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For The Record  

FTR #691 The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

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Introduction: The program outlines and highlights the Confederate intelligence service and its plans to first capture, and then kill, President Lincoln.

Beginning with analysis of the Confederate sympathies and/or operational affiliations of those with whom John Wilkes Booth was associated in his post-assassination flight. Generally glossed over or ignored (a group of “lone nuts”), these individuals in fact comprised an element of a Confederate clandestine apparatus that had been assembled for the purpose of capturing Lincoln in an attempt to use his captivity as a bargaining chip to cause a war-weary North to sue for peace.

After the surprise capture of Richmond and the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, the plan evolved into a plan to kill Lincoln and some of the other top political leaders of the Union in an attempt to sow confusion into the North’s political process, buying time for the Confederate armies still in the field to rally.

Detailing the plan for the operation, the broadcast highlights the recruitment of a variety of operatives for a number of purposes including mapping and engineering functions. Central to the plan was the creation of a large clandestine force from the Confederate cavalry units to cover the raiding party fleeing with a captured Lincoln and Union forces in hot pursuit.

In addition to the covering force, a fund to finance the operation was created. Two confederate generals closely related to Robert E. Lee appear to have been in charge of parts of the gambit. Perhaps the most important of the operational elements in the Lincoln plan was Colonel John S. Mosby, the famed “Gray Ghost” and his ranger units. (Mosby is pictured at right.)

Arguably the most skilled and decorated of the Confederate guerilla leaders, John Mosby and “Mosby’s Rangers” comprised an important part of the covering force that was to assist the Lincoln captive force in its escape. There is evidence that Booth was attempting to get to Mosby as he fled following the assassination.

Program Highlights Include: The use of Montreal as a major planning base for the Lincoln operation; General Robert E. Lee’s apparent skewing of his memoirs in such a way as to cover for the security force for the Lincoln operation; an alternate plan to kill Lincoln that involved using Confederate explosives experts from the Torpedo Bureau.

1. Beginning with a synoptic account of the thesis presented in Come Retribution, the program outlines the Confederate intelligence service and its plans to first capture, and then kill, President Lincoln.

“Many readers, both specialists and the reading public, will be stirred by the subject and substance of this enthralling book. It offers new documents and interpretations of the assassination of Lincoln. While researching the history of the Confederate Secret Service, the authors uncovered material on a Confederate plan to overthrow the Union by capturing Abraham Lincoln as retribution and as an attempt to bring the war-weary North to capitulation.

Many confederates believed that Lincoln himself was the sponsor of the Union army’s heavy destruction of the South, and the Secret Service devised a plan to seize Lincoln, with John Wilkes Booth as its agent. But the South’s stratagem was unsuccessful. When Booth failed to capture Lincoln in March 1865, the Confederates intrigued instead to blow up the White House during a conference of senior Union officials. They also planned for the Confederate forces to abandon Richmond and Petersburg and to link up with General Joseph E. Johnston in the South before General Grant’s forces were prepared to move. However, both plans failed, and by 9 April, Lee was forced to surrender.

Yet the ardent Booth pressed on and indeed took decisive action during that crucial spring of 1865. Then, aided by Confederate agents, he escaped by the very route the Secret Service had elaborately mapped for the agents to take after capturing Lincoln. . . .”

Back Cover text from Come Retribution by William A. Tidwell, James O. Hall and David Winfred Gaddy; University Press of Mississippi [SC]; Copyright 1988 by the University Press of Mississippi; ISBN 0-87805-348-4.

2. Entering the substance of analysis, the program presents the Confederate sympathies and/or operational secret service affiliations of those who aided Booth’s escape from Washington D.C.

