The Hanging Of Mary Surratt–Judicial murder and government dirty linen–part two

by Al Benson Jr.

The “trial” of Mary Surratt and the Lincoln conspirators is still something that is debated about even today. If you want to see some of the arguments, check out the Internet. I read several articles awhile back about the involvement of Dr. Samuel Mudd, the man who set John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg. Mudd claimed he did not know Booth. He was still sent to the Dry Torgugas as a prisoner. Others have claimed that Mudd “was in it up to his eyeballs.” So the argument is anything but settled.

The question has arisen–was it even a legal trial or not?  Reverdy Johnson, Mrs. Surratt’s first attorney, had contended that the military court that tried the conspirators was without proper authority to do so as long as the civil courts were sitting.  This is something that was argued for nearly a century and I’ll bet you could get a heated debate about it still going in some quarters. In my opinion, Reverdy Johnson was correct. The war was over and the civil courts in the Union were all functioning and intact, so there was no reason to try this as a military case–unless it had been decided from on high that the real facts in this case should never be made public to the American people. We have already noted that Stanton wanted to make sure that Mrs. Surratt communicated with no one before she was hung. Great lengths were gone to in order to prevent that. It has also been contended in some circles that, had the trial taken place in a civil court, Mrs. Surratt would have been exonerated. You had a regime in Washington under Stanton and the revolutionary radicals in Congress that, basically, did whatever it wanted to–just like today. The Marxist regime currently in power does what it wants to. If Congress won’t pass Obama’s radical legislation he just writes an executive order and does an end run around the Congress while they sit there apparently stupified after he has presented them a fait accompli. Congress rails and complains about it–all for public consumption–because they know they will not fight it but they want to give the appearance of having done so–after all, there’s an election coming up next year.

Assistant Judge Advocate Bingham argued against this rationale and for what amounted to Stanton’s rationale for  a military trial: the “rebellion” itself was considered to be a gigantic conspiracy, (a vast right-wing conspiracy?), with Jefferson Davis as the arch-conspirator.  The official Washington line was that Lincoln, the Commander-in-Chief, had been assassinated by people directly connected to Jeff Davis and the Confederacy, and so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah. Current establishment “historians” are busily attempting to resurrect this 19th century attempt at political correctness. Many “historians” love a good myth parading as fact.

Theodore Roscoe in The Web of Conspiracy took note of historical opinion when he said: “By and large, history’s consensus is that Mrs. Surratt was not guilty as charged. Which is to say she knew nothing of the assassination plot and was in no way an active participant or intentional accessory. Did she carry messages from (John Wilkes) Booth to innkeeper Lloyd, and deliver to the Surratt tavern Booth’s binoculars? Possibly, even probably. But she could have done so in all innocence, merely to oblige Mr. Booth. And even if one assumes she suspected some underground project were afoot, nothing in the trial evidence proved she knew the project involved an assassination strike. A few historians concede she may have known about the abduction plot.  On the surface of it, such knowledge seems likely.” In an article dealing with the authenticity of the Dahlgren Papers, historian Stephen Sears noted that: “…by the generally accepted rules of civilized warfare of the 1860s, the capture of an opposing head of state and his chief advisors  was a legitimate wartime objective, and no doubt was discussed as openly in Richmond as it was in Washington. Assassination of civilian leaders, on the other hand, was regarded as beyond the pale.” At least it was for Southern leaders, as for some of the Yankees, influenced by the socialists from Europe, well, for some of them, the ends justified the means.

One of the two people chiefly responsible for testimony that was damaging to Mary Surratt was Louis Wiechmann, a government clerk who knew her son, John, and who lived at the Surratt boarding house.  Lloyd Lewis, in The Assassination of Lincoln–History and Myth, wrote: “Except for two witnesses there was no case against Mrs. Surratt, but those two hanged her. One was John M. Lloyd…the other was a boarder in her own home, Louis J. Wiechmann.” There was a picture with one of the articles I read that spelled his name “Weichmann.” Note the two different spellings of the man’s last name. According to Roscoe: “Official records on Wiechmann are confusing. One might well believe them deliberately confused. In them his name is spelled at least five different ways. Dates are curiously juggled.  Wiechmann’s testimony is garbled, vaguely worded, often contradictory.”  And, on the other hand, Mrs. Surratt’s lawyers felt Wiechmann was way too glib and too ready to hang former associates.  You have to wonder which one was the real Wiechmann, just as, according to some sources, you might have to wonder if the man in John Wilkes Booth’s grave is the real Booth.

