Skip to main content

Surratt, Mary Eugenia

Mary Eugenia Surratt (sərăt´), 1820–65, alleged conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, hanged on July 7, 1865. A widow (her maiden name was Jenkins) who had moved from Surrattsville (now Clinton), Md., to Washington, D.C., she kept the boardinghouse where John Wilkes Booth hatched his unsuccessful plot to abduct the President and his successful assassination plan. After Lincoln's assassination eight alleged accomplices in Booth's crime were tried (May 10–June 29, 1865) before a special military tribunal. Hanged with Mary Surratt and unquestionably guilty were Lewis Thornton Powell (or Payne), David E. Herold, and George A. Atzerodt. Samuel Arnold and Michael O'Laughlin, Confederate ex-soldiers from Maryland who had taken part in the attempted abduction but not in the assassination, were sentenced to life imprisonment, as was Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who had set Booth's broken leg. Edward Spangler, a stagehand at Ford's Theater, charged with abetting Booth's escape, was given six years. Mary Surratt's son, who had participated in the abduction plot, was tried (June 10–Aug. 10, 1867) before a civil court. Although the jury stood eight to four for acquittal, he was not released from prison until June, 1868. The hanging of his mother is generally considered to have been a gross miscarriage of justice. The prosecution, headed by Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, never established that Mary Surratt even knew (although she might have known) of the abduction plot, and it now seems certain that she was not a party to the assassination plans. Booth's diary and other evidence that might have cast doubt on the prosecution's case were suppressed by the government, and it is generally believed that some of the testimony against Mary Surratt was false. She has appealed to many writers and is the subject of several dramas, such as John Patrick's Story of Mary Surratt (1947).

See D. M. De Witt, The Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt (1895, repr. 1970); H. J. Campbell, The Case for Mrs. Surratt (1943); G. W. Moore, The Case of Mrs. Surratt (1954).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Surratt, Mary Eugenia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Sep. 2019 <>.

"Surratt, Mary Eugenia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (September 17, 2019).

"Surratt, Mary Eugenia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.