May 21, 2015: Barry Cauchon.
Hi all: On May 8-9, 2015 I had the privilege of participating in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Lincoln Conspirator Military Tribunal held at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington D.C. May 08 commemorated the first day the military commission met behind closed doors to organize their procedures and May 09 commemorated the first day of the actual trial when the prisoners were brought into the courtroom.
The two-day event began on Friday night with a VIP reception at the Fort McNair Officer’s Club hosted by Colonel Michael Henderson. Guests included many military officials, historians, NDU specialists and staff, authors, descendants, benefactors, members of the Surratt House Museum and Surratt Society, several Civil War round table officials and some dear old friends. I was one of four speakers presenting that night. Joining me at the podium were Michael Kauffman, author of American Brutus and In the Footsteps of an Assassin; John Elliott (my research partner) and specialist in the courtroom stories as seen from the spectators’ points of view; and historian Betty Ownsbey (Lewis Powell’s biographer) and author of Alias Paine (2nd edition).
Following the presentations on Friday night, the attendees were invited to take tours of the restored courtroom and the exterior grounds where the executions took place in July of 1865. John, Betty and Mike led the tours in the courtroom whereas I toured the execution site and vicinity. Earlier that day, John and I painstakingly laid out the locations of the scaffold, the four conspirators’ graves, Henry Wirz’ (Commandant of Andersonville Prison) grave and John Wilkes Booth’s grave. We also laid out the locations for the penitentiary’s 20′ high east wall, the door from which the prisoners exited the penitentiary to their executions and the Shoe Factory where Alexander Gardner took his famous series of photographs depicting the executions.
I am grateful and thankful to the folks at Fort McNair who asked me to lay out the locations of these elements (which had never been done before). I have had the dimensions and calculations in both my head and on paper for several years now and was thrilled to finally get a chance to plot them in situ. When you see them in their actual environment, the entire scale of the event is easier to envision.
On Saturday, May 09, there was a public open house with free tours to those who signed up. For fire safety reasons, only about 45 people are allowed to occupy the courtroom at any one time so four sessions were planned. John Elliott and Mike Kauffman split the presentations in the courtroom and I did the walking tours outside. It turned out to be a beautiful day and everyone who attended seemed to really enjoy themselves.
I want to thank Leah Rubalcaba (Community Relations Officer) and Rob Joswiak (Public Affairs Specialist) and other members of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall team for pulling this event together. I was excited to be a part of it and look forward to assisting again in the future.
To see a great article with photos about this event, go to Dave Taylor’s Boothie Barn blog. The article called A Military Tribunal Observation was written by Kate Ramirez and she did a great job in summarizing the two-day commemoration. Thanks Kate and Dave.
Finally, I want to thank my wife, Christine for accompanying me to Washington and sharing her wonderful and never-ending support. I love you dearly.
Have a wonderful day.