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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“An Awesometalk With” BETTY OWNSBEY, author of Alias Paine, the Lewis Powell biography

May 02, 2010: Barry Cauchon

LINK TO INTERVIEW: An Awesometalk With Betty Ownsbey 08-Mar-10

Running Time: 35:00

I am really pleased to present my interview with Betty Ownsbey, historian, researcher and author of ‘Alias Paine’, the biography of Lewis Powell, Lincoln assassination conspirator who was tried, found guilty and hanged on July 7, 1865.

Betty lives in Richmond, Virginia. I grew up in nearby Hampton, so I feel a connection to Betty as a fellow Viriginian. I found her to be charming, witty and passionate about the Lincoln assassination.  She is full of life and you will get pumped up just listening to her.

Our interview covered the following subjects:

  • Frustrations in research
  • The discovery of the Hartranft Letterbook
  • Lewis Powell, his family and history
  • Sharing and living history
  • Horses and the Civil War riding style and how it affected John Wilkes Booth escape from Ford’s Theatre

The red roan is the type of horse that David Herold rode during his escape with John Wilkes Booth. Herold's horse's name was Charlie.

  • Lewis Powell’s skull
  • Penny Dreadfuls

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

144th ANNIVERSARY OF THE LINCOLN CONSPIRATOR HANGINGS (JULY 7, 1865)

July 7, 2009: Barry  Cauchon

Today marks the 144th anniversary of the executions by hanging of four of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. The sentences were carried out at the Washington Arsenal Penitentary at about 1:26pm. Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell (alias Payne or Paine), David Herold and George Atzerodt had all been found guilty of their involvement in the conspiracy.  This not only involved the assassination of President Lincoln and the plans to murder several other key members of Lincoln’s administration, but also included their failed plans to kidnap President Lincoln in March of 1865.

CU - Execution Party (RTDW)(292)

The day was very hot (over 100 degrees) when the prisoners were marched out to the scaffold just after 1:00pm. After seating the four condemned in chairs on the platform, General Hartranft read the five-page Order of Execution (sometimes called the Death Warrant) which is reproduced here.

CU - Major Hartranft (RTDW)(12)

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.

——————————————————————————–

After the reading of the Order of Execution was concluded, the ministers were allowed to speak and pray on behalf of their charges. Dr. Gillette spoke first on behalf of Lewis Powell, then Dr. Olds spoke on behalf of David Herold and finally Dr. J. S. Butler prayed on behalf of George Atzerodt.

Photo courtesy of Betty Ownsbey

Photo courtesy of Betty Ownsbey

People often wonder why Mrs. Surratt’s two priests did not speak publicly to the crowd. In the case of Father Walter, he was not allowed to.

Father Walter, who strongly believed in Mary Surratt’s innocence, became so outspoken over the military’s decision to hang Mrs. Surratt, that he was given an ultimatum from Secretary of War Stanton’s office. It gave him what we would call today “a gag order”, stating that if he wished to be on the scaffold with Mrs. Surratt, he would cease his verbal attacks and rabble rousing publicly. This included that he would not be allowed to speak on the scaffold. Swallowing his anger for the time being, he agreed to this and was present with her at her time of need. Neither Father Walter and Father Wiget spoke that day.

However, after the hangings, Father Walter went on the attack again, this time gaining valuable allies that would eventually help in forcing Secretary of War Stanton to resign during the political upheaval that involved impeachment proceedings against President Johnson.

Here are the three prayers that were spoken that day as recorded by the New York Times and published July 8, 1865.

