Don't feel sorry for Booth

boothDon’t feel bad for John Wilkes Booth—he was a great actor, and a great spook, no matter what the history books say.
He was also the first real matinee idol whose presence on the streets of Washington or Richmond caused some women to swoon. Had the Confederates won the war, and Booth escaped, he might have become President. It astounds me how spook assassins like James Bond are so celebrated by our culture, yet when a real life Bond appears before us, only his faults are celebrated.
Booth’s intelligence is evidenced by the complexity of his plots. He wasn’t sure which theater Lincoln might visit that night (there were two options), so he purchased the box next to the Presidential box in one, while drilling a peep hole and fashioning a door wedge for the other.
But even then, he didn’t purchase that box in his own name, but sent the manager of the billiard parlor he frequented to purchase the tickets. Booth was raining money right before the assassination, and gave a wad to George “Dirty Andy” Atzerodt to get an expensive room at the Kirkwood. He also purchased four colt pistols and rented four fast horses.
There had to be a benefactor, because a few weeks earlier, when the kidnapping plot was still being fomented, Booth had been crying poor and seeking additional funding. He had a bank account in the same Canadian bank used by the Confederate Secret Service so any funds he received from Richmond would have been transferred through this bank.
If Booth had spent less time on spook activities and more time on acting and earning a living, he was capable of manifesting an upper-class salary. But running spook operations required budget, and the bigger the plans, the bigger the budget.
Bill O’Reilly takes the obvious road and paints Booth as demented like most biographers, but that’s just one of many inaccuracies. O’Reilly falls into a few rabbit holes, and fails to pinpoint the center of gravity on the assassination.
jwb2Here’s how Booth looked at 18, sans mustache. Because he died without the mustache, I prefer to think of him this way. When he died, Booth already knew his bid for glory had been dashed. Even the Copperhead press was aghast and had turned on him. Not to mention, his letter of explanation had strangely never been published, and Booth was checking the papers every day. Booth frantically began writing a diary to explain his position. Too bad we never saw it.
Booth sometimes gets painted as a serial liar, but when you’re a spook, that just comes with the territory. If Booth said he was going to New York, he might have been going to Richmond, and if he said he was going to Richmond, he might have been going to Canada. He seldom told the truth about anything and spread lies and disinformation with great frequency. This was not done out of insanity, but to shield operations.
One of his favorite tricks was to pick up a horse at one stable, and then check the animal into another stable on the other side of town. This would give him an air-tight alibi, as he could claim he’d been out riding in the country and not in Washington during the allotted time.
The movies show him leaping to the stage, brandishing a bloody knife and shouting Sic Semper Tyrannis, but, in fact, eyewitnesses claim he jumped and instantly disappeared through the scenery, while mumbling “I did it!” under his breath. Booth had shouted Sic Semper Tyrannis, but that was when he was firing the derringer, and the shout mostly lost in the explosion. According to diary fragments that survived the vetting process, Booth broke his leg during a fall on his horse later that night, and not when he’d jumped to the stage. Booth did not make a grandstand display of himself on the stage like a demented psycho killer. He also lost his hat when he’d jumped, but in typical Booth fashion, had packed a spare in his saddle bag. He always seemed to think of everything that could go wrong and plan accordingly.
Booth waited on the other side of Navy Yard Bridge for his three accomplices to catch up, but only one appeared, David Herold, the weakest of the lot. This must have been a surprise and disappointment because the band of brothers had suddenly shrunk in half. Herold likely bolted when the nurse at William Seward’s house had screamed bloody murder out a third-floor window. If so, it meant he’d abandoned Lewis Powell, who didn’t know his way around town. And that would be the reason Powell got nabbed. With no place to go and his horse gone, Powell wandered over to Mary Surratt’s boarding house at 3 AM. But soldiers arrived there a mere four hours after the assassination. In fact, that was the first place they went to look for the assassins, even before investigating Booth’s hotel room. Had Powell not shown up there that night, Surratt likely would never have swung from the gallows.
kirkThe fourth rider who didn’t show should have been Dirty Andy, but he’d bailed the second he’d heard “assassination” and not “kidnap.” Booth entrusted Andy with his Canadian bankbook and maps of the Southern States. Or maybe those items were seeded into his room at the Kirkwood to sheep-dip the Vice President. Dirty Andy was in the dark about most everything, and later told a story about being assigned to assassinate the Vice President in a bid to save himself. In truth, Booth never would have depended on Dirty Andy to assassinate anyone. Rowing his boat across the Potomac south of town, on the other hand, was Andy’s real role. But by painting himself as an assassin, Andy raised his stock in the drama and also could claim credit for saving the Vice President’s life.
This put a fly in Stanton’s ointment because Johnson was supposed to be sheep-dipped into the plot, not assassinated by the plotters. However, the invented assassination gave Stanton the idea of inventing even more assassinations because two others would soon be charged for other imaginary assassinations, one for Stanton and one for General Grant, and all three of these imaginary assassins would soon be found guilty, although only Dirty Andy was hanged. It was a veritable Valentine’s day massacre of political bigwigs held on Good Friday, but it was all a hoodwink designed to hang scapegoats as quick as possible.
Meanwhile, the case against Andrew Johnson as the mastermind of Lincoln’s assassination was put on back burner. That card would be held close to the vest and played later on, during Johnson’s impeachment trial.


Ben Wade is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

You won’t find mention of Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade of Ohio in many Lincoln assassination books, an obvious oversight since he’s implicated in that plot through a letter discovered in Sanford Conover’s hotel room. (Sanford’s real name was Charles Dunham and he was a double-agent super-spook working for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.) Conover ran the scandalous school for scoundrels that groomed the paid perjurers helping convict the designated patsies, a list that included Jefferson Davis and Mary Surratt.

Wade and Thaddeus Stevens were the real power in Washington, and Lincoln was just a useful tool. Wade engineered his buddy from Ohio (Edwin Stanton) as head of the War Department. Stanton became the key person in the assassination plot and cover-up. Lincoln was killed because he was vetoing Wade’s harsh plans for Reconstruction and wanted to go soft and easy on the South after the conflict was over. After becoming President, Andrew Johnson decided Lincoln had the right approach, so Stevens and Wade made moves to get rid of him, while slamming their reconstruction plans through Congress. Johnson’s impeachment failed by one vote. It wasn’t so much Congress thought Johnson innocent, but may have feared a reign-of-terror if Wade ascended to the throne, as he was President Pro Tempore and since there was no Vice President, that meant Wade would have become 18th President if the impeachment had been successful. Never has a man plotted so deviously to take ultimate power in Washington, and he got close enough to taste it. The actual impeachment was sparked by an attempt by Johnson to fire Stanton. To keep the Lincoln assassination conspiracy under wraps, it was essential to maintain control of the War Department’s secret files on the subject.

