John Armor Bingham.

Trial of the conspirators, for the assassination of President Lincoln, &c. : argument of John A. Bingham, special judge advocate, in reply to the arguments of the several counsel for Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangle online

. (page 12 of 14)
Online LibraryJohn Armor BinghamTrial of the conspirators, for the assassination of President Lincoln, &c. : argument of John A. Bingham, special judge advocate, in reply to the arguments of the several counsel for Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangle → online text (page 12 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

some extent prevent immediate pursuit.

A stable was to be provided close to Ford's theatre, in which the
horses could be concealed and kept ready for the assassin's use when-
ever the murderous blow was struck. Accordingly, Booth secretly,
through Maddox, hired a stable in rear of the theatre and connecting
with it by an alley, as early as the 1st of January last ; showing that
at that time he had concluded, notwithstanding all that has been said
to the contrary, to murder the President in Ford's theatre and pro-
vide the means for immediate and successful flight. Conscious of his
guilt, he paid the rent for this stable through Maddox, month by
month, giving him the money. He employed Spangler, doubtless for
the reason that he could trust him with the secret, as a carpenter to
fit up this shed, so that it would furnish room for two horses, and pro-
vided the door with lock and key. Spangler did this work for him.
Then, it was necessary that a carpenter having access to the theatre
should be employed by the assassin to provide a bar for the outer
door of the passage leading to the President's box, so that when he
entered upon his work of assassination he would be secure from in-
terruption from the rear. By the evidence, it is shown that Spangler
was in the box in which the President was murdered on the after-
noon of the 14th of April, and when there damned the President and
General Grant, and said the President ought to be cursed, he had got
so many good men killed ; showing not only his hostility to the Presi-
dent, but the cause of it that he had been faithful to his oath and
had resisted that great rebellion in the interest of which his life was
about to be sacrificed by this man and his co-conspirators. In perform-
ing the work which had doubtless been intrusted to him by Booth,
a mortise was cut in the wall. A wooden bar was prepared, one end


of which could be readily inserted in the mortise and the other
pressed against the edge of the door on the inside so as to prevent its
being opened. Spangler had the skill and the opportunity to do that
work and all the additional work which was done.

It is in evidence that the screws in "the keepers" to the locks
on each of the inner doors of the box occupied by the President were
drawn. The attempt has been made, on behalf of the prisoner, to
show that this was done some time before, accidentally, and with no
bad design, and had not been repaired by reason of inadvertence;
but that attempt has utterly failed, because the testimony adduced
for that purpose relates exclusively to but one of the two inner doors,
while the fact is, that the screws were drawn in both, and the addi-
tional precaution taken to cut a small hole through one of these doors
through which the party approaching and while in the private pas-
sage would be enabled to look into the box and examine the exact
posture of the President before entering. It was also deemed essen-
tial, in the execution of this plot, that some one should watch at the
outer door, in the rear of the theatre, by which alone the assassin
could hope for escape. It was for this work Booth sought to employ
Chester in January, offering $3,000 down of the money of his em-
ployers, and the assurance that he should never want. What Ches-
ter refused to do Spangler undertook and promised to do. When
Booth brought his horse to the rear door of the theatre, on the even-
ing of the murder, he called for Spangler, who went to him, when
Booth was heard to say to him, "Ned, you'll help me all you can,
won't you." To which Spangler replied, "Oh, yes."

When Booth made his escape, it is testified by Colonel Stewart,
who pursued him across the stage and out through the same door,
that as he approached it some one slammed it shut. Ritterspaugh,
who was standing behind the scenes when Booth fired the pistol and
fled, saw Booth run down the passage toward the back door, and pur-
sued him; but Booth drew his knife upon him and passed oat, slam-
ming the door after him. Ritterspaugh opened it and went through,
leaving it open, behind him, leaving Spangler inside, and in a position
from which he readily could have reached the door. Ritterspangh
also states that very quickly after he had passed through this door ho
was followed by a large man, the first who followed him, and who
was, doubtless, Colonel Stewart. Stewart is very positive that ho
saw this door slammed; that he himself was constrained to open it,
and had some difficulty in opening it. He also testifies that as he ap-
proached the door a man stood near enough to have thrown it to with


