Assembling the Chosen Assassins
One Sunday morning, during November, 1864, as the
congregation of the little Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary's, Charles
County, Maryland, was filing out after high mass and stood about in
groups on the lawn talking in subdued voices about the news from the front
which was not far distant, a handsome young man with dark, glowing
eyes, jet black curling hair, a swinging, graceful carriage, with the
grooming of a city man of culture and refinement, sauntered out from
the church and stood a moment scanning the crowd; he finally made his
way to a group, the center of which was a Dr. Queen, a leading
physician of that locality, and member of one of the prominent
families. The stranger presented a card and the physician on glancing
at it extended his hand and gave the gentleman a most cordial welcome.
The contents of the card must have borne a magic password which
admitted him to the confidence and homes of these Romish devotees,
every one of whom was a strong secessionist. The doctor introduced the
stranger, who was none other than John Wilkes Booth, son of the
distinguished actor, Junius Brutus Booth. John Wilkes Booth was the
most eminent young tragedian at the time in the country, by far the
most talented of the Booth brothers. He had accumulated by his
profession some $25,000 which was quite a fortune in those days for a
young man still in his twenties to accumulate.
Booth was what is known as a traveling star,
having with great success played most of the big cities in this country
and Canada. He was exceedingly popular with the members of his
profession and up until he was caught in the Jesuit web, his whole
thought and ambition was devoted to his art.
John Booth had chosen to work under the name of Wilkes until he gained
recognition independent of the family name, desiring to win on his own
merits his theatrical laurels. This in itself showed a principle
somewhat out of the ordinary. After a pronounced success under the name
of John Wilkes, he allowed himself to be starred under his own name. He
assumed no airs, nor was he given to egotism as members of this
profession of lesser distinction and talent are prone to be. There is
no better way of estimating a man or woman's disposition more surely
than from the opinion of those with whom he comes in daily contact in
his vocation. I give the tribute paid to Booth before he fell under the
spell of the Jesuit psychology, at least before it had taken a fatal
hold of him. The witness is none other than that queen of tragedy of
two decades ago, Clara Morris. She is quoted thus:
"In glancing back over two crowded and busy seasons, one figure stands
out in clearness and beauty. In this case so far as my personal
knowledge goes, there is nothing derogatory to dignity and manhood in
being called 'beautiful' for he was that bud of splendid promise
blasted to the core before its full triumphant blooming, known to the
world as a madman and assassin, but to the profession as 'that unhappy
boy, John Wilkes Booth.' He was so young, so bright, so kind.
"I could not have known him well? Of course, too, there are two or
three different people in every man's skin. Yet when we remember that
stars are not in the habit of showing their brightest, best side at
rehearsals, we cannot help feeling both respect and liking for the one
"There are not many men who can receive a gash over the eye at a scene
at night without at least a momentary outburst of temper, but when the
combat between Richard and Richmond was being rehearsed, John Wilkes
Booth had again and again, urged McCullom—that six foot tall and
handsome man who used to entrust me with the care of his watch during
such encounters, 'Come on hard, come on hot, old fellow! Harder,
faster!' That he would take the chances of a blow if only they could
make a hot fight of it. Mr. McCullom, who was a cold man at night,
became nervous in his efforts to act like a fiery one. He forgot that
he had struck the full number of hard blows and when Booth was
expecting a thrust, McCullom wielding his sword with both hands brought
it down with an awful force fair across Booth's forehead. A cry of
horror arose, for in one moment his face was marked in blood, one
eyebrow was cut through. Then came simultaneously one deep groan from
Richard (Booth) and an exclamation of 'Oh good God, good God!' from
Richmond (McCollum) who stood trembling like a leaf and staring at his
work. Booth, flinging the blood from his eyes with his left hand, said
as gently as a man could speak: 'That is all right, old man. Never mind
me, only come on hard, and save the fight,' which he resumed at once.
And although he was perceptibly weakened, it required a sharp order
from Mr. Ellsler to ring the first curtain bell to force him to bring
the fight to a close a single blow shorter than usual. There was a
running to and fro with ice and vinegar, raw steak and raw oysters, and
when the doctor placed a few stitches where they were most required,
Booth laughingly declared that there were provisions enough to start a
"McCullom came to try to apologize, to explain, but Booth would have
none of it. He held out his hand saying. 'Why, old fellow, you look as
if you lost the blood. Don't worry—now, if my eye had gone, that would
have been bad.' So, with light words he turned to set the unfortunate
man at ease, and though he must have suffered much mortification and
pain from the eye, he never made a sign showing it.
