This key was used to imprison Mary Surratt at the Old Arsenal Penitentiary.
For seven weeks in May and June 1865, the nation’s attention was fixed on the third floor of Washington’s Old Arsenal Penitentiary. There, seven men and one woman were on trial for their lives.
Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O’Laughlen, Lewis Powell, Edman Spangler and Mary Surratt were all placed on public trial before a U.S. government military commission for their conspiracy in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
After two days of deliberations, the verdicts came down. For their lesser roles in the Lincoln conspiracy, Arnold, O’Laughlin and Dr. Mudd were condemned to life imprisonment. Spangler, a stagehand at Ford’s Theatre, received a six-year sentence. Atzerodt, Herold, Powell and Mary Surratt were all sentenced to death.
On July 7, 1865, the federal government hanged the ill-fated conspirators.
John Surratt was tried two years later. Captured in Egypt, Surratt was returned to the United States to stand trial. He was brought before a civilian court in 1867. His trial ended in a hung jury, and a second trial had barely begun when he was suddenly released—the statute of limitations for his part in the crime had run out. He later went on a lecture tour, earning money from his infamy.