Wade and Thaddeus Stevens were united on their great contempt for Lincoln, feelings not-so-secretly shared by Stanton, Salmon Chase and Charles Sumner. This is the cabal that ran Washington during the war. Lincoln was their compromise candidate and his elevation to the presidency was a great surprise for most of the country, as many had never heard of him before the election. Lincoln was a last-minute solution based on a powerful anti-slavery speech he’d delivered in the Illinois House of Representatives. But the Radical Republican cabal soon decided Lincoln was a hick, an ape, a gorilla and grew tired of his profanity-laced stories, however entertaining others may have found them.

I think you can tell from the portrait above that Wade was a serious man and not to be trifled with. On May 22, 1856, Representative Preston Smith Brooks became infuriated by a hostile speech given by Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, Wade’s close associate. Sumner had been very proud of his inflammatory anti-slave speech, however, so proud he was preoccupied affixing stamps to copies of the transcript so it could be circulated amongst his home state, when Brooks suddenly crept onto the Senate floor and stood directly behind Sumner.

“Mister Sumner, I have read your speech with care and as much impartiality as possible, and I feel it is my duty to tell you that you have libeled my State and slandered a relative who is aged and absent, and I am come to punish you.”

With that statement, Brooks began viciously bashing Sumner on the head with his cane, immediately drawing blood. The dazed Sumner sought refuge under his desk, but Brooks pressed his advantage, and kept raining blows. Eventually Sumner broke free into the aisle, but Brooks was unrelenting and kept on until his victim was rendered unconscious. Brooks stopped at that point, but only because his cane had shattered into splinters, leaving only a golden nub in his hand. During this episode, the Senate seemed divided equally between those who wished Sumner spared, and those who would brook no interference with his punishment.

After the assault, Senator Robert Tombs made a speech in support of Brooks, at which point Wade vehemently responded by challenging any and all Southern Senators and Representatives to a duel. Tombs and the others wisely did not pick up this challenge, however, and Wade subsequently made a secret pact with Simon Cameron and Zachariah Chandler that any further aggression by Southerners in Congress would be countered with an instantaneous gauntlet toss.

Wade had the most radical views of all the Radical Republicans and supported voting rights for women and blacks. In a letter to Chandler regarding Lincoln, Wade wrote: “[his views] could only come of one born of poor white trash and educated in a slave State.”

When bloody war finally broke out, Wade was happy. He and six friends rented a carriage to watch the Battle of Bull Run near Washington, but when the Union line was overrun, Wade pulled out his pistol and joined in the fray. He was almost captured by Confederate soldiers.
Is it worth noting Wade was the Senator who convinced Lincoln to replace Simon Cameron with Stanton, even though Stanton was a Democrat and never supported Lincoln? I’m sure Wade’s assistance in this matter was not lost on Stanton, and they undoubtedly became very close during the war, and shared many agendas and plots, some no doubt involving the best strategies for neutralizing Lincoln and looting the South six-ways-to-Sunday.



"If you want me, you had better send for me"

There was no central intelligence during the Civil War, just a hodgepodge of competing spook units. Every army had its own spy system, as did every city’s police force. Ciphers were an ancient spook technology, handed down in spook world for generations. Aaron Burr had been an early master of the art, trained by His Majesty’s Secret Service, but the South had no one like him and the Confederates lost the cipher war.

Tapping telegraph lines was a constant endeavor, and that meant tapping both friend and foe, because things were really complicated due to the high volume of double agents. When the war broke out, everyone had three choices: join the rebellion, join the Union, or become a spook, which meant pretending to join one side while actually joining the other. This was not rocket science and spooks were soon strategically placed throughout both power structures. Keep in mind, the Congress and Cabinet were pretty much equally divided, and people who’d worked together as friends for decades, were instantly transformed into mortal enemies.

Ability to break codes got one promoted faster than anything in spook world, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton clearly had the best code-breakers on his side because they were constantly intercepting messages. On December 20, 1863, a ciphered telegraph message from the Confederate Secretary of Treasury to an engraver in New York City was cracked in a few hours and revealed the location of the printing press for Confederate paper money. Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana supervised the confiscation and destruction of money and plates. The fact a New York engraver had been selected was just an indication New York was a hotbed for Democrats and Southern sympathizers, some of whom wanted to secede and join the rebellion. Cotton was North America’s biggest and most valuable export, and the price of cotton quickly rose from 10 cents a pound at the start of the war to a high of $1.89.

The South burned massive amounts of cotton in hopes of creating a cotton famine that would help force European countries into the conflict because their economies depended on cheap cotton. But Europe had been expecting supply issues, and had been stashing cotton, and would not require more cotton for years. A brisk smuggling trade developed between Nassau and Bermuda and the Confederate States. Ships arrived stuffed with cotton and departed stuffed with armaments. These voyages could reap a profit of 500 percent, so every $5 invested in raw cotton in Mississippi became $2,500 in British rifles in Virginia. There is simply no profit stream that can compete with war, which is why many on Wall Street remained so friendly with the South. War profiteering during the Civil War likely dwarfed anything made during Prohibition, which spawned a national crime organization, and although we have a decent scorecard on players in Prohibition, the Civil War profiteers remain largely uncelebrated.

Great Britain made a fortune selling armaments to the Confederates, and their rifles were vastly superior, nothing like the junk J.P. Morgan was selling the Union, although Morgan’s contracts were enforceable, his weapons were flawed and obsolete. By the end of the war Morgan and Jay Gould would rule Wall Street thanks to their successful profiteering. The difference was Morgan was an ally of the British bankers, while Gould yearned to be King Midas and tried to go up against them (and lost).

A ciphered message was discovered in a trunk in John Wilkes Booth’s hotel room after the assassination, and it matched the cipher being used by Jacob Thompson, head of Confederate Secret Service in Canada. But there were no messages from Thompson regarding any attempted assassination of Lincoln. Clearly, Booth was getting both money and assistance during the final weeks of his life, but it wasn’t coming from Richmond, where the kidnapping plot had been hatched. No, someone who knew about the kidnapping plot was suddenly putting up money for a hit, and this operation was manifesting at lightning speed.

The day after the assassination, Secretary of War Stanton sent a terse message to his former chief of detectives in New York City. Lafayette C. Baker had been in charge of Stanton’s Gestapo, the National Detective Police (NDP), but had recently been demoted and moved to New York after Stanton discovered him tapping the War Department telegraph line.  Baker arrived the following day and was given zero information, despite all the clues found in Booth’s hotel room and the abandoned room at the Kirkwood, not to mention the investigations of the Surratt boarding house. Somehow, Stanton had already concluded this house was a center of gravity regarding the assassination, and Mary Surratt was about to be turned into Stanton’s chief patsy. But he shared none of this information with his former chief of detectives, and only revealed the suspect was John Wilkes Booth, so go find him.

