American Civil War

Christmas in Springfield, Illinois, 1862

A while back, I posted about Mary Lincoln’s close friend Mercy Conkling (née Levering). In December 1862, the Conklings’ oldest son, Clinton, was attending college at Yale, where he remained over the Christmas holidays. Accordingly, on December 28, 1862, his mother wrote to him to tell him of the family’s celebrations back home in Springfield, Illinois, […]

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Louis Weichmann: Boarder and Witness

Of the residents of Mary Surratt’s boardinghouse, the best known–and the most controversial–is Louis Weichmann, whose testimony would help send his landlady to the gallows. Weichmann was born in Baltimore in 1842. His father, a tailor, moved to Washington and then to Philadelphia, where Weichmann attended the Central High School. One of his classmates was

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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

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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

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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,

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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

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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

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