Dr. Gillette’s prayer:
The prisoner, Lewis Thornton Powell, known as Payne, requests me on this occasion, to say for him, that he thanks, publicly and sincerely thanks, General Hartranft, all the officers and soldiers who had charge of him, and all persons who have ministered to his wants, for their unwavering kindness to him in this trying hour. Not an unkind word nor an ill feeling act has been made toward him. Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we pray thee to permit us to commit this soul into thy hands, not for any claim we have to make it in ourselves, but depending as we do upon the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, O Heavenly Father, we beseech thee that his spirit may be accorded an easy passage out of the world, and, if consistent with thy purposes of mercy, and thou delightest in mercy, receive him. This we humbly ask, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Redeemer. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Olds’ prayer:
David E. Herrold, who is here about to undergo the extreme penalty of offended law, desires me to say that he hopes your prayers my be offered up to the Most High God for him; that he forgives all who may at any time have wronged him, and asks of all forgiveness for all, the wrong or supposed wrong he has done unto them, that he thanks the officers who have had charge of him during his confinement in prison for their deeds of kindness toward him, he hopes that he dies in charity with all the world and is convinced that his soul is in the hands of God. Amen.

Rev. Dr. J. S. Butler’s prayer:
George A. Atzeroth requests me thus publicly to return his unfeigned thanks to Gen. Hartranft, and all associated with him in this prison, for their uniform courtesy and kindness during his imprisonment. And now, George A. Atzeroth, may God have mercy upon you. The ways of the transgressor is hard. The wages of sin is death; but if we freely confess our sins, God will in mercy pardon them. Christ came into the world to save sinners—even the chief of sinners. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. The blood of the blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ, cleanseth from all sin. You profess to have thus believed to have peace in your heart; and may God be with you in this hour of trial and suffering; and may you be enabled so to commend your soul to the Creator of it that you may have peace in this last moment of life. The Lord God Almighty, Father of Mercy, have mercy upon you, and receive you into His heavenly keeping. Lord God, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon this man. Lord God, Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, have mercy upon him and grant him thy peace. Amen.

After the prayers had ended, there was nothing left to do but carry out the sentences. The four prisoners were commanded to stand and moved onto the hinged platforms. Although already wearing wrist and ankle irons, their bodies were tied with strips of canvas to secure their limbs. The nooses were adjusted around their necks and white canvas hoods were placed over their heads.

CU - David Herold and George Atzerodt (ATR)(40)

CU - Lewis Powell (ATR)(15)

At this point the soldiers, ministers and other men on the scaffold stepped back and on a signal that probably came from executioner Captain Christian Rath, the two vertical posts holding up the traps were knock out by soldiers below the scaffold. This sprung the traps and the four condemned conspirators dropped. Mary Surratt and George Atzerodt are reported to have shown little to no movement and were presumed to be unconscious. However, David Herold and Lewis Powell did not lose consciousness and for the next few minutes painfully struggled in vain until mercifully, they too lost consciousness.

CU - Scaffold (RTV)(47)

After about 20 minutes or so, doctors checked each body for signs of life and finding none, pronounced the prisoners dead. The bodies would remain hanging for a few minutes more before being ordered taken down. Once cut down, the bodies were laid on their pine coffins and checked by the doctors again to determine whether any of the prisoners had broken their necks and if there were any other signs of trauma. Once recorded, the bodies were placed in their coffins with their hoods still in place and then buried in the graves that had been dug  just to the right of the scaffold.

CU - Pine Gun Boxes & Pre-Dug Graves (TPB)(596)

All of this occurred 144 years ago today, on the very hot and early afternoon of Friday, July 7, 1865.

Best

Barry

“An Awesometalk With” Ed Isaacs, Owner of Civil War Diary from Soldier Who Guarded the Lincoln Conspirators

April 10, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Ed Isaacs holds the diary of his great great grandfather George E. Dixon.

Life has a way of blessing you when you least expect it. Call it karma, good luck or maybe even a genuine intervention by a higher power. I personally believe that things happen for a reason and so when this story began about two weeks ago, I can say that I was blessed again. A kind and humble gentleman by the name of Ed Isaacs, a retired fire fighter from Norwalk, Connecticut wrote to me saying that he had just come into possession of the diary of his great great grandfather, George E. Dixon. George was a Civil War sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp; the regiment that was assigned to guard, and eventually take part in the executions of several of the Lincoln assassination conspirators in 1865. This was extremely exciting news for me as this is the focus of my current research.

