Ben: Perley Poore - The Conspiracy Trial Transcripts

Volume I Transcripts
Download Microsoft Word 1997 (.doc) version
Download Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) version
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Volume II Transcripts
Download Microsoft Word 1997 (.doc) version
Download Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) version
Download PDF version

Volume III Transcripts
Download Microsoft Word 1997 (.doc) version
Download Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) version
Download PDF version

Witness Index
Download Microsoft Word 1997 (.xls) version
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The documents presented here represent transcriptions of each of the three volumes of The Conspiracy Trial For the Murder of the President, and the Attempt To Overthrow the Government By the Assassination of its Principal Officers Edited, With an Introduction, by Ben: Perley Poore.

The transcription of Poore’s Conspiracy Trial testimony was done to aid researchers and other users in making maximum use of this primary source material. Poore’s is a complete, verbatim question-and-answer transcript of the trial, presented without a table of contents or index but in the exact sequence of witnesses during the proceedings. His three-volume work was published in limited quantities and, in the original, makes for an extremely rare find today.

It should be noted, by way of explanation, that each of the original Volumes I, II, and III ends in the middle of a witness’s testimony. The reason for this anomaly is explained by an advertisement for the Poore trial transcription found in the Boston Journal*:

Part III was published in 1866, by which time interest in the trial had largely waned; there was little demand for the third volume. A Volume IV was contemplated, but, because of the limited demand for Volume III, nothing ever came of it. As a result, the testimony of several witnesses appearing on June 13, as well as that of witnesses appearing on or after June 14, is missing from the Poore volumes. 

In 1972, Arno Press, Inc., a New York Times Company, as part of its Conspiracy: Historical Perspective series, published a reprint edition of all three volumes of Poore’s The Conspiracy Trial. In the 1970s Arno Press was an active reprint house specializing in mystery/occult fiction and movie history, with sales geared primarily to libraries. Arno Press reprinted Poore’s volumes from the best available copy of the original volumes. The Arno Press edition is part of the holdings of the Surratt Society’s James O. Hall Research Center at the Surratt House. The transcription of Volume III made available here was done from its copy of the Arno Press reprint.

Volumes I and II were transcribed from on-line editions made available by the Library of Congress.

The transcription files presented here are Microsoft® Word files, thereby allowing a wide range of users to copy, cut, paste, and make full use of other Word functionality as needed. Each file likewise affords the user the capability to conduct searches within the document.

While considerable effort has been made to retain much of the formatting found in the original volume, of necessity pagination differs between the original publication and this transcription. The pagination in the original publication is indicated by enclosing the original page number in [bracket]s, with bold red type, and highlighted in yellow. Page numbers that were located on the right hand pages in the original text are placed in the right hand margin and left side page numbers are placed in the left hand margin in this transcription. The transcriptions preserve the notation indicating that the reader has reached the end of the respective volume.

As previously noted, the original volumes did not contain any index, so no index is provided as part of the transcriptions. 

An index was done by Richard Sloan in the 1980s. This index was used as an aid in compiling the comprehensive alphabetical index of witnesses, covering all three volumes. It is made available as a Microsoft® Excel workbook (.xls) file. The index provides the page numbers in the original volume where the individual witness’s testimony can be found, the date of his or her testimony, whether the individual was a witness for the prosecution or defense, the general subject of the witness’s testimony, and a synopsis of the substance of the witness’s testimony. Where the information can be gleaned from the record, information is provided to establish the identity of the witness by relation to one of the accused and/or occupation. Also, one can use Excel’s search capability to find specific entries in the index.

Since Poore’s was a verbatim transcript of the trial testimony undertaken shortly after the testimony concluded, there are often inconsistencies found within the Poore volumes themselves and between the official record of the trial as published by Benn Pitman in his Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators with respect to the spelling of the names of witnesses. Where there are significant differences in spelling between the Poore volumes and the Pitman record, a footnote is provided to show the spelling as provided in the official record. Additionally, the transcriptions maintain the spelling of the conspirators’ names as shown in the original volumes; hence, Michael “O’Laughlin” (O’Laughlen), Lewis “Payne,” (Powell), and ’Edward” (Edman) Spangler.

The transcription and compilation of index was undertaken by Jill Mitchell (April 2011). While the Microsoft® Word transcription of each volume has been carefully proofread and checked against the original text, in all likelihood there are typographic errors remaining. Additionally, because the transcription of Volume III was prepared from a copy of a copy, punctuation marks and some words in the transcription may not appear as they did in the original volume. Every effort was made to maintain a consistent usage with respect to punctuation and spelling. Please send any typos or errors that you may find to:

Jill Mitchell
79 Arirang Way

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
or to:

Benjamin Perley Poore (November 2, 1820 – May 30, 1887) was a popular and prolific American newspaper correspondent, editor and author in the mid-nineteenth century. After editing the Boston Bee and Sunday Sentinel, Poore established himself as a correspondent in Washington, D.C. His colorful letters to The Boston Journal and other newspapers over the signature of “Perley” made his national reputation. In other publications, including the Conspiracy Trial transcript, he adopted the use of Ben: for his first name.

For further reading regarding the career of this remarkable man, we suggest:
     James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos, eds., Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889).

     Joseph P. McKerns, “Benjamin Perley Poore of the Boston Journal: His Life and Times as a Washington Correspondent” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1979).
     Donald A. Ritchie, Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

*The Boston Journal ad pictured is a re-creation