogy FGS
John H., Jr.
John H., Jr.
1870 Lecture
John H., Jr.
Genealogy FGS
End of Nightmare for the Doomed!
Notes & Reference

E-Mail: Paul R. Sarrett, Jr., Auburn CA.

Text - Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 20000 Paul R. Sarrett, Jr.
Created: Dec. 01, 1996; Revised: Feb. 25, 2000