Once Ed shared some of the contents of the diary with me, I knew I was seeing something that was never before on the public record.

The diary is the first known document found to list the names of the guards and their duties guarding the prisoners. It also adds another perspective to the story. It’s a first hand account, documented in the handwriting of the man who was actually there and participated in this famous historic event.

From a researcher’s point of view, George E. Dixon’s diary is a great find. And as you’ll read, Ed Isaacs’ efforts to share this as well as honor the members in his family tree are genuinely uplifting. I am happy and honored to share this story with you on his behalf. Enjoy.

Barry 

——————————————————- 

B.Hey Ed. How are you? 

 

E. I’m good and ready to go! 

 

B.(laughing) Alright then, let me start by asking you where you live and what did you do for a living before you were retired?

E. The answer to that is I live in Norwalk, Connecticut. I just recently retired on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th of this year from the Norwalk Fire Department with nearly 32 years on the job.

B.Wow. 

E. Yup. It was a good career. I took good care of my family with that.

B. Let me ask you about two associations that you are affiliated with. You are a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and a member and past president of The Sons of the American Revolution.

E. Yes I am.

B.What are those organizations and how do they serve their members?

E. These are hereditary societies whose missions are to preserve the ideals our forefathers fought for during the Civil War and the American Revolution. I was the past president of The Roger Sherman Branch, Connecticut Society Sons of the American Revolution. I had three ancestors that were in the Revolutionary War and they were Amos Dixon, John Saunders and Samuel Brown Isaacs. And then I became a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and my ancestors there of course were George E. Dixon and Edwin Lorenzo Tuttle who fought in the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and then he reenlisted into the 17th.

B.And the reason we are talking here today is because of your great great grandfather, George E. Dixon.  

 

Sergeant George E. Dixon.

Sergeant George E. Dixon wearing his medals which can be seen later in this article.

 

You contacted me by email back on March 23 and I’d like to read a portion of that note now.

“I recently acquired a diary that was my great-great grandfather’s. His name was George E. Dixon from Poundridge, NY. During the Civil War he was stationed in Washington, D.C. This is what his diary says,  

May 16, 1865: On guard at the old penitentiary over the Booth party conspirators.
I was in the court room during the day while the witness’s were being examined. I saw the bullet that killed the President, also the pistol and two carbines. Booth’s photograph and the boot that was cut open to take it from his broken leg by Dr. Mudd.

 July 7, 1865: On guard at the penitentiary. The execution of Surratt, Payne, Atzerodt + Herold.

 I hope you find this interesting”.

Well Ed (laughing) the first thing that I thought to myself was ‘DAH! Of course I’d find this interesting”. For me, this is great stuff. This is sort of what I specialize in and so I was dying to talk to you and I’m glad that we now have a rapport and are talking more and more about this.

E. And for me it was very interesting because I wasn’t really aware of any of that history. Maybe I mentioned that I have his obituary, “Civil War Veteran Claimed by Death”. Commenting on the execution, of which he was an eyewitness, he says in his diary,

 “The first two, having fainted, were carried to the gallows by the guards: the latter two walked calmly up and put their heads in the nooses.”

So of course, when I eventually got the diary this is what I expected to see. I’ve never seen this line in here yet! So, it could have been hearsay from his wife or a child. But the information I did find was pretty fantastic.

B.So that quote is actually not in the diary from what you can find so far! 

E. I have not found that quote. Nope. 

B.George lived to be quite old. And two things I’ll ask you to explain to everyone are ‘Who was George Dixon’ and ‘what was his history’?