And yet, Wiechmann may have testified as he did out of a certain amount of fear. Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman wrote in the standard work Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War that: “Weichmann, too, might very well have been accused of complicity in the plot, and two years later, at the trial of John Surratt, Lloyd not only contradicted some of the statements he had made at the conspiracy trial but admitted that he had been subjected to both promises and threats. That Weichmann was subjected to the same sort of intimidation by Stanton, in the private cross-examination seems likely from the statement made by John T. Ford, owner of the celebrated theater. Ford, imprisoned with  Lloyd and Weichmann, became convinced from what they told him that Mrs. Surratt was innocent and that the two witnesses had been coerced.” Really? Would “our” government do such an underhanded thing? If they felt they had a good enough reason you better believe they would!

When Wiechmann testified at the trial of John Surratt in 1867 he said he had been “nervous” at the trial of the conspirators, and proceeded to contradict some of his former statements, “thereby putting Mrs. Surratt in a more favorable light.” It was, however, a tad bit late for that to do Mrs. Surratt any good. But Roscoe has noted that: “At the second trial, which in some respects amounted to a rehearing of Mrs. Surratt’s case, Louis Carland, a former customer at Ford’s Theater, testified that Weichmann had told him in 1865 that if he had  been let alone…it would have been quite a different affair with Mrs. Surratt than it was” that his statements had been written out for him and that he had been threatened with prosecution as an accessory if he refused to swear to them. Wiechmann, when examined again, denied he ever made this confession, although he did admit talking with Mr. Carland. If this tale were false, one must wonder what Mr. Carland would have had to gain by telling it.

Roscoe also observed that: “John W. Clampitt, one of Mrs. Surratt’s lawyers, a number of years after the trial wrote that Weichmann, after testifying, had been stung with remorse because he had committed perjury in implicating Mrs. Surratt in Lincoln’s murder. Certain ‘authorities’ in the War Department had threatened to prosecute him as an accomplice in the conspiracy against Lincoln if he refused to offer testimony.  Weichmann claimed, according to Clampitt, Holt had rejected the first statement Weichmann prepared with the remark that ‘it was not strong enough,’ whereupon, still under threat of prosecution, Weichmann had written a second and stronger statement, the substance of which he subsequently swore to on the witness stand. The man to whom Weichmann made this confession, wrote Clampitt, was refused permission to testify.” Almost sounds as if Wiechmann was indulged with a little “friendly persuasion”  to make sure he said what the Judge Advocate and Mr. Stanton wanted him to say.  And then, on his deathbed, Wiechmann signed a statement saying that all he had said at the original conspiracy trial was true after all.  Will the real Louis Wiechmann (Weichmann) please stand up?

Judge Advocate Joseph Holt summed up the preconceived sentiment of the Yankee/Marxist government when he said: “There have not been enough Southern women hanged in this war.” Thus, the great compassion of the Yankee/Marxist mindset was put on display for all the world to see–and it is this same “compassion” that we still live with today–thanks to the Lincoln administration. That this is the identical mindset  displayed by socialists and Communists, both in Mr. Lincoln’s government and in his rampaging armies, is one of the overriding factors that cause Donnie Kennedy and myself to write the book Lincoln’s Marxists. People need to become aware that this socialist, anti-Christ mindset is what the Lincoln administration gave us and that it has been passed down since then to us today. Now we have a Marxist in the White House that doesn’t even bother to deny his Marxism. Lincoln would be proud of him!

The Hanging of Mary Surratt–Judicial murder and government dirty linen–part one

by Al Benson Jr.

Awhile back Robert Redford made a movie about the hanging of Mary Surratt which was called The Conspirator. Although I have not seen it, I have been told it was fairly good. Redford, I guess, didn’t get it all right, but he got some of it right–almost a first from someone from Hollyweird. Redford has never been one of my favorite movie entertainers. I’ve always felt he was a bit left of center and I am curious as to why he chose the topic of Mary Surratt’s demise by the U.S. government to make a movie out of. When the DVD gets down to an affordable price, if I can find it, I will pick one up to see exactly what he did with Mary Surratt and her tragic story.

After the assassination of Obama’s spiritual ancestor, Abraham Lincoln, eight people were put on trial and found guilty–four sentenced to long prison terms and the other four sentenced to hang. One of those sentenced to be hung was Mary Eugenia Jenkins Surratt, the first woman ever to be hung in the United States.  John Wilkes Booth had supposedly been shot (that’s another whole story in itself) and John Surratt, Mary’s son, had escaped to Canada. Eventually he would make his way to Europe. These eight seemingly were all that were left and the government wanted to make sure they talked as little as possible to anyone.

Historical opinions have been divided as to whether Mary Surratt was really guilty as one of the Lincoln assassins. Author Nathaniel Weyl has called Mary Surratt “…an innocent woman hanged for conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln.” My own opinion is that this is pretty close to the truth. That doesn’t mean that Mrs. Surratt was totally without knowledge of all that went on. She may well have been aware of the proposed attempts to abduct Mr. Lincoln. After all, they were discussed in her rooming house. But, as far as assassination went, I don’t think she had a clue.

