Lincoln Conspirators “Order of Execution” Death Warrant

July 09, 2010: Barry Cauchon 

General John F. Hartranft reads the Order of Execution (Death Warrant) to the four condemned Lincoln conspirators prior to their executions.

The condemned Lincoln conspirators were executed by hanging on July 07, 1865. The procedures used by the military in carrying out the sentences were quick and efficient, completing the initial task in just over twenty minutes. One fascinating aspect of this event is the document that was read publicly by General John F. Hartranft from the scaffold. It was the Order of Execution (sometimes referred to as the Death Warrant); a five-page hand-written document stating the charges against each of the four prisoners and the sentences of death that they received.  

After the conspirators and execution party had mounted the scaffold and settled in, General Hartranft read the Order. Below is an accurate transcript, in its entirety, of the Order of Execution. Read it out loud in a steady, methodical manner (much like General Hartranft did) and you will get a sense of the timing that it took for him to do so. You may experience an eery feeling when you repeat the exact words that the four conspirators heard just minutes before they were to die. 

—————————————————————–

ORDER OF EXECUTION  

Page 1 of the Lincoln conspirators Order of Execution read by General Hartranft from the scaffold on July 7, 1865.

 ————————————————————————

War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, July 5, 1865.

To Major General W. S. Hancock, U.S. Volunteers, Commanding Middle Military Division, Washington D.C.

“Whereas, by the military commission appointed in paragraph A, Special Orders, No. 211, dated War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, May 6, 1865, and in paragraph 91, Special Order No 216, dated War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Washington May 9, 1865, and of which Major General David Hunter, U.S. Volunteers is President, the following named persons were tried, and after mature consideration of the evidence adduced in their cases were found and sentenced as hereafter stated, as follows:

1st. David E. Herold

Finding“Of the specification. Guilty except combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler, as to which part, thereof, Not Guilty.” 

“Of the charge – Guilty, except the words of the charge that he combined, confederated and conspired with Edward Spangler; as to which part of said charge; Not Guilty.

Sentence.“And the commission does therefore sentence him the said David E. Herold, to be hanged by the neck until he be dead, at such time and place as the President of the United States shall direct, two thirds of the members of the commission concurring therein.”

2d. George Atzerodt.
 
Finding.

“Of the specification Guilty, except combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler: of this Not Guilty.”

Finding. “Of the charge, Guilty, except combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler; of this not Guilty.”

Sentence.“And the commission does therefore sentence him, the said George A. Atzerodt, to be hung by the neck until he be dead at such time and place as the President of the United States shall direct, two thirds of the members of the commission concurring therein.”

3d. Lewis Payne.

Finding.“Of the specification, Guilty, except combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler: of this Not Guilty.”“Of the charge Guilty, except combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler; of this Not Guilty.”

Sentence.“And the commission does therefore sentence him, the said Lewis Payne, to be hung by the neck until he be dead at such time and place as the President of the United States shall direct, two thirds of the members of the commission concurring therein.” 

4th. Mary E. Surratt.

Finding. “Of the specification, Guilty, except as to receiving, entertaining, harboring, and concealing Samuel Arnold, and Michael O’Laughlin, and except as to combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler: of this Not Guilty.”“Of the charge Guilty, except combining, confederating and conspiring with Edward Spangler; of this Not Guilty.”

Sentence.“And the commission does therefore sentence her the said Mary E. Surratt, to be hung by the neck until she be dead, at such time and place as the President of the United States shall direct, two thirds of the members of the commission concurring therein.”

And whereas, the President of the United States has approved the foregoing sentences in the following order, to wit:

Executive Mansion, “July 5th, 1865. “

The foregoing sentences in the cases of David E. Herold, G.A. Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, xx, xx, xx, Mary E. Surratt, xxx, are hereby approved, and it is ordered that the sentences in the cases of David E. Herold, G.A. Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, and Mary E. Surratt, be carried into execution by the proper military authority under the direction of the Secretary of War, on the seventh day of July 1865, between the hours of ten o’clock a.m. and two o’clock p.m. of that day. x x x x x x x ”

Andrew Johnson, “Presd.”

Therefore, you are hereby commanded to cause the foregoing sentences in the cases of David E. Herold, G.A. Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, and Mary E. Surratt, to be duly executed in accordance with the President’s order.

By command of the President of the United States.

(signed) E.D. Townsend, Asst. Adjt. Genl.

——————————————————————————– 

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am not sure, but I believe I have one of the original copies of this death warrant served on the conspirators. someone may be able to tell me, I can send a photocopy for your review, if you are an antique dealer, or otherwise. I may even be able to bring it to you for your investigation in person if you can be in Sacramento, CA or more specifically, Marysville, CA. My father-in-law was the conservator for Marie Seward, married to one of Wm Seward’s sons. She died 90+ years old in mid-1960, sge was very politically active in this area. I would appreciate

    • Hi Therea. Thanks for the comment. I will contact you by email to discuss.
      Many thanks.
      Barry


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