E. George E. Dixon was 90 years old when he passed away. He was a Civil War Veteran who resided in Pound Ridge, New York. He was well known to the people of Stamford. He was the driver for an old mail and passenger stagecoach line for many years. He was born in Pound Ridge on December 2, 1834.

 

George E. Dixon's business card.

George E. Dixon's business card.

He attended the schools of that district. And on April 4, 1859, he married Sarah E. Birdsall, a native of Pound Ridge. After the Civil War broke out, he volunteered for the service of his country, joining the 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery. He was mustered in at Yonkers, and went to a training camp for three months. 

B.[NOTE: At this point in the interview I interrupted Ed with another question and we never got back to George E. Dixon’s history, so here is the rest of it before we pick up the interview again].

His military service states:

 He enlisted as a Private in the 172nd Infantry Regiment New York on September 6, 1862, at the age of 27. He was transferred into Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on December 4, 1862. He was transferred on January 26, 1864 from Company M to Company A. He was wounded on June 20, 1864 at Petersburg, Virginia. He was transferred to Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on January 19, 1865 and then transferred to Company C, 14th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps January 19, 1865. On July 7, 1865, he was appointed Sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment of Veteran Reserve Corps to rank as such from the 1st day of July 1865. During the war, he was twice wounded in action and fought in the following battles: Manassas Gap, Mire Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Harris House, North Anna River, Totopopomoy, Cold Harbor, and Bethesda Church. In this last battle, he was wounded when the handle of a musket was shot off and later, at Petersburg, he was shot in the right arm. He was honorably discharge July 31, 1865. Just prior to his discharge, he was present to witness first hand, a chronicle of American History. During his final service in Washington, DC, he served as sergeant of the guard at the penitentiary in Washington where the persons implicated in the death of President Abraham Lincoln were kept and later was in charge of the guards at the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, George Atzerodt, and David Herold, who were involved in the assassination plot.

 Following the war, he returned to Pound Ridge where in 1868, he was given a contract of carrying mail between Stamford and Pound Ridge; a position which he held for 22 years. At first, he only carried the mail three times a week but, later, the number of trips was increased to six. When the rural routes were instituted, he continued carrying freight and passengers until 1916.

Ninety-year old George E. Dixon died on March 16, 1925; just 19 days shy of his 66th wedding anniversary (April 4, 1925). He was one of the oldest members of the Charles A. Hobbie Post #23 of the Grand Army of the Republic located in Stamford. At the time of his death, he was survived by four children – Charles L. of New York City, Mrs. Ada Isaacs of New Canaan, Myron A. of Stamford, and Wilbur of New Canaan: his wife, Sarah E., and 14 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

——————————————– 

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

B. You sent me two pictures of George, one of him and his wife and the other being a family portrait. I guess these are both from their 65th wedding anniversary on April 4, 1924. Is that correct?

[Note: Just last Saturday, April 4, 2009 would have marked George and Sarah’s 150th wedding anniversary].

E. That’s correct. At their home which we referred to as “Charter Oak Place”. 

B.In the family photo, is there somebody there that you are directly related too? 

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

E. The young couple right behind Sarah and George were my grandparents. The young gentleman is Clarence Isaacs and his wife Muriel. It is very sad how things go because that picture was taken in April, 1924 and my father had just been born in February of that year. My grandmother, Muriel  died the following year at only 21 years old. My grandfather Clarence died at 30 years old in 1927. So they didn’t have a great long life, yet Clarence’s mother Ada, who’s standing right next to him, lived to 96 years old. That’s Ada Dixon Isaacs, my great grandmother.  

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

 

B.Well…I’d love to say that …

E. …you don’t know what tree you’re going to be in. Right!

B.Exactly (laughing).

E. Yup.

B.When did you first get interested in your great great grandfather? I know you have some items of his as well as his diary.

E. Well first, the items that I have, I didn’t have to worry about collecting, outside of the diary, because the items were already here. My father was a great collector. In my family, we save everything. I’vegot a bible from Samuel Brown Isaacs who was in the Revolutionary War and I’ve got a powder horn from Amos Dixon.

