Lewis Powell was born in Randolph County, Alabama, on April 22, 1844 to a Baptist minister, schoolmaster, farmer, blacksmith and slaveowner, George Cader Powell, and his young wife Patience Caroline Powell, who was a distant cousin.
|George Cader Powell|
|Lewis with his mother, Patience Caroline Powell|
|Lewis at age 12|
After some years in Stewart County, the family moved to Worth County, then moved to Live Oak, Florida in 1859, when Lewis was 15.
|Lewis at age 16|
On May 30, 1861 at age 17, Lewis left home and enlisted in the 2nd Florida Infantry, Company I in Jasper, Florida. His father said this was the last time he ever saw Lewis.
In 1863, he learned that his brother, Oliver, had been killed at the Battle of Murfreesboro in Tennessee.
|The Battle of Gettysburg|
He went to the boarding house of Maggie Branson. While in the Branson house, Powell violently assaulted a black maid who refused to promptly clean his room as he had ordered. According to a witness, Powell "threw her on the ground and stamped on her body, struck her on the forehead, and said he would kill her." The assault led to Powell's arrest, but charged were dropped after witnesses failed to appear.
In Baltimore, he met fellow CSS operative John Surratt, son of Mary Surratt. In late February, Powell showed up at Mary Surratt's Washington boardinghouse using the alias "Reverend Wood."
|John Wilkes Booth|
On the next day, April 14, Powell, accompanied by Herold, was to go to the home of Secretary of State William Seward and kill him at approximately 10:15pm, to coincide with Booth's attack on the president at Ford's Theatre.
After pistol-whipping Seward's son, Frederick, Powell reached Seward's bedroom. His daughter, Fanny Seward, was with her father at the time.
|Powell attacking Seward|
Seward was seriously injured in the attack. A jaw splint worn by Seward helped to save his life by deflecting the knife away from his jugular vein. Seward's head was so severely fractured that he was in a coma for sixty days after the attack.
He arrived at the same time that she was being arrested by Federal soldiers for her part in the assassination. Although it was night time, when the soldiers asked why he was there, carrying a pick axe, Powell claimed that he had been hired to dig a gutter. Surratt denied knowing who he was. Powell was arrested and taken into police custody.
|Crew on the USS Saugus|
|Powell aboard the USS Saugus|
|Old Capitol Prison|
|William E. Doster|
The commission rejected this defense and Powell was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and treason.
Unlike the other conspirators, Powell maintained an appearance of indifference to the trial proceedings. Doster said Powell would "sit like a statue" and "smile as one who fears no earthly terrors." After attempting suicide by banging his head against his cell wall, Powell was forced to wear an uncomfortable padded hood.
|Powell in Padded Hood|
|Powell in Cell|
Powell was executed with three other conspirators on July 7, 1865. He went to the gallows calmly and quietly. He insisted to his death that Mrs. Surratt was innocent.
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." After a hood was placed over Powell's head, he muttered, "I thank you. Good-bye."
|Christian Rath, on far right, with other guards of the conspirators|
|The Hanging of the Conspirators|
No one from Powell's family came to Washington during the trial, or for the execution. Powell's father was ill at the end of the war and unable to make the trip. Powell's remains were not claimed by his family and were buried in Washington's Holmead Cemetery in 1869. In 1885 his skull (identified by the broken jaw bone during his boyhood) turned up as specimen # 2244 in the Army Medical Museum. In 1898 the skull was turned over to the Smithsonian Anthropology Department. It was re-discovered in 1992 and the FBI confirmed the skull as Powell's.