Tragically, we know Lincoln as the first assassinated American President, yet we remember him heroically for the Emancipation Proclamation and his determination in the preservation of the Union. Lincoln took office during one of the most controversial eras in American history, one month preceding the start of the Civil War. However, the controversies surrounding Lincoln did not end with the Civil War, or even with his death. Still today, l48 years after the assassination of Lincoln, the events that border his death remain just as controversial, as Mary Surratt’s involvement.
John, Mary’s husband, died in 1862, leaving his family with a large amount of debt. Mary rented the Surratt Tavern to John Lloyd, a former police officer and Confederate sympathizer, while her daughter Ana, son John Jr., when he was in town, and herself went to live in a row house, turning some rooms into boarding rooms to make a profit (Larson, pg. 38). There she took in a boarder named Louis J. Weichman, (Washington, D.C. Museum, 2010) as well as boarders of a different nature; giving Confederate couriers, and spies a safe place to ‘lay low’ (Larson, location 99). In December of 1864, Dr. Samuel Mudd, a Confederate agent, introduced Booth to John Jr., who was working for the Confederate secret service as a spy and courier. Booth requested the introduction due to Mary’s ownership of the Surratt Tavern in Surrattsville, MD (Larson, pg. 43). By the early spring of 1865, Booth’s visits to the boarding house became more frequent. With Mary’s insistence, John Jr., quickly rose to the position of Booth’s right hand man, he began organizing and conducting meetings at the boardinghouse to mistakenly, plan the demise of the conspirators. All the while, Mary and John Jr., grew to be just as loyal to Booth as they were to the Confederacy.
Historians say that Lincoln’s absence on the day the conspirators planned to kidnap him, set into motion the events that would lead to the assassination of the 16th President of the United States (Larson, location 172). After the failed attempt at kidnapping Lincoln, John Jr., had hidden the weapons at the Surratt Tavern for safekeeping. Booth was becoming more distraught and it seemed as if Mary was always there to see him through.
Due to the events that he had been witnessing, around the time of the failed kidnapping Weichman was starting to piece things together. Weichman would later testify that it was the night of the botched kidnapping that he knew the connection between the conspirators to be ill-fated (Larson, pg. 70).
The Confederate capital of Richmond fell to Union Forces on Sunday, April 2, 1865. Mary’s hopes for her son John Jr., to have a political career in the Confederacy were crushed in an instant, leaving Mary to sink into a state of despair, and even worse desperation. Disgusted by Union celebrations, witnesses say that Mary “drew the shades in her house so it would look as she felt and she openly sobbed” (Larson, 2).
On the day of the assassination, Booth went to the boardinghouse on two separate occasions to see Mary, the last meeting only one hour preceding Lincoln’s assassination (Larson, pg. 173). During the first meeting, Booth requested that Mary deliver a small package to John Lloyd to hold at the Surratt tavern; Booth wanted the contents of the package accessible and undamaged while he was making his escape from…