- Mary E. Jenkins Sarratt was hanged. On July 7, 1865, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, and Mary Sarratt were hanged for conspiring in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Samuel Arnold, Samuel Mudd, and Michael O'Laughlin were given life sentences of hard labor at Dry Tortugas Prison, off the Florida coast. Edward Spangler was given a lesser sentence.
There is a bronze plaque near the grave of Mary Surratt at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Washington. It seems an appropriate epitaph for a woman who suffered enormous injustice, and whose public memory is still scarred by malicious and ignorant false witness:
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are at peace.”
In 1867, John Surratt, Jr. was brought back to the United States for trial as a Lincoln assassination conspirator. Stanton failed in his attempt to subject him to trial by a military commission. The rules of evidence, the introduction of previously suppressed evidence (such as Booth’s diary), and the due process required by a civil court made it impossible to convict Surratt, and he was released. In 1866, the Supreme Court of the United States had decisively confirmed the Constitutional principle that military courts have no jurisdiction over civilian cases, if the civil courts are open. Had Mary Surratt been tried by a civil court, she would never have been convicted. Nor is it likely that George Atzerodt or David Herold would have received the death penalty. Nor would Dr. Mudd have been convicted of anything. The civil trial of John Surratt exposed many injustices that a free people must never again tolerate.
Testimony before the Military Tribunal (13th May, 1865)Mary Jenkins was born in in Waterloo, Maryland, in May, 1823. Educated at a Catholic female seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, she married John Harrison Surratt when she was seventeen. The couple went to live on land that he had inherited just outside of Washington at Oxon Hill. In 1851 a fire destroyed their home the couple decided to rebuild a combined home and tavern. In 1853 Surratt purchased 287 acres of farmland in Prince George's County. He built a tavern and post office and the community eventually became known as Surrattsville. Surratt worked as the local postmaster until his death on 25th August, 1862.
During the American Civil War, her eldest son, Isaac Douglas Surratt, joined the Confederate Army serving in Texas. Her other son, John Surratt Jr, worked as an agent for the Confederacy. He met others working as secret agents including John Wilkes Booth who stayed at the Surratt's boardinghouse when he was in the area. It is not known if Mrs. Surratt knew if these men were working for the Confederacy.
The widow Mary E. (JENKINS) SURRATT, in October 1864, leased the tavern to a former Washington policeman named John M. LOYD for $500 per year and moved into the house on 541 High Street, Wash. D.C., To make some extra money she rented out some of her rooms and took up Boarders to sustain herself and her family. It's been reported that John WILKES BOOTH frequently visited the SURRATT boardinghouse, where Mrs. Mary E. (JENKINS) SURRATT, her daughter ANNA SURRATT, and the women boarders were greatly impressed by the young actor's handsome appearance and engaging manner.