Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mary Surratt

Mary Jenkins Surratt was the first woman in American history ever to be executed by the federal government. She was accused of participating in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln because her son and one of her tenants were marginally involved. Mary was condemned by a military tribunal on flimsy evidence, but then the tribunal did not require as much evidence as a civilian court.

Mary was a Catholic and a Marylander, educated at a young ladies' boarding school in Virginia. She married a much older man and they raised a family, ran a tobacco plantation, with a tavern and a grist-mill on the side. Although Maryland was nominally part of the Union, many Marylanders were sympathetic to the Confederacy.

Mary was arrested in April, 1865 and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. She was guarded at all hours by four men who kept her heavily manacled, with a canvas bag over her head. Even if she was guilty beyond all doubt, she should not have been treated that way. She never ceased to protest her innocence and after being condemned to death by hanging she spent the last few hours of her life in the company of a priest. Anti-Catholic sentiment being strong, it was thought by many that Lincoln's murder was the result of a papal conspiracy; Mary, a devout Catholic, was an obvious scapegoat. Her last words as she died were "Don't let me fall!" She was 42 years old. Share


Brantigny said...

Elena-Maria, There were some precidents set at her trial. The accused were not allowed to speak on there behalf. They were blindfolded during session, and chained to a wall while in cell.

But the most damning precident was that all the "conspirators" were tried by a miltary tribunal, a courts marshall weven though it was forbidden by the regulations to do so. There guilt was never proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and none were present when Lincoln was shot.

The anti-Catholic northern vengeance was not over. Henry Wirtz was next...

de Brantigny

Anonymous said...

I am shocked at the inhumane treatment Mrs. Surratt received esp to have been executed when the jury had recommended "life"---and esp since she was killed on the word of one man who took a deal from the government. May she rest in peace.