DID YOU KNOW (PART 13) ABRAHAM LINCOLN

1. Did you know …that Abraham Lincoln’s bed was oversized to accommodate his lengthy body. The bed was 9′-0″ long and 9′-0″ high to the top of the headboard.

Lincoln's Bed

 2. Did you know …that, besides President Lincoln, Major Henry Reed Rathbone was not the only person to be attacked by John Wilkes Booth at the time of the assassination? It’s true! After Booth shot the President and lept from the box, he crossed the stage, turned right and ran down a narrow aisle that led to the rear door of the theatre. Unexpectedly, he bumped into William Withers, Jr. the orchestra leader, who was just coming off of a break. Booth slashed at Withers twice with his knife, cutting his coat and knocking him to the floor.  Upon exiting the building, Booth grabbed the reins of his horse from “Peanuts” Burroughs, hitting him with the butt end of his knife and knocking him to the ground. Booth then rode off, fleeing into the darkness.

Slashed coat of orchestra leader

Slashed coat of orchestra leader William Withers, Jr.

3. Did you know … the “dates of capture” for the 10 accused Lincoln assassination conspirators? If not, here they are now in order of their capture.

April 14, 1865 – Day 0 – Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre and Secretary of State Seward is attacked at his home by Lewis Powell while co-conspirator David E. Herold waits outside. Herold will later meet up with Booth as they try to escape into Virginia.

Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre

Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre

April 17, 1865 – Day 3[1] Lewis Powell and [2] Mary Surratt are arrested at Surratt’s boarding house. [3] Samuel Arnold, [4] Michael O’Laughlen and [5] Edman (Ned or Edward) Spangler are also arrested on this day.

April 20, 1865 – Day 6 – [6] George Atzerodt is arrested. On April 14, Atzerodt rented a room in the same hotel that Vice President Andrew Johnson was staying to make it easier for him to assassinate the VP. Atzerodt chickened out but was found to be in possession of weapons and property of John Wilkes Booth and was taken into custody.

April 24, 1865 – Day 10 – [7] Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who set Booth’s broken leg and allowed Booth and Herold to spend the night at his farm, is arrested.

April 26, 1865 – Day 12 – At the Garrett farm in Bowling Green, Virginia, [8] David E. Herold gives himself up when the barn he and Booth occupy is surrounded by Federal troops and set on fire. A short time later [9] John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed by Sergeant Boston Corbett.

November 27, 1866 – Day 592 (1 year, 7 months, 13 days)[10] John Surratt, the son of executed conspirator Mary Surratt, initially escaped capture by hiding in Canada and then fleeing to Europe. He is eventually captured in Alexandria, Egypt on November 27, 1866 and returned to the United States to stand trial. Due to a hung jury deadlocked at four “Guilty” and four “Not Guilty” votes, he is acquitted of the charges and released.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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

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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)

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“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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HANGMAN CHRISTIAN RATH: INCOMPETENCE, COMPLICITY OR JUST COMMON PRACTICE

Captain Christian Rath - Chief executioner / hangman of the condemned Lincoln conspirators

Captain Christian Rath – Chief executioner / hangman of the condemned Lincoln conspirators

According to published reports from the day of the Lincoln conspirator hangings on July 7, 1865, at least two of the four executed did not die cleanly (immediately). In fact, David E. Herold suffered for as much as 5 minutes while Lewis Powell (aka Paine) took even longer. Did the hangman, Captain Christian Rath of the Seventeenth Michigan Infantry, First Division, Ninth Corps, do his best even though it resulted in a questionable outcome? Or did Rath know exactly what he was doing and spitefully adjusted the ropes improperly to ensure that the victims suffered harshly for their crimes!

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Preparations are made for the hanging of the Lincoln Conspirators on July 7, 1865.

One could argue that professional hangmen do not always make the correct decisions in carrying out their duties and as a result, the condemned can unintentionally experience agonizing deaths. In America, during the time of the Civil War, a “short drop” was used as the standard in hanging. This would involve a drop of 4 to 6 feet regardless of the height or weight of the criminal. England would later develop the “long drop”, where precise calculations of the criminal’s height and weight would be made to determine the appropriate distance of the drop. According to the article “Hanged by the Neck Until You Are Dead” at  http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/hanging.html  “A standard drop of 5 feet was used for the Lincoln conspirators despite significant weight variations”.

What factors can be attributed to Rath’s performance on the scaffold on that hot July day? Considering that 50% of the hangings appear to have been mishandled, it is easy to become suspicious about the results. The first question to ask is whether Rath was a competent or experienced hangman?  He was not. Only one other time was he scheduled to be the hangman at an execution but a last minute reprieve of the defendant relieved him of that responsibility.  So whether he was capable of performing this multiple hanging or not, the appearance of potential sabotage is raised.

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Apparently, George Atzerodt (right) and Mary Surratt (not shown) were the only two conspirators to die cleanly.

