150th Anniversary of the Lincoln Conspirator Trial Event at Fort McNair (May 08 & 09, 2015)

May 21, 2015: Barry Cauchon.

John, Mike, Barry, Betty, Kate (08May15)

John Elliott, Mike Kauffman, Barry Cauchon, Betty Ownsbey, Kate Clifford-Larson

The VIP tour inspecting the grave locations for the Lincoln conspirators and Henry Wirz.

The VIP tour inspecting the grave locations for the Lincoln conspirators and Henry Wirz.

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.

http://boothiebarn.com/2015/05/21/5584/

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.

Best

Barry

barryssentials@hotmail.com

YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD TEAM DOWN

December 06, 2013

by Barry Cauchon

Hi all: In August of this year, John Elliott and I formally dissolved our writing partnership due to time constraints and work commitments. We had enjoyed a wonderful four-year run of research and writing escapades that resulted in three self-published booklets (we call them supplements) written under the A Peek Inside the Walls: The Final Days of the Lincoln Conspirators series. The Surratt House Museum gift shop sells them individually or as a ‘three-pack’ if you are interested in purchasing them (http://www.surrattmuseum.org/su_gift.html). The booklist on the site isn’t quite up-to-date so call the gift shop directly at (301) 868-1121 and the nice folks there can help you.

2011 Supplement#1 Cover (55kb)     2012 Supplement#2-r1 Cover (257kb)     2013 Supplement#3 Cover (120kb)

Getting back to our partnership dissolution, the one thing that didn’t end was our friendship and the desire to share what we’ve discovered. So, being that you can’t always keep a good team down, John and I have decided that we will do another supplement (our fourth). It is currently in the works and will feature the Lincoln conspirators’ trial room (recently restored at Fort McNair in Washington D.C.). The release of this supplement is planned for March, 2014. John is writing the piece and I will handle the images, illustrations and design layouts. We look forward to sharing this with you in the very near future.

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

THE WASHINGTON D.C. ARSENAL PENITENTIARY (Part 2 of 3)

August 4, 2009: Barry Cauchon.

John Elliott has completed his 2nd of 3 parts on the Washington D.C. Arsenal Penitentiary. This segment covers the period from 1865 to 1869 and discusses the trial, the executions, the aftermath and fate of the penitentiary.

Excellent job John.

Enjoy.

Barry

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THE WASHINGTON D.C. ARSENAL PENITENTIARY (Part 2 of 3)

A History of the Prison Where the Conspirators of the Lincoln Assassination Were Tried and Hanged

Part 2: The Trial and Execution Period (1865-1869)   

One of the hoods worn by the Lincoln Conspirators

One of the hoods worn by the Lincoln Conspirators

Secretary of War Stanton

Secretary of War Stanton

Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the failed attempt to cripple the Union government, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton vowed to capture and punish those who carried out the heinous attacks.  It was widely believed that such a strike against the North was a calculated, military tactic by Jefferson Davis and the South to re-ignite the war against the Union.

Stanton initiated the aggressive pursuit of those involved in the conspiracy and ordered the arrest of hundreds of suspects and witnesses.  The investigation quickly led to the apprehension of several people with direct involvement in the plot. Six of these suspects: Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Ned Spangler, Mike O’Laughlen and Sam Arnold were captured and subsequently confined to Union Navy ships while the majority of the general detainees were held in the Old Capitol Prison and Carroll Annex.  Dr. Mudd and Mary Ann Surratt were held in the Old Capitol Prison but were considered prime suspects.

 

The Old Capitol Prison

The Old Capitol Prison

Union Navy Ship U.S.S. Saugus

Union Navy Ship U.S.S. Saugus...one of the monitor class ships that imprisoned some of the conspirator suspects.

In order to group the criminal defendants in one place and separate them from the rest of the detainees, Major Thomas Eckert suggested to Secretary Stanton that the old Arsenal Penitentiary be re-activated.  Major Eckert was the Telegraph Superintendent of the War Department and a trusted friend of President Lincoln. He was one of the many people who had declined the President’s invitation to attend the play “Our American Cousin” that tragic evening.

