Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt (May/June 1823 – July 7, 1865) was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was the first woman executed by the United States federal government, and was hanged. She was the mother of John Surratt, also alleged to have been involved in the conspiracy.
At noon on July 6, Surratt was informed she would be hanged the next day. She wept profusely. She was joined shortly by a Roman Catholic priest, her daughter Anna, and a few friends. She was allowed to wear looser handcuffs and leg irons during this period, but was kept hooded. She spent the night praying and refused breakfast. Her friends were ordered to leave her at 10:00 on the morning of July 7, and her heavy manacles were replaced. She spent the final hours of her life with her priest.
On July 7, 1865, around 1:15 P.M., a procession, headed by the nearly fainting Mary Surratt and consisting of the four condemned prisoners (their hands manacled and legs chained with heavy irons and 75-pound iron balls) and many guards, was led through the courtyard, past the condemned's newly dug graves, and up the thirteen steps to the gallows where the four were to be hanged. Surratt had to be supported by two soldiers. The actual gallows was on a ten-foot-high platform. The hangman had made Surratt's noose with five turns instead of the required seven because he had thought that the government would never hang a woman.
The condemned were seated in chairs while their chains and shoes were removed and their wrists were tied together behind them, their arms were bound to their sides, and their ankles and thighs tied together. Instead of rope, white cloth was used. Surratt wore a long black dress and black veil. The doomed party was attended by several members of the clergy. In addition to the military personnel and various officials, one hundred civilian spectators with tickets were present to watch them die. From the scaffold, Powell said, "Mrs. Surratt is innocent. She doesn't deserve to die with the rest of us." The condemned were then moved up to the break, nooses were placed around their necks, and thin white cotton hoods were placed over their heads. Mary Surratt's last words, spoken to a guard as he put the noose around her neck, were purported to be, "please don't let me fall." General Winfield Scott Hancock read out the death sentences in alphabetical order. Four members of Company F of the Fourteenth Veteran Reserves knocked out the supporting post, releasing the platform. The conspirators dropped about five or six feet, which killed Herold and Atzerodt instantly, but failed to kill Powell and Surratt, who both slowly strangled to death over five minutes. Surratt was reported to have gagged and strained against her bonds as she died dangling in the noose. The body of Mary Surratt and those of the convicted conspirators were allowed to hang for 25 minutes, then unhooded and allowed to hang a further ten minutes before they were examined and pronounced dead.
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