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Anna Surratt: Another Booth victim
Question of the Day
The ceremony was kept private, and there were no bridesmaids. Isaac was at Anna’s side, and John sat in a front pew. Just a few close friends were invited. The bride, said the Baltimore Sun the next day, “appeared in better health than she has enjoyed for years.” The couple then headed “on a bridal tour North.” This strict attention to privacy was to characterize Anna’s later years. She wanted to live her life as quietly as possible.
On this occasion, at least, it wasn’t quietly enough. Four days after her marriage, some spiteful soul at the War Department fired Tonry from his job.
Anna and her husband eventually moved to Baltimore. Tonry resumed his chemistry practice and sometimes even testified in court cases. At last, it looked as if a quiet life lay ahead, but in 1880, the politicians had other ideas.
During the presidential campaign that year, the Republicans nominated James A. Garfield, and the Democrats chose Hancock. Somebody tried to use Hancock’s connection with the Mary Surratt execution to turn voters against him.
Anna and her husband were having none of it, however, and said so in a lengthy interview on the front page of the July 2, 1880, Evening Star. According to the Star, the couple was facing swarms of reporters as well as a flood of letters and telegrams, all seeking to draw out Anna’s opinion of Hancock. The Star said the attention “has made her extremely nervous, and she cannot talk upon the subject even to her intimate friends.”
Professor Tonry was a bit more forthcoming. To start with, he disowned an earlier supposed interview that had been making the rounds: “We have made no such statement, nor is it our present purpose to affirm or deny anything that may be said upon either side of the unpleasant subject.” The professor did say, however, “that the republican party is responsible for the murder of Mrs. Surratt. … No party ought to think of making capital of the matter.”
In passing, the Star’s readers also learned that Tonry and Anna had “two bright little children, between 5 and 8 years of age,” who “hung nervously about her side.” Also, Anna’s hair was “slightly streaked with grey.” By this time, the Star also added, brother John had become chief clerk for a Norfolk shipping line, with Isaac as a clerk under him.
As it happened, Hancock lost narrowly to Garfield. The new president would be assassinated by a gunman a few months after being sworn in.
Anna and her family finally dropped out of the news after that. No doubt that was how they wanted it. Anna eventually would have two more children. She was bedridden in her later years and died of kidney disease on Oct. 24, 1904. She was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, in an unmarked grave next to Mary.
Although one of the assassination story’s more obscure players, Anna was yet another victim of Booth’s crime, another in a list that seems to have no end.
John Lockwood is a Washington writer.
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