"John Wilkes Booth, like his next elder brother, was rather lacking in
height, but his head and throat and the manner of their rising from his
shoulders were truly beautiful. His coloring was unusual, the ivory
pallor of his skin, the inky blackness of dusky curly hair, the heavy
lids of his glowing eyes, were all oriental, and they gave a touch of
mystery to his face when it fell into gravity, but there was generally
a flash of white teeth behind his black silky mustache.
"Now it is scarcely exaggerating to say that the fair sex was in love
with John Wilkes Booth, or John Booth as he was called, the name Wilkes
apparently being unknown to his family and close friends. I played with
John Wilkes to my great joy, playing Player Queen in the Marble Heart. I was one of the group of three statues in the first act, then a girl in my teens.
"With all my admiration for the person and genius of John Wilkes Booth,
his crime I cannot condone. The killing of that homely, tender-hearted
father, Abraham Lincoln, a rare combination of courage, justice, and
humanity, whose death at the hands of an actor will be a grief of
horror and shame to the profession forever. And I cannot believe that
John Wilkes Booth was the leader of a band of bloody conspirators.
"Who shall draw the line and say, 'Here genius ends and madness
begins'? There was that touch of strangeness, in Edwin it was a
profound melancholy; in John it was an exaggeration of spirit, almost a
madness. There was a natural vanity of the actor too who craves a
dramatic selection in real life. There was also his passionate love and
sympathy for the South, which was easier to play upon than a pipe.
"Undoubtedly he conspired to kidnap the President; that would appeal to
him. But after that I truly believe he was a tool; certainly he was no
leader. Those who led him knew his courage, his belief in fate, his
loyalty to his friends, and because they knew these things he drew the
lot as it was meant he should from the first. Then, half mad, he
accepted the part fate cast him for and committed the murderous crime.
'God moves in a mysterious way
And His wonders to perform.'
'And God shutteth not up his mercies forever in displeasure.'
"We can only shiver and turn our thoughts away from the bright light
that went out in such utter darkness; poor guilty, unhappy, John Wilkes
John Wilkes was the only member of the Booth family whose sympathy was with the Confederacy. According to the Great Conspiracy
a book published in 1866 by Barclay Co., in Philadelphia, Pa., John
Wilkes Booth had been initiated into the Knights of the Golden Circle
in Baltimore in the fall of 1860, "in a residence opposite the
The same writer is authority for the following oath of the Knights of the Golden Circle, taken by John Wilkes Booth:
"I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , do swear by the blood of Jesus
Christ, by the wounds of the most Sacred Body; by the Dolors of His
immaculate Mother, and in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity,
that I will solemnly keep all secrets of the Golden Circle; that I will
faithfully perform whatever I may be commanded, and that I shall always
hold myself in readiness to obey the mandates of the said Circle
whether at bed, or board, at the festive circle, or at the grave, and
if I shall hesitate or divulge the secret may I incur the severest
penalties to which flesh is heir.
"May I be cursed in all the relation of my life, in mind, body, and state, and may the pangs of hell be my eternal portion.
"I feel honored fellow knights and companions of the Golden Circle that
you have deigned to admit me. No efforts shall be wanting on my part to
advance the interests of the organization . . . .
"A distinguished Latin Author has justly remarked, that it is sweet and
profitable to die for one's country. I have but one life and am ready
to give it should it be necessary . . . .
The President rises and says:
"Sir Knight you have just taken a most solemn adjuration and believe me
that you are known to all members in every part of the country. The
Order is extensive and though the government is zealous and would
freely spend thousands to unveil our designs, all efforts have hitherto
been fruitless. No traitor has yet appeared among us, and inevitable
ruin awaits the individual who would play the part of a Benedict
Arnold. No public steps would be taken. He would disappear and I leave
it to you to judge his fate. Dead men tell no tales. Ponder well on these things, and remember you cannot escape us.
"Members give the hand of fellowship to our new Knight (The Great Conspiracy published by Barclay 1865.)"
The pass-word to this organization was Rome. Beware of the Negroes.
That the author of the book, The Great Conspiracy,
was thoroughly informed upon the details which could scarcely have come
from anything short of actual membership in the organization is plainly
evident. Also that he had knowledge of the assassination of the former
Presidents Harrison and Taylor, we gather. The incident occurred just
after the re-election of President Lincoln.
Booth, sitting in a hotel lobby one day, appeared very dejected; he was
aroused by the following remark, which evidently was part of the secret
phraseology of the K.G.Cs.:
"It would be a queer thing were Lincoln to die and Andy Johnson be President after all."
"What makes you think so?"
"Why, you know that Harrison and Taylor and that Fillmore and Tyler
were presidents. Lincoln may take it into his head to follow their
"Perhaps", said the stranger at Booth's elbow and regarding him
steadfastly, "neither Lincoln nor Johnson will serve their terms out."
