I’m briefly interrupting the series about the Lincoln assassination and ensuing Funeral Train journey to inform my readers about a story in the April 28, 2010 edition of USA Today. The “Life” section of the paper features a “first look” at Robert Redford’s upcoming film about Mary Surratt, convicted of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Surratt was the first woman ever executed by the U.S. Government, hanged for her crime nearly 145 years ago on July 7, 1865.

Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington, D.C. in which her son John lived along with her daughter Anna, as well as various boarders. The home was the scene of numerous meetings of Lincoln conspirators, including Booth, David Herold, Lewis Payne, and her son. It was to her house where Payne returned and was captured after he nearly killed Secretary of State William H. Seward on the same night that Lincoln was shot. Mrs. Surratt was arrested primarily due to her home being the site of the conspirator meetings, but also because she had guns waiting for Booth at a tavern she owned in Surrattsville, Maryland.

The film, The Conspirator, tells the story of Mrs. Surratt’s arrest, trial by a military tribunal (all the conspirators were tried by it and not by a civilian court), and eventual execution. The assassination itself serves only as a “setup” to the main subject of the film. Redford directs, but does not star in the movie. Robin Wright stars as Surratt, while her lawyer is portrayed by James McAvoy.

Redford is briefly interviewed in the article (which features an additional five photos at the link which I provided) and quite accurately states that there are still questions surrounding Surratt’s involvement in the conspiracy. To this day, some claim she was not as entwined in the conspiracy as the government claimed, while others claim she was far more involved than investigators realized at the time. Many people in 1865 felt that she should not have been executed, no matter her guilt.

The Conspirator is at this point an independent film which has not yet found backing from a studio. There is no release date. Let’s hope that changes, because the story of Mary Surratt is compelling even today.