Conspirators

On this day in 1865, four of the conspirators involved in the Lincoln assassination were hanged. More than two months earlier, on April 23, Union soldiers apprehended and killed John Wilkes Booth in the Virginia countryside. Then, at the end of June, a military tribunal tried and convicted eight others implicated in the president’s murder. Four of them — George Atzerodt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, and Mary Surratt — were sentenced to death. Surratt would be the first woman executed by the federal government in the nation’s history.

July 7, 1865 dawned brutally hot and humid in Washington, D.C. By the time the condemned were led to the gallows erected in the yard at Ft. McNair, the temperature had soared over 100 degrees. Still, approximately 1,000 spectators gathered to watch the grisly spectacle. After ministers read prayers, the prisoners were hooded and hanged for more than 25 minutes. Scottish-born photographer Alexander Gardner captured images of the event.

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