But the question is always asked “When did I get interested in it”? Like a lot of people would say “When your parent dies”. My dad was very interested in our family history. And of course when I lost him in 1990, I’d always remember as a young kid when I was 10, 12, 14 years old, the many weekends we would spend going to a cemetery, a library, a town hall or somewhere always looking for facts on family. And that’s what we did. And of course as I came up on sixteen years old, I’m looking at my watch saying “Dad, I got a date. I gotta get out of here”. I didn’t show as much interest then. But when I lost him it became one of the most important things in my life. Honoring my ancestors is honoring my father, Howard R. Isaacs.

 My family has a lot of history in this area.  Ralph Isaacs and Mary Rumsey Isaacs settled in Norwalk in 1725.  My family has not moved more than 20 miles in 284 years.

B.What are some of the items that you obtained from your father?

E. I have George E. Dixon’s certificate promoting him to Sergeant. I’ve got his pension paper. I’ve got original news articles about George and Sarah’s 65th wedding anniversary and of course the article on his death. I’ve got many photos including George with family members in front of his home “Charter Oak Place”. I’ve got a medal given to him for serving in the 6th Regt. New York Heavy Artillery, Army of the Potomac and his GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] medal. And now I have his diary!

 

 

George Dixon's Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

George Dixon's New York Volunteers Heavy Artillery Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

 

B.Well, let’s talk about the diary then (laughing)!

When you contacted me on March 23 you had only just received it a few days before on March 18, so you haven’t had it that long.

E. When it arrived at my house in the envelope I did not open it. I needed to relax in anticipation of what I would discover. I just put it downstairs in a safe place until Sunday the 22nd and that was the first time I opened it. I was just so relieved.

B.How long have you known of its existence?

E. I didn’t know if it still existed. All I had was just a copy of his obituary that said “…in his diary” and that one quote that I haven’t been able to find. But I didn’t know where that diary could be. So really, the story of how I got it is very interesting.

B.I’m sure. Can you tell us?

E. Before I retired, I was looking at family members’ histories and went on Ancestory.com. I started loading the names of different family members that I had, on it. I looked at photographs of George and Sarah and the extended family. One of my parents had put the names of the different family members on the back of the photos. So I just started looking at the different names and I found one, that was Floyd E. Dixon. I put Floyd E. Dixon into my family tree just looking to see who else would be searching for this particular Dixon and I found one that matched exactly. And then of course, I made a phone call to Maine to Pamila Dixon Tift and said, “Hi, I’m your cousin”. I started sending her a lot of information about our great great grandfather.  When I sent her a copy of George’s obituary talking about his diary, she called me back and said she had that diary.

B.(laughing).

E. Needless to say, I nearly fell out of my chair here. But I had to keep my wits about me. Through many emails and conversations over the next week or so I let her know that since I had everything else of his, and I’m only minutes from Pound Ridge where he lived; and I visited the home where he lived many times… that the diary needed to be here. I was very fortunate that she agreed with me.  

If anything else was interesting, she told me that she put it in the mail on March 16th and just by coincidence, I looked at his obituary again that night and noticed that March 16, 1925 was when he died. So everything has a meaning.

 

 

The Dixon gravestone.

The resting place of George E. Dixon, Sarah Dixon and Ada Isaacs.

B.Yeah for sure! What an amazing story. It sounds like coincidence but perhaps it’s not. It goes deeper than that and was meant to be in your hands.

E. That’s exactly right.

B.When you first opened the diary did you focus on any one page after you looked through it?

E. The main one for me was of course the page we just talked about where he was an eyewitness in the courtroom when the witnesses were being examined. That one, and the other page that’s seems to be the one getting us all really excited, page 27, with the names of the guards and executioners. I didn’t have a clue what anything on this page meant, so I contacted you.

