Both Lafayette Baker and his cousin Luther were not happy with the division of spoils following the execution of John Wilkes Booth. They had been expecting the lion’s share of money because the operation had been fomented by Lafayette and he initially put his cousin in charge of the detail. Lafayette initially put in a request for the entire $75,000, so imagine his surprise when he only got $3,750.
Luther’s story was that Detective Everton Conger showed up and volunteered to accompany his expedition. Since Conger was the most experienced soldier, he soon assumed the command on his own initiative, which is why he was the first man to enter the tobacco-drying shed Booth was locked inside. Afterwards, everyone acted like Conger had been in charge all along.
Conger is the one who started a small fire on the side of the structure as a diversion before entering, but eyewitnesses claim his fire had not really caught hold when a shot rang out. Luther rushed in and immediately assumed Conger had shot Booth, but Conger initially claimed Booth had shot himself. But also upset was Lieutenant Edward Doherty, ranking officer in charge of the squad, although he seemed more peeved about not being called to testify at the trial, and wrote a complaint to his Colonel concerning that staggering omission, but since he believed Conger probably shot Booth, that perspective was not part of the script nor welcome in the court room.
The first official and signed and dated report handed in to the War Department claimed Boston Corbett shot Booth while he was attempting an escape.
The division of spoils was decided by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, a man now considered by many researchers as a primary suspect in Lincoln’s death. I’d suggest that after Stanton learned Baker was sending a patrol on Booth’s trail, he asked well-seasoned Detective Conger to go along, and, in great confidence, promised Conger the lion’s share of the reward money provided Booth came back dead rather than alive.
The split was contentious. A special War Department commission determined Doherty was the leader of the patrol and deserved $75,000. A committee of claims established by the U.S. House of Representatives overturned the decision and gave the largest shares—$17,500 a piece—to Lafayette Baker and Conger and reduced Doherty’s reward to $2,500.
Finally, Congress adjusted the shares. Conger received $15,000 and Doherty $5,250. Lafayette Baker’s payout was slashed to $3,750, while his cousin Luther was given $3,000. Corbett, the iQ-challenged patsy who took credit for killing Booth, got $1,653.85, the same as his 25 fellow cavalrymen. The remaining $5,000 was divided among four other investigators and soldiers involved in the manhunt.
The split probably turned both Bakers against Stanton, as Lafayette would soon be unemployed, looking for a publisher for his autobiography.
You won’t find a single picture of G. J. A. O’Toole on the internet, even though he was one of the most perceptive writers on matters of deep politics in America. In 1966, O’Toole was hired as a computer expert for the CIA. Three years later, he quit the agency and morphed into a full-time writer. O’Toole died in 2001 after publishing a half dozen ground-breaking books, many of which were presented as “fictional” historical novels, like his Lincoln assassination book.
O’Toole had a great sense of humor and his research was impeccable. The Cosgrove Report purported to be a secret document prepared by a Pinkerton detective a few years after Lincoln’s assassination. Among other wild allegations, O’Toole claimed there was an ancient, forgotten subway tunnel in Brooklyn where the missing pages from John Wilkes Booth diary were buried. The book was published in 1979.
An engineering student at Pratt Institute named Bob Diamond heard O’Toole discussing this tunnel on a radio show and decided to go look for it. Every city official he contacted told him the tunnel didn’t exist, but after a year of snooping around Diamond discovered the tunnel plans buried in the files of the Brooklyn borough president’s office. In 1981, he convinced Brooklyn Union Gas to let him explore under a manhole cover at the corner of Atlantic and Court Streets, and Diamond immediately found the tunnel. Within a year, he created a nonprofit called the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, and had the tunnel added to the National Register of Historic Places. He began leading twice-a-month tours into the tunnel that were attended by thousands of people over the next few years.
Even the leading historian of the Lincoln assassination was intrigued. “John Wilkes Booth often took trips to New York while he was engaged in the conspiracy against President Lincoln,” said Michael Kauffman. “Those trips were never investigated, and Booth’s New York contacts were apparently never questioned. I’m very skeptical about finding those diary pages, but I have to admit the search looks like an interesting project.”
Diamond’s tour always ended at a blank wall. The last two hundred feet of the tunnel had been filled in and this was where the box containing Booth’s diary was supposed to be buried under an old locomotive. All that was needed was a little excavation. Meanwhile, Diamond got permission to rebuild the trolley tracks and was planning to reopen the tunnel as a novelty subway for history buffs. That’s when things got weird. When he started excavating, DOT inspectors arrived and shut down his entire operation. The next day the manhole was welded shut and Diamond never was allowed back inside.
O’Toole’s book contains many fictional elements, but it also contains a wealth of real research into the assassination. The bombshell O’Toole dropped was that Jay Gould was profiteering off the war through his contacts with the War Department telegraph office. No one disputes Gould made his fortune during the Civil War, as did J. P. Morgan, and everyone knew Gould had some sort of inside information because he sometimes bet on Union victories and other times bet on Union defeats. But he apparently never bet wrong.
I don’t know why it took so long for someone to put these pieces together, but the fact the man in charge of the War Department telegraph office, Major Thomas T. Eckert, left the military after the war and instantly went to work for Gould, swiftly becoming his most powerful and most trusted executive, looks suspicious in hindsight. Eckert was eventually put in charge of Western Union.
You probably never heard of O’Toole, but I strongly urge you to check out his books. You won’t be disappointed.
Funny how the wikipedia entry of Jay Gould skips over the Civil War, which is when he made his sudden fortune. Gould made genius moves on the stock market and went from a small-time, self-made speculator, to the ninth richest man in U.S. history. He jousted for control of the railroads and telegraph lines of America.
You may wonder how Gould made this meteoric rise to the top of the financial world, but his method was never hidden.