"Do you mean that the President and the Vice President both will die?
Such a thing has never happened before in the United States."
"But it may occur nevertheless . . . Lincoln and Johnson are both
mortals . . . I feel certain that ere another month Lincoln will die .
. . . Yes, he may die of some disease."
Booth's suspicions were aroused and he turned suddenly around and asked:
"You said I believe, sir, that the president might die of some disease?"
"Yes, sir, of such diseases as commonly prevail in Rome."
"What diseases are they?" asked Booth.
"All to which flesh is heir, the malaria from the Pontine marshes
carries off hundreds; the plague of its day almost decimated the
capitol of the Caesars . . . but I tell you again that the President
will die of a disease from Rome."
Booth: "Sir, as you are well versed in history perhaps you can answer
me one question, which one of all the sovereigns of all Italy had the
most fickle wife?"
"I am an indifferent guesser of conundrums, but I suppose the Doge."
Ques. "Which Doge, he of Venice or Genoa?"
Ans. "He of Venice, because he wedded the sea with a golden circlet.
You remember Byron's beautiful lines?" After this "test" Booth was
invited to the gentleman's room where they conferred privately.
That John Wilkes Booth was initiated in this order as early as 1860,
the same authority states. The following letter is quoted from Booth to
a brother Sir Knight:
"Dear Sir: The K.G.C. had a meeting; I was initiated. 'The die is cast
and I have crossed the Rubicon and can never return. They tell me that
Lincoln, the damn chicken-hearted nigger lover, will perhaps be
inaugurated, but I most heartily wish, 'That never shall sun that
morrow see.' I am devoted to the South, mind and body, so that she
gains her independence, I don't care what becomes of me. If I am
sacrificed, I know that my country will grant me immortality; if I
escape, so much the better. I can serve her in other ways. One thing is
very clear to my mind, the South must take some decisive step. She must
throw a bomb-shell into the enemy's land that shall spread terror and
consternation wherever it goes. You know what I mean, so don't be
surprised. Sincerely yours, John Wilkes Booth." (See Page 26, The Great
The same authority gives a letter signed Veritas
(truth) to Booth, which might have been written by a priest judging by
the style and Latin quotations—possibly his ecclesiastical sponsor.
"My dear Booth: Since you left us, the Circle has held another meeting.
The members are all exceedingly dissatisfied and if something be not
speedily done, the southern cause is lost forever. Important dispatches
have been received from Canada. They spoke out almost too plainly to be
sent by mail, but as there was no signature and addressed to a feigned
name, I do not suppose there was any danger. There is to be a ball or
party at the White House and the Ape I suppose will be there in all his
glory retailing his filthy anecdotes and pointless jests till they fall
on the ear, usque ad naseum. Did you see what is the determination of
the Lincoln Cabinet about confiscation? There is a clerk by the name of
Charles Morton, who is employed in one of the government offices. He is
gentlemanly but vain and exceedingly soft. I am told he drinks. Anyhow,
make his acquaintance and see what can be got out of him. Handle him
tenderly and you will be sure to catch your fish. Should you want any
more money you will know where to send for it. An idea has struck me;
you know in the correspondence between Sir Henry Clinton Arnold and
Andre the whole matter was treated in a mercantile way. We, for the
sake of safety and to make assurance doubly sure, must do the same. I
will not detain you any longer, but give you an opportunity to read
about our friends in Canada. Whatever be the results, rely on me.
Sincerely your friend, Veritas."
The statements made by his professional friend, John McCollough of a
visit he paid Booth at the National Hotel, showed the deadly influence
when he said:
"At another time I came over suddenly from New York, and being in the
habit of going right into Booth's room without knocking, I turned the
knob and pushed right in. At the first wink I saw Booth sitting behind
a table on which was a map, knife and a pistol. He had gauntlets on his
hands and spurs on his boots, and a military hat of a slouch character
on his head. As the door opened he sized the knife and came for me.
"Said I, 'John, what in the name of sense is the matter with you—are you crazy?'
"He heard my voice and arrested himself, and placed his hands before
his eyes like a man dissipating a dream, and then said: 'Why, Johnny,
how are you?' When I heard that it was he who killed Lincoln, I thought
that he had been at the time I describe ready to carry out his purpose."
In answer to a request by the writer for a statement of his
acquaintance with John Booth from Rear Admiral Geo. W. Baird, U.S.N.
retired, 33 Mason, of Washington, D.C., who is probably the only
living witness who helped to identify the body of John Booth who was
shot to death in the tobacco barn on the Garrett plantation, near Port
Royal, Va., April 26, 1864, I received the following:
"1505 Rhode Island Avenue,
Washington, D.C., November 29, 1921.
