!-File CHAP_14.HTM, Revised 25 Feb. 2000, Paul R. Sarrett, Jr. BASE REF http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~prsjr/0mary/chapter/chap_14.htm
"NIGHTMARE for the DOOMED"
The 9 members of the Military Commission met secretly on Wednesday, June 28th, 1865 and voted the Death by Hanging penalty for: [REF: # 5. pg204 GEORGE T. ATZERODT, age 33 DAVID HEROLD, age 21 LEWIS T. POWELL/PAINE, age Unk. Mrs. MARY E. (JENKINS) SURRATT, age 48 There was a recommendation attached to the last page of their findings recommending mercy for Mrs. SURRATT because of her sex and age -- and her sentence was be changed to Life Imprisonment. [REF: # 5. pg204 The Commission voted Life Imprisonment, at hard labor for: SAMUEL B. ARNOLD, age 31 Dr. SAMUEL A. MUDD, age 32 MICHAEL O'LAUGHLIN, age 25 EDWARD SPANGLER, age Unk. received 6 Months of Hard Labor. President JOHNSON was ill on June 28th, 1865, so the Judge Advocate General JOSEPH HOLT, could not take him the Sentence Recommendations for review and have the order for execution signed by him, until Wednesday, July 5th, 186 [REF: # 5. For those 7 days the prisoners sweltered in their hoods in the hot cells, Unknowing of what could be causing the delay, since the trial was over. [REF: # 5. pg204 President JOHNSON apparently did not read the whole long involved findings of the Commission; instead he had General HOLT summarize matters for him. President JOHNSON signed the Order of Execution for 4 of the prisoners, and imprisonment for 4, and he swore for the rest of his life that General HOLT had never shown him the recommendation for Mercy for Mrs. SURRATT. General HOLT spent the remainder of his life telling everyone, that he had discussed the matter with the President, saying "that Mrs. SURRATT kept the nest that hatched the egg, and that if women were to commit such crimes as hers and go free, then men would be tempted to use women as their tools for murder and no one would punished." [REF: # 5. pg204. On the morning of Thursday, July 6, 1865, General WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK, who was in charged of the Military District, and General J. F. HARTRANFT, Commander in charge of guarding the prisoners, walked into the cells of the 4 condemned to death and read them their sentences. Mrs. SURRATT burst into tears -- she was alone at the time, with no one to comfort her, since her daughter ANNIE SURRATT had just left the prison. POWELL/PAINE was completely stoical - it was exactly what he expected, and wanted. HEROLD didn't seem to realize what he was being told, but after a few minutes asked to have his sisters sent for. [REF: # 5. pg205 Ministers were brought to the prisoners' cells to strengthen them for entrance into another world. Mrs. SURRATT had two Catholic priests. POWELL/PAINE had a Baptist clergyman and ATZERODT, a Lutheran. HEROLD's sisters arrived, crying -- most were grown up but 2 were just little girls -- young "misses" the papers said. One of them brought their brother a basket of small cakes which she had to leave with General HARTRANFT so he could examine them and be sure no poison or knives were hidden in the basket. [REF: # 5. pg205 The 4 prisoners GEORGE T. ATZERODT; DAVID HEROLD; LEWIS T. POWELL/PAINE; and Mrs. MARY E. (JENKINS) SURRATT, to be executed were moved down into the ground floor row of cells so they could walk out easily the next day -- and if it had not been for a part of the prison that extended forward a few feet at the South end -- they could have watched the building of the gallows which began immediately, and the digging of four graves, in the extremely, hard dried-out earth of the yard. The temperature was 100 in the shade, and there was no shade in the 3 acre yard, surrounded by its 20 foot high brick wall. The 4 other prisoners SAMUEL B. ARNOLD; Dr. SAMUEL A. MUDD; MICHAEL O'LAUGHLIN; and EDWARD SPANGLER, were told nothing. -- they were just kept hooded in their upper story cells under heavy guard, manacled and wearing ankle shackles. It was not until the next day, after the business of hanging the first 4 was over, that these remaining 4, who were to enjoy the happiness of future living were officially told of their sentences although Dr. MUDD had been sneaked the good news by his guard on the day before the execution. At first they were to have done their Life at Hard Labor at the Federal Prison in Albany, NY., Secretary STANTON changed this to a burning, bone-dry island off Florida which had a huge fort that had been used as a Prison during the Civil War. The Dry Tortugas, Florida, would be their address. [REF: # 5. pg206 When Miss ANNIE SURRATT, age 22 was found and told about her mother's death sentence, from then until 1:00 o'clock the next day, Friday (July 7th.) when the hanging took place she tried desperately to get at least an extension of 3 days to her mothers's life -- the carrying out of the sentence was so cruelly swift -- It was swiftly carried out sentences for which Military Courts were noted -- in Civil Courts appeals were possible -- but this was exactly what Secretary STANTON and President JOHNSON