That meeting happening on Sunday. Two days later, a letter arrived at the War Department:
New York, April 14, 1865
Mr. Stanton
Dear Sir: If you want me you had better send for me.
J. Wilkes Booth
P.S. What do you say?

This was the first of several letters written in Booth’s hand that arrived at the War Department over the next week, each one postmarked further north, an obvious attempt to convince the NDP Booth had escaped into Canada. I suspect John Surratt’s mission in this plot was to seed these letters into Canada, because that’s where Surratt ended up, and the first one was undoubtedly posted the same day as the assassination, although the stamp is smudged beyond recognition.

But Baker must have suspected this letter was also Booth’s clue to a possible secret connection between himself and Stanton, and Baker would become suspicious of Stanton’s motivations and actions over the next few days. And knowing Stanton, I’m sure those feelings of distrust were shared equally, if not magnified, on his end against his employee. After the JFK assassination a similarly cryptic letter would be discovered addressed to a Mr. Hunt and written in the hand of Lee Harvey Oswald. For years, many assumed it was a reference to CIA officer E. Howard Hunt, although late suspicion fell more toward the benefactor of the John Birch Society, H.L. Hunt.




Benjamin Ficklin is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

John Wilkes Booth (Captain, Confederate Secret Service) had a superior officer in Washington DC at the time of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and that man was 37-year-old Major Benjamin Franklin Ficklin. Why has Ficklin been excluded from almost every history book when he obviously deserves a proper place in history? He looks the part of a prosperous Southern planter, and was a great spook and adventurer much of his life, and described as a “refined pirate

Not only were the War Department records on the assassination sealed for reasons of national security for 100 years, the files were so padded with documentation that sorting out the real story was like looking for needles in a haystack. This is a common technique in counterintelligence ops and known as “snowing.” Snow appears when tracks need to be covered. For decades, the mysterious Major Ficklin was buried, like so many other members of this wildly misunderstood saga.

Ficklin operated at the highest levels of both sides of the conflict, swinging huge deals and dancing through raindrops. Immediate suspicion fell on him after the assassination, and his presence at the Kirkwood House became known to the police within hours because Ficklin was one of the most notorious operators during the war. Unlike Booth, however, he was “untouchable.”

After being caught up in the dragnet, Ficklin admitted to owning a small stake in the Coquette, a 200-horsepower iron steamer, schooner-rigged with three masts. She could stuff over 1,200 bales of cotton in her hold and had been purchased from the Rebel Navy Department. The Coquette ran cotton one way and war munitions the other. In truth, Ficklin owned and operated two other blockade runners, the Virginia and Giraffe, all of which were captained by Confederate naval officers.

More than 300 steamers made over 1,300 attempts running the Union blockade during the Civil War. Early on, these were just normal-looking vessels, but as the war progressed, blockade-runners got sleeker, shallower and faster.

Ficklin was the rebellious son of a wealthy Southern merchant and had been shipped off to military school as a teen, where he buried the headmaster’s boots in snow, painted a horse with zebra stripes, and discharged a howitzer, breaking several windows. He was expelled, of course, but returned later with evidence of having served in both the Mexican-American and Mormon Wars and managed to secure a belated diploma.

In 1860, while working for the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company, he came up with the audacious idea of a Pony Express, a 2,000 mile horse relay system between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. After getting that mission off the ground, he joined the Confederate Army, but soon drifted into intelligence and smuggling. He grew very rich and on November 17, 1864, paid $80,500 for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

When arrested, Ficklin was found to have secret pockets everywhere: his hatband, coat lining, and even his pantaloons were stuffed with messages and documents. Among these was a tiny envelop addressed to Maj. B. F. Ficklin, 7th Street that contained a request for two calicoes, two cossets, a hoop skirt, gloves, shoes, and one black lace veil. A letter of introduction addressed to the Archbishop of New York was written by a J. McGill of Richmond. The strangest scrap of paper, however, contained the names of Mr. Browning, Lncljn Hughes, Mrs. Whitney and Gen. J.W. Singleton, Metropolitan Hotel, and was written on Kirkwood House stationary.

The interrogation of Ficklin by Major O’Beirne was proceeding nicely until it hit this speed bump:

Q. When you came to Washington, did you or did you not take the Oath of Allegiance?
A. I did not, and desire to state to the following reason. Senator Browning from Illinois, whom I know, was to apply to the President for a permit for me to return south without taking the Oath of Allegiance, in order that I might not impair my influence which I wished to exert in pacifying the country and restoring peace.

The interrogation was terminated and Ficklin moved to more comfortable accommodations than those afforded Mary and Anna Surratt, who festered in a filthy cell despite being innocent of anything other than being Southern sympathizers. You see, the mere mention of the word “senator” carried enough clout to cause any police officer to tread carefully, lest he annoy the powers-that-be.

Needless to say, Ficklin would not make an appearance at the conspiracy trial. On May 25, a letter arrived from former Senator Orville H. Browning (who had been a close friend of Lincoln’s) requesting Ficklin be released. Browning “was thoroughly satisfied Mr. Ficklin had no knowledge or participation in the atrocious act” and “prayed” for his discharge. The sole reason for his being in Washington, according to Browning, was to deliver a confidential message regarding a cotton deal from a lady in Lexington, Kentucky.

Before the assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister, widow of a Confederate General, had appealed to Mary for help salvaging a few thousand dollars worth of cotton. Trading in cotton during the war was perfectly legal and a booming business, as the North needed cotton, you just had to obtain proper documentation and pay duties involved no doubt. The President reportedly gave a pass to retired General James W. Singleton for allowing this small shipment of cotton belonging to his sister-in-law to come north to market.

However, Singleton and Browning soon arrived at the White House with a list of contracts totaling $7 million, which they planned to pay for entirely with greenbacks, thus supporting the war effort. Lincoln gave them permission for the deal, but when a wagon train with $7 million worth of cotton and other supplies began assembling, that shipment was so alarmingly huge it attracted unwanted attention from Congress and was halted, ending Browning and Singleton’s bid to become instant millionaires. But like the $3 trillion announced missing from the Pentagon on 9/10 by Donald Rumsfeld, the entire episode soon disappeared in the snow.

I only add this to show the size of graft involved during the Civil War and immense fortunes realized by those who could dance through raindrops and make deals at the highest levels. Since the retired General had been a commander during the Mormon War, he and Ficklin were no doubt well acquainted, and no doubt Ficklin was the important go-between.

Two months before the assassination, John Yates Beall, a Confederate spy and blockade runner had been captured in New York City. Beall’s exploits are far too numerous to detail in this short space, but he’d masterminded a series of successful plots, including the capture and scuttling of Union ships on the Great Lakes and the escape of valuable Confederate officers from prison camps in the North.

His arrest and trial by military tribunal had been kept secret, and only released to the press after his death sentence was announced, provoking an enormous effort to save his life. I am sure Booth read the exploits of his fellow spook with a tinge of envy and dreamed of fomenting a plan on similar levels.

Six Senators (including Browning) and 91 members of Congress signed a petition requesting clemency for Beall, but Lincoln let Beall swing. Many notable private citizens also signed that appeal, including John Wilkes Booth.



Who died at Garrett's farm?

001rAlthough there was the equivalent of a $2.25 million reward for the capture of John Wilkes Booth, not a single Southern sympathizer tried to collect a dime, although dozens helped Booth slip through one of the world’s greatest manhunts in history. Had he not broken his leg, Booth would have gotten away.
From the War Department records, it appears every effort was made to let Booth get away, as most of the searching was being done to the north of Washington, as if Booth had fled to Baltimore, and then on to Canada. This was the route probably taken by John Surratt a week or two earlier. Surratt had been down for a Lincoln kidnapping, but as soon as Booth’s plan shifted to murder, Surratt wisely dropped out of the venture.
To give an idea of Booth’s level of spook craft, he had a man with a crutch create a false trail for the Union cavalry to follow into the swamps, a trail that abruptly ended in the middle of nowhere, leaving those trackers wondering how a cripple on crutches could suddenly vaporize. Booth had many safe houses and accomplices willing to assist him along the route he took out of Washington. Strange none of these people were called before the military tribunal. The trial was kept narrowed down to eight minor characters, and half of those had zero to do with the plot, but were just patsies. The fewer suspects called before the court, the less chance anyone would talk, especially since patsies had nothing to reveal.
But because of the weirdness around the corpse, which disappeared several times for long periods, the door opened for fakers to claim it wasn’t Booth who was shot and killed at Garrett’s farm. Since Booth was using the name “Boyd” at the time, someone dug up a photo of a man who looked like Booth and was named Boyd and suggested he was the stand-in shot as Booth. This is absurd. If a man named Boyd had been locked in that tobacco barn, all he need do is surrender and allow himself to be taken back to Washington alive to be identified.

No one knows who put this marker on the spot where Booth died.
No one knows who put this marker on the spot where Booth died.

Afterwards, they needed someone to conclusively identify the corpse and much has been made of the fact only soldiers and a hotel clerk who barely knew Booth were officially allowed to view the body. The military doctor initially claimed he couldn’t believe it was Booth, probably because without his famous mustache and after several days travel wrapped in a horse blanket, his corpse was already starting to decay.
But this ignores the reality that Booth’s fiance was secretly brought on board the ironclad, and she’s the one who made the definitive identification by throwing herself on the corpse and sobbing. Lucy “Bessie” Hale certainly recognized the body of her one true love. She even snipped a lock of his hair, which was immediately taken from her and destroyed.
Even though Hale’s picture was found inside Booth’s diary, it would not be released to the public until the 1920s, and even then, her name was not identified. Her father was a radical Republican Senator, and held tremendous power and influence, and even though most everyone in Washington high society knew of the relations between Booth and his daughter, it would all be easily covered up. The Hale family simply relocated to Spain for four years, while the Senator took out an ad in the newspaper claiming there was no relationship between his daughter and Booth. End of story. See how easy it is to cover up truth if you can stack the deck of history? Eventually, however, the wheels fell off this hoodwink.
The best part of this story is how it reveals efforts to claim Booth escaped and lived a long and prosperous life are frauds, and there were numerous tall tales invented along these lines. So understand that any book that purports to express this view is disinfo and probably not worth reading. This is how you navigate a deep political event: once you establish where the major rabbit holes have been dug, avoiding falling into them is easy.


String of suicides and suspicious deaths

640px-Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863Abraham Lincoln became inflated almost beyond recognition through positive mythologizing very quickly, just as his foil John Wilkes Booth received quite the opposite treatment and morphed into a cartoon character from a cheap melodrama. Forgotten is the reality Booth was the original matinee idol, receiving up to 100 love letters a day, frequently followed home to his hotel by adoring groupies, and the first person in recorded history to have his clothes shredded by fans desiring a piece of him. Not exactly the raving lunatic that’s come down in history, eh? We’ll likely never know the full list of missions Captain Booth undertook for the South, or anything close, but we do know that smuggling precious quinine was a big part of that puzzle.
During the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of soldiers contracted malaria, and at the time, no one knew it was spread by mosquitoes. Produced from the bark of the South American cinchona tree, quinine was the only known cure for malaria, and it was very hard to procure in the South, where malaria was a much worse problem than in the North. By smuggling quinine through the lines, Booth saved thousands of lives and performed a noble service that could have gotten him hanged for treason had he been discovered.
TurnerElla Star Turner made a huge spectacle on a Washington street car the day after the assassination. She was carrying a framed portrait of Booth and reportedly dove into the aisle, threatening suicide. Some say she ran the fanciest sporting house in Washington, but we’ll never know because she quickly vanished off the face of the earth, leaving one to wonder what she may have known. Another rumor stated Vice President Andrew Johnson had visited Turner’s bordello the night of the assassination. Two thousand suspected Booth accomplices were rounded up quickly and George B. Love was just one of them. He slit his throat with a penknife in the guardhouse at Fort Stephens and they later found a baggage claim made out to Turner in his pockets.
On July 11, 1866, Senator James H. Lane of Kansas shot himself. He was the leader of the Jayhawkers, and Quantrill’s bloody raid on Lawrence was really an attempt to assassinate him and avenge some of his raids on the South. Lane was a leader of the Radical Republicans, but after the assassination he switched his support to Andrew Johnson, which must have infuriated Stanton and Stevens.
On July 3, 1868, retired General Lafayette C. Baker died in Philadelphia. He was 44. An examination of his hair decades later revealed he may have suffered arsenic poisoning, and not died of meningitis as claimed. Baker had been thrown under the bus and fired by Stanton shortly after the conspiracy trial was concluded. He had a ghostwriter whip out a pulp-novel style autobiography strung together with newspaper accounts and Baker’s own mythologizing, a book that explosively revealed the existence of Booth’s diary for the first time. Baker long suspected Stanton had been involved, and he seeded some clues in his book, but made no direct accusations. Baker had initially requested three quarters of the reward, the equivalent of almost $2 million today. But he only got a measly $3,500 (or approximately $90,000) and felt massively cheated by Stanton.
stanton_LOC4a40408r_medIn December 1869, Edwin Stanton died shortly after complaining of being haunted by Mary Surratt’s ghost. Caleb Cushing immediately claimed Stanton had slit his throat, same as his brother had done many years earlier, and there was a coverup in progress. Although the Senate had approved Stanton’s appointment to the Supreme Court, President Grant sat on the paperwork for weeks, letting him twist uncomfortably in the wind. Stanton had been rudely rebuffed from a seat on Grant’s cabinet, as he was now one of the most unpopular politicians in the nation. R. F. Harvey had been in charge of preparing his corpse for the casket. In 1903 a Baltimore newspaper story reportedly written by Harvey’s son stated “no human being ever succeeded in getting him to deny or confirm anything on the subject [of Stanton].” The death certificate (severe asthma attack) had been issued by Stanton’s close friend, Surgeon General Barnes.
On November 12, 1875, ex-Senator Preston King tied a bag of bullets around his neck and jumped from the Christopher Street Ferry in New York. King had personally blocked Anna Surratt from an audience with President Johnson, which ended all hope of saving her mother, indicating this might be another death linked to Surratt’s ghost.
One of the more mysterious deaths was Louis Wiechmann, key witness against Mary Surratt, who was later rumored to have been gay and infatuated with the old school chum he’d betrayed, John Surratt. Wiechmann was put into “protective custody” and spent weeks traveling all over the northeast in the failed effort to bring Surratt to justice. He died on June 2, 1902, and according to Lloyd Lewis in Myths After Lincoln, the cause of death listed as “extreme nervousness.” Strangely, Wiechmann had recently signed a declaration stating: “This is to certify every word I gave in evidence at the assassination trial was absolutely true.”
No one knows what happened to John F. Parker, the guard who failed to protect the president. He returned to his post in the  White House and was chastised once by Mrs. Lincoln. In 1868 he was dismissed for sleeping on a streetcar while on duty. Similarly, the fall-guy for Booth’s assassination, Boston Corbett, was admitted to a mental institution, escaped and slipped off the pages of history forever.
Edwin Booth did all he could to make amends for his brother’s misguided act, even to the point of paying to rebuild the barn on Garrett’s farm. But Edwin also kept a framed portrait of his younger brother on his nightstand in his bedroom at the Player’s Club on Gramercy Park in New York City. The day of Edwin’s funeral (June 9, 1893), Ford’s Theater, which had been converted to a War Department warehouse by Stanton, collapsed. Apparently too many files had been crammed into the rickety third floor and 22 clerks were killed, and 68 injured.
The War Department files on Lincoln’s assassination remained sealed until 1937 in the interest of national security.


Lord Lyons and the Lincoln assassination

640px-Richard_Bickerton_Pemell_Lyons_-_Brady-HandyLet me be the first to admit there’s no evidence of anything unworthy or unseemly concerning Lord Richard Bikerton Pemell Lyons, 1st Viscount etc., and I don’t expect to find any, but if rumors of His Majesties Secret Service helping foment the Civil War are true, he’d be a key player in the game, having arrived two years before the outbreak of hostilities, just enough time to stoke the fires.
After all my years of spook study, I give credit to the English. They are the masters of the craft. Not only did they write the book on James Bond, they wrote the book on Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Knights of the Round Table. When you put these elements together, spooks plus magic, you get amazing results. Plus their idea of oligarchy is so much more transparent, with a clear chain-of-command, not anything like the murky and conspiratorial oligarchy of North America.
If Lyons is talking to Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton, the key person in the Lincoln assassination plot around whom all others orbit, it’s likely being done in whispers in the Grand Lodge of the Scottish Rite on Tuesday night or at some private 5-star restaurant afterwards. People have the illusion these major conspiracies involve people meeting in large groups, but in reality, the opposite is true. It’s one-on-one and done very quietly.
Someone put up a lot of money for the Lincoln hit, and Stanton easily could have handled that himself. Or maybe it was Clement Vallandigham, Jay Gould, Salmon Chase, or even Thaddeus Stevens, Fernando Wood, Jacob Astor, or just a combination of the above plus others unnamed. Any one of those people could have easily raised enough on a day’s graft at the office. (Things haven’t changed much, the budget on 9/11 was supposed to be $150,000 wired to Atta from a Pakistan ISI agent.)
The most significant moment early on in the Civil War concerned the Trent Affair, when two Confederate envoys were seized off a British ship to prevent them from seeking aid in Europe. This threatened to blow up into an international incident and force England to enter the war on the side of the South to preserve its honor, which would have led to an easy Southern victory. Wall Street would have relocated to Richmond or New Orleans. The North would have been returned to England officially and not just in the banking realms. The Union Jack could have flown from the White House. Lyons got the envoys released, which saved the day for Wall Street and the North, so we know what side he was working for. England had spawned and funded the abolitionist movement, and even though its economy depended on cheap cotton from the South, it’s trade with the North must have been far more important.
There’s only one person I know who consorted socially with Lyons, Booth and Stanton, and that’s Simon Wolf, young head of B’nai B’rith, someone active in the support of Jewish merchants caught in the middle of the war (and doing some narco-dollars-type profiteering, I might add). Notice British banking and intelligence employs many assets in these realms? That’s not by accident I assure you, and I know why.
When dealing with matters of intense sensitivity, it’s advisable to step outside your cultural realm and enlist agents from another social universe. The reason I suspect Wolf could have been the courier between Stanton and Booth is because he was very ambitious and very close with Stanton. I don’t know if Wolf managed to get close to Lyons, but he aggressively courted his approval. Wolf became a masterful social climber and rose to the top of Washington social circles and stayed there until he died. And he told a lie about meeting with John Wilkes Booth the day of the assassination, and when people tell lies, they are often covering something up.
I’d assume Booth was not told he was dealing with Stanton when he accepted the bag of money, whoever handed it to him. Booth would have been working for expenses only, anyway. He was a patriot, not a mercenary, and that’s what he’s was trying to make clear in his final messages, however corrupted and distorted they became through selective editing and negative mythologizing. If Wolf handed him a bag, the source could have been some anonymous benefactor inside the Union who admired his efforts. The first rule of spook craft is “need to know,” and a professional spook respects that rule religiously because it can save your life. You don’t want to be the man who knew too much because that’s how you get whacked during the final clean-up. And you don’t want to be haunted by the likes of a ghost as powerful as Mary Surratt.
One of the more fascinating pieces of evidence in this case is a letter from Booth sent to Stanton postmarked from Canada shortly after the assassination. This letter was designed to convince the War Department that Booth had escaped into Canada, which would have taken heat off his escape through the south. This was certainly a deft ploy and showed tremendous foresight and is evidence of Booth’s super-heightened spook craft. No doubt John Surratt hand carried and posted the letter before departing for Ireland. Many think Booth’s plan was to flee to Mexico because he left a map of that route at Garrett’s farm, although the map was probably just another ploy to throw off pursuers. England would have been a more likely designation since that’s where his boss in the Confederate Secret Service landed. The more I study Booth, the more impressed I am with his craft.
Louis_J_WeichmannLouis Weichmann was kept several degrees from Stanton, although he was the War Department’s double agent placed in Booth’s cabal. But before the trial, Weichmann had a long, private meeting with Stanton, the details of which were never recorded, and the only time Stanton directly participated in the trial was to cross examine Weichmann, a man whose testimony was obviously sculpted to frame and hang two innocent people. Any examination of Weichmann could have veered into dangerous waters, which is why Stanton took the unprecedented step of doing it all by himself. It’s amazing how Weichman provided all sorts of minute and trivial information about Booth and Surratt, but was never once questioned about having been reporting their activities to the War Department for weeks. Many of his statements were fabrications and he’d later admit that Mary Surratt was innocent, and that nobody expected she’d be hanged. No one except Stanton, who was determined to make it happen, as she was his stand-in, sheep-dipped as the mastermind of the assassination.
But the murder of designated-scapegoat Mary Surratt became the flaw in the plan (to quote Harry Potter) that led to Stanton’s demise.

Dirty Andy is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

23.72George Andreas Atzerodt could have been the original inspiration for Charles M. Schultiz’s Pig-Pen, and Dirty Andy (known to his friends as “Andrew”) stands out as the most disreputable-looking character in this complex and completely misunderstood saga. For the record, super clean General George B. McClellan is Atzerodt’s foil, as he stands out as the most elegantly refined character in the cast. Although the two never met, they would have made quite the contrast.

Suffice to say, Atzerodt was slightly hunchbacked in one shoulder, spoke with a German accent and garnered great suspicion wherever he appeared. He wore black-enameled cavalry boots stitched with white leather and a black slouch hat. Had he lived today, he would have been found seated on a Harley. Atzerodt was a big-time drinker and small-time smuggler during the Civil War, and owned a rowboat on the Potomac for this purpose. Little known fact: cotton trading was allowed between North and South during the war, provided you paid the proper duties and taxes and had the right permits. But there was also a brisk black market as well, and that’s how the sickly-faced Andy made his living.

But in late March, he’d suddenly started boasting to his sisters that something big was in the works, and he was going to make a great fortune or be hanged, a message they shared with their elder brother, a police detective.

Colonel John S. Mosby, Captain John Wilkes Booth (of the Confederate Secret Service) and his chief courier, John Surratt, organized an elaborate plot to kidnap President Lincoln and deliver him to Jefferson Davis inside the Confederate Capitol, where he could be locked away in Libby Prison while being bartered for ransom, a plan that involved dozens and perhaps hundreds of Confederate sympathizers, and like everything Booth did, this mission was meticulously plotted. Relay horses were situated at regular intervals, and a sabotage crew enlisted to fell trees and blow bridges to hamper the pursuit. And an entire regiment of Confederate cavalry was mustered by Mosby near the border to act as final escort, an operation that was stirring alarms along the front.

Treated contemptuously today as either fool or madman, Booth was one of the greatest spooks of his time, an original James Bond, although I have a feeling Lincoln was his only hit job. After four years of pulling off one incredible mission impossible after another (most involved smuggling life-saving quinine), all in support of the Southern cause, Booth had been given his ultimate challenge: kidnap Lincoln. This was big, maybe the biggest undercover operation ever planned by the Confederate Secret Services, and that’s why it quickly became known to the Union War Department, who inserted their own double agent into the plot to keep an eye on things. Keeping this unit operational was deemed more valuable than busting it apart. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was a master spook himself, you see, and knew this cabal’s value in misdirection and sheep-dipping operations.
So when D Day arrived, and Lincoln’s plans suddenly shifted, the elaborate kidnapping was necessarily aborted, no doubt an immense disappointment for Booth, as he probably played the triumphant entry into Richmond with the captive tyrant at his feet in chains over and over in his mind for weeks. Finally, his spook skills were going to be recognized, not that Booth needed publicity. He was already the most dashing, up-and-coming actor of his time, and women swooned at his sight. Imagine Johnny Depp being exposed as an undercover CIA agent and you might get an inkling of the true scale of this drama.

Flash forward one month and things have gone from bad to worse. In fact, the war is close to a done-deal, and Booth’s side has lost. Imagine another member of the Confederate Secret Service comes to you with a new mission impossible: kill Lincoln and Seward and leave a trail of crumbs to Vice President Johnson. You’ll have unlimited funds, and escape is guaranteed by a high-placed double agent in the War Department who will delay response. Keep in mind, when Booth was captured he reportedly had a very large amount of cash on him, all of which immediately disappeared naturally.
Also keep in mind, Union plots to assassinate Jefferson Davis and his entire cabinet and burn the city of Richmond have recently been discovered, and it’s Lincoln’s new policy of “total war” that’s murdering innocents and wreaking devastation on civilian populations. What do you do? In Booth’s social set, Lincoln was Hitler. If Booth had just been a little bit smarter, he might have sensed this generous offer was not emanating from superiors in Richmond, but coming from the devious Secretary of War Stanton himself.
640px-Lewis-PayneThe most savage killer from Mosby’s Rangers was moved up to Washington. He’d supposedly just deserted, and could easily have been taken straight to prison and held for the remainder of the war. But no, the officers at the border buy his phony story and allow Lewis Powell to sign the loyalty oath and go on his merry way. He will soon appear at Mary Surratt’s boarding house, a house that’s been under surveillance for weeks because John Surratt, Mary’s son, is Captain Booth’s primary courier. Surratt thinks he’s fooling soldiers—as they never have a clue as to where to look for his secret documents. In truth, Surratt is well-known to the War Department, just as Captain Booth is, and the War Department is letting them both slide for the moment as they have placed informant Louis Weichmann as a boarder in Mary Surratt’s home.
If more than two people had been meant to be assassinated that fateful night, why weren’t more assassins provided from Mosby’s nearby unit? Finding a savage killer was no problem during the Civil War, although the recruiting took place on the front lines, where natural born killers clearly stood out. Powell had slayed dozens no doubt and enjoyed every second, and used the top of one victim’s skull as an ashtray.

Atzerodt may have been lured into this scheme to sheep-dip the Vice President. Booth gave Dirty Andy money to rent a room above the Vice President’s at the Kirkwood. But this room was for Booth, and never occupied. Atzerodt was the first to talk after being captured, although his initial statement was buried in snow.

