Surratt House Museum and Society

Surratt House Museum and Society Do you like a good murder mystery? We have a great one for you at the Surratt House Museum!
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We are proud to be named as one of the 92 Hidden Gems and Attractions in Washington, published in Washingtonian's Januar...
02/05/2020
92 Hidden Attractions and Gems in Washington, DC

We are proud to be named as one of the 92 Hidden Gems and Attractions in Washington, published in Washingtonian's January issue! We share the #9 spot for "10 Under-the-Radar Attractions" with our friends at the Dr Samuel A Mudd House. Check out this list for lots of other fun, local places too, including fellow M-NCPPC site College Park Aviation Museum and the Field of Firsts Foundation.

Check it out here! #featuredinwashmag
https://www.washingtonian.com/2020/01/26/92-hidden-gems-attractions-in-washington/?fbclid=IwAR3KDmIOfH_mtfNG2sC0ePC3BAA7OtsrszX3F9MUVDgee9ewiKtpamuHhxY#Be-an-Embassy-Insider

Leave the obvious stuff to the tourists.

A TOAST TO OUR SCOTTISH HERITAGEAs we strive to appreciate the many cultural traditions that have been brought to our sh...
01/25/2020

A TOAST TO OUR SCOTTISH HERITAGE

As we strive to appreciate the many cultural traditions that have been brought to our shores by immigrants, let’s raise a tumbler of good Scotch whiskey to those from Scotland, many of whom settled here in Maryland. Today, January 25, is most appropriate because it is the 261st birthday of the fabled poet, Robert Burns, and Burns Suppers are a tradition in his birth country.

Many of us would think twice about attending a standard Burns Supper, however, because the main dish is Haggis, the national food of Scotland. This huge sausage is concocted from the lungs, kidneys, heart, and other “innards” of a sheep or calf which are ground with onions, oatmeal, and various spices and stuffed into the stomach of the unfortunate animal for boiling. It arrives in splendor at the table during a Burns Supper, accompanied by royal horns and side dishes of swedes and neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) – each with their own traditional style. If this has not caused one to leave the table, stick around for a “lovely” black pudding for dessert (hint: another name for it is blood pudding).

After more toasts, singing, recitations of Burns’ poems, and the like, attendees can head home knowing that they have given their countryman a good party for the sake of Auld Lang Syne. Yes, Robbie wrote that poem/song also.

01/09/2020
Southern-Maryland Civil War Roundtable

Southern-Maryland Civil War Roundtable

January 2020 Southern MD Civil War Round Table Meeting

January 14, 2020

The Southern Maryland Civil War Round Table is pleased to announce that its next meeting will be held Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 7:00pm at our NEW meeting location, The Maryland Veterans Museum, 11000 Crain Highway North, Newburg, MD 20664.

Guest Speaker: Bob Bowser

Referred to by modern historians as “the least well known of the conspirators,” the story of Edman “Ned” Spangler has been neglected in the historical record. Often overshadowed by the larger personalities in the great conspiracy against Lincoln, Spangler makes short cameo appearances in narratives of the assassination story, usually being portrayed as the willing drunk lackey of John Wilkes Booth. “A Good Natured Drudge: the Untold Story of Edman ‘Ned’ Spangler” sets out to correct these misconceptions by analyzing the often ignored story of his life. The talk follows Ned’s tale from his humble beginnings in York, Pennsylvania through his days in Baltimore, Washington, and Dry Tortugas, Florida. It culminates with his untimely death in Bryantown, Maryland. Along the way, we will explore the ongoing controversies over Ned’s arrest and conviction, as well as his attitude toward serving time in prison. Additionally, we will examine the intricate details and friendships that made up the life of this complex, yet neglected, character in American history and attempt to answer the question “Who was Ned Spangler?”

