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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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