Lewis Powell, co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth
Lewis Powell was born in 1844, the youngest of eight children. His father was a traveling Baptist minister, and Lewis spent his youth traveling between Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. His love of animals earned him the nickname "Doc" from his sisters, as he was always taking care of the family pets. At the age of 17, Lewis, a dedicated Southerner, joined the Confederate Army as part of the 2nd Florida Infantry.
Lewis' unit made its way to Pennsylvania, and Lewis participated in the Battle of Gettysburg over Independence Day, 1863. Wounded in the arm, he was taken prisoner by the Union. When they learned of his medical abilities, he was made a head nurse of his fellow wounded prisoners. There he met a young nurse named Margaret Branson, who helped him escape from a Baltimore prisoner's hospital in September. He immediately joined up with Mosby's Rangers, a small covert cavalry unit bent on espionage and sabotage.
Two years later, Powell reappeared in Baltimore as a Southern deserter. He took up residence with Branson and began meeting with other Confederate operatives in the area. One of these men introduced him to John Wilkes Booth, a noted actor and Southern sympathizer. Booth had a plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln at a play he was performing in March of 1865. Powell was recruited to serve as a distraction during the kidnapping, but the plan was abandoned when Lincoln cancelled his plans to attend. By April, the plans had graduated to assassination.
Powell's role was to kill then-Secretary of State William Seward. On April 14, Powell met with Booth, who gave him a gun and a horse. Powell arrived at Seward's Washington D.C. home that night. He claimed to have medicine for the Secretary (who was bedridden after a carriage accident) and entered the house. When the Secretary's son blocked his entry into the injured man's bedroom, Powell struck him in the head with his revolver, putting the young man in a coma for 60 days. He stabbed Seward's bodyguard, rushed into the Secretary's room, and stabbed him three times. As he ran for the door, he was heard to be yelling, "I'm mad! I'm mad!" He escaped before the authorities could be reached.
Unfortunately for Powell, he made the mistake of returning to one of his Confederate operatives' houses three days later. Investigators were there, and immediately arrested him. The bodyguard and the Secretary's doorman identified him as the attacker, blood was found on his jacket, and his boots were identified as belonging to John Wilks Booth. Powell's defense was that he was so fanatical as to be insane. Strangely, he attempted suicide by banging his head on his cell wall while awaiting trial. Even stranger, he suffered from constipation throughout the trial - nearly 3 months.
Found guilty by a military court, Lewis was sentenced to death and hung on July 7, 1865. He was 21 years old.