Frederick A. Aiken Biography

Sarah Olivia WESTON was born in West Randolph, Orange, Vermont. Educated at home, chiefly under private tuition. She continued her studies in Boston, devoting her attention principally to the classics and history, under the direction of several noted professors at Cambridge, she being the second of the few female students to whom the privileges of Harvard University were granted. Her thorough knowledge of the ancient languages were of great service to Prof. Elliot Coues in his famous work on Ornithology, the “North American Birds,” in which a glowing tribute is paid to her attainments.

Sarah Olivia WESTON and Frederick Argyle AIKEN were married on June 1, 1857. Frederick Argyle AIKEN died in 1878. After their marriage, they removed to Washington, D.C. where he
soon attained distinction in legal and journalistic circles, having been the attorney and counsel of Mrs. Surratt, one of the Lincoln conspirators, and being the editor of several newspapers in Washington. At the time of his death, in 1878, resulting partly from injuries while serving on the General staff of Gen. W.S. Hancock during the late war, he was one of the most widely known and successful journalists.

[Source: Illustrated Historical Souvenier of Randolph, Vermont, Compiled & Published by Nickenson & Cox, Published Randolph, Vermont 1895, p. 81.]

Her parents were Judge Edmund Weston and Sarah Weston (nee Edson). She died Friday May 25, 1900 at 2:45 p.m., and buried in a private funeral, according to her death notice. Her Washington Post obituary makes mention of her involvement with a “Theosophic Society” and her employment as a clerk in the office of the auditor for the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.

From the Washington Weekly Post, Dec. 24, 1878:

“The melancholy news of the sudden death of Col. Frederick A Aiken, city editor of the Post, reached this office yesterday after we had gone to press, and filled every heart with the shock which so unexpected and sad an event was likely to produce in circles where the deceased was so esteemed and beloved. At his desk on Thursday night, his absence the rest of the week was ascribed to an ordinary hepatic complaint with which he was known to be affected, and the sad truth therefore fell with heavier, because unlooked for, force.

“Frederick Argyle Aiken was born in the city of Boston, Massachusetts in the year 1837, and consequently was only in the 41st year of his age at death. . . During the early years of the war he was a volunteer aide with the rank of captain on the staff of General Hancock, and participated gallantly in several engagements, during one of which he had two horses shot under him, and received injuries the ultimate effect of which no doubt hastened his death. During the dark days of 1863 and 64 when the Democracy of the District made so gallant a fight under the leadership of Col. Thomas B Florence . . . Aiken was one of the most active workers in the Democratic cause, and his brilliant pen and eloquent voice were incessantly employed. When that unfortunate victim of Republican fury, Mrs. Mary Surratt, was dragged from her bed at midnight by the brutal minions of Stanton, and hurried before a court-martial organized to convict, Col. Aiken was one of the gallant few in the District that dared to lift his voice in behalf of justice and right at the imminent risk of his life and nobly undertook to conduct her defense. His defense of Mrs. Surratt is one of the . . . most praiseworty efforts on record. Col Aiken’s memorable speech on that occasion will be long remembered as fulfilled prophecy, everyone now believing her to have been innocent. After this trial, Col. Aiken was called on . . . to assist in the defense of Jefferson Davis, and prepared some of the preliminary papers in that case.

“In 1865 he was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States and practiced in that and the District courts with such esteem until 1868, when he gave up law for his former and most loved . . . journalism. He had previously, during the war and after, assisted Col. Tom Florence in editing the ‘Constitutional Union,’ and in 1869 became the editor of the ‘Sunday Gazette.’ The ‘Herald’ of Washington remembered the brilliant success which attended Col. Aiken’s management of this journal. In 1871 he became the dramatic editor of the ‘National Republican.’ In 1876 he was attacked with a heavy fit of sickness which consigned him to the verge of the grave, and from the affects of which he never totally recovered.

“In the winter of 1877, Col. Aiken started with the ‘Post’ at its city editor position, which he held until the time of his death, he being the first of its staff that has died. He died at twenty minutes past twelve o’clock Sunday night after only three day’s sickness that his friends felt but little anxiety for his condition.

