Lincoln was no fool. During his presidency assassinations were going on all around the world. Two Russian Czars were assassinated, an emperor in Mexico was shot and killed, the presidents of the Honduras and Colombia, the King of Afghanistan, and the English Prime Minister. And attempts were made on Andrew Jackson and Queen Victoria. Lincoln some say foretold his own death. However, the rancor that dominated American politics was twice the rancor that dominates American politics today. It exhausted Lincoln. The entire war exhausted him psychologically and I can only imagine he didn’t know exactly when and where to avoid appearances.
On April 14th, the handsome actor and pro slavery advocate John Wilkes Booth burst forth from behind the President’s box
seat and murdered him with a shot to the head. Investigators began aggressively going after Booth and whoever acted as his accomplis. Conspiracy theories abounded back then, a century and a half before Glen Beck saw demons and anti-christs in every shadow. Booth made no attempt to hide his identity and thus investigators had an easier path to him that they otherwise would have. Mary Surratt had a boarding house in Washington DC, and investigators also found that Booth had stayed there often and knew her as more than an acquaintance. It didn’t help her that Lewis Paine who had tried to kill Secretary of State William Seward also on the night that Lincoln was killed had stayed at the Surratt boarding house. Anecdotal evidence from John Lloyd, one of her business partners indicated that she and Paine and Booth had discussed ways of acquiring pistols the day of the assassination implicated her in the plot.
Surratt, Powell, George Atzerodt who was supposed to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and David Herold who hid Booth from authorities were all taken to the Old Capitol Prison and hanged. Authorities let them hang for thirty minutes before cutting them down.
Killing a woman was not quite proper comportment even for government officials in the 19th century. However it was a portend for the anger that took America by storm against the South for the assassination and it certainly made the Reconstruction less compassionate and more brutal.
It was the first time a woman was ever executed in the country.