his hand, and this man, the witness believes, was the prisoner Span-
gler. Ritterspaugh has sworn that he left the door open behind him
when he went out, and that he was first followed by the large man,
Colonel Stewart. Who slammed that door behind Ritterspaugh? It
was not Ritterspaugh ; it could not have been Booth, for Ritterspaugh
swears that Booth was mounting his horse at the time; and Stewart
swears that Booth was upon his horse when he came out. That it was
Spangler who slammed the door after Ritterspaugh may not only be
inferred from Stewart's testimony, but it is made very clear by his own
conduct afterwards upon the return of Ritterspaugh to the stage.
The door being then open, and Ritterspaugh being asked which way
Booth went, had answered. Ritterspaugh says: "Then I came back
on the stage, where I had left Edward Spangler ; he hit me on the
face with his hand and said, 'Don't say which way he. went' I
asked him what he meant by slapping me in the mouth? He said,
'For God's sake, shut up.' "

The testimony of Withers is adroitly handled to throw doubt upon
these facts. It cannot avail, for Withers says he was* knocked in the
scene by Booth, and when he "come to" he got a side view of him.
A man knocked down and senseless, on "coming to' 7 might mistake
anybody by a side view for Booth.

An attempt has been made by the defence to discredit this testi-
mony of Ritterspaugh, by showing his contradictory statements to
Gifford, Carlan, and Lamb, neither of whom do in fact contradict
him, but substantially sustain him. None but a guilty man would
have met the witness with a blow for stating which way the assassin
had gone. A like confession of guilt was made by Spangler when
the witness Miles, the same evening, and directly after the assassina-
tion, came to the back door, where Spangler was standing with others,
and asked Spangler who it was that held the horse, to which Spangler
replied: "Hush; don' t say anything about it.' ? He confessed his
guilt again when he denied to Mary Anderson the fact, proved here
beyond all question, that Booth had called him when he came to that
door with his horse, using the emphatic words, "No, he did not; he
did not call me." The rope comes to bear witness against him, as
did the rope which Atzerodt and Herold and John H. Surratt had
carried to Surrattsville and deposited there with the carbines.

It is only surprising that the ingenious counsel did not attempt to
explain the deposit of the rope at Surrattsville by the same method
that he adopted in explanation of the deposit of this rope, some
sixty feet long, found in the carpet-sack of Spangler, unaccounted for


save by some evidence which tends to show that he may have carried
it away from the theatre.

It is not needful to take time in the recapitulation of the evidence,
which shows conclusively that David E. Herold was one of these con-
spirators. His continued association with Booth, with Atzerodt, his
visits to Mrs. Surratt' s, his attendance at the theatre with Payne,
Surratt, and Atzerodt, his connexion with Atzerodt on the evening
of the murder, riding with him on the street in the direction of and
near to the theatre at the hour appointed for the work of assassina-
tion, and his final flight and arrest, show that he, in common with all
the other parties on trial, and all the parties named upon your record
not upon trial, had combined and confederated to kill and murder in
the interests of the rebellion, as charged and specified against them.

That this conspiracy was entered into by all these parties, both
present and absent, is thus proved by the acts, meetings, declara-
tions, and correspondence of all the parties, beyond any doubt what-
ever. True it is circumstantial evidence, but the court will remember
the rule before recited, that circumstances cannot lie; that they are
held sufficient in every court where justice is judicially administered
to establish the fact of a conspiracy. I shall take no further notice
of the remark made by the learned counsel who opened for the defence,
and which has been followed by several of his associates, that, under
the Constitution, it requires two witnesses to prove the overt act of high
treason, than to say, this is not a charge of high treason, but of a treason-
able conspiracy, in aid of a rebellion, with intent to kill and murder
the executive officer of the United States, and commander of its armies,
and of the murder of the President in pursuance of that conspiracy,
and with the intent laid, &c. Neither by the Constitution, nor by
the rules of the common law, is any fact connected with this allega-
tion required to be established by the testimony of more than one
witness. I might say, however, that every substantive averment
against each of the parties named upon this record has been estab-
lished by the testimony of more than one witness.

