“Burn the theatre,” was the first thing Edman Spangler heard following John Wilkes Booth’s infamous fatal shot on April 14, 1865. Edman Spangler, sometimes known as Ned or Edmund, was a carpenter at Ford’s Theatre and was an acquaintance of Booth’s, occasionally caring for the actor’s horse which was stabled behind the Washington D.C. playhouse. He claimed to have no knowledge of Booth’s escape route, but his story is contradicted by another stagehand working that night. Jake Rittersback claims Spangler told him to keep quiet when the two spoke after the assassination.
This and other damning testimony about his Confederate leanings and distaste for the president lead to his eventual arrest and sentencing of six years in jail. He traveled on the USS Florida to Fort Jefferson with Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen, three other Booth co-conspirators.
On December 25, 1868 President Andrew Johnson pardoned the four convicts. Edman Spangler returned to Baltimore with Samuel Arnold and went to work as a carpenter at the Holliday Street Theatre for John T. Ford, his former boss and the previous owner of Ford’s Theatre. In 1873 the Holliday burned down and Spangler moved to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s farm in what is now Waldorf, MD where he lived out his final years. He is buried two miles from the Mudd residence in the St. Peter’s Church burial ground.