Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth George Alfred Townsend

Letter IX: The Executions

Page 8 of 9

Table Of Contents: The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth

Previous Page

Next Page

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

More Books

An instant this continued, while an officer on the plot before, motioned back the assistants, and then with a forward thrust of his hand, signaled the executioners.

The great beams were darted against the props simultaneously. The two traps fell with a slam. The four bodies dropped like a single thing, outside the yet crowded remnant of the gallows floor, and swayed and turned, to and fro, here and there, forward and backward, and with many a helpless spasm, while the spectators took a little rush forward, and the ropes were taut as the struggling pulses of the dying.

Mrs. Surratt's neck was broken immediately; she scarcely drew one breath. Her short woman's figure, with the skirts looped closely about it, merely dangled by the vibration of her swift descent, and with the knot holding true under the ear, her head leaned sideways, and her pinioned arms seemed content with their confinement.

Payne died a horrible death; the knot slipped to the back of his neck, and bent his head forward on his breast, so that he strangled as he drew his deep chest almost to his chin, and the knees contracted till they almost seemed to touch his abdomen. The veins in his great wrists were like whip-cords, expanded to twice their natural dimensions, and the huge neck grew almost black with the dark blood that rushed in a flood to the circling rope. A long while he swayed and twisted and struggled, till at last nature ceased her rebellion and life went out unwillingly.

Harold also passed through some struggles. It is doubtful that his neck was broken. The perspiration dripped from his feet, and he swung in the hot noon just living enough to make death irritable.

Atzerott died easily. Life did not care to fight for his possession.

Tired of reading? Add this page to your Bookmarks or Favorites and finish it later.

The two central figures lived long after the two upon the flanks.

There they hung, bundles of carcass and old clothes, four in a row, and past all conspiracy or ambition, the river rolling by without a sound, and men watching them with a shiver, while the heat of the day seemed suddenly abated, as if by the sudden opening of a tomb.

The officers conversed in a half-audible tone; the reporters put up their books; the assistants descended from the gallows; and the medical men drew near. No wind stirred the unbreathing bodies, they were stone dead.

The bodies were allowed to hang about twenty minutes, when surgeon Otis, U. S. V., and Assistant Surgeons Woodward and Porter, U. S. A., examined them and pronounced all dead. In about ten minutes more a ladder was placed against the scaffold preparatory to cutting the bodies down. An over-zealous soldier on the platform reached over and severed the cord, letting one body fall with a thump, when he was immediately ordered down and reprimanded. The body of Atzerott was placed in a strong white pine box, and the other bodies cut down in the following order, Harold, Powell, and Mrs. Surratt.

The carcasses thus recovered were given over to a squad of soldiers and each placed in a pine box without uncovering the faces. The boxes were forthwith placed in the pits prepared for them, and directly all but the memory of their offense passed from the recording daylight.

Page 8 of 9 Previous Page   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth
George Alfred Townsend

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2002