Re-enactor portrays Lincoln conspirator at Cape library

Monday, February 13, 2012

About 50 people came out to the Cape Girardeau Public Library on Sunday afternoon, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, to see Dianne Moran in "The Unquiet Death of Mary Surratt."

Moran performed the story, about the first woman executed by the federal government for her supposed involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, in costume and spent 45 minutes in character telling about the events surrounding Surratt's trial. She portrays a reflective Mary Surratt who contemplates and shares with the audience the evidence against her in the case.

Surratt ran a boardinghouse in Washington, D.C., that was actually a Confederate safe house. Historical evidence finds that she knew about plans to kidnap Lincoln, but it is not for sure if she knew about the assassination plans, Moran said. During her trial, held in a military court, Surratt was not allowed to testify on her behalf. She was accused of harboring the enemy, the conspirators.

After being in character for the presentation, Moran spent about 30 minutes taking questions from the audience.

Following the question and answer time, people were allowed to look at the many artifacts from the time period Moran brought with her.

"I love historical storytelling," library director Betty Martin said. "I had seen Moran before and wondered how she would do this character. She was very sympathetic to the character."

Audience member Pat Nelson said she has a "general interest in history" and she had seen Moran before.

"She does a fine job in her performances," she said.

Moran spent about six months researching and gathering information about Surratt as she prepared her presentation. She was interested in Surratt because she was a "prominent player of the time who was hated." Also with it being the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, she felt interest would be higher now.

Moran, who lives in Richwoods, Mo., said she enjoys portraying living history and considers herself a naturalist.

"I love the Civil War and I like to get her [Mary Surratt[']s] story out," she said. "Surratt was a major part in the conspiracy. We know so much about Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, but not much about her."

The event was sponsored by the Adult Services Department at the library and was the Presidents Month event for the library. The library was able to bring Moran in with a grant from the Missouri Humanities with support of the National Endowment of Humanities and Friends of the Library.

Pertinent address:

711 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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