"Miss Burke McCarty,
Grace Dodge Hotel,
"My dear Miss McCarty:
"Your letter of the 25th was received last night; I will try to answer
it categorically, and, to avoid errors, I must go back to my diary.
"My acquaintance with John Wilkes Booth was not at all intimate. I met
him in New Orleans in the winter of '63 and '64, when he was playing in
the theatre there in Marble Hearts
and he was splendid in his part. My acquaintance was what may be called
a bar-room acquaintance. Was introduced to him by a young officer of my
ship the Pensacola whose name was Fitch and who afterwards
married the eldest daughter of General Sherman. Booth seemed to be a
congenial fellow with a sense of humor and I thought was very temperate
in his habits, not like his father in that respect. The War was at its
height and was freely discussed, but Booth did not seem to be much
interested in it. He was from Maryland, whose population was divided,
though men as a rule believed it proper to side with their state. My
ship went north in the spring of 1864 and I was assigned to my duty in
the navy department.
"In 1850 when I was seven years of age, I went to school in Washington
to two reverend gentlemen Cox and Marlot, who taught in the lower story
of the Masonic Hall, Virginia Avenue and Fourth Street East. The boy
who sat by me about my own age was David Herold, a little round headed,
round eyed, round bodied boy, whose general rotundity was completed by
a voice that rolled his R's. I envied David his disposition in that he
got along with the big boys so well. When a big boy imposed on David,
he would escape with a funny remark which was called witty, which
generally got a laugh, and David was called popular. When a big boy
imposed on me, I hated him; I hate him yet. David's father, Mr. George
Herold, and my father were members of Naval Lodge of Masons. The
Herolds were members of Christ Church Episcopal. My people were members
of the Baptist Church.
"When I left that school about a year later, I lost sight of David. I heard he became a drug clerk.
"Now I quote from my records:
"On the night of the 14th of April, 1865 1 went to call on a young lady
and about 10:30 her brother came in and said Abe Lincoln is dead. He
had been to the theatre to see Laura Keene in Our American Cousin
and during the play a man had got into the box where the President was,
and had shot the President, jumped out of the box on to the stage, and
escaped from the back of the stage. I left at once; saw policeman at
the corner whom I interrogated and he confirmed the story. I inquired
as to the appearance of the assassin and he not only gave a description
that fitted but said he resembled me, and I thought that I had better
hurry to my boarding house. On arriving at my boarding house Dr. Ludlam
and Mr. Fitch inquired if I had heard the news and suggested that we go
down town and get the latest bricks but nothing could induce me to appear on the streets again that night.
"The people were wild with excitement. I never heard such threats of
vengeance. Before 10:00 o'clock the next morning almost every house was
draped in mourning. People had exhausted the stores here and wired
Baltimore for black crepe and cambric. Dan Ballauf, the model maker,
was standing leaning on the lower box in the theatre and saw it all. He
denied the report that Booth had uttered the words sic semper tyrannis,
but the newspapers had printed it. The newspaper had the story very
early, that John Wilkes Booth was the assassin and David Herold was the
"Though never intimate with John Wilkes Booth, I admired him, his
voice, power of declaiming. I took drinks with him at the Franklin
House, Custom House Street, a place frequented by army and navy
officers. He seemed to me to have no interest in the war. It was hard
to understand. I had not seen him but once in Washington and that about
three weeks before the murder of the President. It was on Sunday when
he was coming out of Saint Aloysius Catholic Church Vesper
Services—great crowds of various creeds used to go to that vespers
where the music was good. I think Mme. Kretzmayer was the attractive
"A large reward was offered for Booth's arrest and conviction. The War
had practically ended and our troops were at liberty to travel in any
state without molestation.
"I was detailed to make a series of experiments in the Navy Yard, and
after Booth's body was brought to the Navy Yard and lay on board the Montauk this happened:
"I was called on board the Montauk by Lieut. W.
W. Crowninshield, to identify the body of John Wilkes Booth, which I
did. I noticed a piece of cord about the size of a cod line on his
(Booth's) neck and invited Crowninshield's attention to it, who pulled
it out and on it was a small Roman Catholic medal. Surgeon General
Barnes arrived at that moment and probed the wound in Booth's neck.
"I got a horse and buggy and drove down to Surrattville the following
day. The house they said belonged to Mrs. Surratt and had been leased
to John M. Lloyd whom I knew. He was a policeman at Washington during
all of Buchanan's administration and bore an excellent reputation. I
inquired of some boys whom I found very communicative. One boy said
that Mr. Jenkins, brother of Mrs. Surratt, and Mr. Griffith and Mr.