According to The Life of Jay Gould, How He Made His Millions by Murat Halstead and J. Frank Beale Jr.,(Edgewood Publishing Co., 1892):
“Mr. Gould profited largely by his speculation in railway stocks and gold during the war of the rebellion. The keen-sighted intelligent men in “the Street” at that time nearly all made money, and Mr. Gould was at least a millionaire when the Confederacy fell. During the war of the rebellion, Gould’s firm did a large business in railway securities, and also made a great deal of money speculating in gold, and he was able to turn almost every success or defeat of the Union army to profitable account.” The book adds that everyone knew he had inside sources of knowledge, although these sources have never been revealed.
The War Department controlled information regarding the war. Reports from the front came direct to the War Department in cipher, and then the information was massaged before being disseminated to the daily newspapers. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was in a position to reap vast sums off the war, provided he had a partner on Wall Street who could put his advance knowledge to good use, and it’s no doubt he found that man in Jay Gould, because Gould became one of the richest speculators on Wall Street within a few years. It’s no wonder this cabal wanted the war to last a few years and not end too quickly. Stanton told Lincoln the war needed to drag on in order for the South to psychologically accept the end of slavery. End it too fast, he said, and the South would insist on keeping their slaves. But it’s far more likely Stanton was involved in war profiteering. The history books portray Stanton as a folk-saint almost on the level of Lincoln, but a careful reading of the diaries of his fellow Cabinet members prove he was really one of the most duplicitous liars in Washington.
But there was another spoke on this wheel of corruption and that is Thomas T. Eckert, Stanton’s assistant and the chief of the telegraph lines at the War Department.
The night of the assassination Lincoln stopped by that office and asked Stanton to accompany him to Ford’s Theater. Stanton rudely declined the invitation, citing he had too much work to do and would be busy into the night. Then Lincoln requested Major Eckert to accompany him, citing Eckert’s imposing physique, but Eckert also strangely declined citing he was working late as well.
Yet both men went home at their usual hour and did not work late that night as they claimed they had to. They both were preparing for bed when they heard news of an attack on Secretary of State Seward.
Stanton became the MacBeth of this drama, however, and was dead within a few years, by which time he was disgraced and out-of-power in Washington. He may have had plenty of money when he died, but he was haunted by the ghost of Mary Surratt.
General Eckert departed public service after the war to work for Gould and quickly become head of Western Union. Everyone always remarked on how close the two were. Gould became so rich, he went up against the British banks and tried to capture a monopoly on gold, an attempt that failed, and he was later swindled out of millions by a man posing as a British Lord in what may have been a British Secret Service operation seeking vengeance. One of Gould’s techniques for hostile corporate takeovers was to flood the market with counterfeit stock, and then buy up the company’s real stock for quarters on the dollar once it crashed. He once claimed he could hire half the country to fight against the other half, so he knew the value of war.
It’s well-known that commercial telegraph lines in Washington suspiciously went dead for two hours immediately after Lincoln’s assassination. Most people assumed at the time the lines had been cut by Confederate spooks, something that would take days to detect and repair, but suddenly the lines came back online without any repairs at all, which should have been a clue the break was an inside job. There was no investigation. Some think that break was designed to allow Booth to escape so he wouldn’t tell what he knew.
I’m more inclined to believe the break was so Gould had the necessary time to make some massive short-sales on Wall Street before the news of Lincoln’s assassination could hit the papers in New York.
Mark Twain considered Gould: “The mightiest disaster that has ever befallen the country.”
Michael W. Kauffman is widely recognized as THE authority on the Lincoln assassination, and he’s a regular consultant to the History Channel and other media giants. Ten years ago, Kauffman published American Brutus, the most in-depth analysis of the movements of John Wilkes Booth just prior to and after the assassination.
Kauffman did an exhaustive amount of research, and was careful to deal only with primary sources from the period. The biggest stumbling blocks to an investigation are the many conflicting and contradictory elements. Any historian can pick a thesis and collect a book’s worth of material to support it, provided contradictions from more reliable sources are ignored.
Kauffman makes it clear from the outset he trusts Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and quotes liberally from newspaper reports that could have been sculpted by Stanton. He also dismisses the “conspiracy theories.”
The first theory to emerge involved Vice President Johnson, and Stanton may have encouraged that suspicion before promoting Jefferson Davis as the true instigator. Little known today is that Davis was declared guilty before the military tribunal even took place. And that tribunal did find Davis guilty at a time Davis was being held incommunicado in a jail in Virginia.
Strange Stanton did not wish Davis to attend his own trial, despite so much of the testimony being directed against him and his operatives in Canada. Plots to burn down New York City and spread Yellow Fever to civilians were unveiled, although much of the testimony was proven false and had been paid for. This revelation was something of an accident and occurred because some trial testimony was leaked to the press. Had they been able to keep the tribunal testimony secret, as Stanton wanted, the innocence of Mary Surratt would not have come to light so quickly. Her death destroyed Stanton’s political career and made him the most unpopular man in the country after it was exposed he engineered the first female execution in American history. And wouldn’t you know it, she was innocent. That left a really sour taste all across America, so much so that President Grant denied Stanton a position in his cabinet and refused to sign his elevation to the Supreme Court, sitting on it for weeks.
I have some questions for Kauffman after speed-reading his book, which I admit contains a wealth of insight and never-before-published details. And the first question is: Where is Simon Wolf?
Wolf admits meeting Booth the morning of the assassination, and apparently Booth told him (and no one else) that his proposal of marriage to the daughter of a United States Senator had been rebuffed. Wolf speculated this rejection drove him to murder Lincoln.
Strange no mention of this unexpected rejection appears in his notebook, which Booth composed while on the run. Also, the fiance reported no such announcement, although their engagement was a secret.
Booth’s secret fiance was also being courted by Lincoln’s son, a detail strangely left out of many history books. If the deed were done over remorse of Lucy Lambert “Bessie” Hale’s rejection, it would seem a duel with Robert Todd Lincoln, Booth’s rival for Hale’s affections, might have been a more appropriate response. Breaking up an engagement was certainly a dueling matter for a Southern gentleman like Booth.