Major Thomas T. Eckert

Major Thomas T. Eckert

The Penitentiary had not been in use as a prison for three years.   Surrounded by water on three sides, it was considered to be one of the most secure and heavily guarded places in Washington D.C. 

Distant view of the D.C. Arsenal

Distant view of the Washington D.C. Arsenal

It had plenty of cells to accommodate the prisoners and even had a large enough room (on the 3rd floor of the former Deputy Warden’s quarters) to host the trial.  Security was extremely important because it was thought that the Southern forces may try to break the prisoners free or that northern loyalists may try to exact revenge on the conspirators.

On April 28th, 1865 Secretary Stanton ordered the commanding officer of the Arsenal to prepare the prison building for its new inmates.  Prison cells in the female ward (these cells were twice as large as the men’s cells) were cleared and inspected.  Shuck mattresses were delivered to the cells and nails were taken out of the walls to ensure that the prisoners would not harm themselves or possibly others.

General John F. Hartranft

General John F. Hartranft

Andrew Johnson appointed 34 year old General John F. Hartranft to take command of the Arsenal Penitentiary.  He would serve as the provost marshal and military governor of the prison and would be responsible for the defense of the Arsenal as well as the supervision of every aspect of the prisoners’ daily lives.  He would make sure they were fed and cleaned and that no one would communicate with them unless authorized by written orders of Secretary of War Stanton.

Rules of the Prison

By May 4th, all eight of the suspects would be imprisoned at the Arsenal.  Gen. Hartranft was issued a list of rules to guide his governance. Four of the twenty-eight rules of governance were as follows:

1. The keys of the Military Prison will be kept by the Military Governor who will make a personal inspection of each prisoner at least twice every twenty four hours.

The first inspections began at 7 am and the second would usually occur at 8 pm.

2. A medical officer will be assigned to make a medical inspection daily with the Governor twice in twenty four hours.  The inspection will be made in the presence of the Governor and at the times he makes his inspections.

The two medical examinations may seem excessive until you examine the following rule –

3. No prisoner will be allowed to escape alive or to defeat the ends of justice by self destruction.

Dr. George L. Porter

Dr. George L. Porter

Dr. George L. Porter, the appointed army physician of the Arsenal, accompanied Gen. Hartranft and conducted physical examinations of each prisoner.  He was permitted only to ask or answer medical questions from the inmates.  No other communication was allowed.

Dr. Porter also holds the distinction as being one of the few people who saw John Wilkes Booth buried in the storage room of the Penitentiary on April 27th, 1865.

4. The prisoners are to be supplied with nothing but necessary food and water during their imprisonment unless by special order….and the Military Governor will be responsible for preventing any knives, spoons or other articles from going into the possession of any prisoner, wherewith he may attempt to escape or take his own life or injure his person.

The prisoners’ meals usually consisted of coffee or tea, bread and salted meat.  After finishing their meal, the bowl in which their beverage was served was removed.  No other items would be brought in to the cell.

 

The Courtroom Layout

Special modifications were made to the building in order to have the trial on the third floor.  The courtroom was located in the northeast corner of the prison.  According to various sources, the courtroom measured 40 feet by 27 feet in size. Michael Kauffman details the courtroom layout and modifications in “Fort McNair and the Lincoln Conspirators”:

A door  was cut through the wall between the courtroom and the women’s cells, where all of the prisoners were kept. This would allow the accused to reach the courtroom without having to pass through the public areas of the building’s lower floors. The courtroom itself was whitewashed and a raised platform with a wooden railing was constructed for the prisoners to sit on while the court was in session. Flat bars were placed over the windows and gas lighting was introduced into the room.

Courtroom Layout in the Arsenal Penitentiary

Courtroom Layout in the Arsenal Penitentiary

A staircase ran along the east wall and led to a doorway in the northeast corner of the room.  The courtroom had  two windows that faced north and two to the east.  The prisoners were kept in the same seating arrangements throughout the trial. Samuel Arnold was the closest defendant to a window and would often be seen staring out into the freedom of the Washington D.C. skies. Two doors on the south side of the wall led to adjacent rooms. The rooms were supplied with beds and chairs for witnesses, members of the legal teams and military commission.