Wylie (or Wyville) and Mr. Lloyd were all out that night listening for
the horses coming, that when the two men came, fresh horses were
brought out of the stable, saddles transferred from the tired horses to
the fresh, and the men rode on.
"On May 22, 1865, I went to Baltimore on duty in connection with the Pensacola.
"The Washington Star of May 12, 1865 gives Lloyd's testimony as follows:
"Sometime ago two carbines and some pistols were left at my house. The
Friday before the assassination Mrs. Surratt came to my house and told
me to have the carbines and pistols ready as two men would call for
them. On the night of the assassination Booth and Herold rode up to the
house, Herold dismounted, went in, and took a carbine and the pistols.
Booth would not take his carbine on account of his lame ankle."
"The Washington Star of the 15th said:
"Lloyd testified that it was John Surratt who brought the carbines.
Watchman saw Mrs. Surratt, Booth, John Surratt, and Dr. Mudd together
on Seventh Street, and that Booth was a frequent visitor at the house
of Mrs. Surratt, and their interviews were always apart.
". . . I was retired from active duty by law in 1905 but continued on
duty until 1906. The next year I passed some days at Poland Springs,
Maine. Among other Washingtonians was Mr. Crosby Noyes, principal
editor of the Washington Star, who told me he was the reporter for the Star at the trial of the conspirators, and he was satisfied that Mrs. Surratt and all the rest of them were guilty.
"I was at sea when John Surratt was tried. My information on the trial was that printed in the Washington Star.
Surratt was poor, but Mr. R. T. Merrick, a Roman Catholic lawyer, was
his principal counsel and it was commonly reported that he paid the
entire expense of the trial. His associate counsel was Mr. Jos.
Bradley, a famous criminal lawyer, who rarely, if ever, lost a case,
and to whom the bad cases usually came.
"Quoting from the Evening Star of September 23, 1868:
"Judge Wylie on the bench, Messrs. Merrick and Bradley argued on a
demur to the plea of the amnesty proclamation which had been issued by
the government in favor of the Confederates who had been in arms
against the government. Their purpose was to make it apply to the case
of John Surratt who had been tried for conspiracy to murder the
President, and in whose case a year ago the jury had hung.
"Merrick said the court was not technically a Court of the United
States, wherein the judge held that the Court held that the Circuit
Court of the District of Columbia was not on the same footing as the
United States District Courts, though the judges of such Courts were
vested with the same power.
"He would submit in view of the double character of the Court that to
except a person of some felony he must be indicted for felony in some
Circuit Court of the United States. He referred to the Bankrupt Act.
"Mr. Bradley referred the Court to several authorities. The Court suffered counsel to amend the plea."
"From the Evening Star of September 24, 1868, Page 4, Column 2, viz:
"A NEW MOVE BY THE DEFENSE, STATUTE OF LIMITATION, DISCHARGE OF THE PRISONER.
"Mr. Merrick stated that he had presented a new plea. He claimed the
indictment defective in that it did not aver that Surratt had not fled
"The paper stated that he walked out of the court unmolested.
"I saw the medal when it was taken off Booth's neck and I saw it
afterwards in the War Department. It was kept in a safe of the Judge
Advocate General. It was in a little tin box which also contained a
newspaper scrap referring to it with the bullet from Booth's neck, and
I think the derringer also.
"When I became superintendent of the S.W. and Navy Department in 1895,
I asked the messenger at the Judge Advocate General's door if the
relics were still on exhibition as I wanted to show them to some
friends, and he said that they were all there but the medal, that the
Secretary of War, (Mr. Lamont) had sent for them to show some friends
and forgot to return them and they remained on his desk four months,
and when returned the medal was missing.
"John M. Lloyd, the Washington policeman in 1857-9-60 bore a good
reputation. I think the claim that he was intemperate or a sot as Mr.
Brophy called him was all propaganda. A policeman knows how to testify
and he knows the penalty. I was reluctant to believe Lloyd a
conspirator until the boys at Surrattville told me the story of Lloyd,
Jenkins, Wylie, et al listening for the coming of Booth that night, and
his testimony confirmed it. One of the propaganda writers says that
Lloyd had to be awakened from a drunken stupor that night when Booth
arrived, when the boys, who had no purpose to serve, told me that Lloyd
was wide awake on the road listening for horses. They said that when
the horses were plainly heard, that Lloyd, et al, went into the stable
and brought out the fresh horses as if in a hurry. Lloyd and his wife
(whom I also knew) were Roman Catholics, and I believe members of St.
Dominic's Congregation. The testimony shows Lloyd drunk but once; it
was when he met Mrs. Surratt in Uniontown, now called Anacostia, and
that was on the eve of the frightful tragedy and he might have needed Dutch courage.
