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I work in Washington D. C. and had an early day so I decided to visit the Mary Surrat house where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold first stopped on there way to Virginia. I was given a one on one tour with one of the period dressed “docents” and learned quite a bit about what everyday life was like in 19th century America. I had expected that the docent would have a somewhat positive view of Mary Surratt’s innocence and she did.

She explained that on the day of the assassination, John Wilkes Booth (who had been at her boarding house in DC) asked her for a favor. He gave her a wrapped package and said he wanted it given to John Lloyd who was the caretaker of her house/tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland, not too far south of DC. He told her it was glass and also told her that Lloyd should have the guns ready as someone would call for them later on.

As part of the initial plot to kidnap Lincoln in March 1865, John Surratt, George Atzerodt, and conspirator David Herold hid two Spencer carbines, ammunition, and some other supplies at the tavern. Mary Surratt told Lloyd to have the “shooting irons” ready for pick-up and handed him the wrapped package from Booth (which contained binoculars). Booth and Herold would pick up the rifles and binoculars that evening as they fled Washington after Lincoln’s assassination. Lloyd repaired a broken spring on Mrs. Surratt’s wagon before she left.

Mary got back to her boarding house in DC around 9 PM on the night of the assassination. Booth shot Lincoln around 10 PM.The docent did mention the meetings of Booth and some of his fellow conspirators at her boarding house in DC but basically said “Mary owned the house and there were meetings there that she wasn’t involved in”. She did not question why Mary would not be suspicious about someone calling at her tavern for guns even though the war was just now ending and unfortunately I did not question her on this point.

My question is this. To paraphrase Howard Baker’s questioning of Fred Thompson in the Watergate hearings, What did Mary Surratt know and when did she know it? Did she know about the initial plot to kidnap the president, and possibly about the assassination plot? I have read that Mary was quite enamored of John Wilkes Booth as he was the George Clooney of his day. Did this cloud her thoughts as to what might be happening in her two properties.

I myself feel the guns should have raised a red flag- why would an actor need two carbines during of just after a civil war? And was she involved at all with these meetings at her boarding house?

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