“Gifted, brilliant, and versatile, having in a very marked degree the power of winning and retaining the affection of both men and women, singularly kind-hearted and benevolent, the death of Fred Aiken leaves a void in the hearts of his friends which may not be filled. His presence cast sunshine wherever it went. He had always a cheering smile for the erring, a kind word for the struggling, an open hand for the unfortunate, and a big free heart for those he loved. His handsome, manly appearance will be long remembered and by none more so than by his journalistic and literary friends.

“As a writer he was singularly correct and graceful, and in all the sphere of life his lot was cast; he was famous for doing his duty well, promptly and faithfully. The writer of these lines, who was one of his eldest, most intimate friends, remembering the many happy moments spent in his society and the many kindly acts which delighted him to perform, lays down his pen with the sad conviction that in the death of Frederick A Aiken, the American press has lost one of its most entertaining and versatile writers, and humanity one of its noblest ornaments. It is pleasant to add that in the last few months of his life Aiken had turned his thoughts often and earnestly to the ministry of his savior, and had his life been spared, would doubtless see another Christmas entered the church as one of its earnest, eloquent servitors.”

The obituary in the Washington Post is incorrect. First off, his middle name was not Argyle. According to his birth record and marriage record, he was born Frederick Augustus Aiken on September 20, 1832 (a full five years earlier than the cemetery record which is the source for most of the inaccurate information) in Lowell, Massachusetts. His parents were Solomon S. Aiken and Susan Aiken (nee Rice).

As of March 27, 2012, a rare 1864 letter from Frederick Aiken was available for sale. Click here for details.

For more information on the Lincoln Assassination and how the research has changed over the years, including the dispelling of popular myth with facts, click here.

UPDATE December 21, 2011: For a more comprehensive look at the legal career of Frederick Aiken, click here.

Information below is from his entry at Find A Grave:

Birth: Sep. 20, 1837Shrewsbury, Worchester County, MassachusettsDeath: Dec. 23, 1878Washington, District of Columbia

Photo courtesy of Bernadette Loeffel – Atkins

Lincoln Assassination Trial Attorney. A Massachusetts native he moved with his parents to Hardwick, Vermont when he was ten years old. As a young man he studied at Middlebury College from 1855 to 1857. Drawn to journalism he became the editor of theBurlington Sentinel. After he married Sarah Olivia Weston (1846-1900), daughter of Judge Edmund Weston in Randolph, Vermont, he began the study of law. In 1859 he was admitted to the Orange County, Vermont bar, moving to Washington, D.C. in 1860.

When the Civil War began he joined the volunteers, becoming an aide with the rank of Captain on the staff of General Winfield S. Hancock. He returned to the law in 1863 when admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States and in the District of Columbia Courts.

He was best known for his defense of Mrs. Mary Surratt, accused of conspiracy in the assassination of President Lincoln. His speech in her defense was included in the The World’s Best Orations in 1899.

In 1868 he returned to the practice journalism. In 1877 he became the City Editor of The Washington Post, a position he held until his death after an illness of two days.

Although his grave is unmarked he is buried in the North Hill lot containing the grave of Tennessee United States Senator and Secretary of War, John H. Eaton.

Oak Hill Cemetery
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA
Plot: North Hill, Lot 79. Unmarked burial.
Created by: DSMGLS
Record added: Jul 18, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 39589509

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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78 Responses to Frederick A. Aiken Biography

  1. constance Speake says:

    I didn’t know this man until I saw The Conspirator yesterday. He was a person to be emulated

  2. D. Young says:

    Wonderful websites; had no idea this site existed until I wanted to know more about Fred Aiken, after watching the movie, “The Conspirator,” regarding the trial (farce) of Mary Surratt.

    Keep up the good work!

    Jupiter, FL

    • D. Leo says:

      I agree with D. Young’s comment above. I’m a Civil War buff who researches battles and generals, but hadn’t yet heard of this young man until I watched the “Conspirator”. It’s such a shame he didn’t win the case and Mrs. Surratt had to die. Sounds like her son should have been the one to serve time.
      D. Leo
      Cleveland, OH

  3. L.Dz. says:

    Thank you for the information. I just saw the film and was interested in Aiken as well. Does anyone have information to explain why he was buried in an unmarked grave? This fact seems incongruent with his illustrious obituary…thank you!

