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On the night of April 14th, 1865, a gunshot was heard in the balcony of Ford’s Theatre followed by women screaming. A shadowy figure jumped onto the stage and yelled three now-famous words, “Sic semper tyrannis!” which means, “Ever thus to the tyrants!”1 He then limped off the stage, jumped on a horse that was being kept for him at the back of the theatre, and rode off into the moonlight with an unidentified companion. A few hours later, a knock was heard on the door of the Surratt boarding house. The police were tracking down John Wilkes Booth and his associate, John Surratt, and they had come to the boarding house because it was the home of John Surratt. An older woman answered the door and told the police that her son, John Surratt, was not at home and she did not know where he was. This woman was Mary Surratt, and she would soon become famous for her alleged role in the assassination plot of Abraham Lincoln. A few days later, the police made their second appearance at the Surratt boarding house, but this time to arrest Mary Surratt herself. They had acquired information that directly tied Mary Surratt to the other conspirators and that placed the boarding house as one of the conspirators’ favorite meeting places. Her actual role in the plot was not clear at this time, but it was presumed that she was guilty of housing the conspirators and helping them in their plot. Mary Surratt would become famous as the first woman who was ever convicted by the federal court, and her conviction would leave many people questioning if they had just sent an innocent woman to the gallows.


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