That the several accused did enter into this conspiracy with John
Wilkes Booth and John H. Surratt to murder the officers of this gov-
ernment named upon the record, in pursuance of the wishes of their
employers and instigators in Richmond and Canada, and with intent
thereby to aid the existing rebellion and subvert the Constitution and
laws of the United States, as alleged, is no longer an open question.

The intent as laid was expressly declared by Sanders in the meet-
ing of the conspirators at Montreal in February last, by Booth in


Virginia and New York, and by Thompson to Conover and Mont-
gomery ; but if there were no testimony directly upon this point, the
law would presume the intent, for the reason that such was the
natural and necessary tendency and manifest design of the act itself.

The learned gentleman (Mr. Johnson) says the government has
survived the assassination of the President, and thereby would have
you infer that this conspiracy was not entered into and attempted to
be executed with the intent laid. With as much show of reason it
might be said that because the government of the United States has
survived this unmatched rebellion, it therefore results that the rebel
conspirators waged war upon the government with no purpose or
intent thereby to subvert it. By the law we have seen that without
any direct evidence of previous combination and agreement between
these parties, the conspiracy might be established by evidence of the
acts of the prisoners, or of any others with whom they co-operated,
concurring in the execution of the common design. (Roscoe, 416.)

Was there co-operation between the several accused in the exe-
cution of this conspiracy ? That there was is as clearly established
by the testimony as is the fact that Abraham Lincoln was killed and
murdered by John Wilkes Booth. The evidence shows that all of
the accused, save Mudd and Arnold, were in Washington on the 14th
of April, the day of the assassination, together with John Wilkes
Booth and John H. Surratt ; that on that day Booth had a secret
interview with the prisoner Mary E. Surratt; that immediately there-
after she went to Surrattsville to perform her part of the preparation
necessary to the successful execution of the conspiracy, and did
make that preparation ; that John H. Surratt had arrived here from
Canada, notifying the parties that the price to be paid for this
great crime had been provided for, at least in part, by the deposit
receipts of April 6th for $180,000, procured by Thompson of the
Ontario Bank, Montreal, Canada: that he was also prepared to keep
watch, or strike a blow, and ready for the contemplated flight; that
Atzerodt, on the afternoon of that day, was seeking to obtain a horse,
the better to secure his own safety by flight, after he should have
performed the task which he had voluntarily undertaken by contract
in the conspiracy the murder of Andrew Johnson, then Vice Presi-
dent of the United States; that he did procure a horse for that pur-
pose at Naylor's, and was seen about nine o'clock in the evening to
ride to the Kirkwood House, where the Vice President then was, dis-
mount, and enter. At a previous hour Booth was in the Kirkwood


House, and left his card, now in evidence, doubtless intended to be
sent to the room of the Vice President, and which was in these words:
"Don't wish to disturb you. Are you at home ? J. Wilkes Booth."
Atzerodt, when he made application at Brooks' s in the afternoon for
the horse, said to Weichmann, who was there, he was going to ride
in the country, and that "he was going to get a horse and send for
Payne." He did get a horse for Payne, as well as for himself; for it
is proven that on the 12th he was seen in Washington riding the
horse which had been procured by Booth, in company with Mudd,
last November, from Gardner. A similar horse was tied before the
door of Mr. Seward on the night of the murder, was captured after
the flight of Payne, who was seen to ride away, and which horse is
now identified as the Gardner horse. Booth also procured a horse on
the same day, took it to his stable in the rear of the theatre, where
he had an interview with Spangler, and where he concealed it.
Herold, too, obtained a horse in the afternoon, and was seen between
nine and ten o'clock riding with Atzerodt down the Avenue from the
Treasury, then up Fourteenth and down F street, passing close by
Ford's theatre.

O'Laughlin had come to Washington the day before, had sought
out his victim (General Grant) at the house of the Secretary of War,
that he might be able with certainty to identify him, and at the very
hour when these preparations were going on was lying in wait at
Rullman's, on the Avenue, keeping watch, and declaring, as he did,
at about 10 o'clock p. m., when told that the fatal blow had been
struck by Booth, " I don't believe Booth did it." During the day,
and the night before, he had been visiting Booth, and doubtless en-
couraging him, and at that very hour was in position, at a convenient
distance, to aid and protect him in his flight, as well as to execute
his own part of the conspiracy by inflicting death upon General
Grant, who happily was not at the theatre nor in the city, having
left the city that day. Who doubts that, Booth having ascertained
in the course of the day that General Grant would not be present at
the theatre, O'Laughlin, who was to murder General Grant, instead
of entering the box with Booth, was detailed to lie in wait, and watch
and support him.