  4. Walter Thomas says:

    There are very few men, in any decade, who are capable of standing firm for what is right, in the face of all opposition. Aiken was one. Despite the fact everyone in Washington wanted Mary Surrat to be guilty, there was no evidence to prove her guilt. Aiken wasn’t sure of her culpability himself, but he knew that no real court in the United States would sentence her on the flimsy evidence of the military court. What our greatest patriots do is to believe in and live by the principles of liberty we inherited from our Founders. We could use an Aiken today. We sense that this is one of those pivotal times in our nation and that we need a man like Frederick Aiken to lead us. Is there anyone of his caliber available, or who has the money and clout to become President of the United States?

    • bakergirlmd says:

      Having just seen “The Conspirator,” I wish there were more men like Frederick Aiken leading our country. I realize that this is a movie, but it brings some very interesting perspective. Aiken’s 1860s sensibility would bode well in our 21st century era of political correctness. The fact that his writ for habeas corpus was struck down by Johnson proved once and for all that even with a military tribunal, and all the political forces at work, the trial was a farce and Mary Surratt would never have had her name cleared. Stanton wanted revenge and his long arm of the law was so far reaching that he would have destroyed the lives and careers of anyone who stood in his way to convict Surratt. Aiken’s eloquence in questioning defendants (even tho’ he had his initial doubts about Surratt’s involvement in the conspiracy), proved far too many holes in the testimonies to ever prove Surratt’s involvement. If Surratt were allowed to testify, imagine how it may could changed the course of history. It would not necessarily have changed the tribunal’s mind (nor that of Stanton), but we’ll never know. It saddened me that it took one year after Surratt’s death for the Supreme Court to rule that all persons shall be judged by a jury of their peers, even in war time. Sadder, still, that 16 months after Surratt’s death, a jury of Northerners and Southerners could not determine John Surratt’s involvement. I wonder what happened to him afterward? Needless to say, it was a travesty of justice that Aiken was trying to prevent.

    • David Fulton Akin says:

      Thank You for those kind words Mr Walter Thomas! After doing some Y-DNA studies and research I believe I share the same bloodlines as Fredrick A Aiken. We are descendants from Scotish/Viking Ancestry who were written about in the book “Viking Pirates and Christian Princes”.

  5. skydancer506 says:

    Walter – Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

    I do have a question about your assessment, however. Are you basing your comments on what you saw in the film or from historical documentation? If it is from the film, you might want to do some further research because filmmakers are filters – you only get what they want you to see. If it is historical documentation, could you kindly give us a list of sources so the rest of the interested Civil War community can do further research into this matter.

    Thanks. Much appreciated.

    • Cheryle says:

      Why didn’t the other three men who were hanged along with Mary Surratt have a defence?

      How can I learn more about the American Civil War?

      • For years the History channel has shown a show called Civil War Journal, please check the History channel website for more information. Also their program titled April 1865 chronicles the events of the movie the Conspirator. You may also want to rent Ken Burn’s documentary of the Civil War you may find it also in your local public library. There are also numerous books everywhere. To be fair and thorough you may also want to read some books detailing the southern view of the war and also books called Slave narratives which gives detailed accounts of events from an entirely different perspective.

      • skydancer506 says:

        Cheryle – The others had a defense. It was outlined in the book, American Brutus, which would be a great way for you to learn more about this issue.

        As for the American Civil War in general, I’d recommend that you keep reading this blog as there is lots of information about different fascets of the war that are not covered in other places. If you keep reading this blog, you will be well informed.

        On occasion, I put banner ads of selected books on the blog. Right now, I’m featuring “Midnight Rising” about the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry. The books that I post would be another great place to start. (For the record, I do not get any financial compensation from Amazon or any book publishers at this particular time)

        Thanks for reading and commenting on this blog.

      • Jill Short says:

        Just so you know, all of the defendants had a defense. In fact, Louis Paine, who was played by Norman Reedus in The Conspirator, has also been proven “the most innocent” of all those hung that day, including Mrs. Surrat, because he had been confused with one of the real conspirators and Stanton’s second in command changed the description of Seward’s attacker from one describing another man seen in the dark of night under lowered gas lights to a perfect description of Louis Paine ( right after he’d been arrested ) as if he had been seen not fleetingly in the dark, but in full light and had stood around with his hands out so they could’ve been described in perfect detail. Louis Paine was totally innocent too. The words “the most innocent” were quoted because they were taken from an article I read about Paine. It is not me who believes he was “the most innocent” since all Mary Surrat did was protect her son, something most mothers would do today…at least I’d like to think.

