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The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln [Kindle Edition]

Kate Clifford Larson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, The Assassin’s Accomplice tells the gripping story of the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln through experience of its only female participant.

Confederate sympathizer Mary Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington, and the depth of her complicity in the murder of President Lincoln has been debated since she was arrested on April 17, 1865.

Calling upon long-lost interviews, confessions, and court testimony, historian Kate Clifford Larson magnificently captures how Surratt’s actions defied nineteenth-century norms of piety and allegiance. A riveting account of espionage and murder, The Assassin’s Accomplice offers a revealing examination of America’s most remembered assassination.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Was Mary Surratt an accomplice in Lincoln's assassination and justly sent to the scaffold? Larson freshly tackles these questions in this spirited narrative, mining just about every shred of evidence. While having started out believing in her subject's innocence, she ends up convinced that Surratt was guilty of joining John Wilkes Booth's plot to kill the president. Less sure, however, that Surratt should have swung from the gallows, Larson (Bound for the Promised Land) leaves this deeply freighted moral question open, as it should be. The tale itself could not be better told, nor could the cast of characters be brought more to life. What mars the work is Larson's maddening, anachronistic use of Mary to name her subject (no Abe for Lincoln here, no John for Booth) and her missing the chance to draw out the implications of the role of Surratt—a widow in an otherwise all-male plot—for our understanding of women's place in her day. But it's now up to those who still think Surratt innocent to prove Larson wrong. They'll be hard put to do so. Illus., maps. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Larson captures brilliantly the atmosphere of Mary Surratt’s trial in a crowded court room — murder trials attract morbid spectators — during the sweltering heat of a Washington summer. Her description of the drama of Mary’s last hours, when she was broken by a death sentence that neither she nor her lawyers had believed possible, makes compelling reading.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 1387 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 12, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003Z9JMPM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #901,453 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Was she guilty? June 13, 2008
More specifically, was Mary Surratt guilty of helping plot the murder of Lincoln? Author Kate Clifford Larson is so convinced of Mary's complicity, she calls her Booth's accomplice. The evidence against her is circumstantial but compelling.

Even today, there is a reluctance to attribute guilt to Mary Surratt. She was widely viewed as loving, kind, and regular in church attendance. Weichmann testified to her exemplary character. Fellow inmate Virginia Lomax cited examples of her kindheartedness to others in prison. Even Mary's ex-slave, Rachel Semus (p. 187), testified Mrs. Suratt always treated her fairly and she thus never had reason to complain. [As a descendant of slaves, I certainly don't grant Mrs. Surratt a pass. Unfortunately however, even our most revered figures - Washington and Jefferson - engaged in this detestable commerce. Second, at a time when incivility and sometimes cruelty to slaves were not uncommon, Mary was utterly blameless. Compare with "kindly" Dr. Mudd who shot a slave for insubordination (Edward Steers, "His Name is Still Mudd"). Compare with Lewis Paine who was arrested after stomping a black maid for talking back.]

Mary Surratt's saintly image frustrates attempts to see her as complicit in Lincoln's demise. But, says author Larson, she lied when she denied knowing Paine. She lied when she denied knowing David Herold who had visited frequently at her tavern. And why the many visits by Booth to her H Street boarding house, the two sometimes disappearing for clandestine conversations lasting an hour and longer? Why could she not find that exculpatory letter from her son, purportedly received the very day detectives demanded it?