A more accurate version, however, is that Bessie was being moved with her family to Spain, where her father was being posted as ambassador, and she promised to return to marry Booth in one year, so there was not a breaking-off of the secret engagement, unless Booth did it on his own initiative. And keep in mind, Booth is a spook and Bessie’s dad inside the Radical Republican cabal running Washington, so his affections for her could have all been part of his spook activities. Perhaps her father sensed this, or, of course, he could have been told this very fact by his friend Stanton. When did Senator Hale discover the man courting his daughter was a notorious Southern spy? Because this information was known inside the War Department for weeks prior to the assassination. I suspect Hale’s sudden appointment to Spain might have been triggered by a desire to get his daughter out-of-town so she’d not be implicated in the nasty business to follow.
But why is the connection between Booth and Wolf ignored by almost every historian?
Edwin Stanton was a devoted Freemason of the elite Scottish Rite, which means on Tuesday nights he was likely found doing ceremonies with his fellow masters of the craft at the glorious temple in Washington. I suspect Stanton was not a very spiritual person, however, but someone who recognized Masonry as a means to advance his career.
I also suspect Simon Wolf may have been a Mason, although his identity as the head of B’nai B’rith in Washington DC is well-documented. Like the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Ku Klux Klan and The Church of Latter Day Saints, the International Order of B’nai B’rith has some masonic elements in its origins, and was likely founded by Jewish masons. Masonry is an incredibly complex world, with many subsets and splinter groups. But the fact that Christians, Jews and Muslims were all welcome and everything spoken inside the temple was confidential made masonry an ideal venue for conducting conspiracy, which is why lodges were so often penetrated by spooks from various secret societies. Also, keep in mind that most researchers today consider B’nai B’rith’s ADL little more than a spook-infested propaganda arm for the Mossad, so you can see how these intelligence connections were wired into the secret society systems from their origins.
Lafayette C. Baker may have been corrupt and ruthless, but he was also good at his job, and he arrested Wolf in Philadelphia, where he’d traveled to meet with a Southern refuge who’d hired his services as a lawyer. Wolf did many similar missions in the service of fellow Jews. But Baker charged him as an enemy agent because of his leadership in B’nai B’rith, which Baker considered, “a disloyal organization which has its ramifications in the South, and…helping traitors.” The fact remains many Jews during this period sympathized with the South and found employment as blockade runners and black-market profiteers, and Wolf was their primary attorney of choice. In fact, General Grant at one point declared his own pogrom against all Jews, an order quickly rescinded by Lincoln, no doubt after a visit from the young Simon Wolf, who seemed to have some powerful connections.
But before those connections were known, Baker had Wolf tossed in Carroll Street Prison, where he could have remained for the war’s duration, except Wolf convinced another official Stanton would exonerate him. Stanton went into a rage when told Wolf had been placed into prison, and lashed out at Baker. Even though Baker worked for Stanton, the two obviously never trusted each other, and Baker would soon be demoted for spying on Stanton and shipped out-of-town, only to be recalled immediately after Lincoln’s assassination to head the investigation. It appears he was moved out-of-town so as not to bump into the operation.
What Baker didn’t know was that when Wolf had arrived from Ohio, he’d gone straight to Stanton’s office, where he presented a letter of introduction written by Stanton’s former business partner, Colonel George W. McCook. According to Wolf, “After reading the letter, the Secretary, looking over his glasses with a look as determined as all of his acts were, said to me, ‘Young man, if what Colonel McCook says is true, you have no business in the Department; get outside; and if it isn’t true, I have no use for imbeciles.'” (Presidents I Have Known by Simon Wolf, 1918, http://archive.org/stream/presidentsihavek00wolfrich/presidentsihavek00wolfrich_djvu.txt).
After arriving in Washington, Wolf swiftly became president of the Literary and Dramatic Society, which held meetings in a rented hall at 481 Ninth Street. This society also staged a production of Hamlet at Carusi’s to celebrate Shakespeare’s 300th birthday and Lincoln, Lord Lyons and Sir Edward Malet were specifically invited. Back when Wolf lived in Cleveland, he’d been involved in theatrical productions with both B.F. Peixotto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Booth. Cleveland was a stronghold for the Knights of the Golden Circle, a terrorist militia devoted to supporting the Southern cause who were the real muscle behind the Copperhead movement that opposed Lincoln in the North. Their numbers, however, were undoubtedly greatly exaggerated.
“I knew Booth well,” writes Wolf. “We had played on the amateur stage together in Cleveland, Ohio, and I had met him that very morning in front of the Metropolitan Hotel. He asked me to take a drink. He seemed very excited, and rather than decline and incur his enmity I went with him. It was the last time I ever saw Booth.”
You cannot understand history without a study of the secret societies operating at any given time. Since every known detail of that day is examined in Kauffman’s book in intricate detail, I have to wonder why Wolf never makes an appearance.
The official story of the capture and murder of John Wilkes Booth is so filled with contradictions and inconsistencies it could have been made into an hilarious episode for the Keystone Kops. There are numerous elements in Lincoln’s assassination that defy logic, but few can top the manipulations involving the corpse of the assassin.
One thing I’ve discovered in my research: Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who seized all power as soon as Lincoln was murdered, was a master at media manipulation, not to mention he declared martial law and had power to censor the press. His releases became the unquestioned headlines of the day and Stanton and his chief of secret police Lafayette C. Baker were famous for tossing innocents in jail and holding them without charges. Much of what is taken to be gospel in this saga, is really just a carefully contrived script. A good example would be the story of George Atzerodt, who was supposed to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson that night, at least according to the official story.
Atzerodt admitting being involved in Booth’s failed attempt to kidnap President Lincoln a month earlier, and later claimed to have only heard about the Lincoln assassination plot on April 15th. The previous day, he’d mysteriously checked into the Kirkwood House, the hotel where the Vice President resided, using his real name and repeatedly inquired about the Vice President’s whereabouts. Since Johnson’s room was accessible from the street and easily penetrated, there was no need for any assassin to show his face at the hotel. The sight of this disreputable-looking and obviously unwashed person having any interest in the Vice President caused significant alarm amongst some of the hotel staff. Immediately after Lincoln was shot, Detective John Lee was sent to the Kirkwood to guard the Vice President, and quickly found out about the mystery man, broke into his room and discovered the bed had never been slept in. Lee also discovered a Colt revolver, three boxes of cartridges, 12-inch bowie knife, brass spur, three handkerchiefs with different monograms, a black coat containing J.W. Booth’s Ontario bank book, and Perrine’s topographical War Map to the southern states.
For a supposed spook, Atzerodt could not have been more transparent as to the identities of himself and his fellow conspirators unless he’d left a written confession of their crimes. Since he was a known drunk, uneducated, and certainly not capable of an assassination of anyone, one wonders what could have been his real motive for checking into that hotel and inquiring about the Vice President, which only alarmed the hotel staff. There was no need for Atzerodt to leave incriminating evidence in his room. Atzerodt would not be located and arrested for five days, but the map and spur seemed an obvious clue he was fleeing south on horseback, almost too obvious. Which is why it’s so suspicious Stanton immediately announced Booth was headed north to Canada and closed all roads leading that direction. Strangely, the road to Maryland was left open.
It seems more likely Booth’s calling card to Johnson and his bank book in the same hotel may have been part of an unsuccessful sheep-dipping operation designed to paint Johnson as the true instigator of the assassination, something that, if successful, would have had a similar impact on removing him as his murder, only less blood on the floor. Mary Surratt would be soon hanged for owning a boarding house frequented by Confederate spooks, something not surprising considering her son was one of Jefferson Davis’ primary couriers. I do believe Atzerodt was supposed to back up Booth or Lewis Powell that night and then escape with them via horseback and help lead them south, but instead he wandered aimlessly about town before fleeing on his own once realizing the President was dead and he was implicated. But then he’d only recently met Booth and been dragged into Booth’s intrigues because he had a rowboat on northern bank of the Potomac, which was needed for the escape. In fact, the loss of this boat caused Booth much consternation. Most likely, Atzerodt was just working for money and being given the absolute minimum of information by super spook Booth.
Major James R. O’Beirne, Provost Marshall of the District of Columbia, the man who’d sent Lee to protect the vice president, quickly led a detail of men south based on the map found at the Kirkwood. O’Beirne was doing an admirable job tracking the assassin, and was first to arrive at Dr. Samuel Mudd’s house. Suspicion fell on Mudd because he’d served two years in the Confederate army, and even though Mudd reported to proper authorities two strangers passed through, one requiring medical attention for a broken leg, after Mudd was shown a picture of Booth and claimed it was not the man he’d treated (which might have been true, since his brother Edwin’s photo was discovered in the War Department files misidentified as John W.), that statement convicted him in the eyes of O’Beirne. Booth hid his mustache with a scarf and was wearing huge stage whiskers glued over his sideburns when he’d arrived at Mudd’s. He’d ridden off of his original path of escape to find a sympathetic doctor he’d hoped would keep quiet, but Mudd filed a report the next day.
There’s no doubt O’Beirne was closing in on Booth, but when he requested to move into Virginia, he was suddenly ordered to remain in Maryland and search only there. Meanwhile, Baker put his cousin in charge of a squad of soldiers, and sent them on the trail O’Beirne had sniffed out. Since $100,000 in reward money was at stake, Baker surely wanted himself and his cousin to collect the lion’s share, but they didn’t.
Here’s a staged photo of Lafayette Baker recreating the moment he tells Luther Baker and Enerton Conger where to find Booth. Since Conger was actually not at this meeting, this photo is no doubt a manipulation of Stanton, who was a master at propaganda. According to the official story, Baker drew a 10-mile diameter circle on a map of Virginia and sent his cousin off to Virginia with a troupe of soldiers. How Baker knew Booth’s precise location is a mystery, but some wild stories were later invented, the final story involved an unidentified black youth who dropped by the War Department to make an anonymous report.
Baker, Conger and a squad of 25 soldiers discovered Booth locked in a tobacco-drying shed. It was night, so a perimeter was placed around the shed at a distance. Only Baker and Conger remained inside that perimeter.
What happened next is a matter of great dispute since the stories of the eyewitnesses shifted several times over the next few days. The first official report claimed Booth was captured and then shot by Boston Corbett while trying to make an escape. When this report did not fly, the story began getting more convoluted each time it was told.
Conger was the first to enter the shed, and claimed initially that Booth shot himself. Baker was second to enter the shed and felt Booth had been shot by Conger, but immediately thought to himself, “if he had, it were better not known.”
Corbett was a mental case who self-castrated himself with a pair of scissors after visiting a prostitute, and then calmly went to dinner before seeking medical attention. A former hatter, everyone assumed mercury fumes had destroyed his mind and Corbett would wind up in a mental institution eventually. No doubt Corbett was told fame and fortune awaited him if he took the credit. Although orders had supposedly been given to take Booth alive, Stanton reacted by saying, “The rebel is dead, the patriot lives,” and Corbett was given $1,653.85 of the reward money.
There were no witnesses to the shooting as the soldiers were all in the dark, and on the perimeter. It’s likely impossible Corbett could have fired the shot, especially since the bullet followed a downward trajectory, as if fired from above at close range. In fact, the placement and trajectory were weirdly similar to the one Booth used to execute Lincoln, almost as if he were being served his own medicine.
But it was after Booth’s death that things got really strange. Luther Baker took the body and two soldiers on ahead before any death certificate or autopsy could be performed. This was done over the objections of Lt. Edward P. Doherty. Soon, Doherty’s two men returned, having been sent back by Baker to deliver some frivolous message. Meanwhile, Baker and the corpse completely vanished.
At 11 PM, Baker finally arrived in Alexandria claiming he’d “gotten lost” and his cousin Lafayette Baker was there to receive the corpse. An unexplained three-hour delay transpired before the body was transferred (in a sloppy and unprofessional manner) onto the ironclad U.S.S. Montauk. Even though some of the conspirators who knew Booth were being held prisoner on that same boat, the only person called to view the body (aside from those in the military) was a hotel clerk. Dr. Frederick May, a military doctor who’d removed a tumor from Booth’s neck, was also shown the body and claimed: “There is no resemblance in that corpse to Booth, nor can I believe it to be him.” No friends nor relatives were notified and May was massaged for a time and eventually changed his story so that the corpse might be Booth and was just too decayed to recognize, especially without his famous mustache.
The corpse then did a second disappearing act, and was removed from the Montauk in the same manner it had arrived aboard, which is to say without orders, documents or papers. “The removal of the body was entirely without my knowledge…This unusual transaction deprived me of opportunity for enclosing the body in a box….as ordered,” complained John D. Montgomery, commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. Lafayette Baker had seized the corpse and held a public display of dumping it into the Potomac wrapped in a horse blanket. Many years later, it would be revealed the body was taken to an old jail on the site of Washington Arsenal, buried in an old gun box. In 1869, President Johnson ordered all the conspirators remains returned to their families, although by that time nothing but bones remained.
Legend in the Booth family is that Booth was not killed, but moved to India, and while some family members would like to have his alleged remains DNA-tested, this has always been blocked and will likely never occur for reasons unknown. But even if a test discovered the bones were not Booth’s, it would mean little because there is no proper chain of custody. The body disappeared twice for long periods of time when anything could have happened.
I have to wonder if the bones of Booth weren’t worth almost as much on the black market as the reward money in some quarters. For example, in 1832, a junior at Yale founded a secret society based on one he’d been introduced into while studying abroad in Germany. Although that society was very Masonic in style, it would eventually become famous for obtaining skulls of famous revolutionaries. Known originally as “The Order,” that society is known today as “Skull & Bones,” and since it was founded by the slave and opium-running families of Boston and New York, I’ll always wonder if Booth’s bones maybe didn’t end up at the Tomb in New Haven. Could such a crook have taken place? Only the Bonesmen know for sure, and they ain’t talkin’.
John Wilkes Booth was only 27 years old when he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. History has portrayed him as a lunatic, and not the talented artist and super spook he obviously was. I think of him more like Johnny Depp meets James Bond.
Booth had been a dedicated spook working for the Confederate Secret Service since the start of the war, and undoubtedly fomented many missions in the service of the South, most involving life-saving quinine. Because he was a famous actor and well-off financially, Booth moved easily through the upper levels of society, which made him an ideal undercover agent.
Booth’s biggest operation, the one that was going to make him famous as a spook, was his involvement in Major John S. Mosby’s plot to kidnap Lincoln so he could be ransomed. The North had ceased all prisoner swaps because former prisoners were immediately returning to the front to continue the fight. Kidnapping Lincoln had been seen as the best means of forcing those swaps to re-start.
But as “total war” on civilians was being waged by General Sherman, secret documents were discovered of a Union plot to assassinate Jefferson Davis. That and the recent hanging of Booth’s friend, super spook John Yates Beall, were all it took to move Booth to murder. That plus all the brandy he was drinking at the time.
Dozens of people knew about Mosby’s kidnap plot well in advance, although President Jefferson Davis was on record opposing it. Davis was not a vicious man and believed the chances of Lincoln resisting a kidnapping were too great, and Davis worried Lincoln might be killed during such an event, something he obviously was opposed to.
The kidnap plan failed not because the President of the Confederacy was opposed to it, however, but because the Union War Department got wind and changed Lincoln’s itinerary to avoid the trap. This was typical of Confederate operations as double agents were everywhere, which is why projects of this magnitude were nearly impossible to conceal. The informant who revealed the plot was Louis Weichmann.
However, around the time General Robert E. Lee surrendered, signaling the end of the war was at hand, Booth switched the kidnap plot to murder. Not only was Lincoln marked for death, but so was his closest Cabinet member, Secretary of State William H. Seward, one of his few true friends in the Cabinet. You might think Vice President Andrew Johnson, General Ulysses S. Grant, and even Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton were supposed to be assassinated that night, as that is the official cover story. However, a little research reveals those three supposed plots were invented during the trial, and the evidence produced manufactured by witnesses later exposed as perjurers. Booth had been trying to get a pass to travel to Richmond from Vice President Johnson. There was no attempt on the Vice President or anyone else other than Seward and Lincoln, the duo who were united on the idea of forgiveness for the South in hopes of binding the nation back together. And it’s somewhat suspicious neither Salmon Chase nor Thaddeus Stevens made any effort to visit Lincoln during his final hours.
At the same time Booth began contemplating the assassination, he began recording his inner thoughts in a leather-bound 1864 diary. It was an obsolete diary, leading me to believe Booth’s documentation of the events was not done casually, but was his attempt in his final days to hand down the truth of what had happened. Booth was not a murderer at heart and took no pleasure from the killing, although he did believe the South would honor him as a hero, a misjudgment on his part, at least for the majority, who were horrified by this pointless violence.
Consider Booth carried a one-shot derringer into Ford’s theater. Obviously, he was not expecting armed resistance. How did Booth know Lincoln would be left unguarded? After discharging his weapon, he jumped to the stage to make a getaway through back of the theater where his horse was waiting. But his spur snagged on the bunting of the Presidential box, causing Booth to fall and lose a spur in the process. According to his diary, he broke his leg, in a horse fall later during the escape. That broken leg is the only reason he got caught because he was awarded a massive head-start for unknown reasons. And the hunt for him was regularly impeded when it could have been accelerated.
All roads out of Washington were closed after the assassination except one, which just happened to be the route Booth took, and when he crossed the bridge out of Washington, he gave the guard his real name and was allowed to pass even though bridges were supposed to be closed to traffic at night as a security measure. Booth’s name and description would not go out for many hours, and the local telegraph line went strangely dead. But even the next day, the War Department acted like they didn’t know who the assassin was, when dozens of witnesses had already named him at police headquarters. When Booth’s picture was finally circulated, it may have been a photo of his brother Edwin because that misidentified photo later appeared in War Department files as Booth.
Despite the biggest manhunt in history, Booth evaded capture for over a week, yet one afternoon, Lafayette C. Baker, recently reinstated head of the National Detective Police (NDP), sent a detail of soldiers after drawing a 10-mile diameter circle on a map of Virginia. Baker explained Booth could be found inside the circle and sent his cousin to fetch him with a squad of 25 soldiers. How he knew Booth’s precise location remains a mystery, but since there was the equivalent of a $2.25 million dead-or-alive reward at stake, few wanted to share credit for anything. At the last second, Everett Conger was attached to the unit, and carried instructions to bring back Booth’s diary. Conger ended up taking charge at the scene.
I suspect Stanton gave Everton Conger instructions to kill Booth, but that will never be known conclusively. It is somewhat strange he was awarded the lion’s share of the reward.
Despite being a key piece of evidence, Booth’s diary never appeared during the trial, or was even mentioned at all, though it would have exonerated some of the suspects who were hanged.
But a year later, after Baker lost his cushy job at the War Department, he shopped an autobiography to some major publishers and found a ghost writer to pen the pot-boiler. This is when the country learned of Booth’s diary and pretty soon Congress was investigating. After Baker examined the diary in the presence of a Congressional committee, he claimed 18 leaves had been cut out, as if with a scissors.
Yet, even the pages left intact provided some interesting clues, the most important of which was probably:
“I am tempted to return to Washington to clear my name, which I am sure I can do.”
How was Booth intending to clear his name? Booth likely would not have committed murder for money, although he was carrying a large amount when he was captured, and it all disappeared naturally. However, he might have committed this deed if some powerful person(s) made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or if that offer came from someone within the Confederate Secret Services. According to George Atzerodt’s original confession, the murder plot emanated from New York City. Since Major Thomas Eckert was the only person allowed to interrogate Atzerodt, one can assume he was involved. After the war, Jay Gould became recognized as the richest man in America, while the financial center moved from Philadelphia to New York City. Gould would soon appoint Eckert head of Western Union and the two men remained close for life.
Guess whose picture graces the largest banknote in US history? Why Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War, who came from Ohio and didn’t own any shares of the powerful New York bank, but its executives were so happy with Chase’s policies they decided to re-name their corporation after him! Chase printed the first greenbacks and put his own image on those as well.
But before Chase Bank was born, it was known as The Bank of the Manhattan Company, and founded by Aaron Burr, the greatest British spy who never got caught. Although Burr was tried for treason, he escaped the gallows due to his advanced cipher technologies. His encryption of all his correspondence saved his life, for had his full relationship with England been revealed, Burr would have lost his life during the Revolutionary War. Washington wisely removed him from command sensing his duplicity and penchant for intrigue.
Here’s the Matthew Brady portrait of Chase, who supposedly had a “religious conversion” that turned him into the most rabid abolitionist in America.
Most Americans don’t realize it, but the overwhelming majority of Americans prior to the Civil War viewed John Brown as an insane terrorist and abolitionists were shunned as fanatics, yet by the war’s end almost every Northerner would be singing his battle hymn.
Chase created the Republican Party and led its radical abolitionist wing, a cabal that took over the country when the South seceded. But then he got into a tiff with Lincoln toward the end of the war and submitted his resignation in a huff, but was a bit blindsided when Lincoln accepted it. Lincoln tried to smooth over the insult by making him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but that job carried zero patronage, which meant Chase’s power base was shattered.
Chase would be the only member of the Cabinet who didn’t care to visit Lincoln’s bedside during his last night on earth, but he did pass by the Peterson house just as Lincoln was drawing his last breath. Upon hearing the news Lincoln still lived, Chase “kept walking, his eyes bloodshot and his features twisted in a strange contortion.” (Twenty Days by Dorothy M. Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. Castle Books, 1965).
Yes, a small cabal of Radical Republicans fomented the Civil War and a possible reason some Northern banks funded their movement may have been a realization the Southern economy would eventually outpace the North due to the economic advantages of slavery. Cotton was King and it was growing cash in the South much faster than anything the North could produce. But without slaves, the South would lose hundreds of billions in assets and never out-compete the North. So while it’s really terrific we got rid of slavery, and it was the proper and humane thing to do, please don’t think all banksters did it for noble motives.
The reason the Civil War had to last so long and be so bloody was so the North would embrace the abolitionist cause and allow this cabal to punish the South as a conquered nation afterwards. Had General George B. McClellan been simply left alone, Richmond may have surrendered early, and the South welcomed back into Congress with slavery intact. For this reason, the Civil War was engineered to be long and bloody. McClellan never would have waged “total war” on civilians like General Sherman did.
And that’s why Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sabotaged his old pal McClellan, and ran him off his command, because McClellan believed slavery was legal under the Constitution, and while the South shouldn’t be allowed to secede, in his view, they should have been allowed to keep the slaves.
After General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox, President Lincoln and his Secretary of State began working on plans for total forgiveness, which meant the cabal of Radical Republicans who’d been running the country (and looting it six-ways-to-Sunday) were about to lose power once the Southerners were restored to vote with the moderate Republicans. Instead of plundering the South for patronage, bribes and booty, the Radicals were about to be left with the short end of every Congressional stick. And they knew it. And to give you an idea of the plan Thaddeus Stevens was proposing: they wanted to seize all property owned by the 70,000 richest Southerners. But Lincoln blocked the bill.
The obvious solution was to get rid of Lincoln, who’d just been re-elected for another four years, and that’s exactly what happened.
Just about everything you know about the assassination is wrong because it was a script carefully plotted out with no facts to support it, except ones that were obviously manufactured. You’ve been told there was an aborted attempt on Vice President Johnson that night, as well as assassinations planned on General Ulysses S. Grant and Secretary of War Stanton. But those allegations were concocted by perjurers, some of whom had been paid to lay down testimony implicating Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the ultimate scapegoat, just as Fidel Castro was initially designed to be the scapegoat for JFK’s assassination (hence Oswald’s alleged bus ride to Mexico City).
Forgotten today is the fact Davis was also convicted of the Lincoln assassination by Stanton’s illegal military tribunal, the same one that hanged poor Mary Surratt, but at the time, Davis was in Union custody in Virginia and he was eventually released without any trial. This was because a trial would have opened even more wormholes in tribunal’s parade of manufactured evidence, something exposed soon enough during Johnson’s impeachment hearings and the trial of Confederate spy John Surratt, Booth’s courier who was captured in Egypt. Surratt’s mother was a complete innocent in the murder plot, although she was an intelligence asset reporting to Col. John Mosby. No matter, she was swiftly hanged by Stanton’s military court as the primary scapegoat, while her son, a Confederate courier, walked free because there was no evidence linking him to the assassination.
The only people who benefited from Lincoln’s death were the leaders of his own party, who quickly reversed his pledge of forgiveness and began looting the South to enrich themselves, something Lincoln was blocking.
But the most overlooked aspect of this story was the shift in the financial center of power during Chase’s tenure. At the start of the Civil War, Philadelphia was the center of North American finance. Jay Cooke was a partner in E.W. Clark & Company during the Mexican War. By financing that war, the bank had risen to become one of the country’s most influential institutions. But in January 1861, Cooke and his brother-in-law created Jay Cooke & Company. By September of that year, the new firm was made the financial agent for all government loans and bonds, and the Civil War soon transformed it into the most powerful bank in the country. This was accomplished through the elevation of Cooke’s toadie Salmon Chase to the position of Secretary of Treasury.
Cooke’s bank established branches in New York City and Washington DC during the war and prospered greatly. Strangely enough, however, within a decade Cooke was bankrupted through an immense railroad deal gone sour. In early 1874, Cooke received a letter from one of his former European executives, George B. Sargent, explaining the cause of the downfall of his once-prosperous company. “The negotiation of the 50 millions by the Darmstadt Bank, Sol Oppenheim and Company and Bischoffsheim and Goldsmith, was a sure and entire success had Mr. Fahnestock been at Cologne on the day agreed upon for the ratification of the contract instead of delaying the time for two days…. The truth is, Mr. Cooke, that in the Northern Pacific business as well as in your regular business you were ruined and slaughtered by parties you believed to be your confidential friends….The second negotiation with the Union Bank of Vienna would have succeeded but for bad faith on the part of your London house.”
Simon Cameron got his start by swindling Native Americans in Pennsylvania, earning him the nickname: “The Great Winnebago Chief.”
Cameron founded the Bank of Middletown and went into politics. His most famous quote: “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, stays bought.”
He lusted for the job of Secretary of the Treasury (to be close to the money no doubt), but settled for Secretary of War. Known as “the Czar” in his home state, he controlled many political patronage jobs, all of which provided kick-backs in one form or another.
Cameron brought one of the most talented lawyers in the country onto his staff, Edwin McMasters Stanton, who invented the temporary insanity defense to get a rich client off a murder charge, thus earning him the respect of rich people everywhere. Stanton convinced Cameron to publish a War Department edict seizing rebel property, including slaves. It was basically an emancipation proclamation and biggest forfeiture case in history rolled into one. Lincoln was furious about the edict and eventually fired Cameron for it, although Lincoln never learned Stanton had been the true instigator of the plan.
Lincoln asked fellow Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens about Cameron’s reputation. Stevens replied: “I do not think he would steal a red-hot stove.” After Cameron demanded a retraction, Stevens allegedly said: “I believe I said you would not steal a red-hot stove. I now take that back.”
With Cameron gone, Stanton was able to move into the top position at the War Department, and with war looming, his fortunes were about to explode as the War Department would soon be in charge of millions in government contracts.
Before being shipped to Russia as ambassador, Cameron advised Lincoln on how to become rich. Cameron was investing heavily in railroads knowing their stock would take off as soon as hostilities commenced. Railroad tycoons were going to control the future economy. Cameron suggested Lincoln give him $10,000 to invest so he could become independently wealthy too, but Lincoln declined the offer.
I believe Lincoln was murdered not because the South wanted revenge, but because after the war was over, Lincoln wanted to go easy on the South, but powerful business interests wanted to pillage and plunder. But the key man in the assassination plot had to be the notoriously conspiratorial Edwin Stanton.
In the late 1930s, Otto Eisenschiml, a chemistry professor and Civil War buff with ancestral connections to the Lincoln administration, gained access to the long-buried War Department files on the assassination and surprise, surprise, uncovered evidence of a coverup! After much research, his suspicions centered on Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and he published a book, Why Was Lincoln Murdered?
Did you know that three days before the assassination, Lincoln began having nightly dreams of seeing himself in a coffin with mourners all around? Lincoln requested additional protection the night he was killed. He’d been expecting General Grant and his retinue to accompany him to Ford’s theater, but Stanton ordered Grant elsewhere and then refused additional protection beyond one bodyguard, who suspiciously left his post as soon as the play began. The President was left unprotected and the only person who could have engineered that was Stanton.
Stanton rounded up a nest of Confederate spies instantly who’d plotted to kidnap Lincoln back in March so he could be traded for Confederate prisoners of war. John W. Booth was the ringleader, and John Surratt, one of the most important couriers for the Confederate Secret Service, was also involved. This crew was penetrated by an informer inside the War Department named Louis Weichmann.
The abduction plot was foiled by a sudden shift in Lincoln’s itinerary, but that sort of thing happened with numerous Confederate Secret Service operations and it was almost impossible to conceal any significant plot because of all the double agents and informers, some of whom worked for political causes and others who worked for money to the highest bidder.
Stanton engineered a position in the War Department, and launched a plot that eliminated his boss, clearing his way to take charge. Allen Pinkerton was in charge of the Union Secret Service, and reported directly to Lincoln through Secretary of State Seward, but Stanton had that operation moved to the War Department, and quickly replaced Pinkerton with Lafayette Baker, who would soon gain the reputation as the most corrupt and ruthless official in Washington D.C.
Baker grabbed the lead of the Lincoln murder investigation, but was disappointed by the meager share of the reward he received from Stanton.
In reality there was no benefit for the South to kill Lincoln, and although he was despised by some as a tyrant responsible for many unnecessary deaths, his murder resulted in greater exploitation of the South, which had already lost 258,000 men and trillions in assets.