  6. Glen H says:

    Hollywood is notorious for distorting history and Redford’s “Conspirator” is no exception. I know it’s easier to watch a movie then read a book, but could I suggest the book “The Assassin’s Accomplice” by Kate Clifford Larson, to anyone who wants to know the true story of the trial of Mary Surratt.

    • Violet says:

      Yes it is true that Hollywood does in fact distort history at times, however so does people’s personal opinions, and sadly Larson’s book is strongly opinionated in the fact that Mary Surratt was guilty if I am not mistaken… The truth of the matter is no one really knows if she was guilty or not, because she honestly did not have a fair trial… You can look at all the documentation you want, but in the end the truth of the matter is, the entire trial surrounding Mary Surratt was unconstitutional.

      • skydancer506 says:

        Violet – You need to view history from the lenses of those who made decisions at that particular time. Our modern viewpoints distort our views on history. The rules of jurisprudence that occurred in the 1860s were different than the rules of jurisprudence today. We cannot look at 150 year old court trials with the same rules that we have today – that would be grossly unfair to those who underwent the trials.

        Remember, it wasn’t until the passage of the 26th Amendment that allowed women the right to vote. You cannot look at a women’s right to vote today as something that existed back then and judge them equal. They were two different worlds. I’m merely using this as an example.

        Judge history through the lenses of the participants at that time, that’s what I believe the correct role of a historian should be.

        • Darryl Crews says:

          19th amendment granted suffrage to women – not the 26th. I agree that we have to view history through the lens of the time in which it happened. As a high school history teacher it is a point I constantly emphasize. I have enjoyed reading the discussions and comments on these posts

    • Jimmer says:

      It is good to look at both sides of the story.

  7. Kevin C says:

    I too found this site after seeking more information on Mr. Aiken after watching The Conspirator, so thanks Sydancer. Another good source of information on the full trial of Mary Surratt is the Wiki page

  8. Angela Smith says:

    I too watched The Conspirator, and couldn’t get over the frightening similarities between the star chamber style military tribunal and the 21st century Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal that was set up just over ten years ago. SAT too is a law unto itself and is not bound by rules of evidence, presumption of innocence, double jeopardy, beyond reasonable doubt, justice being seen to be done (public hearings) etc. It the tyrants don’t like you they can, and will, destroy you – and many of their victims are elderly and/or mentally disabled (more often women who, like Mary Surratt, are widowed or single, ).

  9. elizabeth says:

    What a delight. To read a biography like this. Informative and well written. Thank you.

  10. john r .larkin says:

    i am a living historian and reenact military and western history form 1860-1912. i to have reserched this case and watched the film. aiken stands out as the true patriot and stanton the true vilian, when considering the constitution. our country’s history is fraught with corruption, which this story so well documents-since its inception. god bless you fredrick aiken and all those like you.

  11. Karen says:

    Thanks for info compiled on Frederick A. Aiken. Am trying to find out if he was ancestor of former VT governor George Aiken. Another good man.

  12. Madeline09 says:

    Aiken states in the film, which I hope is true, that without a civil trial, we will never now if Mary Surrat was guilty or innocent. The movie was not to prove one way or the other. It was to individual right stated in the Constitution..

    Aiken is to be admired for his convictions and his courage fighting for justice.

  13. Rardie Leahy says:

    I only learned of this man from the movie “The Conspirator “. I with a high school senior when President John F. Kennedy was murdered. The Names changed but the storyline is the same.

  14. K Little says:

    Does anyone know if the reporter at the Washington Post at the time of Watergate, Sally Aiken was any relation to Frederick Aiken? Just curious.

  15. r.w. hardy says:

    good flick. about time someone makes a movie which is not based on a comic book hero huh. at least if all the facts arent accurate it makes those who want to learn more to find out for themselves, anyway kewl movie

  16. Kat Field says:

    Did Aiden have any children? Doesn’t say in most of the short bibliographies.

