On 7 July 1865, four conspirators involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln were hanged in Washington before jeering Union soldiers.
In the absence of the assassin himself, John Wilkes Booth, killed earlier in a shoot-out with his pursuers there could be no mercy.
The Government would have its revenge.
Mary Surratt owned the Guest House where the conspirators met and stored arms. She was to be the first woman executed in the United States for crimes other than witchcraft.
Lewis Thornton Powell was a Confederate soldier from Alabama who had earlier escaped captivity. He forced his way into Secretary of State William H Seward's home and stabbed him repeatedly as he lay in his bed. Powell was later arrested when he was unlucky enough to return to Mary Surratt's Guest House at the very moment when she was being questioned by detectives.
George Atzerodt was a German immigrant who could barely speak English and was assigned the task of murdering Vice-President Andrew Johnson but as Booth had feared he lost his nerve at the last moment.
David Herold, the Maryland pharmacist, was the only one of his fellow conspirators that John Wilkes Booth felt he could truly trust and accompanied him on his flight from Washington but once cornered he was to surrender himself without a fight with Booth's tirade of Traitor and Coward ringing in his ears.