THE SAD GHOST ANNA SURRATT
John William Thohy
Anna Surratt was the loving, innocent, and dedicated daughter of convicted Lincoln assassination co-conspirator Mary Surratt.
After the assassination of Abe Lincoln, Mary Surratt was arrested and convicted of being part of the conspiracy to kill the President, and was sentenced to be hung by the neck as a result of her part in the plot. Essentially, Surratt had allowed her boardinghouse in downtown Washington (Where it still stands today) to be used as a meeting place for Booth and the others conspirators. How much deeper her involvement went beyond that is still a matter of debate.
After the guilty verdict, Anna Surratt pleaded repeatedly for her mother's life with Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, but he refused to consider clemency.
She then tried to see President Andrew Johnson at the White House to plead for her mother’s life but was pushed off the grounds by Senator James Lane and Preston King.
Later, Mrs. Stephen Douglas, widow of the late senator, arrived by carriage to the White to convince President Andrew Johnson not to execute Mary Surratt, but to no avail.
But there was hope until the end. General Winfield Scott Hancock was in command at the Washington Penitentiary, where Mary Hancock was being held. On the day of the execution, he stationed cavalry riders from the jail to the White House in the event President Johnson changed his mind and granted a last-minute reprieve.
After her mother was executed, Anna’s younger brother John was on the run as an accused member of the conspiracy and another brother, Isaac, was in the Confederate army and would not return home for another several months.
Eventually, in 1867, John was put on trial but the government was unable to convict him, and he was released. He became a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Emmetsburg, Maryland and later joined the Baltimore Steam Packet Company. He rose to be treasurer of the Company and married Mary Victorine Hunter a relative of Francis Scott Key. He died of pneumonia at the age of 72.
Mary was ostracized from society in general and for a while lived in poverty. On March 10, 1869, Surratt tavern in Surrattsville (now Clinton Md.) was sold to Robert W. Hunter who purchased the building and 6 acres around it for $3,500. After that, Annie married Professor William P. Tonry in a private ceremony at St. Patrick’s Church, just a short walk from Fords Theater.
Tonry was a chemist working for the surgeon general’s office. Strangely enough, he worked at Ford’s Theatre during the civil war when the theater been converted into government offices shortly after the assassination. Four days after her marriage was made public fired Tonry from his job at the War Department.
The couple eventually moved to Baltimore and Tonry went back to work as a chemist and the couple had four children and overall, became somewhat well off if not rich. But the strain of the Lincoln assassination and her mother execution left mentally unbalanced and she often suffered from bouts of anxiety, depression, and fear. Anna died of kidney disease on Oct. 24, 1904. She was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, in an unmarked grave next to Mary.
To this day, some members of the White House staff claim that Anna's ghost returns to the White House every July 6, silently banging on the front door to plea for her mother's life. Residents of the H Street NW apartments where she lived for a while report deep moaning and sobbing sounds in the hallways.