“. . . These people who helped Booth and Herold have been treated as unrelated or coincidental, but it is instructive to look at what they have in common. John Lloyd was the manager of Surratt’s tavern, a well-known way station for Confederate agents. Dr. Samuel Mudd was an ardent pro-Confederate reported to have earlier provided assistance to Walter Bowie, a famous Confederate agent. Oswell Swann was a free black farmer of southern Maryland. Samuel Cox, another ardent pro-Confederate, had been involved in organizing pro-secession activity in Maryland in 1861 and later. Thomas Jones was the principal agent for the Confederate Signal Corps ‘mail’ system north of the Potomac River. John J. Hughes lived on a farm near where the conspirators had hidden a boat to be used to carry a captive President Lincoln across the Potomac. Thomas Harbin, an agent of the Secret Service of the Confederate War Department, was involved with Booth in planning the capture of President Lincoln. Joseph Baden, a private in the Confederate army assigned to the Signal Corps camp in King George County, Virginia, had worked with Harbin in various operations. Elisabeth Quesenberry, widow of a Virginia farmer, was the sister of Mrs. John Taylor, whose husband, a Confederate captain, may have been involved with Confederate clandestine operations. William Bryant, a Virginia farmer, was a neighbor of Mrs. Quesenberry. Dr. Richard Henry Stuart, a leading Confederate citizen of King George County, Virginia, knew about the activities of the Confederate Signal Corps in his area. Charles Lucas, a free black, was the son of William Lucas, who lived on Dr. Stuart’s plantation. William Rollins was the Confederate Signal Corps agent responsible for expediting passage of the Rappahannock River for Confederate agents and mail. Lieutenant Mortimer B. Ruggles was the son of Confederate General Daniel Ruggles and second in command to Confederate agent Captain Thomas N. Conrad, who had scouted President Lincoln’s movements in planning his capture. Absalom R. Bainbridge, a private in Mosby’s Rangers and a cousin of Ruggles, had just returned to his home after the breakup of Mosby’s command. Willie Jett was also a member of Mosby’s Rangers and had just returned from the breakup of the command.

Booth’s escape appears to have involved the main Confederate underground network leading into the North. If one omits Swann, Bryant and Lucas as playing only subordinate roles in Booth’s flight, the remainder of those on the list share two attributes: all had strong, pro-Confederate feeling or connections, and all were associated with official Confederate underground operations or with people engaged in that work. . .”

Ibid.; pp. 6-7.

3. Next, we examine some of the central investigative criteria used by the authors in their investigation.

“. . . How was Confederate clandestine activity organized, and what did it do? What was Booth’s relationship to the Confederate clandestine organization? What objective would Confederate decision makers have had in mind in working with Booth? What could be the nature of a clandestine operation that would advance Confederate objectives and also require the assistance of John Wilkes Booth? . . .”

Ibid.; p. 7.

4. Developing the investigation, the authors note the development of the operational plan to capture President Lincoln, which evolved into a plan to kill Lincoln. Initially, the plan entailed capturing Lincoln and obliging the Union to sue for peace.

After the surprise surrender of Robert E. Lee’s army and the capture of Richmond, the plan evolved into a plan to kill Lincoln and much of the other top Union political leadership in an attempt to sow chaos in the Union ranks and buy time for those Confederate armies that were still in the field to rally the Southern cause.

“. . . Lincoln was widely blamed in the South for bringing on and sustaining the war with its accompanying destruction. There were people in the South who made no secret of their desire to kill him. But it appeared to us that the so-called Dahlgren’s raid of February and March 1864 provided the motive that could have persuaded the Confederate government to consider retaliation against Lincoln personally. The Confederates had evidence that persuaded them that he had issued explicit orders to a Union raiding force to kill Jefferson Davis and the leading members of the Confederate government and to lay waste to Richmond. Such drastic measures had to be answered, and a strong party in the South wanted to answer them in kind. If President Lincoln wanted to attack the person of President Davis, they reasoned, then President Lincoln was a fair target for retaliation.

Alternative concepts for retaliation might have ranged from assassination at one emotional extreme to a deliberate, judicial trial for crimes committed against the people of the South at the other extreme. To carry out any of these alternative schemes would probably have involved getting access to President Lincoln, and most of them would have required having possession of his person. A ‘war crimes’ trial in absentia would not be particularly satisfying and would put a severe limit on any negotiation that the Confederacy might wish to carry out subsequently. If Lincoln were under the physical control of the Confederacy, however, the situation would be radically different. If he were a captive in the South, the Confederacy could negotiate with him, use him as an asset in negotiations with the residual Union government, or bring him to trial. One or more of these options could be tried, depending on how the situation looked at the time.”

Ibid.; p. 18.

