|Baltimore, MD||July 6, 2015|
After gunman John Wilkes Booth was killed on April 26, 1865, eight individuals were put on trial for allegedly participating in the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. All eight were found guilty. Four of them — Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt — were executed. The remaining four were handed down prison sentences. Among those spared death by hanging was a former Confederate private, 30-year-old Samuel Bland Arnold. Like Booth and fellow conspirator Michael O’Laughlen, Arnold is buried at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. His small, white marker appears in the foreground of this image, at center.
If you visit the grave of a Lincoln assassination conspirator, you may find Lincoln pennies left upon their stones. Such was the case when my parents and I tracked down the graves of Arnold and Booth in July 2015. Arnold’s connection to Booth dated back to their time as classmates at St. Timothy’s Hall, a military academy in Catonsville, Maryland, outside Baltimore.
In August 1864, after more than a decade apart, friends Booth and Arnold reunited for drinks at Barnum’s Hotel in Baltimore. They were joined by Michael O’Laughlen — Booth’s old neighbor, who coincidentally served in the same Confederate regiment as Arnold earlier in the ongoing Civil War. Before they parted ways, the three men agreed to kidnap President Lincoln. If all went according to plan, the abduction would serve as a catalyst to restart prisoner exchanges between the Confederacy and the Union. The dwindling CSA forces could then be replenished. The plot took months to develop, however, and underwent several drastic revisions, such as seizing Lincoln in front of a theater audience instead of during an isolated horse ride. Arnold divorced himself from the faltering kidnapping plot in mid-March 1865, weeks before Booth — under circumstances far different from the previous summer — murdered the president. Soon after the assassination, authorities obtained evidence that tied Arnold to Booth and the conspiracy. They arrested him in Virginia at Fortress Monroe on the morning of April 17th. Following his conviction by a military tribunal, Arnold began his life sentence at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas of Florida. In March 1869, three and a half years into his imprisonment, Arnold was pardoned by the outgoing president, Andrew Johnson. He lived his remaining 37 years as a free man.
Born: September 6, 1834 in Georgetown, D.C.
Military Rank: Private — Confederate Army
Died: September 21, 1906 in Baltimore, Maryland
Interment: Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland
"Each had his part to perform. First I was to rush in the box and seize the President whilst Atzerodt “alias” Port Tobacco and J. Wilkes Booth were to handcuff him and lower him on the stage whilst Mosby was to catch him and hold him until we all got down. Surratt and unknown to be on the other side of Bridge to facilitate escape, afterwards changed to Mosby and Booth to catch him in box throw him down to me on stage, O’Laughlen and unknown to put gas out. Surratt, Atzerodt “alias” Port Tobacco to be on the other side of Bridge. I was opposed to the whole proceeding, said it could not be done or accomplished if even which was of itself an impossibility to get him out of the box and to the Bridge."
- Samuel Arnold
in his confession to authorities, written April 18, 1865, a day after he was arrested in connection to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Kauffman, Michael W. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. New York: Random House, 2005.
Swanson, James L. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Boston: Mariner Books, 2007.
Taylor, Dave. “May 15, 1865.” LincolnConspirators.com. Accessed March 12, 2023. https://lincolnconspirators.com/the-trial/may-15-1865/.
Taylor, Dave. “Samuel Arnold Testimony.” LincolnConspirators.com. Accessed March 12, 2023. https://lincolnconspirators.com/the-trial/samuel-arnold-testimony/.
Taylor, Dave. “Samuel Arnold’s Confession.” LincolnConspirators.com. June 25, 2012. https://lincolnconspirators.com/2012/06/25/samuel-arnolds-confession/.