 

 

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

  

B.At first, when you sent me a photo of the page, we were debating whether the list of names was of guards or prisoners. Well it turned out that it was a list of guards from the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp.

 

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

 

But the names that really jumped out at me were the four at the bottom of the page [#15, 16, 17 & 18]. And those were the names of the four guards that stood under the scaffold and who were responsible for knocking the props out, or springing the traps.

 

Although spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are

Although some of the names are spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are in Dixon's list: William Coxshall, Joseph Haslett, George F. Taylor and Daniel F. Shoupe (Shoup).

[Ed later pointed out that on this same page George notes this very fact when he writes “The last four numbers were executioners. Sergt. G. E. Dixon, Co. C, 14th Reg”.]

  

 

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

I guess as we’ve talked a little bit further it sounded like George, at the time being a Sergeant, perhaps was in charge of scheduling some of his men to guard the prisoners, hence his list of guards names.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E. These names didn’t mean anything to me because even though I have my family here that I honor very much, I didn’t follow the history as much as I should. But now I’ve started looking into it more. As you know I’ve bought the book “American Brutus” by Michael Kauffman and I have just bought “The Trial” by Ed Steers Jr. That’s just about twice as many books as I’ve probably ever read in my life.

B.(laughing) Well the two authors you mentioned are both excellent in this field. The field of the assassination.

E. Oh yes. It’s very exciting.

B.On your behalf, I did approach some of these gentlemen who I correspond with and respect highly. And right off the bat we had a really good response from Michael Kauffman. I think his first response to me, before I passed it on to you, was “WOW”! So it really meant something to him as it related to his own research. I know that he is now working with you to further discover what other information is to be found in that list as well as in the other pages of the diary.

Michael is definitely excited about the project. I have had responses from other Lincoln experts. Some are quite busy right now. But eventually these folks will get back to you as their schedules free up.

E. I know for sure that this has to be exciting for some of them just like when you contacted me. If someone is going to give you his cell phone number you know that they are interested. To get the home phone number from Michael Kauffman or to hear from Laurie Verge, I mean that is very exciting and I’m very honored for George E. Dixon. I really am!

B.Laurie Verge is the Director of the Surratt House Museum and Surratt Society. She is quite interested in collecting whatever information she can on George, putting it into their files, so any future researchers have an opportunity to explore him and see how his life relates to perhaps the research that they are doing. It’s an exciting time, Ed!

E. It really is. When I retired on March 17, officially after the 18th, I wondered what I was going to do other than feet hitting the floor in the morning and going to get a cup of coffee. I’m still not that old but I plan on doing something down the road. But to have this happen, there isn’t a day right now where I don’t have something to do. I’m doing a newspaper interview tomorrow in George’s hometown of Pound Ridge at 10:00 o’clock. It’s all about honoring George and it’s a great thing. I’m really enjoying it.

B.Do you have children Ed?

E. I have a 19-1/2 year old daughter Emily and my son will be 18 in June and that is Christopher.

B.Do they find interest in this or are they sort of like how you were back when? They have their own life right now!

E. Just like me! (laughing).

B.(Laughing)

E. My wife is very good with this. She understands that not everyone is into this when you are a teenager. But everything is going to be put away safely and catalogued somehow so they’ll have things to look at and be proud of when they do show interest. My son is also a member of The Sons of the American Revolution. And in December of this past year I got my daughter into The Daughters of the American Revolution. So they are good to go. It is just a matter of what they want to do with their lives and their time. But they are good to go.

B.What’s your hope for yourself now that you are retired?

E. Now that I have the Dixon diary, I can see my first book. I can see myself going on some talking tours. Maybe do some schools. It would be very interesting once I figure out everything. It’s nice to say that you’ve got something but you want to make sure that you know what you are talking about. If I can put something together, I would enjoy it. I really would. It’s a nice thing and so many people are interested in the Civil War and of course the assassination of Lincoln. It’s a lot to go over. It really is a lot. 