5. Next, the broadcast presents the indications of the Confederate plot against Lincoln. Among the steps taken concerned preparations for Confederate cavalry action around the Washington, D.C. area in order to cover for the flight of a raiding party holding the captured Lincoln.

The creation of this force entailed recruiting Confederate cavalrymen who lived in the areas projected as possible escape routes and resultant theaters of action for the Lincoln operation. Those selected then “returned home.”

“These are examples of the rationalizations that might have influenced a decision by the Confederate government finally to consider seriously the idea of capturing President Lincoln by clandestine action and bringing him into the Confederacy. The idea had been advanced previously, but the Confederate leaders had not warmed to it. Now, however, there was pressure to act, the action might be feasible, and successful action might benefit the southern cause. . .

First, there was an increase in Confederate clandestine activity designed to encourage the antiwar faction in the North to organize and revolt. Senior political figures, energetic agents, and a large allocation of secret service funds were assigned to undercover activity in the North and in Canada aimed against the North. This is not evidence of a plan against President Lincoln, but it is evidence of a willingness on the part of Confederates to put extra efforts into clandestine operations at a time when an operation against Lincoln would have been considered.

At about this same time, an element in the Confederate cavalry began to plan a raid into Maryland and the District of Columbia to capture Lincoln at his summer residence at the Soldier’s Home, north of the city of Washington. This plan came to nothing, but in late June 1864, General Jubal Early led an army into Maryland with a view to capturing Washington, and with it, Lincoln. This effort failed, and in late July and August a series of events began to occur that can be interpreted as part of the planning process discussed above.”

Ibid.; pp. 18-19.

6. In addition to requisitioning Confederate agent John Wilkes Booth for the operation, the South’s command structure began moving other operatives into place for the proposed gambit. Note that one of the principal elements in the Lincoln operation was Colonel John S. Mosby, the famed “Grey Ghost” and his unit, Mosby’s Rangers.

“On 26 July 1864, John Wilkes Booth was in a hotel in Boston with four men whose true identity has not been established, but one has been identified as having been in Canada before and later. It has the appearance of a secret meeting, possibly to recruit Booth for an action assignment. There is some evidence that Booth was already a Confederate agent involved in other activity.

Somebody reviewed available personnel and selected Captain Thomas Nelson Conrad, chaplain of the Third Virginia Cavalry and a cavalry scout, to be brought to Richmond in connection with an assignment that later turned out to involve the Lincoln matter. The orders directing Conrad to Richmond were dated on 9 August, but the staff work leading to their issuance probably began in July.

One of the best junior Confederate engineer officers, Lieutenant B. Lewis Blackford, was recalled from his post in North Carolina in August 1864 and given the task of mapping Stafford County and a large area in Prince William and Fauquier counties, Virginia. Although beyond the arena of military operations at that date, these were areas in which military action might be necessary if a raiding party with a captive Lincoln were threatened with hot pursuit. At that point in the development of a presumed plan, it would still have been an open question whether such a raiding party should go north and west of Washington to cross the Potomac and exit southward through territory controlled by Colonel Mosby, or go southeasterly from Washington through southern Maryland near the established Signal Corps route. If the route through Mosby country were followed, the Union might well try to get ahead of the raiders by moving into Stafford County.

By Special Order 187 issued by the Confederate adjutant and inspector general on 9 August 1864, Conrad was instructed to report to Richmond for temporary assignment to duty. He drew rations for his horse in Richmond for 12-15 September 1864. It is known that he met with the secretary of war during this time. General Lee was in Richmond; presumably he also saw the secretary of war, but it is not known if he saw Conrad.

In September 1864, either George N. Sanders, a Confederate agent in Canada under Jacob Thompson and Clement C. Clay, the Confederate commissioners there, or his son and assistant, Lewis Sanders, appears to have made a secret trip to Richmond. Sanders had been associated with European democratic radicals in the 1850’s and had advocated assassination as a way to deal with tyrants. Lewis Sanders worked closely with his father and might have represented him. Whichever Sanders made the trip could have been present for discussions of a plan against President Lincoln.

