Lewis Powell

(1844-1865)

Lewis Powell was part of the conspiracy to cut off the head of the United States government by assassinating its key leaders. Powell’s job was to go to Seward’s home and murder him while he slept. This, along with the failed assassination attempt on Vice-President Andrew Johnson, meant that if Powell were to succeed then at least the conspirators would successfully carry out two out of three assassinations.

Lewis Powell was born on April 22nd 1844 in Alabama. The youngest son of 10 siblings, the wildlife loving Powell would grow to be a witty, compassionate, young man with a deep love for his country.

This passion would be tested repeatedly during Powell’s life and finally culminate with the failed assassination attempt at Seward’s residence.

During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate army and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and was wounded then captured and sent to a prison hospital.

After the battle wounded Confederate POW’s were held on the grounds of Pennsylvania College. Later Powell was sent to a hospital in Baltimore MD where he was able to befriend a nurse and make his eventual escape. A free man once again, Powell returned to Alexandria Virginia.

Lewis Powell in Federal custody after his arrest

Lewis Powell in Federal custody after his arrest

On the night of the assassination Powell’s role was to assassinate Secretary of State Seward. The actual attempt would have succeeded if not for the fact that William Seward had fractured his arm and broken his jaw previously in a carriage accident and the cast he wore shielded his internal organs from the assassin’s sharp blade. Along with co-conspirators George Atzerodt’s failed attempt to assassinate Vice President Johnson.

The successful assassination of the President of the United States by John Wilkes Booth created a sense of accomplishment for the conspirators, which actually saved them from being seen as the worst assassins in the history of assassination attempts, since all attention was focused squarely on Booth and not the other conspirators.

Powell hid for three days after his assassination attempt however he had the misfortune of turning up at Mary Surrat’s boarding house at the exact moment she herself was being arrested for her role in the plot. Powell could not give a good reason as to why he was there so he was arrested and taken to the Navy Yard. He was found guilty by a military tribunal and was sentenced to hang. On July 7th, 1865 he and the other three conspirators were executed.

The remains of Lewis Powell, at least his skull, were found later by a team of archeologists digging for Civil War artifacts. The skull was re-interred and properly buried next to his mother’s remains in the Geneva Cemetery in Seminole County, Florida.

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