Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

By Otto Eisenschiml | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XVI Stanton Invents a Novel Torture

THE conspirators -- or those whom the government chose to designate as such -- were eight in number. Mrs. Mary E. Surratt, a boardinghouse keeper of Washington, formerly of Surrattsville, Maryland, was the only woman among them. The remainder were: Lewis Paine, the young gladiator who had assaulted Seward; David E. Herold, Booth's companion during his flight; Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who had set the assassin's broken leg and had harbored him for several hours; and George A. Atzerodt, whose room at the Kirkwood House had yielded such generous information. In addition to these there were Samuel B. Arnold and Michael O'Laughlin, friends of Booth and former Confederate soldiers, who admitted having participated in the plot to abduct Lincoln as a war measure; and, finally, Ed Spangler, a sceneshifter at Ford's Theater, who was accused of having facilitated the murderer's escape from the playhouse. For a few days these suspects were merely held in chains and in close confinement; but on April 23 a peculiar order was issued by Stanton, reading as follows:

. . . that the prisoners on board iron-clads . . . for better security against conversation shall have a canvass bag put over the head of each and tied around the neck, with a hole for proper breathing and eating, but not seeing . . .1

The war that was just drawing to a close had produced a great many barbarities reminiscent of medieval tortures. Prisoners were shackled in various ways designed to produce pain; they

DeWitt, Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt ( John Murphy and Co., Baltimore, 1895), p. 13


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