Cawood, the commander of the Signal Corps camp in King George County, Virginia, to cooperate with Captain Conrad on his mission. Conrad was given $400 in gold by Secretary of State Judah Benjamin with President Davis’s approval and left on 17 September for the Northern Neck of Virginia (the area between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers) with a party of Secret Service and Signal Corps personnel.”

Ibid.; pp. 19-20.

7. More about preparations for the Lincoln operation and the significant role of Mosby and his Rangers in its execution:

“It would appear that there were discussions with Conrad in Richmond during 12 to 15 September 1864 of a plan to capture President Lincoln. This could well have been the meeting that approved a draft plan, and Conrad’s mission to Washington could have been part of the next phase to make the plan more specific.

On 13 September, Mosby organized a new company in his battalion of partisans and appointed one of General Lee’s principal agents, Walter Bowie, as a lieutenant in the company. In late September he sent Bowie with twenty-five men to conduct an unprecedented raid into southern Maryland crossing in the vicinity of Cawood’s Signal Corps camp.

The Bowie operation was so out of character for Mosby that it may have been a deliberate test of the feasibility of moving a small armed unit through southern Maryland. This was one of the routes that any party with a captive Lincoln would have had to take. Exiting on the west of the District of Columbia, the party ran into trouble and Bowie was killed.

Conrad was in Washington by late September and devoted considerable time and effort to observing the movements of President Lincoln and ascertaining the best location to seize him and the best route to follow with him as a captive.”

Ibid.; pp. 20-21.

8. Much of the planning for the Lincoln operation was based in Montreal, a subject that is covered at greater length later in the program.

“John Wilkes Booth began in September to recruit a team to help him capture Lincoln. In mid-October he went to Montreal, Canada, where he met Confederate agents who may have played some role in the direction of the action part of the plan against Lincoln. In November, Booth returned to Washington. There is no indication that he and Conrad met, but they were in Washington simultaneously for several days before Conrad left to report his findings to Richmond.

In late September, an Episcopal minister, the Reverend Doctor Kensey Johns Stewart, made a trip from Canada into the Confederacy. Stewart was related by marriage to the Lee family. He had served as a chaplain under General Winder, who managed one of the Confederate organizations involved in clandestine operations. In 1863, Stewart had gone to England and later to Canada. His correspondence and other documents reveal that he was involved in some secret activity with President Jefferson Davis and other Confederate agents in Canada. In October 1864, he left Canada and went to Baltimore, traveled through southern Maryland, and crossed the Potomac in a makeshift boat at the spot that Booth later planned to use as the crossing with a captive Lincoln. He went to Cawood’s Signal Corps camp, where he wrote to General Lee. He later went to Richmond, conferred with Davis, visited Lee, and returned to Canada after having been allocated $20,000 in Secret Service funds by Davis. Because of Stewart’s past association with some of the critical geography involved in Booth’s planned escape route, and because of his high-level contacts, it is possible that he may have been involved in planning part of the Lincoln operation.”

Ibid.; pp. 21-22.

9. Two relatives of famed Confederate general Robert E. Lee were promoted as an apparent element of the operational plan against President Lincoln.

On 23 September 1864, Colonel Edwin Gray Lee, a cousin of General Robert E. Lee, was promoted to brigadier general. Lee had been involved in clandestine operations earlier in the war, and in December 1864 he was sent to Canada to take over some of the Confederate undercover work from Jacob Thompson and Clement C. Clay, the commissioners who had been operating there since the spring of that year. One cannot eliminate the suspicion that his promotion may have been related to decisions made at the presumed meeting of 12-15 September in Richmond.

On 20 October 1864, Brigadier General G. W. C. “Custis” Lee, General Robert E. Lee’s oldest son, was promoted to major general. Custis had been one of the leaders of the abortive Point Lookout raid in July. Now he was given command of another ad hoc task force, a ‘synthetic’ division, made up of various reserve units in Richmond and some troops in a quiet part of the defensive line east of Richmond. Some of these troops appear to have been used later to provide security for the escape route that Booth was planning to use. One suspects that Custis Lee’s promotion was related to the planning for the Lincoln operation.”

Ibid.; p. 22.

