On April 14, 1865 John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box at Ford Theatre, pointed a derringer pistol at the back of the President Abraham Lincoln’s head and fired. John Wilkes Booth’s attack on Lincoln was part of a larger plot to assassinate national leaders and throw the North into turmoil. The conspirators also planned to murder Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Besides Booth, eight individuals were charged. Because the plot was considered an act of war, the military assumed control of the proceedings.
In a vengeful act against the accused, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered that the imprisoned conspirators wear hoods at all times. These canvas hoods with rope ties were made for this purpose. The accused wore the hoods in their cells and on their way to trial. The court sentenced four suspects, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt, to be hanged, and Dr. Samuel Mudd, Michael O’Laughlin, Samuel Arnold, and Edman Spangler to prison.
In 1904 the War Department transferred to the Smithsonian the hoods, shackles, and prison keys associated with the imprisonment of Lincoln’s assassins. They did not record which prisoner wore which hood.
Transfer from the War Department, 1904
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