Bob Bowser is a high school history teacher at Henry E. Lackey High School, located in Charles County Maryland. For the last 11 years, Bob has been a tour guide at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum. Additionally, Bob has done a first-person portrayal of Dr. Mudd for the last four years. Bob holds a BS in Education and a MA in History.

We welcome all to come out and hear about this player in the Lincoln assassination. Attendance is free, but membership is encouraged.

Surratt House Museum and Society's cover photo
01/02/2020

Surratt House Museum and Society's cover photo

01/02/2020
Did you find the pickle in your tree yesterday?  Can you spot the pickle hanging in our tree? Here's the legend behind t...
12/26/2019

Did you find the pickle in your tree yesterday? Can you spot the pickle hanging in our tree? Here's the legend behind the pickle.

Some of you may have a green glass pickle ornament that you tuck into hiding on your Christmas tree so that the first to find it will have a year of good luck. What is the bad-turned-good legend behind this pickle?

The story dates to the medieval times in Spain when three boys were traveling home for Christmas and, growing weary, stopped at a wayside inn to rest. The evil innkeeper stole their possessions and then chopped the boys up with an axe and pickled them in a barrel. Luckily, Saint Nicholas stopped at the inn, found what had happened, and prayed to God. Because of his purity and faith, he succeeded in restoring the boys’ lives and they continued on to their families.

12/25/2019
On December 20, 1860, delegates of South Carolina’s special convention on the issue of secession officially adopted a un...
12/20/2019

On December 20, 1860, delegates of South Carolina’s special convention on the issue of secession officially adopted a unanimous resolution to withdraw from the union of states that made up the United States of America. Word of South Carolina’s decision reached the U.S. House of Representatives on December 24 in the form of a letter from several of the delegates. Following the reading of this letter the majority of southerners in the House walked out of session and returned to their own states, many to attend their own secession conventions. Meanwhile, in the dead of night on December 26, Major Robert Anderson and his small command stealthily abandoned their post at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island and proceeded to Fort Sumter on small boats, setting the stage for the opening shots of the American Civil War on April 12, 1861.

Rainy weather got you stuck inside and missing Christmas fun? It's not too late to come see our A Merry Christmas Magic ...
12/14/2019

Rainy weather got you stuck inside and missing Christmas fun? It's not too late to come see our A Merry Christmas Magic Show in the James O. Hall Research Center (the building at the back of our parking lot, up the ramp) at 4 PM today. Free admission. Hope to see you there!

The Surratt House staff is holding a friendly holiday "ugly" sweater contest. Please help us determine the "winner" by l...
12/12/2019

The Surratt House staff is holding a friendly holiday "ugly" sweater contest. Please help us determine the "winner" by liking your favorite of the three individual pictures below. Thanks!

Today is Poinsettia Day and marks the date of death of the man who introduced this favorite plant of Christmastime to th...
12/12/2019

Today is Poinsettia Day and marks the date of death of the man who introduced this favorite plant of Christmastime to the United States. Joel Roberts Poinset (1779-1851) was a botanist and physician who was appointed as the first US Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829). He was fascinated by the brilliant red blooms he found in Southern Mexico and sent cuttings to his home in Charleston, SC. From there, he sent them to friends and botanical gardens throughout the US. By 1836, this plant was commonly known as the Poinsettia and by the Victorian era was quite popular as a seasonal decoration.

Of course, by then the plant was well known in its native region, known as Taxco del Alarcon. The Aztecs called it “Cuitlaxochitl” meaning “star flower” and used it for both decorative and practical uses. They extracted a purplish dye for use in textiles and cosmetics from the plant’s bracts. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

In Mexico the plant is called “La Flor de la Nochebuena” or “Flower of the Holy Night” and is displayed in celebration of the December 12th, Dia de la Virgen. Use of the plant to celebrate Christmas in Mexico dates back to the 17th century. The flower connects to the legend of a young girl, distraught about not having anything with which to honor the Baby Jesus in a Christmas Procession. An angel tells her that any gift given with love is a wonderful gift. Later the weeds she gathers by the roadside to place around the manger miraculously transform into the beautiful red star flower we think of as Poinsettia. All who saw this were sure it was a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