10. Preparations for the Lincoln operation also involved the setting up of a fund to finance the gambit.

“Lieutenant Blackford, the engineer, was ordered to Richmond for a meeting during the first week of November 1864. As a result of this meeting, he did not finish mapping some of the area originally assigned but instead began to work on a map of King William County, an area that would have been of importance to a different route for the action party with a captive Lincoln. This change of Blackford’s assignment indicates that there had been a change in the plan for the escape route. Instead of going south through territory controlled by Colonel Mosby, the route on which Bowie had run into trouble, the action party would now exit through southern Maryland and possibly go by water up the Rappahannock River. Lieutenant Cawood, the senior officer of the Signal Corps in the Northern Neck, was in Richmond at this time and could have participated in a meeting at which the escape route was discussed.

In November, Booth went into southern Maryland and began to organize an escape route through that area.

On 5 November 1864 the Confederate War Department established a fund in the Treasury Department of $250,000 for the purpose of paying officers and soldiers passing through Richmond on furlough. This was enough money to pay the salaries of about fifteen hundred officers and men for six months. No similar fund had been established before. Why was it needed now?

The establishment of this fund followed close on the heels of Custis Lee’s promotion to major general. We believe that both actions related to the provision of a security force for Booth’s escape route. Naturally, if the Confederates were planning to capture President Lincoln, they would also have to plan to receive him in Confederate territory and defend the action party against pursuit. The escape route that Booth was working on led to the Northern Neck of Virginia. This was a no-man’s-land between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. The appearance there of organized forces from either side would likely provoke a reaction from the other side. The Confederacy could not overtly establish a security force there without risking increased Union interest in the area. The answer was to establish a security force there covertly. To accomplish this, men from regiments recruited in the Northern Neck were sent home ‘on furlough.’ Once at home, as we shall see, they were organized into ad hoc units to patrol the area and to be ready to repel a Union raid. These may well have been the officers and soldiers on furlough to be paid from the special fund. . . .”

Ibid.; pp. 22-23.

11. Assembling in the operational base of Montreal, Canada, the “action team” prepared for the Lincoln action.

“… In Chapter 12, we left John Wilkes Booth in room 150 at the St. Lawrence Hall, Montreal. He signed in at 9:30 p.m. on 18 October 1864. There is no way to learn the names of all those persons Booth saw during his ten-day stay. The city had a growing contingent of Confederates of many hues. Some were fixed and lived with families in rented houses. Others lived in hotels. The less affluent lived in cheap boardinghouses. There were also former prisoners of war scrounging for meals and a bed. And, of course, there were others, hard-eyed and secretive, often using aliases, who came and went on mysterious Confederate business. The common thread was a fanatical hatred for all things Yankee.

The St. Lawrence Hall was the unofficial Confederate clearinghouse and headquarters in Montreal. Here one could pick up the latest war news, get mail from home, meet friends, and conduct whatever business was at hand. When Booth registered there he dropped into a milieu of ‘Little Richmond.’ He must have felt at home. . .”

Ibid.; p. 328.

12. Next, the program sets forth some of Booth’s co-conspirators in the Montreal Confederate milieu.

“. . . There is solid evidence that Booth was in personal contact with two Confederate agents during his Montreal visit. They were Patrick C. Martin and George N. Sanders. Martin, a native of New York, had been a Baltimore liquor dealer. A letter in the War Department files, dated 24 July 1862, protested government dealings with his firm and described him as ‘an uncompromising rebel of the 19th of April notoriety.’ One unconfirmed report is that he got into further difficulty with the federals because of an act of piracy in Chesapeake Bay.

Most likely Martin was recruited by the Confederates as a blockade runner because of his earlier experience at sea. Regardless, he arrived in Montreal in the late summer of 1862 and immediately set up operations to buy and ship contraband to the South, plying small vessels between Montreal and Halifax. Later this trade expanded to oceangoing traffic.

Federal detectives intercepted a letter from Baltimore, dated12 December 1862, intended for a refugee in Montreal. One comment questioned Martin’s integrity: ‘How do you like Mr. Martin? Keep a sharp lookout. I have been informed by several persons he is slippery and not as fair as he might be.’ Apparently federal detectives were also keeping a sharp lookout for Martin, but there was no way they could reach him in Montreal.

