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Henry Lawrence Burnett
Personal Information
Born: December 26, 1838(1838-12-26)
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Died: January 4, 1916 (aged 77)
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Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
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Branch: Union Army
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Rank: Brevet Brigadier General
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Battles: American Civil War
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Henry Lawrence Burnett (December 26, 1838 – January 4, 1916) was a brevet brigadier general for the Union in the American Civil War and a prosecutor in the trial that followed the Abraham Lincoln assassination.


Brig. Gen. Henry L. Burnett

Early life[]

Burnett was born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1838. Determined not to become a farmer, he ran away from home to get an education and eventually married Kitty Hoffman, the daughter of a judge.

Civil War[]

When the Civil War broke out, Burnett joined the 2nd Ohio Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of major. After being trampled by a horse and seriously injured, however, he transferred to the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Department of the Ohio.


Henry Burnett (right) along with John Bingham (left) and Joseph Holt (center) were the three judges in charge of the Lincoln assassination trial.

After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Burnett was called upon by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to be an Assistant Judge Advocate General. Along with him were John Bingham and Joseph Holt, the Judge Advocate General. The accused conspirators where George Atzerodt, David Herold, Lewis Powell a.k.a. Paine, Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlen, Edman Spangler, Samuel Mudd and Mary Surratt. The trail began on May 10, 1865. The three spent nearly two months in court, awaiting a verdict from the jury. Holt and Bingham attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots. The first plot was to kidnap President Lincoln in exchange for the Confederate prisoners the Union had. The second was to assassinate Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward in a plot to throw the government into electoral chaos. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from the body of Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan dated from the 14th of April. The defence surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court. Holt was accused of withholding evidence, but it was never proven.


Burnett in his later years

On June 29, 1865, the eight were found guilty for their involvement in the conspiracy to kill the President. Arnold, O'Laughlen and Mudd where sentenced to life in prison, Spangler six years in prison and Atzerodt, Herold, Paine and Surratt were to hang. They were executed July 7, 1865. Surratt was the first woman in American history to be executed. O'Laughlen died in prison in 1867. Arnold, Spangler and Mudd where pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in early 1869.

Post-Civil War[]

After his wife Kitty died, Burnett moved to New York to practice law, serving as counsel to the Buffalo and Erie Railroad. He was married a second time, to Sarah Lansing, only to find himself widowed once again in 1877. At this point, Burnett left his children with his late wife's family and relocated to New York City. He married once again, this time to Agnes Tailer, and moved to an exclusive district of the city. In 1898, President William McKinley appointed Burnett federal district attorney for the southern district of New York and upon completion of his four-year term, he was reappointed by McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt.

Seeking a country home away from the city, Burnett and his wife purchased a horse- breeding farm in Goshen, New York where Henry raced on the amateur circuit. He died January 4, 1916 and was interred in Slate Hill Cemetery in Goshen.

See also[]

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