    • Christine Christensen says:

      Frederick and his wife Sarah Olivia Weston Aiken had no children. They were ‘given’ a little girl (the daughter of a prostitute) in 1865, but in 1868 the mother changed her mind and kidnapped the child. The Aikens sued to get her back and tried to adopt her, and the case fascinated DC during the summer of 1868. Sadly, they were unable to, and she was placed in an orphanage and remained there until she became an adult.

  17. We need more men like him in our goverment now that will stand up for whats right!!! He was a true hero!

  18. Valerie Barkley says:

    I don’t know that anyone will ever know the entire truth about President Lincoln’s assassination. I have read several books on Lincoln, and I’ve always admired him. I recently watched Redford’s “The Conspirator”, became acquainted a bit with Mrs. Surratt & Fred Aiken, and have come to my own personal conclusions. From what I’ve since read on Aiken, his greatness began when he defended Mrs. Surratt when many others had already passed judgment. He is a person to be admired, for his faithfulness to duty, for standing against all odds, for his courage to make himself heard at this famous trial and throughout the remainder of his life. Through it all retained his dignity.

  19. Liz Holford says:

    I just saw The Movie Conspirator and I did not know about the Truth of Mary Surratt’s story.
    Frederick Aiken was a man of True Intergrity and Courage to stand up for that woman and the truth!
    He was with a very short time but will always be remembered by me.

  20. I just saw The Conspirator and in fact Mr. Aiken needs to be admired and remembered. An example of courage in those hard days, days that we still live in these present days in many countries around the world.

  21. Dennis Henley says:

    I find it amazing that when Mary Surratt’s son, when caught, was allowed to go free. Mr. Aiken’s efforts seemed to have been seen and heard; influencing the seperation of military tribunal trials from civilian offenders. Clearly, her life was taken in place of her son in satisfying a revengeful government. As for the film, it was emaculately produced and historically accurate. The gallows scenes were exactingly reproduced to appear just as in the actual event. Right down to the location, wardrobes and props. The scene mirrors the actual photos of the hangings. I find it equally amazing that Wikipedia has no data on Frederick Aiken.

    • Michael Turner says:

      “I find it amazing that when Mary Surratt’s son, when caught, was allowed to go free.”
      I fear you may have missed the point. Mary Surratt was convicted and hung with out substantial evidence. Her son’s trial (regardless of whether he was guilty) seems to have had the same issue, for which there was a hung jury. I don’t care how hainus the crime, I would rather see a guilty man ‘justly’ go free, than an innocent man convicted.

  22. Mary Craig says:

    After watching “The Conspirator”, I was reminded of another great American patriot who found himself in similar circumstances – John Adams. He defended the British soldiers who were involved in the Boston Massacre because he felt (even before we had a constitution) that everyone deserved a defense and a fair trial, no matter how terrible the crime. Despite the public outcry and the great personal damage to his reputation, his defense of the soldiers saved their lives and continues to serve (with Aiken) as an example of honor, ethics and courage.

  23. Marcia Boone says:

    This was a fantastic biograghy about Aiken. I found out about him in the movie conspirator. Now I am writing a research paper on the trial of Mary Surratt.

  24. mary says:

    I just watched the movie the conspirator, and was moved to find out more about FREDRICK AIKEN. I too would like to know if he had any children. We need more leaders with his courage and convictions.

  25. Pingback: 9.5.2011 … Happy Labor Day … highly recommend The Conspirator … if you are into historical (not hysterical) drama … « Dennard's Clipping Service

  26. d duvall says:

    If Aiken’s talented wife was born in 1846, she must have seen eleven or twelve when they married.

    • Alice L. Luckhardt says:

      Sarah was born in 1837 and died in 1900. The couple only had an ‘adopted’ daughter for a few years before the mother wanted the child back. Instead the courts put the child in an orphanage until she was an adult.

  27. A.G.C. says:

    Why can’t I find any pictures on the internet of Frederick A. Aiken? I have only found this Julius Frederick Aiken from Texas.

