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December 15 , 2009

The Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt


The Reign Of Terror. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln burst upon the City of Washington like a black thunder-bolt out of a cloudless sky. On Monday, the 3d of April, 1865, Richmond was taken. On the succeeding Sunday (the ninth), General Lee with the main Army of the South surrendered. The rebellion of nearly one-half the nation lay in its death-throes. The desperate struggle for the unity of the Republic was ending in a perfect triumph; and the loyal people gave full rein to their joy. Every night the streets of the city were illuminated. The chief officers of the government, one after another, were serenaded. On the evening of Tuesday, the eleventh, the President addressed his congratulations to an enthusiastic multitude from a window of the White House. On the night of Thursday (the thirteenth) Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, and Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious General of the Army of the North, were tumultuously greeted with banners and music and cannon at the residence of the Secretary. The next day, Friday the 14th, was the fourth anniversary of the surrender of Fort Sumter to the South, and that national humiliation was to be avenged by the restoration of the flag of the United States to its proper place above the fort by the hand of the same gallant officer who had been compelled to pull it down. In the evening, a torch-light procession perambulated the streets of the Federal Capital. Enthusiastic throngs filled the theatres, where the presence of great officials had been advertised by huge placards, and whose walls were everywhere festooned with the American flag. After four years of agonizing but unabating strain, all patriots felt justified in yielding to the full enjoyment of the glorious relaxation. Suddenly, at its very zenith, the snap of a pistol dislimns and scatters this great jubilee, as though it were, indeed, the insubstantial fabric of a vision. At half past ten that night, from the box of the theatre where the President is seated, a shot is heard; a wild figure, hatless and clutching a gleaming knife, emerges through the smoke; it leaps from the box to the stage, falls upon one knee, recovers itself, utters one shout and waves aloft its bloody weapon; then turns, limps across in front of the audience and disappears like a phantom behind the scenes. Simultaneously, there breaks upon the startled air the shriek of a woman, followed close by confused cries of “Water! Water!” and “The President is shot!” For the first few moments both audience and actors are paralyzed. One man alone jumps from the auditorium to the stage and pursues the flying apparition. But, as soon as the hopeless condition of the President and the escape of the assassin begin to transpire, angry murmurs of “Burn the Theatre!” are heard in the house, and soon swell into a roar in the street where a huge crowd has already assembled. The intermingling throng surges into the building from every quarter, and mounts guard at every exit. Not one of the company of actors is allowed to go out. The people seem to pause for a moment, as if awaiting from Heaven a retribution as sudden and awful as the crime
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