mary surratt…

mary surratt

she’d hung by
the neck
for letting her
kid & a
few of his
playmates plan
lincoln’s assassination
in her boarding house.
life’s a bitch for an
unknowing accessory
(did ‘mommy dearest’
know that? probably
wouldn’t have

as for mary surratt;
“she kept the nest
that hatched the
egg” said Johnson
while signing
death warrants &
boozing late into
the night.

calling it
wrong place,
wrong time
seems somehow
mary sways
at the end of
her rope in
a slow breeze
either way.

was that
justice or revenge?
maybe it’s both;
who says you
can’t have it all.
mary didn’t get
either, but,
in fairness, it
was a pretty
definitive “No.”


Inspired by the death of Mary Surratt. She owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth & her son, John Surratt planned out the death of Abraham Lincoln. While I certainly sympathize with killing the actual conspirators, it seems something less than fair to kill what amounted to the owner of the bar where the offenders met. Plus her kid totally ditched her and hid out in Canada while his mom took his place. I realize I’m about 145 years late on this, but it seemed something worth pondering. The quote in the poem are the actual words of Pres. Andrew Johnson as he signed off on her death warrant without bothering to read the notation for clemency & life in prison following the warrant. See here for a reference.

32 Responses to “mary surratt…”

  1. Wow, this is a poem that raised my awareness about something I had never heard of. I love the way you wrote it, too – it is gripping and one feels the injustice. “Mary sways….either way.” Powerful, intelligent and informative. Good one!

    • Thanks, very glad you dug this. I’d read a little about her involvement (or lack thereof) in the Lincoln assassination as a kid and had been trying to do something with it for a while. Appreciate the kind words,


  2. Succinct example of betrayal on so many levels.
    Very strong!

    • Yeah, that is a great way of phrasing it. One of those forgotten pieces of history that don’t necessarily say anything of earth shattering importance but manage to illustrate some of the darker parts of the body politic. Makes for stunning drama though the cost is awful high.

      Hope it’s been a good weekend,


      • Darker side of relationships period – so called friends and relatives too.

        Watching some chick flicks with happy endings today and eating some enjoyable foods. Munching on some dark chocolate at the moment.

      • Dark chocolate is always a good choice…but chick flicks? on a sunday? with football on? (and I mean real football not soccer.) Lol, that’s a trip, enjoy the dark chocolate!


      • I know football is sacrosanct for many. But everone has their own preferences. One reason for recording programs or for two televisions in a household. That way everyone is happy and no hidden resentments – ideally people compromise and watch both.

      • That is a fair point. Guess I’ve been spoiled over the years, since all I watch is sports or cartoons I don’t need the remote all that much. Usually the TV is on silent with music blaring anyway (I’m sure the neighbors just love me…hahahaha) but yeah, your statement makes a lot of sense in a two person home. So, not a football fan… how about hockey? baseball? basketball? lol just curious.


  3. This is a good read. I guess it’s the ultimeate example of ‘mom’s get the blame for their kids’ actions. Well done.

  4. I’m not surprised that, even back then, someone was ground up by the gears of beaurocracy.

  5. amazing write. Well I got to know something today 🙂

    • Glad to pass it along. I figure as long as i learn one thing per day, the day couldn’t possibly be wasted. (With my memory, that’s saying something…lol.) Thanks for the visit,


  6. Certainly worthy. This is the kind of issue I like to write about. You asked me once why/how I wrote about socio/geopolitics etc, well, you just did it, and pretty well, IMHO. Yeah, it’s long gone history, but certainly still worth digging up. did feel as tho’ you could strip some here and there to get it tighter and therefore add more punch. No biggie. Good call

    • Interesting. I have been debating how to reply for a few minutes because I hadn’t considered this as an issue poem per se, but upon another reading (yeah, there are 2 things I can see to cut just from re-reading it!) I guess it is in that vein. Still, that the Thresher (to use Phil Ochs’ metaphor) was operating throughout recorded history is nothing new; just how it goes.

      Anyhow, glad you liked it man. After MNF I plan on doing some reading so I will have to check out what’s new on your site. Hope all is well dude.


  7. Fascinating sidenote on history that I’d never heard before–if only you could have worked the son’s desertion in there as well, that would have completed the whole sorry picture–thanks for including the historical note. A well done piece of writing, esp the excellent last line.

    • The best thing about writing about long dead “personages of historical significance” (bonus points if you can recall what movie is referenced in that quote…) is playing around with their ultimate fate already recorded. Depending on how you look at the subject, it can be taken a million different ways. Lots of room to play with even keeping within known historical situations.

      Thanks for the compliment,


  8. I liked this little piece of unknown history.

  9. p.s. but Canada IS a pretty cool place to hide out 😉

    • Totally agree; used to live a few hours South of Canada in Ellensburg, WA but had no car and couldn’t get up there. Would love to check out Canada someday, but not in the same manner of John Surratt of course. Thanks for reading and the compliment, both much appreciated. Take it easy,


  10. belladonna23 Says:

    i remember learning about about her….you did her justice

  11. interesting perspective,
    there are always two sides of story in everything.

  12. the subject, the history, the poem…a literary hat trick (sp?) of sorts…for me. your writing is sharp withintelligence and a style that is all yours. I love that I just happened to learn more about this moment in history. unexpected. thanks

    • No problem. I love studying history and there is a wealth of various stories that are just waiting for a poet to come along and bring them back to light. Thanks for the heavy compliment, you are far too kind! (That being said, never hurts to get a good ole’ ego boost when you need it. lol) Hope all is well,
      take it easy,


  13. A chilling piece of history that you brought to life…

  14. Its so beautiful….
    I liked it…

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    Twitter: @VerseEveryDay

  15. A.B. Thomas Says:

    A great write with a historical twist.

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