“We know now that slavery made him immoral, that war made him a murderer, and that necessity, revenge, and delusion made him an assassin.”
At his trial on a charge of conspiracy to murder, Lewis Thornton Powell remained detached and almost aloof from the proceedings. There was never any question about his guilt, but his attorney W. E. Doster argued that Powell was a fanatic swayed by those around him. Doster went on to say, “We know now that slavery made him immoral, that war made him a murderer, and that necessity, revenge, and delusion made him an assassin.” He attemped suicide by banging his head against the wall - an act which won him a hot and uncomfortable padded hood. Sentenced to be hung at the same time as Mary Surratt, David Herold and George Atzerodt, he was the last to die. Powell’s skull was found in 1992 at the Smithsonian Institution and returned to a family member who had it buried in Florida.
While hangman Christian Rath was placing the noose over young Powell’s head he remarked, “I hope you die quick.” He had been impressed by Powell’s courage and determination in the face of death. To this Powell replied, “You know best, captain.” However Powell did not die quickly as hoped by Rath. After the drop he struggled for life more than five minutes. His body swinging wildly, twice he “Moved his legs up into the sitting position” and was the last to die. Mary Surratt died instantly. David Herold gave a brief shudder. George Atzerodt, whose neck did not break upon impact, also shuddered for several minutes before dying.