wanted. Since they considered the prisoners Guilty before the Trial began, now they wanted to get the whole thing over without argument. Miss ANNIE SURRATT, hysterical, weeping pitifully, rushed to the White House and begged to see President JOHNSON but was told he was ill and would see no one. Senator JAMES LANE of Kansas and PRESTON KING, President JOHNSON's ever present and most intimate friend, guarded the stairs on which Miss ANNIE SURRATT threw herself and made her sobbing entreaties. At last she went back to the prison, where she was allowed to sleep in the cell with her mother Mrs. SURRATT for that last night. [REF: # 5. pg206 Mrs. SURRATT, was very weak from her long imprisonment and she and Miss ANNIE fainted alternately and wept in each other's arms -- never slept all night -- just embraced and sobbed. [REF: # 5. pg206 On the morning of Friday, July 5th. 1865, it was still wickedly hot, in the high 90's before 8:00 o'clock, and already the crowds were gathering outside the Old Prison yard wall and boats were coming from Alexander, VA. and down from Georgetown and the city of Washington D.C. and the Potomac was crowded with sightseers hoping they would catch a glimpse of the hanging -- which they were never able to do, because of the 20 foot high prison walls. The people who had the best view were the soldiers who patrolled the top wall -- walking safely between ropes extending from the iron post to iron post, put there so they would not fall off into the rows of cannons below. [REF: # 5. pg206 By this morning of the 5th July the Gallows was built and the Executioner CHRIS RATH was constantly having it tested with 200 pound weights. It was lucky he did for one side struck and he had to make an adjustment. By 11:00 A.M. everything for the Gallows was fine -- the 13 steps leading up to the platform had been built, 4 nooses made of 20 strand rope, 1 1/2 inches in circumference, were hanging neatly from their overhead crossbeam. 4 chairs had been placed invitingly on the 20 foot square platform which seemed so solid right now, but which had 2 ominous divisions whereby when up-right timbers where knocked out from below the front portions, they would drop down and hang by their hinges and feet that had been standing there would be left with only air to stand on. Something had been added in the nearby grave area too - 4 rough looking wooden coffins. [REF: # 5. pg208 Beside the Military present, only 100 tickets to civilian spectators had been issued, and everyone asking for a ticket had to be convincing that he, or she, was not there through idle and ghoulish curiosity. Only one lady had applied for permission to be their and actually Dr. MARY E. WALKER was the only women Doctor in the Union Army, did not need a ticket as she was classed with the Military present. Dr. MARY E. WALKER was a character greatly looked down on by her hoopedskirted country- women as she insisted on wearing long pants under her short skirts. She shocked everyone on the Hanging Day by riding her horse to the Old Prison astride, like a man. [REF: # 5. pg208 Early in the morning, Friday July 7th., 1865 Miss ANNIE SURRATT had gone to the White House to try to get to President ANDREW prevented her from climbing more than the bottom steps of the stairway. One women did get past them, though, and she carried Miss ANNIE's prayer in to President JOHNSON in his office. The Widow of STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS, tremendously wrought up in the injustice being done to what she felt was an innocent woman Mrs. SURRATT, she simply pushed and sailed pans KING and KANE and threw open the up-stairs door. Mrs. STEPHEN DOUGLAS, was a very beautiful, very tall and queenly woman with a tender heart and she had hoped to accomplish a miracle, but the President JOHNSON was immovable. [REF: # 5. pg208 Miss ANNIE SURRATT, now beside herself with weeping as the minutes were ticking away, left to go back to the Old Prison, a last effort was being made to save her mother, Mrs. SURRATT. Justice ANDREW WYLIE of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia had been prevailed upon to sign a writ of habeas corpus and this was to be rushed to the Old Prison. But President JOHNSON had a message there first saying that he invalidated the writ as a necessary measure under the circumstances. There was now nothing for General HANCOCK to do except announce the Execution would take p lace immediately, though he still kept horsemen posted at intervals all the way from the Arsenal grounds to the White House -- in case the reprieve did come. [REF: # 5. pg209 The Defense Lawyers now went into the prisoners' cells and said good-by. The clergymen kept up a steady murmur of praying and now the relatives entered the cells for the last time. Earlier Miss ANNIE SURRATT has shrieked so loudly that she was heard all over the yard outside, but at the last people said she was so calm they thought she might have had a secret word of a Pardon for her mother. ATZERODT had his elderly mother crying with him; HEROLD his bevy of sisters; Mrs. SURRATT, her Miss ANNIE; and