Martin continued to extend his contraband operations and arranged a loose partnership with Alexander Keith, Jr., of Halifax. There are numerous references to Martin in Confederate records and in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. Three documents refer to him as ‘Capt. P.C. Martin,’ presumably as the master of a ship rather than as one holding rank in the Confederate service.

That Martin was an insider in the Confederate apparatus in Canada is made clear in a report dated 2 February 1864 by Captain Robert D. Minor, CSN, to Admiral Franklin Buchanan. Captain Minor had been sent to Canada with twenty-two men and a plan to capture the federal gunboat Michigan on Lake Erie and free the Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island. The scheme failed. Captain Minor’s lucid report explained in detail what actions he took and why the attempt had to be abandoned. He also commented: ‘Finding Marshal Kane and some of our friends in Montreal, we set to work to prepare and perfect our arrangements, the first object of the plan being to communicate with the prisoners on Johnson’s Island, informing them that an attempt would be made to release them. That  was effected through a lady from Baltimore, a Mrs. P. C. Martin, then residing with her husband and family in Montreal, and whose husband did all in his power to aid us in every way.’

Ibid.; pp. 329-330.

13. The official explanation for the Booth/Martin association was supposedly explained by the “fact” that Martin was shipping Booth’s wardrobe for him.

“Booth arranged for Martin to ship his theatrical wardrobe to Halifax and on south. Martin’s chartered vessel, Marie Victoria, a twenty-three-foot schooner built in 1858, left Montreal with cargo sent 18 November 1864, bound for Halifax. Some two weeks later, she foundered in a storm and ran aground near Bic, Quebec. Presumably all hands were lost in the icy waters of the St. Lawrence River, including Martin. Mrs. Martin was listed in a later city directory as a widow. Portions of Booth’s wardrobe, badly damaged by salt water, were recovered from the wreck when salvage operations were undertaken in the spring of 1865.

Booth and Martin had much more to talk about than shipping a theatrical wardrobe. There was the plan to abduct Lincoln. Martin had connections with the Confederate underground in Maryland. He gave Booth a letter of introduction to William Queen, an elderly physician who lived on the edge of the Zekiah Swamp some six miles south of Bryantown, in Charles County. The expectation was that Dr. Queen would assist Booth by lining up local support and escape routes through the area. The cover was that Booth had an interest in buying land. Martin’s letter of introduction set off a chain of events that almost sent Dr. Samuel A. Mudd to the gallows.

In Montreal, Booth was also intimate with Kentuckian George Sanders. They were made for each other: each was fanatical in his southern sympathies, each held strong republican views, and each looked upon Lincoln as a bloody tyrant. In addition, Sanders had a record of advocating political assassinations. . .”

Ibid. p. 331.

14. Booth and the assassination-minded Sanders conferred, their deliberations interrupted by Sanders service on behalf of a captured confederate raider.

“. . . When John Wilkes Booth arrived at the St. Lawrence Hall in Montreal on the evening of 18 October 1864, George Sanders was staying at the Ottawa Hotel in that city. The two must have met promptly. Various people saw them together frequently. Their discussions, however, were interrupted by the famous Confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont, on 19 October.

Caleb C. Wallace, one of the raiders, was captured the next day and lodged with others in the jail at St. Johns, a few miles south of Montreal. Wallace managed to send a telegram to Sanders at the Ottawa Hotel saying: ‘We are captured. Do what you can for us.’ Sanders went to St. Johns on 23 October. When he returned on 25 October, he did not check in at the Ottawa Hotel. Instead, he checked into the St. Lawrence Hall and was given room 169. Booth was in room 150. [Italics are Mr. Emory’s.] . . .”

Ibid.; p. 333.

15. Initially focused on capturing Lincoln as a bargaining chip to force the Union to sue for peace, the Lincoln operation changed to a plan to assassinate Lincoln and other high-ranking government officials in order to sow confusion in the Union leadership, giving Confederate forces a chance to regroup.

“. . . That night Booth and Powell were in the audience when Lincoln spoke from a balcony at the Executive Mansion about his reconstruction plans. Booth urged Powell to shoot Lincoln then and there. Powell refuse to take the risk. Later as the two walked around Lafayette Square, Both told Powell, ‘That is the last speech he will ever make.’