 The platform that was built for the prisoners stretched along the west wall and led to a doorway that opened to the cell block.  Thirteen chairs were placed on the platform to accommodate seven prisoners and the six guards that sat alternately between them.

Courtroom Sketch

Courtroom Sketch

Mary Surratt and her counsel had their own table that was situated near the platform.  This special arrangement may have been due to the fact that she was having health issues and fell ill during the trial.  It was thought that her condition might improve if she was given more room to breathe.

General Hartranft wrote in his journal that “Mrs. Surratt became so ill that it was necessary to remove her from the courtroom”.  At one point, she was permitted to sit in one of the adjoining rooms in order to avoid the sweltering heat and uncomfortable conditions of the crowded trial room.

In the north side of the courtroom stood a large table for the members of the commission, and on the south side was an equally large table for spectators and reporters.  Between them was the witness stand, where the witnesses faced the commission to give their testimony. Smaller tables were provided for counsel and evidence.

image_b_2_7271  3-727

image_a_2_7273  image_b_3_727

Strict security measures were put in to place during the trial.  A different guard would be used to escort the heavily shackled and hooded prisoners to the courtroom each day. In order to preclude the conspirators from talking with each other, they were forced to wear canvas hoods on their way to the courtroom and in their cells — all except for Dr. Mudd and Mary Surratt.  They were never forced to wear hoods.

General Hartranft also saw to it that the inmates were never allowed to occupy adjacent cells. In order to prevent messages from being tapped out to each other through the walls, every other cell was left empty. Additionally, the prison guard detail was changed out on a daily basis to make sure that no single guard would guard the same prisoner more than once.

General Hartranft respectfully and dutifully fulfilled his obligations as Military Governor of the Arsenal.  This was not an assignment that he took with much enthusiasm.  Even his wife tried to talk him out of becoming known as a “hangman”.  Difficult as it was, General Hartranft could take pride that he was selected due to his outstanding achievements and excellent record as an obedient soldier.  Only the best officer could be counted on to take this role.

During the trial period, Gen. Hartranft showed compassion towards the prisoners’ well-being on separate occasions.  In June, he requested of his commanding officer that five of the six inmates who wore the canvas hoods, be allowed to take them off.  The only exception was Lewis Powell.  The hood didn’t seem to bother him as much as the others.

From Gen. Hartranft’s journal:

“The prisoners are suffering very much from their padded hoods, and I would respectfully request that they be removed from all the prisoners except 195 (Powell). This prisoner does not suffer as much as the others and there may be some necessity for his wearing it, but I do not think there is for any others.”

During that same month of June, Gen. Hartranft requested and was approved to remove the ball and chain attached to the limbs of prisoners Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt.  Powell had been observed by a Sentinel on duty, trying to place a weighted ball against his head in attempt to do damage to himself.

Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock

Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock

General Hartranft also saw to it that other requests were granted to the prisoners.  He made sure that they received chewing tobacco, writing paper and ink, clothing (including underclothing) and various food items.  All of these requests were granted at the permission of his commanding officer General Winfield Scott Hancock.

On July 7th, 1865, General Hartranft completed his duties by seeing to it that the Orders of Execution of four of the prisoners were carried out.  The four remaining prisoners (Mudd, Arnold, Spangler and O’Laughlen) would later be transferred to the Island of Dry Tortugas to serve their sentences. The bodies of the hanged conspirators were placed in pine boxes and buried in shallow graves next to the gallows.  In November of that same year, the body of Henry Wirz (tried by a military commission and executed at the Old Capitol Prison grounds) would join them. They would remain buried there for the next two years.

In September of 1867, John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators would be reunited. Secretary of War Stanton ordered that the Arsenal Penitentiary be demolished except for the eastern and western ends of the building.  The ends of the building were to be spared and converted to Officer’s quarters.  As a result of the new construction work, all of the conspirators’ bodies would be exhumed and moved to another building on the Arsenal grounds known as Warehouse 1.  A trench that measured eight by eighteen feet and six feet deep was dug for the bodies.  The bodies were examined and then placed in the trench in the following order (east to west): Booth, Surratt, Powell, Herold, Atzerodt and Wirz.

