John Surratt

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John Harrison Surratt, Jr
John Surrat - 1868.jpg
John H. Surratt, Jr. in 1868.
Born (1844-04-13)April 13, 1844
Washington, D.C.
Died April 21, 1916(1916-04-21) (aged 72)
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American[1][2]
Known for Friend of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln and a former co-conspirator
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Mary Victorine Hunter
Parents Mary Surratt and John Harrison Surratt

John Harrison Surratt, Jr. (April 13, 1844 – April 21, 1916) was accused of plotting with John Wilkes Booth to kidnap U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and suspected of involvement in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. His mother Mary Surratt was convicted of conspiracy and hanged by the United States Federal Government. She owned the boarding house where Booth and fellow conspirators planned the scheme. John Harrison Surratt, Jr. avoided arrest immediately after the assassination by fleeing the country. He served briefly as a Papal Zouave before his arrest and extradition. By the time he returned to the United States the statute of limitations had expired on most of the potential charges and he was not convicted.

Early life[edit]

John Harrison Surratt, Jr. was born in 1844, to John Surratt, Sr. and Mary Surratt, in what is today Congress Heights. His baptism took place in 1844 at St. Peter's Church, Washington, D.C. In 1861, Surratt was enrolled at St. Charles College. When his father suddenly died in 1862, John Jr. was appointed the postmaster for Surrattsville, Maryland.

Lincoln kidnapping[edit]

Surratt served as a Confederate Secret Service courier and spy and had been carrying dispatches about Union troop movements across the Potomac River for some time. Dr. Samuel Mudd introduced Surratt to John Wilkes Booth on December 23, 1864, and Surratt agreed to help Booth kidnap Abraham Lincoln. The meeting took place at the National Hotel, where Booth lived in Washington, D.C. Booth's plan was to seize Lincoln, take him to Richmond, Virginia, and exchange him for thousands of Confederate prisoners of war. On March 17, 1865, Surratt and Booth, along with their comrades, waited in ambush for Lincoln's carriage to leave the Campbell General Hospital and return to Washington. However, Lincoln had changed his mind and remained in Washington. Following Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865, Surratt denied any involvement with the murder plot, claiming at that time he was in Elmira, New York. Surratt did not take part in the assassination, but he was one of the first people suspected of the attack on Secretary of State William H. Seward. However, it was soon discovered that Lewis Powell had tried to kill Seward.

Hiding[edit]

John Harrison Surratt, Jr. in Papal Zouave uniform.

When he learned of the assassination, Surratt fled to Canada. He reached Montreal on April 17, 1865. He then went to St. Liboire, where a Catholic priest, Father Charles Boucher, gave him sanctuary. Surratt remained there while his mother was arrested, tried and hanged for conspiracy.

Surratt left for Europe for safety. Aided by ex-Confederate agents Beverly Tucker and Edwin Lee, Surratt booked passage under an alias and landed at Liverpool in September. He served for a time in the Ninth Company of the Pontifical Zouaves in the Papal States, using the name John Watson.[3][4]

An old friend, Henri Beaumont de Sainte-Marie, recognized Surratt and notified papal officials and Rufus King, U.S. minister in Rome. On November 7, 1866, John Surratt was arrested and sent to Velletri prison. He escaped and lived with the Garibaldians, who gave him safe passage. Surratt traveled to the Kingdom of Italy, posing as a Canadian citizen named Walters. He booked passage to Alexandria, Egypt, but was arrested there by U.S. officials on November 23, 1866. He was sent home on the Swatara, which delivered John Surratt to the Washington Navy Yard in early 1867.

Trial[edit]

Eighteen months after his mother Mary Surratt was hanged, Surratt was tried in a civilian court of the State of Maryland, not before a military commission, as his mother and the others had been. A recent Supreme Court decision had declared the trial of civilians before military tribunals to be unconstitutional (Ex parte Milligan). Judge David Carter presided over Surratt's trial, and Edwards Pierrepont conducted the federal government's case against him. Surratt's lead attorney, Joseph Habersham Bradley, admitted Surratt's part in plotting to kidnap the President, but denied any involvement in the murder plot. After two months of testimony, Surratt was released after a mistrial; eight jurors had voted not guilty, four voted guilty. The statute of limitations on charges other than murder had run out, and Surratt was released on $25,000 bail.[5]

Later life[edit]

Surratt tried to farm tobacco, then taught at the Rockville Female Academy. In 1870, as the last surviving member of the conspiracy, Surratt began a much-heralded public lecture tour. On December 6, at a small courthouse in Rockville, Maryland, in a one hour and fifteen minute speech, Surratt admitted his involvement in the scheme to kidnap Lincoln, but still denied any knowledge of the assassination plot, reiterating that he was in Elmira at the time. He disavowed any participation by the Confederate government, reviled Louis Weichmann as a "perjurer" responsible for his mother's death and claimed his friends had kept the seriousness of her plight in Washington from him. After this revelation, it was reported in Washington's Evening Star that the band played "Dixie" and a small concert was improvised, with Surratt the center of female attention. Three weeks later, Surratt was to give a second lecture in Washington, D.C., but public outrage forced its cancellation.[6]

Surratt later took a job as a teacher in St. Joseph Catholic School in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1872, Surratt married Mary Victorine Hunter, a second cousin of Francis Scott Key. The couple lived in Baltimore and had seven children.[7]

At some point after 1872 he was hired by the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, rising to freight auditor and ultimately treasurer of the company. Surratt retired from the steamship line in 1914, and died of pneumonia on April 21, 1916, at the age of 72. He was buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore.[8]

In film[edit]

In 2011, Surratt was portrayed by Johnny Simmons in the Robert Redford film The Conspirator.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Nationality". Retrieved 4 Feb 2013. 
  2. ^ "JOHN HARRISON SURRATT’S ANCESTORS". Retrieved 4 Feb 2013. 
  3. ^ Shuey v. United States, 92 U.S. 73 (1875).
  4. ^ Howard R. Marraro. "Canadian and American Zouaves in the Papal Army, 1868-1870". Canadian Catholic Historical Association Report, 12 (1944-45). pp. 83–102. Retrieved December 23, 2011. "Footnote 1 lists documents and works related to Surratt." 
  5. ^ From the movie The Conspirator.
  6. ^ "The Text of John Surratt's Lecture at Rockville, Maryland". Washington Evening Star. 7 December 1870. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Surratt Family Genealogy". Surratt House Museum. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Jampoler, Andrew C. A., The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt's Flight from the Gallows, Naval Institute Press, 2009

See also[edit]

  • James W. Pumphrey - Surratt introduced Booth to Pumphrey and Pumphrey supplied Booth's get away horse.

References[edit]

  • Jampoler, Andrew C. A. (2008). The Last Lincoln Conspirator. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-407-6. 
  • Leonard, Elizabeth D. (2005). Lincoln's Avengers; Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-32677-2. 
  • Serup, Paul (2008). Who Killed Abraham Lincoln?. Salmova Press. ISBN 978-0-9811685-0-0. 
  • Swanson, James L. (2006). Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-06-051849-9. 
  • Winkler, H. Donald (2003). Lincoln and Booth; More Light on the Conspiracy. Nashville: Cumberland House. ISBN 1-58182-342-8. 

External links[edit]