From the recording A Mother's Tears

Lewis Powell was born in 1844 in Alabama, but the family soon moved to north central Florida near Live Oak in the late1840’s. Barely 17 when the “great war of northern aggression” broke out, Lewis, against the wishes of his Baptist minister father and doting mother, immediately ran off to join the cause of the Confederacy. An infantry soldier, he was wounded at Gettysburg and captured, but before long escaped. Then, mysteriously, he seemed to change direction. He crossed the Union lines, swore allegiance to the United States government, changed his name to Lewis Payne and moved off to the Baltimore, MD. There he took up residence in the boarding house owned by Mary Surratt and became part of John Wilkes Booth’s conspiracy to revive the Southern cause. On the night Booth shot Lincoln, Payne’s role was to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward while another conspirator assassinated Vice President Johnson thereby throwing the Union government into chaos. Though the pistol he carried misfired, Payne fought through guards at the Seward home, attacking the man in bed where he was recovering from serious injuries sustained in a carriage accident. Payne stabbed him seven times, including once in the face, but failed to kill him. He fled the house, was caught three days later and then was hung with three others, including Mary Surratt, in Washington just 60 days after the assassination of Lincoln. His family fled Live Oak in shame, though his mother maintained that her baby boy was innocent of the charges. Payne’s body was kept in government custody, at first buried in a prison grave site, then later kept in the Smithsonian. The Powell family petitioned for more than 120 years for the release of the body so they could bury him in the family cemetery plots and for more than 120 years the Seward family objected. Finally in the mid 1990’s the Powell family prevailed, received what was left of Lewis’ body and buried it with his family in Geneva, a small town just north of Orlando.


Well they say that on that dreadful night,
When Booth shot Lincoln and took to flight,
A Florida boy had a hand in the deed,
In John Wilkes Booth's conspiracy.
And Lewis Powell was his given name,
A Live Oak boy who would come to shame,
He went to war in the infantry,
And he wore the gray of the Confederacy.

Now chile' ain't you heard, them devils done hung my baby boy,
Ain't you heard, my baby boy was hung in Washington,
He didn't do what they say he done.

Now a war can steal a boy's heart and soul,
And Lewis' soul turned black as coal,
He was taken at Gettysburg, but soon broke free,
Then he turned his back on his Confederacy.
He deserted the cause and to the Union came,
Changed his name to Lewis Paine,
He swore an oath of loyalty,
To the Union and Lincoln's presidency.

But it all seemed part of a darker plan,
For in Baltimore he joined up in Booth's band,
And at the boarding house where the evil plans were laid,
Young Lewis' life was cast away.
For on the night when Booth took Lincoln's life,
He first met with Paine and gave him a gun and a knife,
Another Yankee man was to die at young Paine's hand,
Lewis made the attempt, but he failed and he ran.

Well, three days later they had their man,
And declared him part of the assassin's plan'
He died on the gallows as Lewis Paine,
Though Powell was his given name.
And the family in shame from Live Oak fled,
With heavy hearts and hanging heads,
Mrs. Powell cried a mother's tears'
And she sobbed these words for all to hear.

Now chile' ain't you heard, them devils done hung my baby boy,
Ain't you heard, my baby boy was hung in Washington,
He didn't do what they say he done.