At 2:30 am on April 15, 1865, Mary Elizabeth Surratt was awakened by loud knocking at the door of her H Street boardinghouse in Washington D.C. Officers first inquired as to the whereabouts of her son, John Surratt. She was quickly told that her son was wanted in connection with the murder of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and acquaintance of the family! Three days later, Mary found herself under suspicion and under arrest for involvement in the assassination of the president.
Elizabeth Steger Trindal worked fifteen years to chronicle the life of this little known but important figure in American history. Mary Surratt’s son, John Surratt, was believed to have acted in a plot with John Wilkes Booth and others to not only murder the president but also kill Secretary of State Seward. John Surratt was out of the country, and Booth yet to be apprehended. But Mary and others were arrested in connection with the assassinationof the president. Eventually they were brought to trial by a military commission.
Tried by a military tribunal despite protests by her defense lawyers that it was illegal to try a civilian before a military court, Mary and three others were tried for the crime of conspiring with Booth and found guilty. Many prominent citizens pleaded with President Andrew Johnson for a stay of Mary’s execution. He steadfastly refused. On July 7, 1865, Mary Surratt along with the other accused assassins was hanged. In its grief over the death of President Lincoln did America condemn an innocent woman die?
This moving account will no doubt elicit new debate on the subject of the Civil War and reveal a new perspective on the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination.