John Surratt

John Surratt

John Surratt (April 13, 1844 – April 21, 1916), son of Mary Surratt, was accused of plotting to kidnap U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

Early life

John Harrison Surratt, Jr. was born on April 13, 1844, to John Surratt, Sr. and Mary Jenkins in what is today Congress Heights. His christening was in 1844 at St. Peter's Church, Washington, D.C. [cite web |url= |title=Finney Family Tree |accessdate=2008-01-10 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date=August 25, 2001 |work= |publisher=Roots Web] In 1861, John Surratt was enrolled at St. Charles College. When his father suddenly died in 1862, John Jr. became the postmaster for Surrattsville, Maryland.He was described as being five foot nine inches tall.

Lincoln kidnapping

Surratt had been a Confederate messenger carrying dispatches of Union troop movements across the Potomac River. Samuel Mudd introduced Surratt to John Wilkes Booth on 23 December 1864 and Surratt agreed to help Booth kidnap US president Abraham Lincoln. On 17 March 1865 Surratt and Booth, along with others in their scheme, awaited the carriage of Lincoln as he left the Campbell General Hospital traveling back to Washington, D.C. Their plans were foiled when Lincoln changed his mind and stayed in Washington to meet with the 140th Indiana Regiment and to present to the governor of Indiana a captured Confederate flag. The speech took place in Booth's own hotel, the National. Booth's plan was to capture Lincoln, take him to Richmond, Virginia, and trade him for thousands of captured Confederate soldiers. On the night of the assassination, 14 April 1865, Surratt claimed he was in Elmira, New York.


After the assassination, Surratt fled the U.S. and arrived in Montreal, Canada on 17 April 1865. He traveled east to St. Liboire, where a Catholic priest, Father Charles Boucher, gave him sanctuary. Surratt stayed hidden there throughout the arrest, trial and hanging of his mother, Mary Surratt.

After the trials, Surratt decided to travel to Europe. With the help of Confederate agents Beverly Tucker and Edwin Lee, Surratt booked passage under an alias and landed at Liverpool, England, in September 1865. He served for a brief time in the Ninth Company of the Pontifical Zouaves in the Vatican City under the name John Watson. [cite court |litigants=Shuey v. United States |vol=92 |reporter=U.S. |opinion=73 |pinpoint= |court= |date=1875 |url= ]

An old friend of Surratt's, Henri Beaumont de Sainte-Marie, recognized him and notified Vatican officials and Rufus King, U.S. minister in Rome. On 7 November 1866, Surratt was arrested and sent to the Velletri prison. He escaped and lived for a while with the Garibaldians who gave him safe passage. Surratt then traveled to the Kingdom of Italy posing as a Canadian citizen named Walters. He booked passage to Alexandria, Egypt, and was arrested there by American officials on 23 November 1866 and extradited. He was sent home on a U.S. Navy warship, "Swatara", and put on trial. However, the USS "Swatara" did not return to the United States until its recorded arrival in Delaware Bay on May 24, 1869 (about 2 1/2 years later).


Surratt was tried in a civilian court of the District of Columbia, instead of a military one as his mother had been. Judge David Cartter presided over the trial. Edwards Pierrepont conducted the case for the government against Surratt. Surratt's attorney, Joseph H. Bradley, admitted Surratt's part in plotting to kidnap, but not murder, the president. After two months of trial, Surratt was ultimately released after a mistrial (eight voted innocent, four voted guilty) and the statutes of limitations had run out on lesser charges the government attempted to retry him on. He was released on twenty-five thousand dollars' bail.

Later life

After the trial, Surratt became a model citizen. He farmed tobacco, taught at the Rockville Female Academy, gave public lectures, served as treasurer of the Old Bay Line steamship company on Chesapeake Bay, and became a teacher at the St. Joseph Catholic School in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Surratt retired from the Old Bay Line in 1914. In 1872 he married a second cousin of Francis Scott Key, Mary Victorine Hunter; they had seven children. At nine o'clock in the evening of Friday, April 21, 1916, Surratt died of pneumonia. He was 72 years old.



*"Lincoln and Booth-More Light on the Conspiracy"; Winkler, H.Donald; Cumberland House; ISBN-1-58182-342-8
*"Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer"; Swanson, James L.;William Morrow;ISBN-0-06-051849-9
*"Lincoln's Avengers-Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War"; Leonard, Elizabeth D.;W.W. Norton & Co.; ISBN-0-393-32677-2
*"The Last Lincoln Conspirator"; Jampoler, Andrew C. A.; Naval Institute Press; ISBN-1-59114-407-6

External links

* [ John Surratt]
* [ Text of John Surratt's public lecture giving his version of the conspiracy]
* []

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