POWELL/PAINE had no relative at all. His lawyer had sent to Florida for his Baptist minister father and if it had been a civil trial there would have been time for him to get there -- but with the Military Commission's feverish haste to hang, it was impossible. [REF: # 5. pg209 A few minutes before 1:00 P.M. on Friday, July 7, 1865 the procession of prisoners came out of the Old Prison doors: "first Mrs. SURRATT, supported on each side by an officer, as she was more half-dead when she was hung. She wore a black bonnet covered with a black veil and a black dress which hung limply out of style, but it would have hardly been the thing to wear hoops to this dance of death. Two Priests walked with her, one with a cross held over his heart, the other reaching back every few steps to press his cross against Mrs. SURRATT's lips. 4 Soldiers guarded her so that she could not escape on the journey up the 13 steps, and when she was seated in her chair on the platform, an umbrella was held solicitously over her head to fend off the near boiling sun-rays." HEROLD, POWELL/PAINE, and ATZERODT, each with his entourage of guards, followed. [REF: # 5. pg209 ATZERODT had wept and prayed all night and HEROLD had trembled, but it was said the POWELL/PAINE slept excellently, and now he was the prisoner all eyes were drawn to in wonder. He walked in, people said, as though he were a young king going to his coronation, erect and proud, and an altogether magnificent- looking young man. If only, the papers said the next day, all this could have been enlisted for good instead of evil. On the scaffold POWELL/PAINE thanked his guards and said what he had been saying every day since his capture, "Mrs. SURRATT in innocent. She doesn't deserve to die with the rest of us.!" On the way through the courtyard in a sudden prankish instant he had snatched a straw hat from a bystander's head and was now wearing it with those out-of-character dimples showing beneath. [REF: # 5. pg210 General HARTRANFT read the order for the Execution and then all Four of the condemned stood while their arms were pinned behind them and their legs bound. Mrs. SURRATT's arms were drawn back uncomfortably and she evidently mentioned it -- the binding was redone, more loosely. All Four had white sacks put over their heads and the nooses were adjusted around their necks. When Executioner RATH personally adjusted POWELL/PAINE's noose, POWELL/PAINE noticeably stretched up his neck as though to be helpful. RATH said low to him, "I want you to die quick," and POWELL/PAINE replied cheerily through his white sack, "You know best!" POWELL/PAINE stood straight and tall as a heroic stature during the 10 seconds that remained -- Mrs. SURRATT was murmuring, "Please, don't let me fall!" -- HEROLD was visible shaking as well as one could shake as trussed up as he was and ATZERODT cried out in his thick German accent just before the drop, "Good-by, gentlemen. May we all meet in the other world!" [REF: # 5. pg212 At 1:00 P.M. on Friday, July 7, 1865 General HANCOCK clapped his hands twice and at the second clap, by arrangement, the two soldiers below and at the back of the platform rammed the support posts with two long poles and knocked them down. The front part of the platform swung down on its hinges and the four bodies jerked down about 5 feet -- not enough to break POWELL/PAINE's bull-strong neck and he had to strangle. It took about 5 minutes and the crowd could see a portion of his neck which was exposed and his wrists turn purple. Everyone thought Mrs. SURRATT had died instantly. She just swung and twirled -- perfectly quiet. [REF: # 5. pg213 HEROLD, who had been called the silly boy all through the trial, was the most frightened on the scaffold and he stayed alive after the hanging longer than the others, trying to draw his body up repeatedly so there would not be so much weight on his neck. People noticed that ATZERODT's stomach heaved repeatedly as he hung there, but they judged his the second earliest death after Mrs. SURRATT. When the bodies were still, ALEXANDER GARDNER, who had been taken pictures with his big camera set up in various positions around the yard, now photographed the four limp bodies. Spectators were now asked to leave, and they went outside the Old Prison to a crowd that was regaling itself with lemonade and cakes. [REF: # 5. pg214 At 1:30 P.M., 1/2 hour after the hanging the dead were cut down and examined by Doctors as they lay stretched out on top of their coffins. All were satisfactory lifeless. Then without having their lightweight hanging-sacks removed, or arm & leg bindings, they were placed in their coffins and buried in the four waiting graves in the Old Prison yard. As the earth was being packed and smoothed over them, Executioner RATH was already dividing the rope into suitable lengths for relics, and writing out affidavits. He sawed up the Gallows timbers into neat foot-long mementos suitable for paperweights or other interesting additions to a family's mantelpiece or parlor table. [REF: # 5. pg214 End of Chapter 14.
E-Mail: Paul R. Sarrett, Jr., Auburn CA.