Booth’s grim statement expressed the state of his mind on 11 April. Capturing Lincoln was no longer feasible. Richmond was in Union hands; General Lee had surrendered. The project of blowing the Executive Mansion to kill Lincoln was obviously out–no explosives experts had come to do it. But all was not lost; there were still Confederate armies in the field. Some dramatic action might yet save the Confederacy, and he was the one to do it. This thought was expressed in his famous ‘diary’: ‘For six months we had worked to capture, but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done.’

Just when the list of those to be assassinated was drawn up is uncertain, but it was probably 12 or 13 April. Three people were on the list: President Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. Why Seward? Here Booth evidently had sound advice, based on the premise set out by George Sanders in July 1864: cause total discord in the electoral process. With Lincoln and Johnson both dead, the 1792 stature governing presidential succession would apply. The president pro tempore of the Senate, Lafayette Foster of Connecticut, would act as president until the electoral college provided a new president. Under the law, the secretary of state and over control of the electoral college is not hard to envision: monumental confusion and chaos would reign.

The South might regroup and fight on. This must have been on Booth’s mind when he talked with a friend, Edward Person, on 13 April. He told Person he had ‘the biggest thing on his hands that had ever turned up.’. . .”

Ibid.; pp. 421-422.

16. After the assassination, Booth pursued the escape route set out for the team that was to capture Lincoln. Note the interest in the escaping Booth evidenced by Colonel Mosby and the indications that Booth may have been seeking out Mosby in his flight.

“. . . Until he arrived at Frederick’s Hall, Mosby had little chance to learn that Booth was loose in King George County. It is, of course, possible that such information reached him at Frederick’s Hall on 25 April by telegraph or courier. There is no proof that it did. Assuming that Mosby did receive this information, he would have had strong reasons for wanting to get Booth under his control and out of Yankee reach. Even so, Mosby had no time to intervene effectively. Booth was dead on the morning of 26 April. Mosby’s problem was solved; dead men do not tell embarrassing secrets.

There are some dangling threads in all this. When Booth and Herold were at Dr. Stuart’s on 23 April, they told him they wanted to ‘go to Mosby,’ which implies an understanding of some sort. Further, both at the Port Conway ferry and later at the Garretts’, there were negotiations about being taken to Orange Court House. After the Yankees moved out in early 1864, Orange County was considered to be Mosby territory. . . .”

Ibid.; p. 470.

17. Supplementing discussion of the Confederate infrastructure that blanketed the fleeing John Wilkes Booth, the show sets forth that infrastructure’s awareness of the nature of the Union forces pursuing Lincoln’s killer.

“. . . In running into Captain Murray Taylor at Dr. Ashton’s, Conger’s search party had fallen neatly into the web of the clandestine operation working to locate Booth before the Yankees captured him. Williamson now knew the direction and composition of the search party. At that very moment, John Wilkes Booth was preparing to eat a country breakfast at the Garretts’. He had just under twenty-four hours to live. . . .”

ibid.; p. 472.

18. Concluding with more information about the clandestine force embedded along the escape route from Washington D.C., the program notes that not even Union investigators were able to uncover its existence.

“. . . On 1 August 1865, after the end of the war, Robert E. Lee wrote to Wade Hampton about the closing events of the war. He blamed the disaster at Five Forks on the shortage of cavalry caused by the reinforcements that he had sent with Hampton to the Carolinas during the winter of 1865. He further excused the cavalry who had been left in Virginia by saying, ‘A large portion of the men who had been sent to the interior to winter their horses had not rejoined their regiments.’ It is correct that a large portion of the cavalrymen who had been sent home had not returned to their units, but they were in the Northern Neck and along the escape routes, rather than in the ‘interior.’ General Lee may have been giving a cover story.

We find the evidence of the existence of the security force overwhelming. It involed a large number of men at a time when men were scarce. It was put together in a way to keep its existence secret even from the men who belonged to it, and it maintained a very low profile while on station. When it had served its purpose, it was dissolved as carefully as it had been formed.

By 10 May 1865, the clandestine force had been completely dispersed, most of the men were in their homes, and the Union apparently never learned of its existence. Only the cryptic phrase ‘paroled at Ashland’ remained to remind the veterans that they had won their last battle.”

Ibid.; p. 489.


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