Monday, August 29, 2011

Mary Surratt Coincidence

Last night we watched the Robert Redford film The Conspirator, about Mary Surratt and her role in the Lincoln Assassination. I always liked history, was going to actually major in it in college, and was a member of the Milwaukee Civil War Round Table for about 15 years. Yesterday, we were exploring the SW side of town, which included Fort McNair along the Anacostia River.  Little did we know at the time that Ft. McNair was the site of the hangings of Mary and the other three Lincoln conspirators. The site of the hanging is now a tennis court. I believe at the time it was an arsenal. Mary was also kept in the old prison which is the site where the Supreme Court now stands. Her boarding house is still in Chinatown, and it is now a restaurant. At Fort McNair, it was reported in the Washington Post that Building 20 is being restored. This is the building where the trial was held. It was also stated that the furniture from the movie will be placed there, and that the dimensions of the original room were taken to prepare the room that was made for the movie set. The odd thing about all this is that we had been to Fort McNair, and by accident decided to watch the movie, which is the place that Mary's fate was decided... and this takes place only 2 miles away from where we live. Mary saw the Capitol Building as we see it today, as the dome was completed during the Civil War years. It feels weird that she may have passed near where we live today. Just think of all the characters that have come and gone in this city.
The wall around Ft McNair

Building 20- the site of the trial

An etching of the trial from the Library of Congress


  1. This is very interesting. I was under the impression that Mary Surratts boarding house was/is located in Clinton, MD; a beautiful red wooden structure where tours are given. It is also my understanding that Mary Surratt was the first Maryland woman to be executed. Thanks for the lesson.

  2. John and Mary Surratt had several properties in the DC area. The owned the boarding house on H Street, the tavern/inn in Clinton Maryland, a farm on Oxon Hill and John's Surratt's childhood farm in the DC city limits. The only two famous places are the boarding house, where John Wilkes Booth stayed and conspired, and the tavern in Clinton, where Mary Surratt kept weapons and binoculars for Booth to retrieve after the assassination.