  28. Andrea says:

    Hi, I saw the movie (in German) yesterday. It reminded me of the history of the witch trials in Germany. In the Middle Ages, we already had very modern laws, but in witch trials – which were executed by the Church, not by the normal judges – these laws were not valid. For instance, torture was forbidden because everyone knew that people confess any nonsense under torture. But in the witch trials, torture was normal. But – and here the similarity – the reason why finally there were less and less such trials was not because people stopped believing in witches, but because lawyers revolted against this evident breach of principles of justice.

  29. JD says:

    I seen The Conspirator and I was so angery that 1. Mary S. was not fairly treated and never had a chance. and the fact her only son allowed her to be punished for his guilt.
    2. Any evidence to help her was not allowed or should I say ears were closed cause they knew they already made their minds up already.
    3. And Aiken was a great person to help a women even though he did not know of her guilt or if she was truely innocent.
    Honestly we will never know if she was or not.
    Aiken was being a caring human being who thought she was being treated unfairly and he stepped up to the plate for justice of this women.
    Too bad her son couldn”t be a man and stop her death.
    Like I said we will never know the whole truth but it is a very sad story.
    A girlwho loves a true history

  30. Thank you for this. I like the others have just seen the movie and to me he is an American hero.

  31. JTM says:

    The book “Manhunt” by James Swanson gives a detailed acount (researched by a Civil War historian) of the assasination and all of the people on trial as well as John Surratt’s information if you want more information. There is also which has more information on Mary.

  32. jeff aversing says:

    although Aieken was defending , Mrs. surratt, He was also defending more so the constitution and the rites of its Citizens. His beliefs in her guilt or innocense , to me , were not his motives of defense. His disgust of J.A. Holt and secretary of war Stanton were truly his motivation and the fuel that drove him with such vigor on her behalf. I for one , believe Mrs Surratt was aware of not only her sons activities , but also the activities of Booth and the rest of the conspirators . now does this mean she should have been hung for those activities? well I suppose had Aieken been successful in completing the Writ he had aquired, and a civilian trial had been granted, mrs surratt may have been spared. unfortunatly for her, this did not occur.

  33. Pingback: Justice or Revenge? « Confessions of a Movie Queen

  34. Bud Davies says:

    Good discussion, although it appears to be over. (one month since last entry). I also wondered if Mr. Aiken had children. Must not have had any. Wikipedia makes no note of any. I was relieved to read that he married his fiance shown in the movie “The Conspirator”. I thought she might have left him for good. The movie epilogues didn’t mention marriage but only being city editor at the Post, but only for a couple of years before death.

  35. steve bunker says:

    A couple of rules to keep in mind for life in 21st century America; Never learn your history from Hollywood ,politicians or the History Channel. And never fall into the hands of the American justice system unless you have plenty of money or influential friends.

  36. Allen Faust says:

    In the movie “The Conspirator”, Frederick Aiken is an army captain. When did he become a colonel (was he a colonel during the Surratt trial)? And why is his grave unmarked?

    • Christine says:

      The most well-known of Aiken’s military experiences is documented in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies where his report, May 8, 1862, detailed his activities during the Battle of Williamsburg, and identified himself as Captain, and volunteer aide-de-camp to William F Smith and temporary aide-de-camp to Winfield S Hancock. According to his own report to Hancock, he “transmitted and delivered . . . important orders and messages” between Hancock, Smith, and General Sumner about Hancock’s position, especially requesting re-enforcements which were unavailable. He continued, “. . . I met. . . Captain Currie, the adjutant-general of General Smith’s division, riding at a furious rate. He halted only long enough to ask me if my horse was fresh and able to go fast, and stating that General Hancock had suddenly been attacked by a large force; that he was severely suffering, and that besides the enemy in his front, five or six regiments of the enemy were threatening his left flank. Redoubling the energies of my own horse by a vigorous use of the spur, I reached you just in season to see the last of the retreating rebels. . . the enemy had been repulsed, . . . you had full possession of the field, and . . . the enemy’s dead were lying thickly on the ground in front of our lines.” Hancock credited Frederick, along with others, for “the success of the day.”

      Aiken’s designation as Colonel is possibly a nickname, since even before the Civil War one newspaper (October 3, 1857 Caledonian, Vermont) called him “Colonel (?) Frederick Augustus Aiken.” The question mark was in the original newspaper article.