My impression was that the effort to damage Lloyd's character was for
the sole purpose of impeaching his testimony. I always thought he found
himself in serious trouble and told the truth to save his neck.
"G. W. Baird."
After an intensified pursuit of thirteen days south of Washington from
along the Bryantown Road, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold were
traced to the Garrett tobacco plantation near Port Royal, Virginia by
government troops under Colonel Conger. A squad commanded by Lieutenant
Baker surrounded the tobacco barn on the Garrett farm and ordered Booth
to surrender, which he refused to do. "Dave" Herold, however, asked to
surrender and was allowed to come out. He was handcuffed and placed in
charge of a squad of cavalrymen. The barn was finally fired by Colonel
Booth, who could be now plainly seen by the light of the flames, was
peering out, when a bullet from the revolver of Sergt. Boston Corbett
whizzed by and Booth crumpled up on the barn floor. He was dragged out
by the soldiers and lay on the grass, apparently dead, but was revived
by a dash of cold water in the face. The bullet had entered almost at
the same spot in which his own bullet had pierced President Lincoln's
head. He was carried and laid upon the porch in front of the Garrett
house where he suffered several hours of the most intense agony. Noting
his lip moving, an officer stooped down and heard him whisper: "Tell my
mother—tell my mother—I died for my country—and did what I thought
best." Indicating a desire that his paralyzed be held up, which was
done, contemplating them, he murmured, "useless, useless." These were
his last words.
The body was taken by wagon to the river and placed on board the Gunboat Montauk and brought to Washington, and Admiral Baird was one of the men who made positive identification.
From Adm. Baird's letter one would gather that as late as the winter of
'64, only a few months previous to Booth's coming to Washington, he was
indifferent on the subject of the war. The fact that he was in New
Orleans where he would have been very safe in expressing his opinion in
favor of the South would seem to indicate he had no great feeling on
There is no doubt in the writer's mind but that Clara Morris was
perfectly right in her statement that John Wilkes Booth was the victim
chosen from the beginning and that he Drew the lot
after his New Orleans engagement where Adm. Baird had seen him. From
the time he registered at the National Hotel in November, 1864, it is
plainly evident that he became obsessed with the idea, and the working
of the virus is traceable in his every act from that time on. He lost
all interest in his profession—a thing in itself most remarkable, for
which we can only account in the one way.
John H. Surratt, Arch Conspirator
John Harrison Surratt, the nineteen-year-old son of Mrs. Mary E.
Surratt, who was chosen by the Jesuits as the arch conspirator in the
assassination of Abraham Lincoln, had studied three years in
preparation for the Roman priesthood at the Sulpician Fathers
monastery, at Charles County, Maryland, previous to the breaking out of
the Civil War. The Sulpician Fathers is a branch of the Jesuit order.
At this Sulpician monastery Surratt was introduced to another
theological student, Louis J. Weichmann of Philadelphia with whom he
formed a close friendship, when in 1862 young Surratt was called to his
home in Surrattville, a crossroads village 13 miles south of
Washington, by the death of his father. The elder Surratt had been a
railroad contractor, and had accumulated some money which was partly
invested in slaves and a plantation and tavern at Surrattville where he
served as postmaster at the time of his demise.
The family consisted of Isaac, the eldest son, a civil engineer, who
enlisted in the Southern Cause at the very beginning of the war and who
the last heard of him had joined Maximillian's forces in Mexico; Anna,
the only daughter, a girl in her early twenties, and John H., the
The Surratts were all ardent secessionists and fanatical Roman
Catholics. Mrs. Surratt was, early in life, perverted to Romanism from
the Protestant faith. Her children were Romanists from birth.
That John Harrison Surratt, was cool, clever, calculating and crafty,
far in advance of his years, is shown by the fact that at the very
beginning of the Rebellion he was selected to do important work in the
Southern secret service, bearing the most important dispatches from
Jefferson Davis at Richmond to his agents at Washington and to the
members of his kitchen cabinet in Montreal, Canada.
On his return home from the monastery near Baltimore, John Surratt was
sworn in as postmaster in his father's place at Surrattville. His
Jesuit training enabled him to lift his hand and swear undivided
allegiance to the United States. So much for a Jesuit's oath. To get a
complete estimate of John Surratt's part in the diabolical conspiracy
to murder President Lincoln and other heads of this government we must
fully consider the preliminary training he received.