Surratt House Museum and Society
12/11/2019

Surratt House Museum and Society

Surratt House Museum and Society's cover photo
12/11/2019

Surratt House Museum and Society's cover photo

As sweets fill store shelves and the holidays approach, let’s consider the not-so-sweet history of Sugar…  Those of us w...
12/05/2019

As sweets fill store shelves and the holidays approach, let’s consider the not-so-sweet history of Sugar… Those of us who visit historic house museums are familiar with the obligatory cones or blocks of white sugar that are often displayed in the kitchens. And sometimes, we may even get a glimpse of brown sugar ones. The latter were for everyday cooking use, while most white sugar was reserved for cakes, pastries, and icings. At Surratt House, a dainty Chelsea sugar bowl of the mid-1800s sits on a sideboard among the rest of its tea service; but it bears a brown stain on half of it. We thought that it may have been used later to hold cooking grease – until an elderly visitor informed us that everyday use of brown sugar (unrefined) had caused the stain.

While sugar cane plants came to our shores via the Spanish Canary Islands and Christopher Columbus in 1493, they left an indelible mark on America during the 18th and 19th centuries when sugar cane plantations ruled much of the southern economy (especially in Louisiana) and spurred on African slave trade to increase the labor force needed for this intensive production of sweetness. Several forms of candy that we enjoy today came to us from these enslaved laborers: Peanut Brittle, for example, was created from brittle recipes brought by Irish immigrants, and the peanuts came from their native Argentina with the slave trade. The two joined forces in an old Virginia recipe from the mid-1800s. Molasses candy and taffy pulls also originated in slave quarters. To counteract sugar production, abolitionists resorted to using raw sorghum as an alternative to cane sugar.

So, as you enjoy your holiday sweets and calories, take time to remember the pleasure and the pain that sugar has brought to us over the centuries.

Monday Connections: U.S. Navy and the “Infernal Machines.”In the wake of Hurricane Dorian last September a couple search...
12/02/2019

Monday Connections: U.S. Navy and the “Infernal Machines.”

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian last September a couple searching for artifacts washed ashore on Folly Beach—near Charleston, South Carolina—came across what they believed at first to be a strange rock formation. Upon closer examination, however, the “rocks,” turned out to be Civil War ordnance, a very tangible and potentially dangerous, reminder of the intense combat operations that the Charleston region witnessed during the course of the war. The discovery of these relics is not uncommon in places such as Charleston, Mobile, Vicksburg, Wilmington, Norfolk, or Richmond where thousands of artillery rounds were fired by both sides and hundreds of torpedoes and mines were utilized in defense of the Confederate ports. That they can still prove deadly even today, over 150 years after the war was proven when a Virginia man was killed in his driveway while working on a Civil War artillery round that exploded. So, when unexploded Civil War ordnance is found, it is reported often reported to bomb squads and these Explosive Ordnance Disposal—E.O.D.—units render them safe.

Our modern E.O.D. units find their origins with the World War Two Underwater Demolition Teams, or U.D.T., but U.S. Naval personnel, as well as soldiers and Marines, met their baptism of fire against torpedoes, mines, and improvised explosive devices during the Civil War. In order to understand the workings of these “infernal machines” sailors and soldiers alike sought to find safe ways of disarming or exploding the devices they discovered before they could do any damage. Some of the efforts were extremely rudimentary and involved hurling chunks of exploded shells at the visible fuses of mines in order to detonate them while others were more studious, seeking to capture the devices and transport them to small bases run by naval personnel so that the devices could be rendered safe fully intact for future study, thus planting the first seeds for the eventual development and rise of our modern E.O.D.

