Description[Abraham Lincoln]. Lincoln Assassination Letter, written by a young woman, "Pheebe Clark." Four pages, 4" x 6", Washington, May 4, 1865, signed "your Loveing Sister / Pheebe." Writing only nineteen days after the assassination of President Lincoln, "Pheebe" informs her sister of the numerous arrests-including "one Woman"-that had been made. She includes information about the security detail and safety measures being taken to prevent the prisoners from "butting their Brains out." In part as written:
"We have strange doings here in Washington there have been a number of men arrested for being interested in the Murder of the President they are now in a Building inside the Gate of the Arsenal formaly used for a Penitentiary the Wall around the Building is very thick the Guards Walk on the top of it and on the Walk around it then there are Guards stationed between the Building and the outside Gate then a File of the same outside of the Fence near the Road this is in the Day time at Night there are twice the number and no one is alowed to pass in or out i was told this afternoon that no one else would be alowed to pass out for the present. . . . there is one Woman with them their Hands are fasened together instead of a chain there is a rod of iron so they have to keep their hands in one position their Heads are padded with cotton to prevent them butting their Brains out against the Wall it was tried by one man they can neither see nor hear they have some kind of sack over their face it has to be raised when they eat they have to be fed the man I am Boarding with belongs to the ordinance Department and is Detailed to feed them i think they will be tried before long. . . . the President is Buried to day at Oak Ridge Cemetary Springfield."
The prisoners Pheebe writes about likely include eight suspects: Samuel Arnold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlen, Edmund Spangler, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt, the woman mentioned in the letter. These were accused of being co-conspirators with John Wilkes Booth, who had been shot and killed while hiding in a tobacco barn earlier on April 26. The military tribunal trying the eight suspects began the trial on May 1 and continued for seven weeks. All eight were found guilty, but only four were sentenced to death: Powell, Herold, Atzerodt, and Surratt, who were hanged July 7. The lined paper has toned and exhibits some minor stains. Also included is Pheebe's transmittal envelope, postmarked May 5. The right edge of the envelope was torn away when it was originally opened.
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