When it came to the conspirators’ “trial” (if such it can really be called) Mrs. Surratt had a good lawyer to start out with, Reverdy Johnson, a former U.S. senator and, in 1849, U.S. Attorney General, and at the time of her trial, a Maryland Senator. According to the book The Lincoln Conspiracy: “He was such a formidable opponent, it was immediately apparent to the prosecution that he must be removed. Johnson was to be assisted by Frederick  Aiken and John W. Clampitt, each in practice only one year and each trying his first big case. Clampitt was 24 and Aiken even younger.” After some judicial maneuverings, the prosecution succeeded in getting Johnson to remove himself and so Mrs. Surratt was stuck with the two younger, more inexperienced lawyers.  While they did the best the could, they were no match for the legal scalawags the federal prosecution  brought forth to handle them.

The way the federal government dealt with Mrs. Surratt was strongly reminiscent of the way it would later deal with the Plains Indians in the far West–it flat out broke its word, but then, what else have we come to expect from government? In our own day “our” government (it’s not really ours) has lied to us, through the president or various other federal stooges, about Benghazi, the IRS targeting conservative political groups, the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, how much the NSA spies on its own citizens, Obamacare, and the list goes on–and on, and on.

Otto Eisenschiml wrote in The Shadow of Lincoln’s Death  “When the Washington authorities put hoods over the heads of the men accused of conspiracy against Lincoln’s life, they committed a strange act. When they added stiff shackles–manacles which made writing impossible–and forbade all intercourse with the outside world, there arose a misgiving that the purpose was not punishment, but the enforcement of silence.” Eisenschiml also duly noted that the government changed the prison locations  of those not hung from Albany, New York to the far-out Dry Tortugas, where the convicted men were confined,literally for years in solitary cells and were prevented from conversing with any outsiders. You really have to wonder what the government was afraid these men would have to say, and whatever that might have been, they were going to make darn sure no one ever heard it.

One man on Edwin Stanton’s staff was Colonel William P. Wood, the man who ran Old Capitol Prison. Though he worked for the federal government, it appears that Colonel Wood still had some modicum of conscience left. In 1883 he wrote a series of articles for the Washington Sunday Gazette, in which he sought to tell all he knew about the conspiracy trial, most of which, he said, had never been revealed to the public. Again, what else is new? Even today all we get are sanitized versions of everything from who killed Kennedy (it was that “lone gunman, Oswald, don’t you know”) to the War in Iraq.

Wood wrote of Mrs. Surratt that: “…there were guarantees made to her brother by the writer, upon authority of Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, that she should not be executed.” Wood hinted that such guarantees were given “…in exchange for information by Mrs. Surratt’s brother regarding  (John Wilkes) Booth’s probable  course of flight. The fact that the War Minister made such a promise gives food for thought. Very likely he had, at no time, intended to live up to his promise.” And Wood, calling attention to this rank betrayal, said: “…those conditions were violated, and…this deplorable execution of an innocent woman (followed).”

The court announced the guilty verdict on the morning of July 6th.  Mrs. Surratt was not informed of it until the middle of the day, at which time she found out she was to be hung at noon the following day.  Eisenschiml observed that “Such a short space of time between a sentence and its execution is practically unheard of.”  Apparently what Mrs. Surratt and the others knew, the government was going to make sure they had no chance to pass it on to others.

John T. Ford, the owner of Ford’s Theater, followed all these events as long as he lived.  I guess you could say he had somewhat of a consuming interest, so he gathered what facts he was able to. In 1889 he revealed something most people had never heard. He said that: “The very man of God who shrived her soul for eternity was said to be constrained to promise that she should not communicate with the world. Mr. Clampitt, one of her lawyers, confirmed what Ford stated. Mrs. Surratt pleaded with the priest to be allowed to tell people before she died that she was innocent of the crime of which she had been convicted. The priest refused her. It seems he had been made to tell her, after absolution and the sacrament, that she should be prevented from making any declaration as to her innocence.  The priest later denied this.  If Stanton and the government had nothing to cover up, allowing her to make a last statement would have hurt nothing and no one.

However, Eisenschiml has noted that: “What was vital was this: the condemned woman must not be permitted to harangue the crowd from the scaffold. There she might go beyond the mere question of her guilt, and every one of her words would be broadcast by news-hungry journalists.” The powers that be at that time could not allow that to happen. How interesting that our so-called “history” books never reveal any of this. The winners of the War of Northern Aggression have deemed that all of this is information we are much better off knowing nothing about. “Nothing to see here, folks, move along.” If the public has no clue about any of this then they can’t ask embarrassing questions about it can they? And that’s the goal of many of today’s educator/change agents–a population that knows nothing about nothing but has been taught that they are brilliant.

To be continued.