      We are still uncertain why his grave is unmarked. He and his wife don’t appear to have owned any property, so it is possible she didn’t have the funds to mark the grave. She also is not buried in the same cemetery.

      An effort is underway to raise funds to provide a headstone for his grave through the Surratt House Museum and The Surratt Society. When details are completed we will
      post the information to contribute.


  38. Kevin Doney says:

    Excellent biography of Frederick Aiken. Redford provided a powerful story to tug at the moral heart strings to remind that the US Constitution is the only thing that separates US from tyranny and corruption as found in most of the world, and that the rights of citizens must be defended.

    • skydancer506 says:

      And THAT, Kevin, was the point of the whole film. It was less about historical accuracy and more about making political points. It’s sad because that’s the way it is in Hollywood these days. You score more clout by making political points than just making good films or historically correct ones.

  39. Pingback: Frederick Aiken The Attorney – Historians Weigh In | thisweekinthecivilwar

  40. CSA forever says:

    I also watched the movie. The one thought came to mind. At the end Fred Aiken finally came to terms with what the South was fighting for. I think he began to hate the yankees as much as any southerner.

  41. Jim Catano says:

    Does anyone know why Frederick Aiken’s story does not seem to warrant an individual entry in Wikipedia? This week I viewed “The Conspirator” and witnessed with heavy heart the signing of the Defense Authorization Bill that allows indefinite detention of US citizens without trial if suspected as terrorists at the sole discretion of a US president. The good that was done following this famous trial and others with the Supreme Court decision Ex parte Milligan has now been undone along with several provisions of the US Constitution. May we not permit this abortion of justice to stand!

  42. Pingback: Lincoln Assassination Resources | thisweekinthecivilwar

  43. Ingrid says:

    Did aiken and Sarah Weston have any children at all?

    • Christine says:

      Frederick and Sarah Weston Aiken did not have any children. They did raise a little girl for a few years, and tried to adopt her, but she was taken from them and placed in the orphanage. You may read more information about Frederick Aiken in my bio about him titled “Finding Frederick” on the Surratt House Museum webpage.

  44. Mike Johns says:

    After reading Gore Vidals’ ” Lincoln ” Watching ” The Conspirator” was a natural choice, the movie had an authenticity to it that comes as a relief compared to most modern movies. As a non American who has only recently got around to reading American History, I can tell you I’m hooked and recommend to others like me the following books, the already mentioned ” Lincoln”, ” Inventing a Nation ” by the same author and the excellent ” American Colonies ” by Alan Taylor, also Ken Burns film ” The Civil War ” Looking forward to the next production from the team that crafted ” The Conspirator “

  45. Susan Fahy says:

    There were clearly more conspirators. There are rumors that stanton’s daughter or niece was involved with boothe the assassin. Enjoyed this depiction, not too Hollywood

  46. Pingback: The Lincoln Assassination: New research unravels old myths | This Week in the Civil War

  47. randall hytden says:

    I do believe Mrs, Surratt was guilty, especially after reading Blood On The Moon, by Edward Steers Jr.. That beign said, I also do not believe any of the conspiritors recieved a fair trial. People should relaize that the Constitution has been ignored many times in our history and this continues to be the case. The more thing change, the more they stay the same. Whoever has the guns and those who will obey orders to use them, decides what is going to happen. It is exactly the same now, just as when Edwin Stanton held the cards.

  48. Christine says:

    Aiken’s headstone was dedicated on 14 Jun 2012. You can see pictures here:

  49. Gene says:

    The movie is a condensed version of the events and testimony at the trial, you can determine this by comparing it to the account in this website. So it is’t slant is subject to the author. As Redford is involved in it’s production it is not hard to understand the point of view expressed. It is a very good movie but would have been better if more evenhanded leaving the viewer to his/her conclusion. Thanks to whicapedia for the unbiased facts.

  50. P. Lee says:

    Please help me find a picture of Frederick Aiken. Thanks

    • civilwarweek says:

      People have been looking for a photo of Fred Aiken for years and have not found one to date. Sorry that we can’t help any further. If anybody finds an identified photo of him, I’d be happy to post it. The folks at the Surratt House and other researchers have been quite diligent in this effort so far but have been unsuccessful.

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