In February of 1869, Andrew Johnson ordered that the bodies be released to their families.  This final act closed the chapter on the Arsenal Penitentiary’s role in President Lincoln’s Assassination.

End of Part 2 of 3

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Sources:

Surratt Society: Laurie Verge and Joan Chaconas

Michael Kauffman: FortLesley McNair and the Lincoln Conspirators

Michael Kauffman: American Brutus

David K. Sullivan: Behind Prison Walls: The Operation of the District Penitentiary, 1831-1862

Phyllis I. McClellan: Silent Sentinel on the Potomac

Edward Steers Jr., and Harold Holzer: The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators – The Confinement and Execution, As Recorded In The Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft

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Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

“An Awesometalk With” Nikaela Zimmerman, Kansas State Historical Society; owners of the Lincoln conspirators gallows crossbeam

June 24, 2009: Barry Cauchon 

nzimmerman

Nikaela Zimmerman, Assistant Registrar/Conservation Technician for the Kansas State Historical Society

Earlier this month, John Elliott, my friend and research partner on Fort McNair and the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary, sent me a photo of an artifact in the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS). It is a portion of the gallows crossbeam that was used to hang the four Lincoln conspirators. I contacted Nikaela Zimmerman, Assistant Registrar / Conservation Technician at the KSHS and she graciously consented to an interview about the crossbeam, the exhibition it is currently displayed in and the Kansas State Historical Society’s role in preserving Kansas history.  Note: The photos of the Gallows Crossbeam and the Bloodstained Playbill from Ford’s Theatre are courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society.

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B. Hi Nikaela. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. The first thing I’d like to ask you concerns the Kansas State Historical Society. Can you tell us a little bit about the society and the role it plays in Kansas?

N.  The Kansas State Historical Society as a whole was founded in 1875. So we’ve been around almost as long as Kansas has been a state. Kansas became a state in 1861. We were founded by a group of Kansas editors and publishers. And we didn’t become a trustee of the state so we weren’t officially the state historical agency until 1879. We are the official repository and guardian of materials related to the history of the state of Kansas. 

B. Is the collection housed at the Kansas Museum of History?

N. It is! When the society first started out, it wasn’t broken down into divisions. It was all one umbrella. Now we’re broken into several different divisions. Within the Kansas State Historical Society the Kansas Museum of History is one of those divisions. The Library and Archives is another division. And we also have an Education division, a Cultural Resources division which includes Archaeology. And then we have sixteen historic sites throughout the state that are under another division. So we’re all part of one whole. We all serve the same purpose of preserving Kansas history. So we all do slightly different things.

B. Not knowing exactly how the system works, can you tell me how many museums are under the umbrella of the Kansas State Historical Society?

N. For the state of Kansas, we’re it. We are the official history museum. Basically, every county in the state has its own small historical society and they’re independent of us. Now, throughout the state, our historic sites are part of us and we manage them. We have a person there who works for the state who manages that site and the artifacts that are kept at that site. But for the most part, it’s us.

B. The reason I originally came across your website was because you have an exhibition on right now called Lincoln in Kansas which has a number of artifacts that relate to the blog that I write and am involved with. Would you tell us a little bit about that exhibit?

N. Sure. Since 2009 is the bi-centennial of Lincoln’s birth there are many museums in the United States that are doing exhibits related to him. It might sound a little odd that Kansas would have a Lincoln exhibit but Lincoln did visit Kansas in 1859. So the exhibit focuses on that and the other connections that Lincoln had with our state. At the time of his visit to Kansas, the territory was in the midst of a bloody battle to be entered into the Union as a free state. Lincoln was a rising political star. In the previous year he had just done the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The visit to Kansas was beneficial to both the territory and to Lincoln. People in Kansas thought that if they had Lincoln on the side of the Free-Staters it would increase their chances of getting into the Union as a slave-free state. And it benefited Lincoln because he was testing the political waters leading up to the 1860 Presidential elections. And it was a great opportunity for him to build some contacts in this part of the country and in a new area; not only for his campaign but for his law career. So while he was here he visited several cities in northeast Kansas like Atchison, Leavenworth, Troy and Elwood. In each city he gave a speech. He used that opportunity to practice and perfect a speech that he would deliver later at Cooper Union in New York. And many historians as you probably know cite that speech as one that turned around his presidential campaign. So that’s a large part of the exhibit, focusing on his visit to Kansas and what he did while he was here.

