Edman "Ned" Spangler

Edman "Ned" Spangler is normally seen as a casualty of circumstance in the Lincoln assassination. As a carpenter by trade, he was an acquaintance of John Wilkes Booth due to his long time work in the theater world, building sets and shifting scenes. He'd done some work at the Booth house in Bel Air, Maryland as well, but the relationship between Spangler and Booth was a purely professional one built on favors and employment. 

     Spangler was known as simple man. He was a bit of alcoholic and had very little money. Many nights he would sleep in Ford's Theatre and he'd take extra small jobs when available. One such job was taking care of Booth's horse, something he did regularly. On the day of the assassination, Spangler was involved in setting up the Presidential box for Lincoln and his guests. They moved new furniture and chairs up to the box and removed the separation between box 7 and box 8 to create one large suite.

     Booth arrived at approximately 9:30, in the back alley of Ford's Theatre. He called for Spangler and demanded him to hold his horse. The play was in the second act and Ned had work to do, so after Booth left, Spangler handed the horse of too another stagehand, "Peanut" Burroughs. Ned then went back to work inside.


Edman Spangler, Picture taken after arrest, on the monitor ship, U.S.S Montauk

Source: Library of Congress

Potographer: Alexander Gardner

It was backstage that Spangler heard the gunshot. Then he saw a man run across the stage. In a letter found after his death, Spangler stated he didn't know it was Booth at the time. However, during the trial, the most damning evidence against Spangler was from John Ritterspaugh, who stated that after Booth ran past, Spangler hit Ritterspaugh in the face and said, "Don't say which way he went."

     Arrested on April 17, 1865, there wasn't much evidence that Spangler was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln, other than Ritterspaugh's testimony, eyewitnesses that Booth asked him to hold his horse, and the previous relationship between and Ned and Booth. Based on this he was found guilty by the military tribunal. Due to the scant evidence and the small role, if any, that he played, Spangler received the least severe sentence. Six years in the Fort Jefferson Prison, at the Dry Tortugas in Florida.

     He served four of those years, being freed after President Andrew Johnson pardoned him, along with Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O'Laughlen. Once released, Spangler worked a bit more a carpenter for theaters in Washington and Maryland, and found a home with Dr. Mudd on his farm. He died on the Mudd farm a few years later, on February 7, 1875. After his death, Dr. Mudd found a letter in Spangler's tool chest. It gave a short history of his relationship with John Wilkes Booth and the details, as he knew them, of the Lincoln assassination.

I was born in York County, Pennsylvania, and am about forty-three years of age, I am a house carpenter by trade, and became acquainted with J. Wilkes Booth when a boy. I worked for his father in building a cottage in Harford County, Maryland, in 1854. Since A. D. 1853, I have done carpenter work for the different theaters in the cities of Baltimore and Washington, to wit: The Holiday Street Theater and the Front Street Theater of Baltimore, and Ford's Theater in the City of Washington. I have acted also as scene shifter in all the above named theaters, and had a favorable opportunity to become acquainted with the different actors. I have acted as scene shifter in Ford's Theater, ever since it was first opened up, to the night of the assassination of President Lincoln. During the winter of A. D. 1862 and 1863, J. Wilkes Booth played a star engagement at Ford's Theater for two weeks. At that time I saw him and conversed with him quite frequently. After completing his engagement he left Washington and I did not see him again until the winters of A. D. 1864 and 1865. I then saw him at various times in and about Ford's Theater.

     Booth had free access to the theater at all times, and made himself very familiar with all persons connected with it. He had a stable in the rear of the theater where he kept his horses. A boy, Joseph Burroughs, commonly called "Peanut John," took care of them whenever Booth was absent from the city. I looked after his horses, which I did at his request, and saw that they were properly cared for. Booth promised to pay me for my trouble, but he never did. I frequently had the horses exercised, during Booth's absence from the city, by "Peanut John," walking them up and down the alley. "Peanut John" kept the key to the stable in the theater, hanging upon a nail behind the small door, which opened into the alley at the rear of the theater. Booth usually rode out on horseback every afternoon and evening, but seldom remained out later than eight or nine o'clock. He always went and returned alone. I never knew of his riding out on horseback and staying out all night, or of any person coming to the stable with him, or calling there for him. He had two horses at the stable, only a short time. He brought them there some time in the month of December. A man called George and myself repaired and fixed the stable for him. I usually saddled the horse for him when "Peanut John" was absent. About the first of March Booth brought another horse and a buggy and harness to the stable, but in what manner I do not know; after that he used to ride out with his horse and buggy, and I frequently harnessed them up for him. I never saw any person ride out with him or return with him from these rides.