His declarations of his reasons for changing his lodgings here and
in Baltimore, after the murder, so ably and so ingeniously presented
in the argument of his learned counsel, (Mr. Cox,) avail nothing
before the blasting fact that he did change his lodgings, and de-
clared "he knew nothing of the affair whatever." O'Laughlin,


who lurked here, conspiring daily with Booth and Arnold for
six weeks to do this murder, declares "he knew nothing of the
affair." O'Laughlin, who said he was "in the oil business," which
Booth and Surratt, and Payne and Arnold, have all declared
meant this conspiracy, says he "knew nothing of the affair."
O'Laughlin, to whom Booth sent the despatches of the 13th and 27th
of March O'Laughlin, who is named in Arnold's letter as one of
the conspirators, and who searched for General Grant on Thursday
night, laid in wait for him on Friday, was defeated by that Provi-
dence "which shapes our ends," and laid in wait to aid Booth
and Payne, declares "he knows nothing of the matter." Such a denial
is as false and inexcusable as Peter's denial of our Lord.

Mrs. Surratt had arrived at home, from the completion of her part
in the plot, about half-past eight o'clock in the evening. A few
moments afterwards she was called to the parlor and there had a
private interview with some one unseen, but whose retreating foot-
steps were heard by the witness Weichmann. This was doubtless
the secret and last visit of John H. Surratt to his mother, who had
instigated and encouraged him to strike this traitorous and murderous
blow against his country.

While all these preparations were going on, Mudd was awaiting
the execution of the plot, ready to faithfully perform his part in se-
curing the safe escape of the murderers. Arnold was at his post at
Fortress Monroe, awaiting the meeting referred to in his letter of
March 27th, wherein he says they were not "to meet for a month or
so," which month had more than expired on the day of the murder,
for his letter and the testimony disclose that this month of suspension
began to run from about the first week in March. He stood ready
with the arms which Booth had furnished him to aid the escape of the
murderers by that route, and secure their communication with. their
employers. He had given the assurance in that letter to Booth, that
although the government "suspicioned them," and the undertak-
ing was "becoming complicated," yet "a time more propitious would
arrive" for the consummation of this conspiracy in wtiich he "was
one" with Booth, and when he would "be better prepared to again
be with him."

Such were the preparations. The horses were in readiness for the
flight ; the ropes were procured, doubtless for the purpose of tying
the horses at whatever point they might be constrained to delay and
to secure their boats to their moorings in making their way across the
Potomac. The five murderous camp knives, the two carbines, the


eight revolvers, the Derringer, in court and identified, all were ready
for the work of death. The part that each had played has already
been in part stated in this argument, and needs no repetition.

Booth proceeded to the theatre about 9 o'clock in the evening, at
the same time that Atzerodt and Payne and Herold were riding the
streets, while Surratt, having parted with his mother at the brief in-
terview in her parlor, from which his retreating steps were heard,
was walking the Avenue, booted and spurred, and doubtless consult-
ing with O'Laughlin. When Booth reached the rear of the theatre,
he called Spangler to him, (whose denial of that fact, when charged with
it, as prof en by three witnesses, is very significant,) and received from
Spangler his pledge to help him all he could, when with Booth he
entered the theatre by the stage-door, doubtless to see that the way was
clear from the box to the rear door of the theatre, and look upon their
victim, whose exact position they could study from the stage. After this
view, Booth passes to the street, in front of the theatre, where, on
the pavement with other conspirators yet unknown, among them one
described as a low-browed villain, he awaits the appointed moment.
Booth himself, impatient, enters the vestibule of the theatre from the
front, and asks the time. He is referred to the clock, and returns.
Presently, as the hour of 10 o'clock approached, one of his guilty
associates called the time : they wait ; again, as the moments elapsed,
this conspirator upon watch called the time; again, as the appointed
hour drawsdigh, he calls the time; and finally, when the fatal moment
arrives, he repeats in a louder tone, "Ten minutes past 10 o'clock."
Ten minutes past 10 o'clock ! The hour has come when the red
right hand of these murderous conspirators should strike, and the
dreadful deed of assassination be done.