B.Well it’s a great part of our history and the Dixon clan has been a part of it for decades, for centuries. And you must carry on the tradition.

E. Exactly. There you go.

B.Well Ed, this has been great. And you and I will obviously be talking well beyond this interview. I think there is a lot more to look into and as we start to pick it apart and figure out which way to go, I’m glad you’re taking me for the ride.

E. I feel I’m honored to have you ask me these questions. I’m very excited. And as I’m sitting here looking at my computer now I see this picture of Harold Holzer, the eminent Lincoln scholar and Civil War expert. And thinking that you’re interviewing me, and you’ve interviewed him and some of these other guests, I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.

B.(laughing).

E. I’m floating on a cloud right now.

B.I have to thank Harold because he was my first interview. He actually contacted me when I was searching out some information for another gentleman who had written me. He is a gracious man and always very generous with his time, and I will always be grateful to him for that. 

E. You have a great website. And of course as you already know, the short article that you put on there about me yesterday, I’ve already sent out to many of my friends (laughing).

B.Ah yes…the TEASER!!! (laughing).

E. You’ve got a lot more followers now, I tell you!

B.Thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Ed.

E. Again, I’m just very excited and very honored.

B.You’re a good man Ed and I’ve enjoyed learning about you, your family and George E. Dixon. Thanks again.

E. Thank you.

END

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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)

.

“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!

dddd

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.

dfadf

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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THE LINCOLN CONSPIRATORS – HOW OLD WERE THEY AT THE TIME OF THE ASSASSINATION?

Okay, here’s a good trivia question for you Lincoln Assassination experts … How old were the Lincoln Conspirators at the time of the assassination on April 14, 1865?

  John Wilkes Booth – was age 26 (just 2 weeks from his 27th birthday) – (Born May 10, 1838). After shooting President Lincoln, he was on the run for 12 days until April 26, 1865 when he was cornered in a barn at the Garrett barn in Bowling Green, Virginia. He was shot by Sargeant Boston Corbett, a Union soldier, and died a short time later.

  Mary Surratt – was age 42 – (Born May/June, 1823). Hung at the Old Arsenal Penitentary on July 7, 1865.

  Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Paine) – was age 21 – (Born April 22, 1844). Hung at the Old Arsenal Penitentary on July 7, 1865.

  David E. Herald – was age 23 – (Born June 16, 1842). Hung at the Old Arsenal Penitentary on July 7, 1865.

  George Atzerodt – was age 30 – (Born June 12 , 1835). Hung at the Old Arsenal Penitentary on July 7, 1865.

   Dr. Samuel A. Mudd – was age 31 – (Born December 20, 1833). Sentenced to life in prison but paroled by President Johnson in March, 1869. Died at age 49 of pneumonia and pleurisy on January 10, 1883.

  Michael O’Laughlen – was age 25 – (Born June, 1840). Sentenced to life in prison and died of yellow fever two years later in 1867.

  Samuel Arnold – was age 30 – (Born September 6, 1834). Sentenced to life in prison but was paroled by President Johnson in March, 1869. Died at age 72 of pulmonary tuburculosis (at that time called ‘galloping consumption’) on September 21, 1906.

   Edman Spangler – Was age 39 – (Born August 10, 1825). Sentenced to six years in prison but was paroled by President Johnson in March, 1869. Due to an extended time of poor health, he died at age 49 on February 7, 1875.

  John Surratt (Mary’s son) – was age 21 – (Born April 13, 1844). Escaped to Canada and then Europe. Caught and returned for trial in June 1867 but was acquitted with a hung jury. He died at age 72 of pneumonia on April, 21, 1916.

Thanks for playing. If you notice any errors (or mistakes in the age calculations) blame me, laugh, and then feel free to comment with the correct information.

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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

 

“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 

 

  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008) 

 

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