Affidavit of Frank Monroe, captain U.S. Marines, monitor Saugus:

Atzerodt told me he that he was innocent of any crime, and also that he was instrumental in saving the life of the Vice President. Further that he was visited, about three weeks since by a man named John Surrat at Port Tobacco,, Md., Surrat informed him that Booth was to open a theatre in Richmond, and also that they had a vessel to run the blockade and in both enterprises he was wanted. Atzerodt came to Washington with Surrat and was told by Booth that he must assassinate Mr. Johnson. This he refused to do and Booth threatened to blow his brains out unless he complied. He still refused and returned to Port Tobacco. A second time Surrat came for him, and he came again to Washington and took a room at Kirkwood’s. He was again asked to murder Mr. Johnson, and again refused. The day on which the President was killed a man named David Herrold or Harrol brought to Atzerodt’s room, a knife and revolver, and then left the Hotel. Atzerodt, becoming frightened, locked his door and walked down the street. He knew that the President’s assassination was spoken of, but did not believe it would be carried into effect. When he heard the deed had been accomplished, he took a room at the Kimmel House of his cousin Rickter at which place he was arrested.

Booth dropped by the hotel later that day and left his card at the desk as he exited. Since his plots were always so meticulous, Atzerodt’s real mission remains a mystery, and the possibility exists that he invented this Johnson assassination story as a means of turning his predicament around and painting himself a patriot, not a traitor. I simply can’t swallow the story that Dirty Andy turned down this hit job under threat of assassination and then was approached again and continued to assist these conspirators after the leader had threatened his life. All he had to do was turn Booth in to the authorities to save himself. His story does not ring true, but seems self-serving in all respects. In his original confession, Atzerodt claimed their interest in Johnson was for the purpose of obtaining a pass to travel to Richmond. It’s only after several days wearing a suffocating hood inside a metal box in summer that Atzerodt starts talking about a Johnson assassination, and by that time his lawyer was convinced he was losing his mind.

As the trial progressed, two of the men who’d been assigned with Surratt to intercept Lincoln’s carriage in the kidnap scheme were falsely charged with attempted assassinations and both were quickly found guilty despite zero evidence against them, except for faked testimony from paid perjurers (although that detail wouldn’t come to light for a while). So the government’s case had an imaginary assassination of Stanton, an imaginary assassination of Grant, onto which Atzerodt inserted a third imaginary assassination of Johnson.

All three of these supposed assassinations are now part of the official record and dutifully transcribed in every book on the subject. And at least two of them are transparent humbug. The only assassination attempts that night were on Lincoln and Seward, and I say this because assassins do not typically check into hotels of targets using their own names and leave incriminating evidence in their rooms. Nor do they do not hang around bars asking strangers about targets, especially if they’re clearly wildly out-of-their social sphere. Dirty Andy was not anyone’s idea of a professional assassin and it seems unlikely Booth would have depended on him for any such assignment. Andy was really only in this game for the money.

When Stanton sent a raiding party to Richmond with orders to kill Jefferson Davis, the leader was shot by Confederate home guards and is considered a great hero. But when Booth successfully pulled off that exact same mission for his side just a few weeks later, he was universally hailed as the greatest villain of his time. No wonder he seemed confused. Which just goes to show the winners write history, losers get screwed. Almost nothing you’ve been told about this assassination is true, and there’s a reason for that obviously, which is why I feel compelled to write a book for the 150th anniversary and blow this hoodwink sky-high once and for all. Lincoln was killed by a plot inside his own administration, and the evidence is in the cover-up.



Thaddeus Stevens, a Robespierre for the Civil War

“Free every slave, slay every traitor, burn every rebel mansion if these things be necessary to preserve this temple of freedom.”

The seemingly perpetually unhappy Thaddeus Stevens had a scowl etched into his face in every photographic portrait ever taken. His older brother had been born with two club feet, and Stevens born with one, a disability that left him limping his entire life. He was abandoned by his father at a young age and raised by a Baptist mother, but soon had no use for religion. Stevens was a brilliant student at Dartmouth, but locked out of the elite Phi Beta Kappa society, which at that time was a completely secret society for the intellectual elite and organized by Freemasons. Phi Beta Kappa emerged into the open in 1845, a development that so angered its Yale chapter they formed a new secret society known today as Skull & Bones.

Stevens may have been blocked because of a club foot since Freemasonry did not admit cripples. His stinging wit and biting sarcasm were legendary. Early in his career as a lawyer, a judge accused Stevens of having a contemptuous attitude. He replied, “Sir, I am doing my best to conceal it.” In the 1820s he contracted a disease that caused his hair to fall out and would wear “ill-fitting” wigs for the remainder of his life.

After the Captain Morgan scandal blew the lid off Freemasonry and exposed it as a British-led plot to retake America, Stevens became a devoted leader of the newly-formed anti-Masonic party, the first third party, and one created largely to prevent Andrew Jackson from becoming president. Stevens remained a devoted anti-mason, although the party was crushed when its candidate (William Wirt) failed to capture any state but Vermont. Freemason Jackson was easily elected.

Strange none of Stevens anti-masonic speeches circulate today, although his anti-slavery ones are widely celebrated. After winning his first political campaign in 1833 and ascending to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Stevens led an investigation into Freemasonry in Pennsylvania by subpoenaing the governor, George Wolf, who sought refuge in the 5th amendment. In response Stevens heckled Wolf so severely the investigation backfired and cost him his seat in the House. In response Stevens took up the cause of free education and worked with Wolf to improve the state’s school system.

Stevens morphed into one of the most vocal anti-slavery advocates in the nation, working secretly for the underground railroad helping runaway slaves escape to Canada. In 1854 he joined the “Know Nothing” party, an anti-Irish, anti-German and anti-Catholic secret society born out of the corruption in New York City. For one seemingly devoted to the cause of the little man, Stevens’ acceptance into this society seems out-of-character and opens up the possibility of political opportunism. But then it should be remembered the “peace” movement that opposed Abraham Lincoln in the north, a movement viciously named “Copperheads” by its opponents, was comprised mostly of Irish and German immigrants, who were working with those Southerners who’d moved north of the Mason-Dixon line. Stevens briefly joined the Whig party, but defected in 1855 to the newly formed Republican Party, joining founding members William Seward and Abraham Lincoln.

Tommy Lee Jones did a remarkable job bringing Stevens to life in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, ill-fitting wigs, biting wit and all. Unfortunately, that film is marred with some inaccuracies. Particularly annoying is the opening sequence in which a black soldier faithfully recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a speech that would not be discovered and made famous until after Lincoln’s death. In fact, few today comprehend the reality Lincoln was extremely controversial while he lived, and looked upon as a tyrant by many. Lincoln never captured a majority of the popular vote and was barely elected. But after the assassination he was quickly transformed into the iconic national saint we know today.

