Ned Spangler at Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Part 2
Here is the second part of the letter published in October 25, 1865 in the Aledo [Ill.] Weekly Record, about three months after Edman (Ned) Spangler began serving his sentence of six years at Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas. He was probably writing to friends or relatives that had moved there during that strong period of westward expansion. A Google search shows that there are Spanglers today in Mercer County, Ill., the location of Aledo.
This letter is one of the earliest I have read written by Ned declaring his complete innocence, as assertion he stuck with the rest of his life. It continues his description of his relationship with Booth:
“I had nothing to do with him on the evening of the assassination more than any other many similarly situated could have. He came to the theater, called me and asked if I could hold his horse which I declined for the reason I had my work to attend to on the stage. I called Peanut John to hold his horse, who held him until he came out after murdering the President. I did not know what had taken place until the deed had been committed and Booth made his escape from the theater. I never shut the door after his escape nor did I know nor had anything to do with the mortise in the wall or boring the hole or the fixing of a bar of a door, or losing the screws. All this I was charged with as being guilty or suspicioned of having done, but before God, who I know will find me accountable if I lie I knew nothing or heard of any such a thing until after the assassination when I was asked concerning it all. The evidence in my case is known.
I leave it to all honest and unprejudical people to judge of my innocence or guilt. Great injustice has been done me by some false witnesses from whom expresses prior to my trial acted by gain or reward. I wish you could see___________and see whether he ever received my statement that I sent him with a young man by the name of Welch and if he has to let me know what he is going to do with it please and send me some small fish hooks some 2 or 3 fly hooks in a letter and money to buy some postage stamps and some paper. There is a n—– regiment here to guard the place. Give my love to all my enquiring friends and let me know what they think of me. I am here and suffering here which I am innocently.
Yours Most Respectfully
The other three prisoners sent to Fort Jefferson with Spangler: Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen had been convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of President Lincoln and sentenced to imprisonment for life. Spangler was found guilty only of aiding Booth’s escape, and his sentence was six years. O’Laughlen died in the 1867 yellow fever outbreak at the fort. The other three were pardoned by President Johnson in 1869 before he left office, allegedly in part for their service during the horrendous 1867 outbreak.
If you ever find yourself in Key West and are at all interested in history, I recommend the ferry trip to Fort Jefferson.