Frederick A. Aiken Gravesite

In April of 2011, The American Film Company and director Robert Redford released The Conspirator, a film which focused on the trial of Prince George’s native and accused assassination conspirator, Mary E. Surratt, as portrayed by actress Robin Wright. The male lead was played by James McAvoy, serving as defense lawyer Frederick A. Aiken – a wounded Union soldier of the Civil War who returned to civilian life to face an even greater challenge as he faced a military court trying the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The untested lawyer faced insurmountable odds during a time of turmoil at war’s end. Despite the barriers placed in his way, Aiken’s summation speech in defense of Mrs. Surratt is regarded by many as one of the greatest speeches in American history.

In the course of assisting with the movie’s production, the staff and researchers at Surratt House Museum found that Frederick Aiken has been in an unmarked grave in Georgetown’s historic Oak Hill Cemetery since his early death in 1878. The Surratt Society began a fund-raising campaign; and on the afternoon of June 14, 2012, a ceremony was held at Oak Hill to dedicate the tombstone which now marks the grave. The inscription on the stone is the opening lines of his summation speech in defense of Mary E. Surratt.


Here are some pictures taken at the dedication ceremony:



An honor guard from Company K of the 3rd U.S. Regular Army Infantry Regiment led the 35+ participants to the site where members of the executive board of the Society and others gave appropriate remarks. (L-R, Private G. Marshall Smith, 2nd Sergeant Bill Goumas, and Private James P. Tate III).









Allen and Judy Aiken, the only known relatives of Mr. Aiken (decendents of Mr. Aiken’s cousin), came from Florida to participate. The ceremony concluded with the laying of a wreath, a closing prayer, and the playing of Taps. Frederick Aiken’s relative had recorded the sound of an antique clock that he inherited through the Aiken line. As Taps was played in honor of Frederick Aiken’s military service, the tape was played adding a nice touch to the ceremony. You can hear the clock here.





Frederick A. Aiken's Tombstone
Oak Hill – Georgetown, Washington, DC

FOR THE LAWYER AS WELL AS THE SOLDIER
THERE IS AN EQUALLY PLEASANT DUTY
-- AN EQUALLY IMPERATIVE COMMAND.
THAT DUTY IS TO SHELTER FROM INJUSTICE
AND WRONG THE INNOCENT, TO PROTECT
THE WEAK FROM OPPRESSION.


See the article Finding Frederick about the life and struggles of Frederick A. Aiken – a wonderful biography written by the only known Aiken researcher, Christine Christensen of Utah, a member of the Surratt Society.