Obviously Stevens lusted for a seat in Lincoln’s cabinet, but was rebuffed, which surely angered him. But within one day of his appointment as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Stevens had a bond bill for waging war on the South. He’d end up working closely with Secretary of War Stanton and Secretary of Treasury Salmon Chase on funding and fomenting that war, a mission that included printing the first “greenback” dollars not backed by any bank, as well as the creation of the National Banking Act, which remained in effect until the arrival of the highly secretive private cartel known as the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Stevens pushed for the Emancipation Proclamation from the war’s start, and was furious Lincoln stalled his efforts. Spielberg’s film makes it seem he was being influenced in this mission by his housekeeper, Lydia Hamilton Smith, who was one-quarter black and had married a black man, but was widowed with two children when she went to work for Stevens. Their relationship was the worst-kept secret in Washington, but not widely known by the public until Spielberg’s film revealed it.

The war got really personal when Confederate General Jubal Early sent some raiding parties to destroy Stevens’ Caledonia Forge, a iron furnace that was obviously an important part of the Union’s military-industrial complex. Stevens was on site when one of the raids took place, but was quickly spirited away against his protests. The raids destroyed the furnace, resulting in a $80,000 loss to Stevens. When asked by newspapers if Stevens would have been taken to Libby Prison in Richmond had he been captured, General Early replied: “No, I would have hanged him and divided his bones amongst the Confederate states.”

This might explain why Stevens was so intent on punishing the South as severely as possible, a plan rejected by both President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward, which may have been the flame that drew the Stevens moth into Stanton’s plot as the two seem as unlike as night and day, as one was ruled by scruples while the other obviously had none.

Stevens would go on to lead the failed attempt to impeach President Johnson and save Stanton. But both he and Stanton lost their health rather quickly after the assassination, as both would be dead within a few years. Karma? Stevens remains an enigma because how could he support the rights of blacks so ardently, yet refuse rights of Southerners with equal ferocity? Stevens planned to confiscate all real estate owned by the 70,000 wealthiest Southerners and parcel it out to the freed blacks and loyal Northerners like himself, a plan strongly opposed by President Johnson, who wanted amnesty for all.

Stevens was out-of-town during Lincoln’s assassination and did not return, neither for Lincoln’s wake nor his funeral. Nor could Stevens be bothered attending the Lincoln ceremonies when the funeral train carrying the casket passed through his town on its way to its final stop in Springfield, Illinois. Did Stevens strike a devil’s deal with Stanton to have Lincoln removed so his plan to punish the South and loot it six-ways-to-Sunday could be realized? It certainly seems possible, which is why I have a hard time jumping on his bandwagon.

Coda: “I do not believe sir, in human perfection, nor in the moral purity of human nature….there are some reptiles so flat that the common foot of man cannot crush them.”



Thomas Eckert is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

Thomas_T_Eckert_06182Born and raised in Ohio (like so many others in this saga), Thomas Thompson Eckert was a huge and powerful man who once broke a handful of iron pokers across one arm with judo-like dexterity, greatly impressing President Lincoln, a man also known for superhuman strength.
Eckert began his military career as captain, aide-de-camp and telegraph expert on General George B. McClellan’s staff. It’s difficult today to realize how crucial the telegraph became once wires began crisscrossing the nation. Suddenly information moved with lightning speed and the spook world re-centered itself around the ciphering of telegraphed messages.
Edwin M. Stanton secured a post as Secretary of War by feigning support for President Lincoln, while torpedoing the sitting Secretary. Stanton not-so-secretly detested Lincoln as the record shows he typically referred to Lincoln as either ape or gorilla. Stanton was a diminutive man himself, and may have suffered from Napoleonic complex. Because he was so brilliant at crafting myths about himself, the official record may not be the most accurate source of information about him, and since he had power to throw anyone in jail without charges while he reigned, few spoke against him while he was alive.
According to the official story, however, Stanton caught Eckert telegraphing a message from General McClellan direct to Lincoln, a violation of protocol that immensely angered Stanton. Eckert was called to Washington to face rebuke, a dressing-down conducted in front of Lincoln, who naturally jumped to Eckert’s defense. Suddenly, Stanton changed his attitude completely, promoting Eckert to major and reassigning him (and the telegraph lines) to his office, capturing complete control of all information from the front. Was this dressing-down part of an act to gain control? If so, it would have been vintage Stanton, as he was famous for conspiratorial plots.
Evidence of Eckert being a highly trusted member of Stanton’s conspiracy against Lincoln is three-fold.
1) Lincoln specifically requested Eckert accompany him to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated, a request Eckert bizarrely rejected twice. For a major to rebuff his commander-in-chief twice is certainly a great insult and some hidden motivation must be considered.

640px-Lewis_Payne
Lewis Powell on the deck of the Saugus

2) When Lewis Powell was taken on board the ironclad U.S.S. Saugus, he was shackled, chained to a ball, and photographed. Soon he would be permanently hooded with a claustrophobic and suffocatingly hot canvas bag in an iron cage in the middle of summer, and no one was allowed to speak with him, not even the guards. Powell would not get an attorney assigned to his case until the tribunal was well under way, and until then, only one person was allowed to visit Powell, and that person was Eckert.
Eckert interviewed Powell at least twice, at least once before the hood was applied and once after. The excuse given for the hood was Powell banged his head against the iron wall in a supposed suicide attempt. But when they placed that awful hood over his head, in rare display of weakness, Powell shed a few tears.
The next time Major Eckert came around, he slipped a piece of chewing tobacco into the tiny mouth hole cut in the bag.
“Thank you,” Powell reportedly said. “That’s the first kind thing anyone’s done.”
Whether Powell knew the plot reached into Lincoln’s own administration—or whether he thought he was acting on orders from Richmond—we’ll never know as there are no notes from the interrogations, and within a few weeks of wearing that padded canvas hood, Powell was showing severe mental decline, making future interrogations unnecessary. By the time a lawyer was assigned to him, Powell could not answer softball questions involving his age or his mother’s maiden name.
3) Thomas Eckert rose to become head of Western Union, a post given him by the ruthless robber baron, Jay Gould, a scoundrel who made his fortune speculating on Civil War battles. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess this supreme post might have been a reward for services rendered.
Coda: Powell’s good looks and cool indifference marveled observers who attended his trial. His photo taken by Alexander Gardner (above) is considered the first modern portrait because it appears so contemporary. Powell refused to strike a pose like most others in the early days of photography, instead just oozed rock-star-level charisma. As the noose was slipped around his neck, seconds before his life was extinguished, Powell calmly spoke his final words: “They ain’t caught the half of us yet.”