This boy, (for we must remember that he was but in his teens, at his
entrance into this plot) was never free from the espionage and evil
influence of the Romish church from his baptism in infancy to the day
of his death at the age of seventy-two years. When he was but twelve
years old he was placed in Gonzaga College, Washington, D.C., a
Catholic preparatory school, under the tutorage of Priest Wiget, who
was the confessor for years of both himself and his mother. After
leaving Gonzaga College he spent two years at Georgetown in the Jesuit
College before leaving for the Sulpician Fathers monastery. I am
calling the attention of the reader to this fact when you come to pass
judgment on this young man, that you may place the blame for his
conduct where it belongs—on the Jesuit psychology inculcated by the
priests of the Roman Church.
That he was a leader and a dependable one, in this conspiracy of
wholesale assassination, is shown by the fact that the object of John
Wilkes Booth's first visit to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Howard
County, Maryland, was to learn the whereabouts in Washington of John
Young Surratt, had then, never the slightest change or desire to escape
from the deadly virus. This virus stultified every noble aspiration,
every natural affection, every personal ambition, even the strongest
instinct in the human mind—self preservation is thrust aside when the
victim hears the call of duty to the holy mother church.
Then, mother love, father love, brother love—all, all, must yield to
this cursed thing. This complete mental control which Rome exercises
over its dupes whom it permits to have no more will of their own, nor
resistance, than that of a cadaver, Perinda ac cadaver, (as a
corpse) to be moved here, or there, at the will of the manipulator. The
Roman Catholic child is thus handicapped at birth, yes, there is a
prenatal influence as the study of these two characters in this tragic
drama will disclose. The mother, Mary E. Surratt, the intimate
associate of priests, her soul deadened by the fatal virus of the
Jesuit training, passed on to her son the terrible inheritance which
made him wax in the black hands of the Vatican intriguers, to mold as
During Surratt's theological training he had studied St. Thomas
Aquinas, who justifies the assassination of heretics, or any one who
apostacises from the Romish church. It was a significant and eloquent
fact that the Jesuits released from time to time during the war the
report that President Lincoln had been, in his infancy, baptized by a
Catholic priest. On one of his visits to the White House of the Rev.
Charles Chiniquy to warn President Lincoln of his danger in
assassination, Mr. Lincoln is quoted by Chiniquy in his book Fifty years in the Church of Rome as follows:
"Father Chiniquy, I want your views about a thing which is exceedingly
puzzling to me and you are the only one to whom I would like to speak
on the subject. A great number of Democratic newspapers have been sent
me lately, evidently written by Roman Catholics, publishing that I was
born a Roman Catholic and baptized by a priest. They called me a
renegade and apostate on account of that, and they heaped upon my head
mountains of abuse. Now, no priest of Rome has ever laid his hand on my
head. But the persistency of the Romish press to present this falsehood
to their readers as gospel truth, must have a meaning. Please tell me,
as briefly as possible, what you think about it."
This, Mr. Chiniquy answered, was done solely to incite and justify the
act in the minds of some of their fanatics to assassinate the
President. It was the equivalent to a command, as it afterward proved.
About November 1st, 1863, Mrs. Surratt and her family moved to their
residence at 541 H. St.. Washington, D.C., where she opened a select
boarding house. Select to the extent that there were no heretics
among her boarders. The first to come was Louis J. Weichmann, who had
been for three years a classmate of John Surratt's at the Sulpician
Monastery where Weichmann also was preparing for the Roman priesthood.
Booth Meets Surratt
A few days before Christmas, 1864, young Weichmann invited Surratt to
go with him over to Pennsylvania Avenue to select some Christmas gifts
for his sisters in Philadelphia. As they were nearing the Avenue on 7th
Street. Weichmann said, "John, someone is calling you," and Surratt,
turning, saw Dr. Mudd of Bryantown and a younger man with him, whom he
introduced as John Wilkes Booth. After the introductions were over
Booth invited the party up to his room at the National Hotel, where he
ordered wine and cigars for the group. From this meeting on John Booth
was a constant visitor at the Surratt home on H Street, which was the
rendezvous of the conspirators up to the very day of the assassination.
It was also the mecca of various Roman Catholic priests, among whom
were the Reverends Walters and Wiget of St. Patrick's Church, 10th and
G Streets, of which the Surratts were members.
