American Civil War Villain: Lewis Powell and the Attempted Assassination of William Seward

Alexander Gardner, famed Scottish photographer of the American Civil War/Lincoln captured the following image in the wake of the infamous assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April of 1865.   Shot in wet plate, the negative numbers of the images can be scrawled into the top portion of the plates.  See the 777 in the first shot, and the 773 of the second?  These descriptors made it easier for the photographer to identify specific images from a large selection of nearly identical plates.

Lewis Payne in Manacles

Lewis Powell in Manacles

Lewis Payne in Manacles Front Facing

Lewis Powell in Manacles Front Facing

Powell is infamous for his attempted kidnapping/assassination of Secretary of State William Seward (of Sewards Folly/purchase of Alaska).  Although details surrounding the event are well known, I will attempt to provide a curtailed version of the them in the following paragraphs.

During the American Civil War/War of Northern Aggression, Powell fought alongside famed Confederate badass, Colonel John Mosby.  One of Mosby’s Rangers, Powell fought in many of the major engagements with the Mosby’s Rangers until he deserted from the Confederate Army in January of 1865.

Fast forward a few months and we see Powell (or Payne, as he later associated) linked with the infamous Lincoln conspirator John Suratt.  Although the history is murky, it’s clear that Powell was captured without killing his intended victim, William Seward.

Given the main focus of PortraitsofWar, we’re going to focus on the photography related to the event discussed.  The aforementioned Alexander Gardener was able to acquire exclusive access to the prisoner(s) on April 27th, 1865. His photographs are some of the best and most detailed images of the Lincoln Conspirators:

Payne in Cuffs

Payne in Cuffs

Lewis Paine Recent in Recent Capture

Lewis Paine Recent in Recent Capture

After many hours of searching the internet, it became incredibly yet strangely clear that Lewis Payne/Powell was the most infamously handsome man of the American Civil War era.

Moving backwards in time (date 11/2015):

Listed on a “Historical Hotties” Website

Payne as a Hottie

Payne as a Hottie

And another reference about Payne from his execution:

Payne Execution Details

Payne Execution Details

And finally, a site dedicated to the feel and expression of the image:

And the final shot of Lewis during his time among the living:



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