Killer of Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 2020
Portrait of John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth

A member of a famous acting family, and a fierce partisan of the Confederacy, Booth was the subject of a 12-day manhunt through Maryland and Virginia after he shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. Union cavalry pursued him to the Garrett farm, burned down the barn to flush Booth out, then, as he rushed out, killed him with a bullet to the neck.

David Herold

An impressionable and dull-witted pharmacy clerk, Herold led Booth on the escape route into Virginia. He surrendered at the Garrett farm, was tried and convicted, and was executed by hanging in July 1865.

George Azterodt

German-born Azterodt was a carriage painter and boatman who had secretly ferried Confederate spies across Southern Maryland waterways during the war. Recruited by Booth into the conspiracy, he was assigned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, but lost his nerve and stayed in a hotel bar, drinking, instead. Azterodt was executed by hanging in July 1865.

Lewis Powell

Powell was a former Confederate prisoner of war. Tall and strong, he was recruited to provide the muscle for the kidnapping plot. When that plan failed, Booth assigned Powell to kill Secretary of State William Seward. He entered the Seward home and severely injured Seward, Seward’s son, and a bodyguard. Powell was tried and convicted, and was executed by hanging in July 1865.

Mary Surratt

Surratt owned a boarding house in Washington where the conspirators met. The subject of some controversy, she received the death sentence and was put to death by hanging in July 1865, becoming the first woman executed by the United States.

Michael O'Laughlen

Booth’s childhood friend was an ex-Confederate soldier. After he turned himself in to the authorities, he was tried as a conspirator, though his role remained unclear. O’Laughlen was sentenced to life in prison and sent to Fort Jefferson, off of Key West, Florida, where he died of yellow fever in 1867.

Samuel Arnold

Another long-time friend of Booth, Arnold was not in Washington at the time of the assassination. However, investigators tied Arnold to Booth’s original kidnapping plot. Sentenced to life in prison, Arnold was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, and survived until 1906, when he died of tuberculosis.

Samuel Mudd

Prosecutors succeeded in showing that Mudd, a doctor who set Booth’s broken leg during the night of April 14, was well acquainted with Booth before the night of the assassination. He escaped hanging by one vote of the military commission that had been convened to try the conspirators. Like Arnold, Mudd was sentenced to life in prison but pardoned in 1869. He died of pneumonia in 1883.

Edmund Spangler

A stagehand and carpenter at Ford’s Theatre who was also known as Edward, Edman, and Ned, Spangler knew Booth well and assisted him on April 14 at the theater. He was not connected to the kidnapping plan, but he was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison. Pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869, Spangler moved to Maryland, where he remained until his death in 1875.

John Surratt

Booth’s most valuable conspirator was a Confederate spy with a college education. Surratt introduced Booth to Herold and Azterodt, and conspired with the others to kidnap the president, but was not in Washington several months later when the assassination was carried out. Surratt fled the U.S. when he heard news of the crime, and lived in Europe as a fugitive for several years until he was apprehended in Egypt in 1866. Tried by a civilian court in 1867-1868, Surratt was not convicted. He would survive until 1916.

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