     On the Monday evening previous to the assassination, Booth requested me to sell the horse, harness, and buggy, as he said he should leave the city soon. I took them the next morning to the horse market, and had them put up at auction, with the instruction not to sell unless they would net two hundred and sixty dollars; this was in accordance with Booth's orders to me. As no person bid sufficient to make them net that amount, they were not sold, and I took them back to the stable. I informed Booth of the result that same evening in front of the theater. He replied that he must then try and have them sold at private sale, and asked me if I would help him. I replied, "Yes." This was about six o'clock in the evening, and the conversation took place in the presence of John F. Sleichman and others. The next day I sold them for two hundred and sixty dollars. The purchaser accompanied me to the theater. Booth was not in, and the money was paid to James J. Gifford, who receipted for it. I did not see Booth to speak to him, after the sale, until the evening of the assassination.

     Upon the afternoon of April 14 I was told by "Peanut John" that the President and General Grant were coming to the theater that night, and that I must take out the partition in the President's box. It was my business to do all such work. I was assisted in doing it by Rittespaugh and "Peanut John."

     In the evening, between five and six o'clock, Booth came into the theater and asked me for a halter. I was very busy at work at the time on the stage preparatory to the evening performance, and Rittespaugh went upstairs and brought one down. I went out to the stable with Booth and put the halter upon the horse. I commenced to take off the saddle when Booth said, "Never mind, I do not want it off, but let it and the bridle remain." He afterward took the saddle off himself, locked the stable, and went back to the theater.

     Booth, Maddox, "Peanut John," and myself immediately went out of the theater to the adjoining restaurant next door, and took a drink at Booth's expense. I then went immediately back to the theatre, and Rittespaugh and myself went to supper. I did not see Booth again until between nine and ten o'clock. About that time Deboney called to me, and said Booth wanted me to hold his horse as soon as I could be spared. I went to the back door and Booth was standing in the alley holding a horse by the bridle rein, and requested me to hold it. I took the rein, but told him I could not remain, as Gifford was gone, and that all of the responsibility rested on me. Booth then passed into the theater. I called to Deboney to send 'Peanut John' to hold the horse. He came, and took the horse, and I went back to my proper place.

     In about a half hour afterward I heard a shot fired, and immediately saw a man run across the stage. I saw him as he passed by the center door of the scenery, behind which I then stood; this door is usually termed the center chamber door. I did not recognize the man as he crossed the stage as being Booth. I then heard some one say that the President was shot. Immediately all was confusion. I shoved the scenes back as quickly as possible in order to clear the stage, as many were rushing upon it. I was very much frightened, as I heard persons halloo, "Burn the theater!" I did not see Booth pass out; my situation was such that I could not see any person pass out of the back door. The back door has a spring attached to it, and would not shut of its own accord. I usually slept in the theater, but I did not upon the night of the assassination; I was fearful the theater would be burned, and I slept in a carpenter's shop adjoining.

     I never heard Booth express himself in favor of the rebellion, or opposed to the Government, or converse upon political subjects; and I have no recollection of his mentioning the name of President Lincoln in any connection whatever. I know nothing of the mortise hole said to be in the wall behind the door of the President's box, or of any wooden bar to fasten or hold the door being there, or of the lock being out of order. I did not notice any hole in the door. Gifford usually attended to the carpentering in the front part of the theater, while I did the work about the stage. Mr. Gifford was the boss carpenter, and I was under him.

Spangler's Letter:
Found in a tool chest after his Death

Edman "Ned" Spangler

Source: Library of Congress

Potographer: Alexander Gardner

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Edman "Ned" Spangler


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