President Lincoln was known to enjoy a good prank, and used an unripe persimmon with much amusement. On one occasion, Pr...
11/29/2019

President Lincoln was known to enjoy a good prank, and used an unripe persimmon with much amusement. On one occasion, President Lincoln said to his footman, Charles Forbes, who had recently come from Ireland, “What kind of fruit do you have in Ireland, Charles?” To which Charles replied, “Mr. President, we have a good many kinds of fruit: gooseberries, pears, apples, and the like.” The president then asked, “Have you tasted any of our American fruits?”

Charles said he had not, and the president told Burke, the coachman, to drive under a persimmon tree by the roadside. Standing up in the open carriage, he pulled off some of the green (unripe) fruit, giving some of it to Burke and some to Charles, with the advice that the latter try some of it. Charles, taking some of the green fruit in his hand, commenced to eat, when to his astonishment he found that he could hardly open his mouth. Trying his best to spit it out, he yelled, “Mr. President, I am poisoned! I am poisoned!” Mr. Lincoln fairly fell back in his carriage and rolled with laughter.

Charles Forbes was the man who sat outside the presidential box at Ford's Theatre on that fateful night in 1865 and allowed assassin Booth to enter.

Story source is from "Lincoln and the Irish: The Untold Story of How the Irish Helped Abraham Lincoln . . .” by Niall O’Dowd. However, it was originally told by Thomas Pendel in his book on serving at the White House for thirty-some years. Some still debate whether it is true or false.

11/28/2019
How did Santa Claus go from being the Bishop of Myra to a grumpy gift giver dressed in green, to a patriotic gent of the...
11/27/2019

How did Santa Claus go from being the Bishop of Myra to a grumpy gift giver dressed in green, to a patriotic gent of the Civil War era, and finally come to us as a jolly soul in red velvet and white fur?

For the answer, join us this Saturday, Nov 30, as we retrace this history with the famed Civil War Santa. Show times are at 1 and 3 PM. He will give a presentation on the history of Thomas Nast's Civil War Santa, with parental photo ops after each presentation. Free to the public, please arrive early as seating is limited.

If our post yesterday got you craving some persimmons, perhaps you could quench that thirst with this historic persimmon...
11/23/2019

If our post yesterday got you craving some persimmons, perhaps you could quench that thirst with this historic persimmon beer recipe:

One peck of full, ripe persimmons, a little bran, and warm water will produce enough to fill a 10 gallon cask. Mix the three ingredients together and mash well. Put in a tub or barrel with straw in the bottom and let stand in a warm place to ferment.

The clue that it is done is when the persimmons rise to the surface. Draw off the clear brew, add brown sugar or molasses if not sweet enough and cork and bung tightly or put in corked demi-johns, jugs, or bottles. The beer is light, lively and pleasant in taste.

Many from Southern MD will recall persimmons this time of year.  The region once had great old persimmon trees that stoo...
11/22/2019

Many from Southern MD will recall persimmons this time of year. The region once had great old persimmon trees that stood over twenty feet in the air and bore lots of fruit about the size of crab apples. The trick to knowing when to eat our native persimmons, however, is to wait until the first heavy frost has nipped at them and sweetened them up (unless you want your mouth to pucker up!).

As the holidays approached, our ancestors’ thoughts turned to plum puddings, figgy puddings and bread puddings, but also to persimmon puddings. Here’s a nice recipe from a late-1800s local cookbook:
• 1 c. sifted flour
• ½ c. seedless raisins
• ¾ c. sugar
• ½ c. chopped nuts (black walnuts are also native)
• ½ t. baking powder
• ½ t. salt
• 1 c. fresh persimmon pulp
• 1/3 c. milk
• ¼-1/2 t. cinnamon
• 1 t. vanilla

Sift together dry ingredients and stir in raisins and nuts. Combine remaining ingredients and add to flour mixture. Turn into a greased and floured 1-quart mold, filling it about 2/3 full. Cover tightly and submerge halfway into boiling water. Steam for one hour. Serve with a vanilla-flavored hard sauce. Serves 8. Bon appetit!