Why the April 11 hushed tones with Lloyd about having "shooting irons" ready soon?
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Inaccuracies But Interesting At Any Rate April 22, 2010
Having read previously MANHUNT (and other books by James Swanson) and AMERICAN BRUTUS, I felt this book fell short a bit. Nonetheless, as the first book I've read primarily devoted to Mary Jenkins Surratt and her alledged participation in the Lincoln Assassination, I found this book flawed but compeling reading.
This book could easily be split into two parts.....before the assassination and after the assasination. Mrs. Surratt's participation up until the point of the assassination appears potentially damaging at the very least. Based on the testimony of people such as Louis Weichmann (her boarder), Mrs. Surratt appears to be complicite in a plot to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage. She offered her home to Booth and the conspirators over and over again as the initial plot was hatched. She took trips into Southern Maryland to convey information and secure supplies necessary to affect the kidnapping plot. She appeared to aid her son John on numerous occasions. John was a known confederate spy and operative. Mrs. Surratt herself was loyal to the cause of the south. The fact that she was involved at least on a superficial level in the plot to kidnap Lincoln was fairly obvious. However, things get a little fuzzy once the game plan evolved into an assassination plot. While evidence suggests she may have well been involved, it probably isn't as completely convincing because things evolved so quickly from a kidnapping plot to a assassination.
After the assassination, the conspirators were rounded up rather quickly. A speedy trial was held and within a matter of a couple months a verdict was handed down on the evidence that was presented. The veracity of the evidence has long been viewed as questionable as some information was withheld and testimony may have been altered.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Woman Who Nurtured a Nest of Conspirators June 30, 2008
At last, we have a judicious and thoroughly unbiased account of Mary Surratt's involvement in the assassination of Lincoln. Professor Larson goes to great lengths to give Mary the benefit of the doubt. Court records and trial transcripts are gone over with a fine tooth comb proving what many have surmised for years: Mary was a willing co-conspirator who allowed all of the conspirators, including Booth, to use her boarding house and tavern at Surrattsville, as a meeting place for planning the death of Lincoln. There are new tidbits of information concerning Mary's inept lawyers, if you can call what they did, practicing law. Yet, even with their obvious stupidity, what was revealed by the witnesses, indicate that Mary was not the pious, innocent boarding house keeper she pretended. Even the Catholic clergy brought in as character witnesses, couldn't vouch for much; many didn't even know her that well.

The evidence exists that President Johnson did receive information regarding a stay of execution for Mary, but with all the evidence, it is obvious that he had no choice but to let the matter proceed.

It is only in the afterglow of the hangings, that public furor over the execution of the first woman by the federal government, increased to a rising crescendo, egged on by Southern sympathizers.

Highly recommended, I would only suggest that the author, in a revised edition, include an extensive bibliography that would better assist those who are new to this area of Civil War study.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars You love Civil War history, don't miss this book
Great story, which did not offer opinion as to Mary Suratt's innocence or guilt. Larson wrote the story with as much accuracy available to him.
Published 1 month ago by Billie Beaudette
1.0 out of 5 stars this is the worst written book I've ever read
While the story was very interesting, this is the worst written book I've ever read! It's a brutal read. And I'm only on page 52!
Published 2 months ago by stanleyclanley
3.0 out of 5 stars Mary Surratt's Guilt
Larson compares the anger toward all of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination, including Surratt, with the strong Victorian attitudes about women's roles in the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by LFD
4.0 out of 5 stars Larson but did enjoy her point of view
Found this to be a well written and researched edition on Mary's involvement in the plot. Not sure I agree with Ms. Larson but did enjoy her point of view. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Joseph A. Truglio
4.0 out of 5 stars This was a fantastic book! It was very informative about the plot ...
This was a fantastic book! It was very informative about the plot and about Mrs. Surratt that was not known.
Published 6 months ago by phil
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry I wasted my time on this
Throughout the book I wanted to read something worthwhile or interesting or relevant. Can't say that ever happened except maybe a few minor details in the last couple chapters. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Annie
2.0 out of 5 stars Fact or Supposition?
I read this book because I was interested in the topic after watching the movie "Conspirator". Read more
Published 10 months ago by Bethany Paradee
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Good book for those who want more of the story. Watched "Conspirator" and wanted more information. This gives a historical look at the entire story.
Published 10 months ago by Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Surratt and her help to J. W. Booth
I commend the author for why Mary was at least culpable in the death of Abraham Lincoln. She shows by her research that Mudd and Mary Surratt were both involved intimately in the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kevin M Quigg
5.0 out of 5 stars another point of view
So many books about the death of Lincoln focus on the life of Lincoln or Booth. I read Team of Rivals and would recommend it highly.. Read more
Published 15 months ago by jantor
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