1. Did you know … that Abraham Lincoln could play a musical instrument? According to Weldon Petz, one the America’s leading Lincoln scholars, “Lincoln played the jews’ harp at the debates (with incumbent Democratic U.S. senator Stephen Douglas during the 1858 Illinois state election campaign)”.

2. Did you know …in 1876, Abraham Lincoln’s body was almost the victim of a grave robbing plot? Unbelievably, it’s true. It happened on November 7, 1876, when a team of Chicago counterfeiters attempted to steal Lincoln’s body Their plan was to ransom his body for both money and the release of one of their incarcerated members (their main counterfeit engraver!!!). For the complete story, please go to the Abraham Lincoln Research Site at   http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln47.html 

3. Did you know … that four soldiers of Company F, 14th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps were assigned the duty of springing the traps that hung the Lincoln conspirators?

The conspirators stood on two separate hinged platforms which were each supported by one vertical heavy wooden post. Stationed below the platform were four soldiers assigned to knock these posts out. On a signal from executioner Christian Rath, the posts were knocked out, thus springing the traps. Reports differ as to how many soldiers actually did the deed (two or four). As you can see from the photo by Alexander Gardner, four soldiers are present beneath the gallows. The soldier at the front left, leaning on the post is Private William Coxshall. At the time of the photo Coxshall, who was impatiently waiting for the formal process on the scaffold to end, stated the following. “I became nauseated, what with the heat and waiting, and taking hold of the supporting post, I hung on and vomited”.

Four soldiers wait below the gallows to "spring the trap"

Four soldiers wait below the gallows to "spring the traps". Private William Coxshall is the soldier holding the front left post below the platform.

In an engraving (below) from Harper’s Weekly dated July 22, 1865, two soldiers, not four are shown dislodging the posts. So the actual number seems to conflict. Do you know the answer to this question?

The actual answer is indeed four men. Their names were Coxshall, Shoup, Haslett and Taylor.

Engraving of Lincoln conspirators execution from Harper's Weekly, July 22,1865

Engraving of Lincoln conspirators execution from Harper's Weekly, July 22,1865







To see the entire series, click here “SUMMARY OF THE “DID YOU KNOW” ABRAHAM LINCOLN SERIES (Parts 1-15)”         



If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by three Lincoln experts:


“An Awesometalk With” ROGER NORTON, Webmaster of the ‘Abraham Lincoln Research Site’ (posted on December 30, 2008)



“An Awesometalk With” DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ, Illinois State Historian (posted on December 08, 2008)


“An Awesometalk With” HAROLD HOLZER, Lincoln Scholar (posted on November 10, 2008)



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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The 2 soldiers holding the support posts were safties to ensure that the posts didn’t fall while the condemned were prepared for hanging. Priciply so the innocent didn’t fall. At the approriate time they were ordered away from the support posts and the other 2 of the 4 soldier detail, knocked out the support posts at the proper signal given by the executioner.

    • Hi Michael: Thank you for writing. I apologize for not posting your comment and getting back to you. I was on the road for a couple of weeks and have been catching up ever since. The four soldiers under the scaffold (Coxshall, Shoupe, Taylor and Haslett) were volunteers who didn’t know what they were volunteering for. When Captain Rath asked for volunteers for an assignment, several men stepped forward. Boredom was a huge problem in the army and it was no different at the Arsenal. Once Rath weeded out those that would not work out for what he had in mind, he chose these men and told them what they would be doing the next day. Had they known the real assignment, many or all of them probably would have passed. In a newspaper interview with the Milwaukee Free Press on February 1, 1914, William Coxshall describe in detail his involvement and how he came to be in that regretable situation. Although some details were copied by the writer of the article from a previously released interview with Christian Rath a few years earlier, Coxshall’s recollections are fascinating.
      No one was allowed to touch the support posts other than the assigned soldiers. We know that Coxshall and Shoupe were stationed under Mary Surratt and Lewis Powell’s trap, with Coxshall in the front and Shoupe in the back. Taylor and Haslett manned the trap that supported Herold and Atzerodt on the right but no confirmation on which position each held is known.
      Whether one man could give enough force to knock the prop from its block is not known. It is possible that both men would have been required to handle the pole needed to knock out the prop but no current photograph or report from the event helps to determine that information. I have spoken to several Lincoln assassination researchers about this and none of them have mentioned knowing whether two or all four men participated in the final ‘knocking out of the props’. Contemporary woodcuts do show only two men at the back as doing the deed.
      Captain Rath does not mention the method in his newspaper interviews nor have I read any accounts where it is specifically described. The same holds true for how Captain Rath signalled the men below. Different reports stated that he clapped his hands three times, or that he clapped his hands silently three times, or that he gave a silent signal or even that ‘an officer’ gave the signal. One account even states that he left the platform and moved to the front before giving the signal. In that case we know that to be false because Gardner’s photos show Rath on the platform and in the center when the drops fell. So knowing exactly what happened can be difficult as the written record does not always match each other and more modern writings have filled in the blanks by giving it their best guess.
      Without hard and factual evidence, you have to decide what you think is most plausible and go with that belief.

  2. was inrested in the hanging episode but also it was horrific to see the actual scene of the hangings,sometimes there are stories that are not so happy,and the truth is sometimes submerged,however later on the whole story is excavated.pat toms shannon ulster titanic society.

  3. Hello Barry.I am just getting started on a site on wordpress.com. I was wondering if it would be okay if I added your site as a link on mine. I am also very interested in the Civil War and would be very grateful if you would allow this.


    Billy Stewart http://youngcivilwarbuff.wordpress.com

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