Mary Surratt: An American Secret

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Most Americans know John Wilkes Booth as the assassin of Abraham Lincoln- shot at a play at Ford’s Theater on April 14th, 1865. However, the names of the conspirators that surrounded Wilkes Booth are relatively unknown, especially that of Mary Surratt. Mary Surratt, a mother and boardinghouse proprietor, was arrested and tried for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln along with her son, John Surratt. Pleas from her family, lawyer, and fellow conspirators did not allow her to escape her fate, and she was hanged for her crimes on July 7th, 1865. Even from the scaffold, Lewis Powell, another conspirator condemned to die, cried, “Mrs. Surratt is innocent. She doesn't deserve to die with the rest of us.” So who was this woman, and most importantly, what role did she really play in the assassination of the President of the United States? Was she simply blindly aiding her son and thus innocent, as claimed by Lewis Powell, or did she have a more involved role in the plot? Mary Surratt opened up her home to conspirators and ended up paying the price for her decision. Mary Eugenia Surratt, née Jenkins, was born to Samuel Isaac Jenkins and his wife near Waterloo, Maryland. After her father died when she was young, her mother and older siblings kept the family and the farm together. After attending a Catholic girls’ school for a few years, she met and married John Surratt at age fifteen. They had three children: Isaac, John, and Anna. After a fire at their first farm, John Surratt Sr. began jumping from occupation to occupation. Surratt worked briefly in Virginia as a railroad contractor before he was able to purchase land in Maryland and eventually establish a store and tavern that became known as Surrattsville. However, the family’s fina... ... middle of paper ... ...mes, and Paul Boyer. Notable American Women, 1607-1950. Volume III: P-Z. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971. Print. Pittman, Benn. The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators. New York, NY: Moore, Wilstach, and Baldwin, 1865. 83-87. Print. Results Reached by the Trial of the Assassins. - In brief." THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER July 8, 1865, Print. “SADNESS.” New York Herald April 18, 1865, Print. "THE TRIAL." New York Herald May 26, 1865, Print. "What The South Intends." THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER August 12, 1865, Print. James, Edward, Janet James, and Paul Boyer. Notable American Women, 1607-1950. Volume III: P-Z. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971. Print. James, Edward, Janet James, and Paul Boyer. Notable American Women, 1607-1950. Volume III: P-Z. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971. Print.

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