B. What artifacts are in the exhibit that relate to Lincoln’s visit?

N. There aren’t too many left. The sites where Lincoln spoke…most of them are gone now, so only pictures of them remain.

There’s a plaque which marks the building where Lincoln spoke in Leavenworth. It was the Planters House Hotel and there was a plaque on the building before it was razed. So we’ve got that.

Lincoln was possibly distantly related as a cousin to a man in Kansas named Mark Delahay who became a judge later on. So there are a few artifacts relating to the Delahay’s.

There is a pot (laughing)…this is crazy! There is a pot lid that may have belonged to Lincoln’s mother and then she gave it to another family member and it was passed down through the line and ended up in Kansas. So these are a collection of strange, random things in that section of the exhibit just because it’s a difficult period to collect from since the territorial period was 1) so long ago and 2) things that they had were so expendable.

B. In all the museums I’ve worked in and visited in my career, it’s those kinds of artifacts that I love most; the unique ones with the strange stories attached to them.

However, two of the artifacts that we spoke about earlier this week are not related to Lincoln’s visit to Kansas but rather to his assassination and the conspirators involved. And it was through connections in Kansas that these artifacts came to be in the KSHS’ historical collection. Can you tell us about these artifacts and how they ended up in Kansas?

N. The two artifacts you are talking about are; one is a gallows crossbeam and the other is a fragment of a playbill.

The gallows crossbeam came from the gallows on which the Lincoln conspirators were hanged in 1865. Again, it seems a little strange that such a piece would end up in the state of Kansas. What possible connection could there be?

A section of the gallows crossbeam taken from the scaffold used to hang the condemned Lincoln conspirators on July 7, 1865.

A section of the gallows crossbeam taken from the scaffold used to hang the condemned Lincoln conspirators on July 7, 1865.

We’ve had the piece of the gallows in our collection since 1885. It’s one of our older artifacts. At the time it was collected our secretary was named Franklin G. Adams and he strongly believed that history should be collected while people who experienced it were still alive. So he was going out trying to find things, especially related to the Civil War, that could illustrate what happened. And he could still talk to the people that experienced it and have a good oral history, a good record of what those people experienced.

He found out from a colleague in Washington D.C. that the gallows used to hang the Lincoln conspirators was being stored in pieces at the Washington Barracks. And so he wasted no time in contacted a man named Lieutenant Sebree Smith who was at the Washington Quartermaster’s Office and asked him if might be willing to send a piece of the gallows to the historical society for the collections. And as luck would have it Lieutenant Smith had been stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for a period of time. He considered himself a Kansan and he happily agreed to send as much of the crossbeam as the historical society wanted. So at the time he shipped out the piece of the gallows that we have in our collection he also acquired a sworn statement from a man named George Tatsbaugh, who stated that he worked as a storekeeper at the Washington Arsenal from 1865 to 1881 and he witnessed the “top beam of the ‘Surratt Scaffold’ [as it’s sometimes called] was buried in 1865 under a large pile of timbers to secure it from curiosity seekers”. He went on to say that he did recognize the piece being sent to Kansas as the top beam from the gallows. And we’ve had it in our collection ever since.

B. One thing that I noticed when I read your brief on it was that the piece was made out of pine. And that surprised me. I didn’t know that about the scaffold. And my next question dealt with what part of the crossbeam did this section come from.

N. There was a little correspondence between Adams and Smith about which section of the crossbeam it was. Because when Smith sent the original letter to Adams saying “Yes, we have this” he indicated that the crossbeam had two mortise points in the middle. And Adams had looked at the pictures that Alexander Gardner had taken. He had also seen the drawings from Harper’s Weekly and he could not understand because in those depictions there was only one support beam in the center so why would there be two mortise holes? So he sent back a letter and Sebree Smith cleared it up by saying “Whoops, I was wrong. Looking at it again there was only one”! And if you look at the piece we have there’s one mortise.

