Following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, 1865, four condemned prisoners were led through the Old Arsenal Penitentiary on July 7, 1865.
The penitentiary, which was located just outside of Washington, D.C., witnessed a crowd of more than 1,000 people that day. But, it was the prisoners’ supposed fate that truly attracted so many eyes and ears.
The detained were allegedly John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators– Lewis Powel, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and a woman named Mary Surratt.
The four, whose ankles and wrists were bound, were escorted to the gallows by General John F. Hartranft. And at the front of the prisoner line was Mary– wearing a veil, bonnet, and black dress.
Eventually, the prisoners found their seats. Mary sat to the left of the others in a chair known as the “seat of honor,” which had a front-row view of the execution.
But, before the proceedings could begin, one of the prisoners spoke out.
“Mrs. Surrat is innocent. She doesn’t deserve to die with the rest of us,” the prisoner said.
Yet, under 20 minutes later, all four of the prisoners’ bodies were hung from the gallows.
And to this day, the fact that Mary was executed alongside the other three men has remained a heated controversy. It is undeniable that Atzerodt, Herold, and Powell were all involved in the planning of former President Lincoln’s assassination.
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