Conspirator - Mary Surratt - CAPTURE and DEATH of JOHN WILKES BOOTH

CAPTURE and DEATH of JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Illustration) American History American Presidents Famous Historical Events Film Social Studies Trials Crimes and Criminals

Alfred Waud (1828-1891), an artist born in London who became famous for his accurate sketches during America’s Civil War, created this illustration of “The Capture of Booth, the Slayer of Lincoln.” It depicts Booth in the barn after detective Everton J. Conger set the place on fire. Because of cracks in the barn, officers could see Booth moving around with his carbine and his crutch. Image online, courtesy the Library of Congress.


Booth made good his escape from Washington and, with the help of Confederate sympathizers along the way, remained at large nearly two weeks.  Writing his thoughts in a makeshift diary, he did not apologize for his plans. 

On April 26, 1865 - twelve days after he killed the President - Booth was tracked down to a farm in Virginia.  Hiding out in Garrett's barn, he was still with David Herold.

Unarmed, Herold left the barn after Booth said only he intended to fire the pair's weapons.  Setting fire to the barn, Booth's captors hoped to force the assassin into the open, where they could seize him.

Instead, Sgt. Boston Corbett - from  Company L, Sixteenth New York Cavalry - shot Booth in the neck.  He lived four hours, attended by a doctor who could not save him.

From the beginning, Edwin Stanton (the Secretary of War) and other federal officials believed that Booth did not act alone.  Even before anyone heard about the near-fatal attack on Secretary Seward, people questioned how a lone gunman could have so skillfully masterminded the first assassination of an American president.

There had to be a conspiracy, was the general belief, and investigators - led by Lafayette Baker of the National Detective Police - wasted no time to learn who was involved.  As the story goes, a man on the street suggested that investigators visit the Surratt boardinghouse on H Street. 

Within six hours following the shooting, Mary Surratt was awakened by a ringing doorbell. After that first interview, no one in the Surratt home was arrested.  Soon, however, the authorities wanted to question her son, John.

Two days later, another group of investigators had more questions for Mary and her household residents.  It was late - around 11 p.m. on the evening of April 17th - when the investigators arrived.  They wanted to determine the whereabouts of John Surratt - Mary’s Confederate-courier son - but what the investigators actually learned produced far-more sweeping consequences.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Mar 10, 2015

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"CAPTURE and DEATH of JOHN WILKES BOOTH" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2011. Feb 21, 2020.
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