American Civil War

Mary Surratt’s Loyal Daughter: Anna Surratt

The second of John and Mary Surratt’s three children, Elizabeth Susanna Surratt was born on New Year’s Day, 1843, and was christened on December 10 of that year at St. Peter’s Church in Washington, D.C. For most of her life, she would be known simply as “Anna.” Though married to a non-Catholic, Mary Surratt had …

Mary Surratt’s Loyal Daughter: Anna Surratt Read More »

The Schoolteacher and the Surratt Family

The failed conspiracy to kidnap President Lincoln in 1865, and the conspiracy to assassinate him which grew out of the first, drew a host of disparate people into their orbit. Among them was a Catholic schoolteacher named Anna F. Ward. Born in 1834 (according to her death certificate), Anna Ward emigrated with her parents, William …

The Schoolteacher and the Surratt Family Read More »

The Christmas Shopping Trip that Never Was

On December 23, 1864, Louis Weichmann left his Washington, D.C., boardinghouse to do some Christmas shopping for gifts for his sisters. Instead, he was waylaid by history. Weichmann, age twenty-two, was employed in the War Department. In the fall of 1864, a friend and former classmate, John Surratt, told Weichmann that his widowed mother, Mary, …

The Christmas Shopping Trip that Never Was Read More »

Sarah Slater and Her Souvenir Spoons: Her Last Will and Testament

As those who are familiar with the goings-on at Mary Surratt’s boardinghouse know, one of the more intriguing characters to pass through its doors was a veiled lady named Sarah Slater, a courier for the Confederate government who traveled on several occasions with Mary’s son John. Known as the “French lady” because of her excellent …

Sarah Slater and Her Souvenir Spoons: Her Last Will and Testament Read More »

Mary Surratt’s Boarders

In the fall of 1864, Mary Surratt, a widow from Prince George’s County, Maryland, moved to Washington, D.C. and opened her property at 541 H Street (the light-colored house below) to boarders. Mary’s late husband, John, had acquired the house years before as part of a land deal. So who were the people Mary chose to …

Mary Surratt’s Boarders Read More »

Two Letters from a Grieving Daughter

Whatever one believes about the guilt or innocence of Mary Surratt, her daughter, Anna, is surely deserving of our sympathy. On July 6, 1865, she had been given the horrifying news that her mother would be executed; the following day, despite Anna’s desperate efforts to beg for her life, the sentence was carried out. Anna …

Two Letters from a Grieving Daughter Read More »

July 6-7, 1865

On July 6, 1865, General John F. Hartranft, who had been placed in charge of Washington, D.C.’s Old Arsenal Prison, went from cell to cell, informing Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell (known at the time by his alias of Lewis Payne), George Atzerodt, and David Herold that they had been condemned to die for their roles …

July 6-7, 1865 Read More »

Lincoln Remembered in Washington, D.C.

It’s a beautiful spring evening in Washington, D.C., way too nice to be sitting in a hotel room, but I had a marvelous two days and wanted to talk about them while they were fresh in my mind. (Apologies for the substandard photography.) When I heard that Ford’s Theatre was planning a round-the-clock tribute from …

Lincoln Remembered in Washington, D.C. Read More »

April 3, 1865: Richmond Falls, and John Surratt Departs

One hundred and fifty years ago today, on April 3, 1865, Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, fell to the Union. The day before, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had fled the city, having authorized the burning of warehouses and supplies that might prove useful to the approaching Union army. Winds spread the fire, …

April 3, 1865: Richmond Falls, and John Surratt Departs Read More »

The Carte de Visite and the Lincoln Assassination

Lately, I’ve developed a weakness for cartes de visite—the small photographs that were prized during the last half of the nineteenth century—and have amassed a tiny collection of them, including one of my favorites here of an unidentified lady. As noted by the American Museum of Photography, cartes de visite (CDVs, as they are commonly …

The Carte de Visite and the Lincoln Assassination Read More »

Scroll to Top