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    Anna Surratt begs Johnson for the return of her mother's remains "to have them interred in consecrated ground"

    Anna E. Surratt Autograph Petition Signed Requesting the Remains of her Mother Mary Surratt, 1 page, 5" x 8" with docketed integral sheet, [February 1869]. To "His Excellency the President of the United States" (Andrew Johnson). "The undersigned most earnestly and respectfully addresses your excellency on a matter which has been for more than three years to her a source of great affliction. She seeks the privilege of removing the remains of her deceased mother, to have them interred in consecrated ground. She fondly hopes that your excellency will not allow your authority in the premises to expire without granting this request, prompted only by filial love and devotion to the memory of her dear mother."

    This pathetic appeal did not go unheeded. The integral leaf bears a contemporary docket indicating that a copy of Miss Surratt's petition was "sent to the War Department with the following endorsement: 'The Honorable the Secretary of War will cause to be delivered to Anna E. Surratt the remains of her mother, Mary E. Surratt, for the purposes set forth in the within communication. / Andrew Johnson / Febry. 5th 1869.'" Mail folds, light soiling, with a tiny inkstain affecting a single word. Otherwise near fine.

    Johnson, who had made amnesty available to most ex-rebels and thus helped bind the nation's wounds, used the last weeks of his administration to attend to the sensitive issue of the Lincoln conspirators. He pardoned Mudd, Arnold and Spangler, allowed the Booth family to have the body of John Wilkes, Anna to have that of her mother, and the relatives of the other conspirators likewise. A poignant document, memorializing, in its way, the first woman to have been executed by the authority of the United States, and one whom her partisans still claim to have been innocent of the crime for which she was hanged.

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    November, 2008
    20th Thursday
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