B. But at this point you do not know if you have the center piece or one of the ends?

N. Right. It came from somewhere along the top crossbeam.

B. It can only be one of three locations by the looks of it (laughing).

That’s exciting. It’s a very interesting piece.

N. We are very excited to have it. It’s pretty cool.

B. It’s on display right now in the Lincoln in Kansas exhibit. Is this, and the other artifact that we are going to talk about in a minute, normally on display?

N. No. Unfortunately, they are not normally on display. They are kind of special things that we pull out for exhibits like this. And just for safekeeping they are usually kept in storage. At all times, 24/7, you can go onto our website and see images of them and read the provenance. Both of them can be found in the “Cool Things” section of our website.

B. If my readers have not been to your website, it’s definitely worth a visit. Go to www.kshs.org. To find Cool Things, click Collections and you will find the link there.

The second artifact is related directly to the assassination and it came from Ford’s Theatre. It’s a small corner of a playbill from the performance of Our American Cousin on April 14, 1865. It looks like a small tear or cut corner of the playbill. What are your thoughts on this Nikaela and the story behind the artifact?

A corner of a bloodstained playbill taken from Ford's Theatre on the night of Lincoln's assassination, April 14, 1865.

A portion of a bloodstained playbill taken from Ford's Theatre on the night of Lincoln's assassination, April 14, 1865. The blood is Abraham Lincoln's.

N. It looks like the piece was cut. I have a feeling that the man who owned it cut it into pieces and maybe kept some of it and maybe divvied it up amongst other people who were interested because it’s a very clean cut.

The man who donated it was named Dr. Thomas D. Bancroft. And he was very active in Kansas during the territorial period. He was part of the Free State movement in Kansas. He fought with James Lane and John Brown against guerrilla fighters from Missouri which are two names that are heavily associated with the abolitionist movement. And he was also part of the frontier guard who protected the White House under the leadership of James Lane during the first days of the Civil War. So during that time the frontier guard was quartered in the east room. He may have met Lincoln during that period. He was also present at Lincoln’s 1st Inaugural. So there’s a possibility that he somehow knew, or at least met, Lincoln. 

Most importantly though, Bancroft attended the play in Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot.  He was among the men who stood at the head of the stairs to keep the crowd back as Lincoln was carried from the theater.  As Lincoln passed the men, drops of blood fell to the floor near where Bancroft was standing.  Once Lincoln was carried from the theater, Bancroft went back and he wiped up the spots with his program. And he kept it in his possession until donating it to the historical society in 1901.

So it’s also another, slightly disturbing, but very interesting artifact.

B. Absolutely. And again it’s good to hear the connection to Kansas because people would not normally think of the state of Kansas as being the keeper of artifacts from that period in our country’s history.

So I’m glad I came across you folks.

N. It’s interesting when you go through the exhibit to see how many connections there were between Lincoln himself or Lincoln and the assassination that appear in Kansas. Like John Wilkes Booth once performed Hamlet at the Union Theatre in Leavenworth which is ironic because then, Lincoln spoke there. Boston Corbett, who was the man responsible for shooting John Wilkes Booth in the manhunt afterwards. He became the Sergeant at Arms in the Kansas House of Representatives and was later sent to Topeka State Hospital after pulling his gun and threatening to use it in the Kansas House. He escaped from the State Hospital and then disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to him. The woman who wrote to Lincoln as a child and told him he should grow a beard later move to Kansas, to Delphos, Kansas and she’s buried there. And another woman named Vinnie Ream was a young sculptress from Kansas. As a teenager she moved to Washington DC and sculpted a bust of the President when she was sixteen. And then when she was eighteen she received a commission for a Lincoln statue that went into the US Capital. And Lincoln’s last sitting with her in her studio was April 14, 1865. And he left from there to go to Ford’s Theatre. So there are a lot of interesting connections.

B. Amazing stuff! 

N. Yeah. It’s so much fun.  

B. It sounds like you are a fan of that period. 

N. I am. I think Lincoln is very interesting. It’s fun that we have this exhibit up and it’s fun that we get to study a little more in depth about his connections to Kansas.

