Puget Sound Civil War Roundtable

Civil War Education, Remembrance and Preservation

MICHAEL SCHEIN

December 8, 2016

“John Surratt: The Lincoln Assassin Who Got Away”

What a fun and interesting evening. I can’t wait to read the book. What I liked best was it was as if we were having a really good conversation among friends and he was able to add a little intrigue to the story we have all read about.

I also was glad he indeed thought Mary complicit as I did after reading about her arrest, trial and hanging. Impressive research. Let’s have him back. - Marilyn Rexilius
Michael Schein’s discussion of John Surratt was a fascinating and illuminating presentation of one of the Civil War’s greatest mysteries – how the friend and co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth was able to avoid justice.  - Dick Miller
Great presentation.  I enjoyed the humor as well as the information presented. - Steve Clayton
Michael Schein had an interesting topic that I really don’t know a lot about.  His opinion that the 8 people who stood trial together & were all convicted were, historically, in fact, actually guilty.  So was John Surratt.  It is remarkable that John Surratt, who admitted he was in a conspiracy to kidnap Lincoln, ended up with a hung jury on the charge of conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. It is also amazing that John Surratt lived a relatively normal life after his trial. - Rick Solomon
He did very well in his discussion of John Surratt.   His answer to the last question, however, left many questions.   The history books traditionally say that President Andrew Johnson tried to carry out Lincoln's policy of leniency during Reconstruction in order to re-unify the nation, but he ran into strong opposition from the Radical Republicans in Congress, who wanted a harsh treatment of the former Confederate states as a conquered people. Schein said that Johnson was one of the worst presidents and let the Confederates win the peace. It would be enlightening to hear more leading up to that opinion. - Jorgen Bader
Great presentation! Found it very interesting, enjoyed it! - Ann Brown
I was glad to have been  at the tables, maybe less in number due to the change in week and the Seahawks game.  Historian Schein was very easy to listen to and had many hard facts that fleshed out the assassins’ fates.  His legal background also helped as  they were apprehended and sentenced.  

As for Surratt, I was sorely disappointed that the legal realm and those in it found a hung jury (pardon the pun). The Confederacy had a powerful and dark shadow looming after the assassination.  Disappointing in the current political dilemma  that the “justice” system can find a way to make the guilty live a long life in the aftermath of such a plot and scheme masterminded by such a man. Sorry to hear enough Americans just wanted to “move on”. - Judy Henriksen
All I knew about John Surratt, prior to the lecture, is what I gleaned from "The Conspirator" directed by Robert Redford. So the details about his escape and travels were enlightening from a delivery well executed. - Richard Kerr
While I appreciated Thursday's presentation, because I had already read the book, there was not a whole lot for me as a listener.  I was hoping for more background information, his research process, for example, or things the author uncovered that were new to the CW enthusiast.  I found the speaker best when he left his prepared text, especially during the Q/A that followed.  Really enjoyed the book, and have passed it on several times! - Nick K. Adams
Interesting topic and an important one—about the most significant political event in our history.  Schein was well informed and told a fascinating tale of the one assassin’s life after 1865. - Rod Cameron
Michael Schein gave a very good talk on the subject of John Surratt, based on his book John Surratt: The Lincoln Assassin Who Got Away. Schein undid several myths, including the one that his mother Mary Surratt didn’t really know what was going on while the gang plotted to kidnap or assassinate President Lincoln. Another myth was that the plotters were all brought together by John Wilkes Booth, when in fact it was John Surratt who was the one that recruited the conspirators and acted pretty much as the organizer of the group. Surratt was the smart one who when it all hit the fan, made good his escape to Europe and avoided the trial. Later on, he was finally arrested but by this time, Schein pointed out that the public had lost interest in the conspirators and Surratt was let off the hook. During the Q&A, Schein was asked if Surratt feared he would be attacked in light of his avoiding prosecution for the murder of the president. Schein’s response was that any potential attacker would have to be the one to be fearful! Good presentation! - Mark Terry