Booth, at the appointed moment, entered the theatre, ascended to
the dress-circle, passed to the right, paused a moment, looking down,
doubtless to see if Spangler was at his post, and approached the outer
door of the close passage leading to the box occupied by the Presi-
dent, pressed it open, passed in, and closed the passage door behind
him. Spangler' s bar was in its place, and was readily adjusted by Booth
in the mortise, and pressed against the inner side of the door, so that
he was secure from interruption from without. He passes on to the
next door, immediately behind the President, and there stopping,
looks through the aperture in the door into the President's box, and
deliberately observes th^e precise position of his victim, seated in the
chair which had been prepared by the conspirators as the altar for
the sacrifice, looking calmly and quietly down upon the glad and


grateful people whom by his fidelity he had saved from the peril which
had threatened the destruction of their government, and all they held
dear this side of the grave, and whom he had come upon invitation to
greet with his presence, with the words still lingering upon his lips
which he had uttered with uncovered head and uplifted hand before
God and his country, when on the 4th of last March he took again the
oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, declaring that
he entered upon the duties of his great office " with malice toward
none with charity for all." In a moment more, strengthened by the
knowledge that his co-conspirators were all at their posts, seven at
least of them present in the city, two of them, Mudd and Arnold, at
their appointed places, watching for his coming, this hired assassin
moves stealthily through the door, the fastenings of which had been
removed to facilitate his entrance, fires upon his victim, and the mar-
tyr spirit of Abraham Lincoln ascends to God.

"Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further."

At the same hour, when these accused and their co-conspirators in
Richmond and Canada, by the hand of John Wilkes Booth, inflicted
this mortal wound which deprived the republic of its defender, and
filled this land from ocean to ocean with a strange, great sorrow,
Payne, a very demon in human form, with the words of falsehood
upon his lips, that he was the bearer of a message from th'e physician
of the venerable Secretary of State, sweeps by his servant, encounters
his son, who protests that the assassin shall not disturb his father, pros-
trate on a bed of sickness, and receives for answer the assassin's blow
from the revolver in his hand, repeated again and again, rushes into the
room, is encountered by Major Seward, inflicts Wound after wound
upon him with his murderous knife, is encountered by Hansell and
Robinson, each of whom he also wounds, springs upon the defenceless
and feeble Secretary of State, stabs first on one side of his throat,
then on the other, again in the face, and is only prevented from lite-
rally hacking out his life by the persistence and courage of the
attendant Robinson. He turns to flee, and, his giant arm and mur-
derous hand for a moment paralyzed by the consciousness of guilt,
he drops his weapons of death, one in the house, the other at the
door, where they were taken up, and are here now to bear witness
against him. He attempts escape on the horse which Booth and
Mudd had procured of Gardner with what success has already been


Atzerodt, near midnight, returns to the stable of Naylor the horse
which he had procured for this work of murder, having been inter-
rupted in the execution of the part assigned him at the Kirkwood
House by the timely coming of citizens to the defence of the Vice
President, and creeps into the Pennsylvania House at 2 o'clock in the
morning with another of the conspirators, yet unknown. There he
remained until about 5 o'clock, when he left, found his way to
Georgetown, pawned one of his revolvers, now in court, and fled
northward into Maryland.

He is traced to Montgomery county, to the house of Mr. Metz, on
the Sunday succeeding the murder, where, as is proved by the tes-
timony of three witnesses, he said that if the man that was to follow
General Grant had followed him, it was likely that Grant was shot.
To one of these witnesses (Mr. Layman) he said he did not think
Grant had been killed: or if he had been killed, he was killed by a
man who got on the cars at the same time that Grant did ; thus dis-
closing most clearly that one of his co-conspirators was assigned the
task of killing and murdering General Grant, and that Atzerodt knew
that General Grant had left the city of Washington, a fact which is
not disputed, on the Friday evening of the murder, by the evening

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14

Online LibraryJohn Armor BinghamTrial of the conspirators, for the assassination of President Lincoln, &c. : argument of John A. Bingham, special judge advocate, in reply to the arguments of the several counsel for Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangle → online text (page 12 of 14)