From their first meeting Booth and Surratt busied themselves selecting
their associates. David Herold was undoubtedly the choice of John
Surratt who had known him from his college days, evidently, at
Georgetown University. The testimony of Louis J. Weichmann, college
chum of Surratt and the State's chief witness, at the trials of the
conspirators shows that Surratt had introduced him to David Herold as
one of the members of the Washington Marine Band which had serenaded
the Surratt Tavern at midnight on one occasion when Weichmann was
spending the week-end there. This was a year before Booth's appearance
in Washington. There is no doubt but that all the conspirators were
members of the Knights of the Golden Circle; there is also no doubt
that while some of them were nominal Protestants they were wholly
papalized, certainly they were not Protestants. All through the
testimony we see that Booth and Asterodt were at mass. It is morally certain that Booth himself had been secretly taken into the Roman Church when he was given the Agnus Dei medal, which was taken from his neck. The significance of this medal is: The translation of Agnus Dei is Lamb of God;
it indicates sacrifice—the shedding of blood. The writer is informed by
an ex-Romanist who examined the medal that it was made in Rome,
probably sent direct from the Pope as was Pius IXth's letter to Jeff
Davis, a distinction which would tend to flatter the vanity of John
Michael O'Laughlin, another conspirator, was from Baltimore and was, as his name would indicate, a Roman Catholic Irishman.
Sam Arnold, it appears, had attended the same school with John Wilkes Booth in their childhood and was a nominal Protestant.
George Atzerodt was the rough man, that
is the uneducated and uncultured one, who was probably an Austrian
Catholic, but not over religious. He attended mass with Louis Weichmann
at the Piscataway Church and St. Patrick's church in Washington.
Lewis Payne, the athletic young giant who was
delegated to murder Seward, Secretary of State and almost accomplished
this deed, really showed more strength of character and less cowardice
than any of the other conspirators. As far as is known he was the son
of a Protestant minister. He refused to tell anything about himself,
but when he went to his death he was courageous to a degree that
astonished the newspaper correspondents and other spectators.
Edward Spangler, another conspirator, was a
roustabout employee at Ford's Theatre, much given to drink. He had
great admiration for John Booth and was a decided Southern sympathizer
with a pronounced dislike for Abraham Lincoln, which he had often
Louis J. Weichmann was born in Baltimore in
1843 and was the son of a merchant tailor who was a staunch Lutheran.
The wife was a devout Roman Catholic. The family consisted of two boys
and three girls, all of whom were brought up in the faith of their
mother. Both boys, Louis, and the second boy. Frederick, were studying
for the Roman priesthood.
With the breaking out of the Civil War, Louis Weichmann s college
studies were interrupted and he came to Washington where he obtained a
position as Professor at Gonzaga College.
During the spring vacation of '63, young Weichmann proposed that he and
Surratt pay a visit to their Alma Mater near Baltimore. They were
received with warm cordiality by both professors and students who were
eager to learn the progress of the war, etc. During this visit,
according to documentary evidence to be introduced later on, both young
men freely expressed their pro-Southern views. Before leaving the
institution Louis Weichmann announced his intention of going to Little
Texas, or Ellengown, where he had taught the parochial school for the
Catholic priest there, before entering college. The Rev. Denis, prefect
of the Sulpician Monastery, told him that the teacher at that time in
Little Texas was Henri de St. Marie, who had been a former pupil of
Denis in Montreal: that he was a fine young man who spoke French and
Italian fluently. He asked Weichmann if he would hand him an Italian
paper when he called upon him. On reaching Little Texas, Mr. Weichmann
delivered the paper and introduced his friend Surratt to the young
Canadian. This was the beginning of an acquaintance which was to end
very disastrously for Surratt.
Before closing this chapter in reference to the religion of John Wilkes
Booth I might say that his family were members of the Episcopal church
Edwin A. Sherman, Past Grand Registrar of the Grand Consistory of the
Thirty-third Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of
Freemasonry of the State of California, in his book entitled Engineer Corps of Hell on page 213, has this to say:
"It has been told to us, coming from what we believe to be true
authority, that Booth, about three weeks before he committed the crime,
was admitted to the Roman Catholic church, and privately received the
sacraments from no less a personage than Archbishop Spaulding himself,
which he did to silence any conscientious scruples that he might have
in taking Abraham Lincoln's life, and that he might have the whole
influence and sympathy of persons in that faith in protecting and
concealing himself when the act was done, to aid him in it. He
certainly had that aid and influence in planning and accomplishing his
hellish work and in making his escape, and it could not have been more
cheerfully and faithfully rendered than it was, even if he had been a
Jesuit priest himself. We believe the statement to be true; and it was
but a short time after that Archbishop Spaulding received a donation of
funds for the specific purpose which was to uniform and equip a
military body in the same manner and style as the Papal Guard at Rome.
"The uniforms, muskets, cartridge boxes and belts all bearing the Papal
coat of arms and consecrated by the pope himself, were sent to
Archbishop Spaulding at Baltimore; and when he died he was buried with
military honors and his remains escorted by the same military
bodyguard. The entire diocese of Archbishop Spaulding was rebel to the
core and fierce in its hatred of Lincoln."
In a recent book written by one of Rome's apologists, we find that John
Wilkes Booth was by "religion a Roman Catholic; by politics a Democrat."
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