Monday ConnectionsGabriel Rains and the Torpedo BureauIn early May, 1862, the lead elements of Major General George B. M...
11/18/2019

Monday Connections
Gabriel Rains and the Torpedo Bureau

In early May, 1862, the lead elements of Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac worked their way through abandoned Confederate fortifications outside of Yorktown, Virginia. For nearly a month McClellan’s forces conducted a siege against Confederate forces outside of the iconic town as part of the opening stages to his famous Peninsula Campaign. Recognizing the futility of trying to maintain their defensive positions, the Confederate forces conducted a stealthy retreat during the early morning hours of May 4. Brigadier General Gabriel Rains, the future head of the Confederacy’s Torpedo Bureau, was among those defenders. Unwilling to leave the fortifications behind without a serious fight, Rains and a select group of men from his command buried numerous subterraneous torpedoes—or landmines—along the road to Yorktown before evacuating with the rest of the army. As Federal troops advanced down the road the morning quiet was shattered when a cavalry scout’s horse trod on one of these mines. The resulting explosion killed both the horse and its rider. Several other mines were detonated over the course of the day wounding and maiming other soldiers and ushering in the beginning of mine warfare.

The use of mines and torpedoes during the Civil War was highly controversial. Even many of Rains’ fellow officers frowned upon the practice, deeming it uncivilized and ungentlemanly. However, members of the Confederate high command saw the value of Rains’ ideas and created the Torpedo Bureau, placing him at its head. In this role, Rains essentially became the father of mine warfare and the Torpedo Bureau paved the way in development of improvised explosive devices. Many of Rains’ creations proved to be instrumental in the future development of mines and explosive devices. Some of his major inventions included the spar torpedo, land mines, and the sensitive primer—essentially a pressure trigger that caused a mine to detonate following the application of enough pressure, about 7.5 pounds.

Rains was not the only member of the Torpedo Bureau to create ingenious, or devious, explosive devices. Another explosives expert, Captain Thomas Courtenay, developed the coal torpedo. The coal torpedo was an improvised explosive designed to look like a hunk of coal. Once smuggled into Federal coal stocks, the bombs would eventually find their way onto ships and trains. The crew of these vehicles would then shovel the bomb, along with regular coal, into the fireboxes designed to feed the steam boilers that propelled the engines. Once in the firebox the bombs would detonate with ferocious force, destroying the ship or train and killing many of the crew and occupants. Courtenay’s coal torpedoes were responsible for the destruction of several Federal vessels, but it is one that may or may not have been destroyed by one that most people remember today.

On April 27, 1865, the USS Sultana, heavily loaded with over 2,100 souls—the majority of whom were Federal soldiers heading home after release from Confederate prisoner of war camps—exploded violently. More than 1,100 of the men on board died in the explosion or subsequent fires that ripped through the ship, making it the worst maritime disaster in United States’ history. The cause of the explosion is believed to have stemmed from low water levels in the boilers and overloading of the ship—she was only meant to transport 376 people at a time. However, years later a man named Robert Louden confessed to several friends that he had sabotaged the boat using a coal torpedo. Courtenay never claimed the Sultana as one of his victims, and the exact location of the believed explosion makes Louden’s claim controversial, making the official explanation of boiler failure the most probable cause.

Thank you for joining us this week. If you would like to read more about Gabriel Rains, the Torpedo Bureau, or the Sultana disaster, here are some good materials to look into. The Sultana Tragedy by Jerry Potter, Disaster on the Mississippi by Gene Eric Salecker, Gabriel Rains and the Confederate Torpedo Bureau by W. Davis Waters and Joseph Brown, and Confederate Torpedoes by Gabriel Rains. Next week we will look into more actions of the Torpedo Bureau and Federal efforts to stymie them.