The second question is more ‘conspiracy based’ and hints at a more sinister motive. Could Rath have intentionally manipulated the event, shortening the ropes to the detriment of the victims? Given the mood of the day and the outright blood lust to avenge both Lincoln’s assassination and to punish the South for the war, it is plausible that this scenario is possible. Perhaps Rath, acting alone, or on orders from his commanders or government officials, ensured that some, if not all, of the conspirators experienced difficult deaths. In particular, Lewis Powell, who attacked Secretary of State William Seward, and David E. Herald, who accompanied Booth during their 12-day run from the authorities, suffered the most on the gallows.

In the end, it’s all conjecture but makes for an interesting discussion/debate. My personal belief is that the hangings were appropriately arranged based on the knowledge and standard of the day. Evidence shows that Rath very much respected Powell and had no ill will towards him. His hope that he would die quickly was genuine and I believe that he did everything he could to ensure that Powell’s hanging was quick and painless. Regrettably, the results did not work out that way. Please feel free to add your input and opinions.

I look forward to hearing from you on this subject.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

NOTE: Below, is an excerpt from the article “Hanged by the Neck Until You Are Dead” found at http://www.geocities.com/trctl11/hanging.html which discusses the intricacies of hanging and the protocols involved. It is appropriate for this discussion.
 
How hanging causes death.
Hanging with no or insufficient drop typically produces death by strangulation (asphyxia) due to the weight of the person’s body pulling down on the noose, causing it to tighten and constrict the trachea (air passage) and applying pressure to the large blood vessels in the neck. The condemned person usually struggles for some time after suspension, due to the physical pain caused by the noose. It can take up to 3 minutes for the person to lapse into unconsciousness in this form of hanging, as the rope occludes the jugular veins and carotid arteries but the vertebrae protects the vertebral and spinal arteries which also supply blood to the brain. However, these arteries go outside the fourth vertebrae instead of inside it, which subjects them to blockage if the pressure on the neck is high enough (usually about 40-50 lbs. for a normal person) and this can cause the loss of consciousness in less than 15 seconds. Death can also come from sudden stoppage of the heart due to pressure on the carotid arteries which can cause a lethal carotid sinus reflex or from Vagal reflex (pressure on the Vagal nerve) which causes unconsciousness very quickly. This form of hanging is typical in suicides and it quite normal for the inquest to find that the victim died from heart failure rather than strangulation.
After suspension the face may become engorged and cyanosed (turned blue through lack of oxygen). The tongue may protrude and rippling movements of the body and limbs may occur which are usually attributed to nervous and muscular reflexes. There exist many pictures of actual hangings, both judicial and suicide, which seem to show that the person died quickly and quite peacefully.
In death, the body typically shows marks of suspension, e.g., bruising and rope marks on the neck and in some cases traces of urine, semen and feces. Male prisoners sometimes have penile erections and even ejaculate while hanging.
This form of asphyxial death is known, medically as anoxia, as the brain becomes starved of oxygen. Whole body death results usually within less than 20 minutes.

Where a measured drop is used, it takes between a quarter and a third of a second for a person to reach the end of the rope after the trap opens. The force produced by the prisoner’s body weight multiplied by the length of fall and the force of gravity, coupled with the position of the knot is designed to cause a virtually instant fracture-dislocation of the neck which leads to death by comatose asphyxia. Typically brain death will occur in around 3-6 minutes and whole body death within 5-15 minutes.
The cause of death is still asphyxia but the condemned person is deeply unconscious at the time due to dislocation of the cervical vertebrae and the crushing or separation of the spinal cord. The face may come engorged and then cyanosed and the tongue may protrude. Some slight movements of the limbs and body may occasionally occur and are attributed to spinal reflexes. The prisoner may urinate and/or defecate as their muscles relax. The heart can continue to beat for as long as 25 minutes after the drop.

Does the prisoner feel pain after the drop?
Obviously no one can be sure but it is generally held that if they do feel pain, it is only during the instant that their neck is broken.
The witnessed hangings of WestleyAllan Dodd (see above) in Washington and Billy Bailey in Delaware did not indicate any obvious signs of conscious suffering.
It is probable that many people blackout as they fall through the trap and are already unconscious before they reach the end of the drop.
However, according to Harold Hillman, a British physiologist who has studied executions, “the dangling person probably feels cervical pain, and suffers from an acute headache, as a result of the rope closing off the veins of the neck. It had been generally assumed that fracture-dislocation of the neck causes instantaneous loss of sensation. Sensory pathways from below the neck are ruptured, but the sensory signals from the skin above the noose and from the trigeminal nerve may continue to reach the brain until hypoxia blocks them”.
In the opinion of Dr. Cornelius Rosse, the chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Washington School of Medicine, the belief that fracture of the spinal cord causes instantaneous death is wrong in all but a small fraction of cases.

END.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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