B. The exhibit is at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas. How long does the exhibit run until?

N. The Lincoln exhibit will be open until July 26, 2009.

As well, we are also in the process of raising funds to try to preserve some of our Lincoln artifacts. We have a banner that was used at one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We have a silk umbrella that was used to shield Lincoln from a snow storm in Utica, New York. And we have a dress that was worn at Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural ball. Those things are all in need of conservation and treatment. But it’s so expensive to do that, we have to have a grant and we have to have matching funds. So we are having a “Lincolns for Lincoln” campaign and if anyone would like to donate to help us get those artifacts preserved they can do so on our website.

B. If anyone is interested in donating to help this worthy cause, I’ve posted the information below.

Nikaela, this has been great. Let me ask you one last question before we end our conversation. Do you have any other things planned for the Kansas History Museum in the future?

N. Right now we are working on our permanent gallery. We’ve been in our building for 25 years and it’s kind of time for an update. So we’ve been taking it kind of a piece at a time and this summer we are working on a section about Explorers. But we’ve also recently upgraded our Trails section and a section on Bleeding Kansas, the period leading up to statehood and the Civil War. So, they are very interesting and much prettier to look at now than they were before. And we have an exhibit about the importance of the automobile in Kansas that should be opening with any luck after the first of next year.

B. Do you have anything opening for the latter part of the summer after Lincoln in Kansas ends?

N. Unfortunately when Lincoln goes down we are going to take a bit of a break because of the economy. So our main thing this summer is that we do a film festival each summer that’s outside on the lawn and we project up onto the wall of the building. This year we are exploring the Hollywood version of history and museum work. It’s always a lot of fun and people get a kick out of sitting outside to watch a movie even when it’s 110 in Kansas in July.

B. Nikaela. Thank you very much. It’s been wonderful talking to you and I look forward to catching up with you and the Kansas State Historical Society in the near future.

N. Thank you.

DONATIONS: If people wish to donate to the “Lincolns for Lincoln” fund they can go to the following URL: http://store.kshs.org/store//product.php?productid=17705&cat=413&page=1.  There is a drop down menu where they can designate where they wish their money to go, and they should select “preservation of collections”.  Since the exhibit went up at the end of January, we’ve raised over $1000 towards the conservation of the Lincoln artifacts.  Most of that has been through coins in a donation box.  People love Lincoln!

END 

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING THE LINCOLN CONSPIRATORS EXECUTION PHOTOS: A STUDY IN DETAIL

June 1, 2009: Barry Cauchon

CU - Mary Surratt seated (lt)(AAS1)(64)

I wanted to let everyone who has been following my blog for the past year know that it has been a very successful venture. One of the most successful postings I produced was the 15-chapter series called The Lincoln Conspirators Execution Photos: A Study in Detail.

I have been working on formatting this study into a book version for several months and am glad to report that I have reached the point where I must regrettably remove the content from this blog and begin finalizing the document for print. The final version of this will grow from 15 chapters to about 20-25 chapters as I have lots of other tidbits that I want to add.

But to not cut people off entirely from the study, you still have access to Chapters 1 to 5 on line here so you can get a feel for how the overall project was produced. I’m sorry if it is like reading a story and then having to stop right when it’s getting good but regrettably, it is a necessary step I’ve had to take.

When appropriate I will report on how you can obtain a copy of this book if you wish. If you want to write to me and get on my mailing list, I’ll be happy to give you updates as I have them available. outreach@awesometalks.com

In the meantime, I am working in conjunction with Mr. John Elliott to bring you a new series on Fort Lesley McNair and the Old Arsenal Penitentiary. John is from San Antonio, Texas and we have been working on some research concerning the Fort and the buildings that are directly connected with the historic hangings which took place in 1865.  We’ll report on the anticipated restoration of the 3rd floor room in Building 20 that originally held the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. And perhaps even tell you the story of the mysterious Lady in Black that has appeared in the building for years.

Copy of Wash DC 1861 Washington Arsenal 1

US Arsenal in Washington DC with the Old Arsenal Penitentiary (the location of the Lincoln conspirators trial and executions). Map circa 1861.

 

Thank you all for your interest in my blog. I hope this series is as interesting to you as the last one was.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com