Even more suspicious, when John Surratt was captured in Egypt and brought back for a civil trial, he could not be convicted and hanged like his mother, but set free. Jefferson Davis was not subjected to a trial at all, even though a third of Stanton’s military tribunal had been devoted to exposing his evil plots. Stanton never found a shred of evidence, however, linking Davis with the assassination, except the evidence he manufactured through his double agents.
Some major players on Wall Street at the time would have been Fernando Wood, August Belmont, John Jacob Astor, Jay Gould and Archibald Gracie.
Stanton was a high-ranking Freemason and close with the leader of the Copperheads, the Northern movement against Lincoln who were working hand-in-glove with the Confederate Secret Service. In fact, Stanton owed his political career to the head of the Copperheads.
In terms of experience and expertise in law, Stanton was ahead of Lincoln and considered Lincoln an uncivilized “ape,” and inferior in everything but telling crude stories laced in profanities. In Spielberg’s film, Stanton shouts, “I can’t bear to hear another of your stories,” before storming out of the room, a scene that really happened. Stanton and Lincoln clashed constantly and Lincoln always had to go to the War Department because Stanton seldom came to the White House.
But the most suspicious thing is the landslide of books raining down on Eisenschiml, all filled with cheap shots and personal attacks. Eisneschiml’s book broke important ground, but was painted as a total fraud by many who must have known better.
When a sustained and well-funded attack on a legitimate conspiracy theory appears that contains cheap shots and personal insults, I immediately suspect someone’s propaganda at stake, which is not to say these historians are bought-and-paid for, only that the ones who hold suspicions against the powers-that-be may not be getting any of the fat book deals.
The message is clear: join the status quo or break your rice bowl.
Meet Joseph Holt, a lawyer educated in Bardstown, Kentucky, who moved into the upper echelons of power under President James Buchanan, along with fellow Democrat, Edwin Stanton.
Holt was Secretary of War under Buchanan, a position Stanton would hold under Lincoln. War, it should be noted, is the greatest profit producer known to man, and Secretary of War is the key man deciding who profits most.
Recently, I watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, a film that reveals how Mary Surratt was railroaded onto the gallows by a kangaroo court after Lincoln’s assassination. The film encouraged me to peer deeper into the case, and I’ve been astounded by what I’ve uncovered in one week assembling primary documents available free online. Thanks to hundreds of citizen researchers, this case is probably the most heavily documented murder trial in history. In the late 1930s, a professor in Chicago published a book suggesting Stanton was involved in the assassination, and marshaled considerable evidence to support this claim, some of which has been disputed. But after watching Redford’s film, I became sympathetic to this theory, because it certainly was a kangaroo court.
Little known today is the fact public sentiment turned against Stanton and his tribunal after its key witness, Sandford Conover, was unveiled as a chronic perjurer. In fact, much of the eyewitness testimony at the trial appears manufactured and the chief investigator, Lafayette Baker, was notorious for manufacturing evidence and accepting bribes, while his boss Stanton had become quite expert at arranging convictions.
Conover was eventually unmasked as Charles Durham, a New York lawyer and double or possible triple agent who had been posted inside the Confederate War Department briefly and had posed as a journalist writing simultaneously for both sides. Historians are still trying to unravel all the various identities he created during the war.
Forgotten today is the fact Jefferson Davis and the heads of the Confederate Secret Service were proclaimed guilty of fomenting the assassination by President Andrew Johnson before the trial commenced. In response, they accused Johnson as being the instigator, as Johnson seems to have benefited most, and Booth had left his calling card at Johnson’s hotel before the assassination, a detail that convinced Mary Todd Lincoln of Johnson’s guilt. That theory conflicts with the allegation Johnson was slated for assassination along with Secretary of State Seward that night. Although the military tribunal sold that story to the nation, there remains zero evidence anyone ever intended to assassinate the Vice President.
Check out the trial transcript and I think you’ll be amazed at the obvious manipulations. The first third of the trial involved crimes fomented by Davis and the Confederate Secret Service located in Canada, and had nothing to do with the people on trial. Those poor saps were all fringe characters who had the misfortune of knowing John Wilkes Booth and being Southern sympathizers. Booth was dead, so there was little hope of moving up the chain to discover who financed the complex operation, and Booth was discovered with a large amount of cash. And Booth’s acquaintances were held in solitary confinement with hoods permanently placed over the heads so anything they might have known wasn’t going to leak out.
But once Conover was unmasked as a serial liar, the credibility of Holt’s military tribunal was put in doubt, and the fact neither Jefferson nor any Confederate officials were put on trial only supported the conclusion the trial had been rigged to hang patsies so real criminals could walk free.
Secret societies were very popular during the Civil War. Some, like the Knights of the Golden Circle, were masonic spin-offs possibly created by high-ranking masons who wanted to launch operations without casting shadows on their primary lodges. Albert Pike was the most powerful mason in America at the time, and although he was from Boston, Pike became a Confederate General and organized Indian raids on civilians during the war.
One powerful secret society was located in New York City, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, created to protest the arrival of Irish, Italian and German immigrants into North America, especially Catholics. This movement become national and launched the powerful “Know Nothing” political party, so named because of the response members were instructed to give when questioned about the society. Thaddeus Stevens became an important member of that society.
Many conspiracy theories were floated right after the assassination, possibly by Stanton himself as he controlled the press in Washington. The official story was that Jefferson Davis had masterminded the plot in revenge for losing the war, but many were led to believe it was a Catholic conspiracy based on John Surratt and his mother being Catholic. Many intelligent Americans, however, probably suspected Stanton, since he was cited as the most unpopular man in the country by some newspapers. This theory would not re-emerge until the late 1930s.
After the hanging of Mary Surratt, the country was left with a sour taste since she was the first woman executed in American history and now it looked like she was set-up and innocent of all charges.
Holt became so dishonored by public sentiment he eventually published a pamphlet to clear his name in which he accused Jefferson Davis of fomenting a campaign to destroy his credibility by planting the spy Conover in his case. That document is available here:
Later on, Holt would write another book about the assassination, but this one accused the Vatican of fomenting the plot.