Address

9118 Brandywine Road
Clinton, MD
20735

Opening Hours

Wednesday 11:00 - 15:00
Thursday 11:00 - 15:00
Friday 11:00 - 15:00
Saturday 12:00 - 16:00
Sunday 12:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(301) 868-1121

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Do you like a good murder mystery?

We have a great one for you at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland. It’s a “history mystery,” where the intrigue of the Civil War led to the assassination of President Lincoln and the sad fate of the first woman executed by the U.S. government – Mary E. Surratt.

What happened in the spring of 1865? Who was Mary Surratt? Did she deserve to die?

More will be revealed on tour as guideslead you through the halls of history and mystery at the Surratt family’s former home:


  • Learn about middle-class life in Civil War Maryland.

  • Get an overview of the Confederate espionage system in Southern Maryland

  • Enjoy special exhibits and events.

  • Browse through a charming gift shop and bookstore.

  • Take advantage of an on-site research center to further your knowledge.

  • Register for a bus tour over the escape route of John Wilkes Booth.
  • Did you sleep through History class in school? We guarantee you won’t sleep through this one!

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    Comments

    Is there a genealogy tree set up for John and Mary Surratt that is available to see? I'm reading the Courier on them and John Harrison Surratt and Mary Jenkins Surratt appear in my tree as ancestors. I really thought maybe they might be cousins or whatnot.
    From the September 2019 UDC Magazine #blackConfederatepride
    :Yesterday, my Mother and I attended the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Tour. As someone who averages about one Lincoln assassination book per month, I was ‘over the moon’ excited about this tour and happily paid for my Mom to come with me. During the tour of Ford’s theater, I mentioned to our tour guide, Dave Taylor, that I was the President of the Howard County UDC Chapter and that we had just had a speaker on Booth. After our tour of the Petersen House, we boarded the bus and listened to Mr. Taylor speak about Booth. He then decided to sing two stanzas of our Maryland state song, Maryland My Maryland. Afterwards, he gave his opinion that the state song, as well as all Confederate statues, were brought about to support white supremacy during the Jim Crow era. He furthered offered his opinion that most Confederate statues were erected by the UDC, a white supremacy organization, to further an agenda of racism in this Country. He then made a completely inappropriate statement that we have an obligation to erase such reminders of a horrible time in this Country. I had looked forward to this tour for months to hear about the history of the JW Booth escape route. I did not sign up to hear my state song slandered, the destruction / removal of Confederate statues supported, and the organization that I am PROUD to be a member of dragged through the mud. Both my Mother and I were insulted and dumbfounded. Historical tours should be neutral and not contain personal opinion, especially erroneous opinions. By the time we returned to the Surratt House, I was sick to my stomach and ready to go home. We exited the bus and shared our feelings with Mr. Taylor who was less than apologetic. By the time I walked away from Mr. Taylor, I was crying my eyes out and shaking. Again, not what I signed up for in the slightest. Please know that I explained to Mr. Taylor that the UDC has black members who are very proud of their Confederate ancestry. More specifically, my UDC Sister and good friend, Teresea Roane, is a black woman who researches black Confederate soldiers and will be speaking about her research at our April Chapter meeting. The objectives of the UDC are memorial, patriotic, historical, benevolent, and educational. My Chapter supports the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore, the soup kitchen “My Brothers Keeper” in Irvington, the Baltimore VA Medical Center, and the Ashley Treatment Center just to name a few. We do LOTS of good work in our community. We are good people who love our history and our heritage. We are NOT racists and we do NOT support racism. We do not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens, looked down upon, and or insulted. Our state song, Confederate statues, and the UDC have nothing to do with Booth history. Mr. Taylor knew I was a member of the UDC and specifically brought up completely inappropriate topics that were wholly out of context for the day. It breaks my heart to think that the Surratt Society is supporting / allowing their speakers to offer personal opinions and insult tour group attendees.