(Biography of Mary Surratt courtesy of the Surratt House Museum website)
Today is the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. In April of 1865 Daughters of Charity were on mission at Lincoln General Hospital in Washington. Sadly, no recollections of Lincoln’s assassination have come down to us from the Sisters. Thanks to the curators at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland, we do know of one tangential connection between our collections and the events of April 14, 1865. Mary Surratt, who owned the boarding house where the Lincoln conspirators met, received her early education from Mother Seton’s community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, at St. Francis Xavier School in Alexandria, Virginia. The school, connected with St. Mary’s Parish, was staffed by the Sisters of Charity from 1832 to 1839. The collections of the Surratt Museum include a receipt for board and tuition signed by Sister Bernard Boyle, who was then the Sister superior for the school. The Surratt House Museum website includes additional details about Mary Surratt’s life, the Lincoln conspiracy, and her alleged role in it.
For additional information about the Daughters of Charity and Lincoln, see these previous posts from our blog.
For more on Mary Surratt, see the website for the Surratt House Museum.
4 responses to “Lincoln Assassination, 150th anniversary”
Do you know that she is the great grandmother of two former DCs? Ann Walsh and Mary Joseph (Cecilia) Walsh ? The latter is an affiliate and Shrine docent.
Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C. Vincentian Scholar-in-Residence DePaul University Office of Mission & Values 55 East Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60604-2287
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We did not know that. Thank you!
As a child, on visits to my great aunt, DC Regina Kelly, in and around Baltimore and Washington, I became interested in the Lincoln assassination. On one trip, my father patiently drove about Southern Maryland to help me see where Booth had fled, coming upon the Surratt House LONG before it had been rehabbed into the quite amazing history center that it has become. I realized much later that our frequent visits to Soldiers’ Home had me wandering the same grounds as the Lincolns and his cottage seemed so very familiar when I saw pictures at its reopening. Of course, it was on the road to Soldiers’ Home that the conspirators had tried to kidnap the President before the war ended.
I also spent a good deal of time at Jenkins Memorial in Catonsville when my aunt nursed at the adjoining St. Agnes Hospital and have wondered if Mary Jenkins Surratt had connections to that generous family.
There were a fair number of Catholics accused in the assassination and kidnapping attempt including Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was accused of aiding the fleeing JW Booth. On a visit to the Samuel Mudd house in Waldorf, MD, at that time actually staffed by his descendants, a grandson told me that one of Dr. Mudd’s daughters had become a DC! Do you have any information on that?
It strikes me that my aunt had to have been the closest connection to history that has fascinated me and led to my majoring in history — and I never realized it! I have to believe that she would have entered the order at a time when the heroic women who nursed Civil War soldiers were still about! She also may well have known the daughter of the tragic Dr. Mudd.
There is another Mudd connection I came across in a history of Dr. Mudd:
“The five year period from 1873 to 1878 encompassed the third longest economic depression in U.S. history. Bankruptcies and insolvencies were widespread. In rural areas, the downward pressure on prices reduced farm income and created great hardship for rural families. Nevertheless, in 1878 Dr. and Mrs. Mudd took in another mouth to feed, a seven year-old orphan named John Burke. Burke was one of 300 abandoned children sent to Maryland families from the New York City Foundling Asylum run by the Catholic Sisters of Charity. A large number of orphans and abandoned children was one of the legacies of the Civil War. Other local families also took in children.”
In studying history, I was always most fascinated by the impact of events on everyday people. In my native Philadelphia are so many orphanages — some with DC connection — that were the stunning reminder of the children left behind by war and disease that overcame the ability of the families to absorb the poor children. The presence of the Sisters, in caring for orphans and soldiers alike, made such a difference in the lives of so many people. One wonders what the world would be like without the Daughters of Charity!
Yes, the DCs have affected many lives in a positive way. It’s a privilege for us to care for their history and share it with people. Thank you for sharing your memories with us!