The reason the history books don’t talk much about John Surratt is because his story sheds light on the real Lincoln assassination conspiracy. Surratt was John Wilkes Booth’s closest confident in a plot to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln and spirit him to Richmond to be held for ransom. This plan was supported and probably fomented by The Grey Ghost (Col. John Mosby), who controlled Northern Virgina and parts of Maryland during the Civil War. Large military operations like the kidnapping of a head-of-state run through chains-of-command, and captains like Booth report to colonels like Mosby who report to Supreme Commanders. The kidnap plan involved dozens of secret accomplices, as well as a large cavalry unit, which was massed near the border on the eve of its execution. But since Booth and Surratt were surrounded by double agents, the kidnapping was easily thwarted through a shift in the president’s itinerary. Yet instead of arresting the plotters as one might have expected, the War Department left them all in place.
Surratt fled the country when he learned the kidnap had suddenly turned to murder as he wanted no part of it. He hid first in Canada, then Ireland, then Italy, then Egypt, often seeking refuge inside Catholic churches. Initially, a large award had been issued for his capture and return dead-or-alive, but strangely, as soon as his trail was uncovered in Europe, Stanton rescinded the reward offer. Suddenly, the War Department seemed uninterested in Surratt, although his mother had been swiftly hanged. Eventually, Surratt was captured and brought back to Washington, where he was visited in jail by Charles Dunham posing as Sandford Conover, who offered him immunity if he committed perjury. Surratt declined the offer, went to trial, and the case ended with a hung jury.
Surratt never denied involvement in the kidnap plot, but despite employing every possible trick to convict him, the government was unable to connect Surratt with the murder. This was a civil trial, and not a military tribunal like the one his mother had faced and not so easily manipulated. After Surratt walked free, it opened some minds to the possibility of a cover-up, and some became angry learning that the first woman executed in American history might have been a patsy.
George 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 a done-deal, and Booth’s side has lost. Imagine a fellow supporter of the Confederate cause offers you with a new mission impossible: kill Lincoln and Seward. You’ll have unlimited funds, and escape is guaranteed by a high-placed 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 out of any need for retribution but because Lincoln was blocking all attempts to loot the South after the war.
The 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.
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 was fed this Johnson assassination story while slowly going mad wearing a suffocating hood day and night. 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.
Newspapers with inside stories concerning the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln sold out quick in the spring of 1865, both in America and Europe, although most articles were packed with outrageous fabrications designed to sell issues. Very quickly, manufacturing of fake evidence in this case became a cottage industry, as the gullible were easily led down a maze of rabbit holes, starting with Jefferson Davis, Andrew Johnson, Knights of the Golden Circle, The Vatican, and so it went through the decades, with inventive frauds appearing on a regular basis. Some of this muck may have been manufactured to obscure the real plot, but some was the work of con artists seeking fame, fortune and publicity. (The instant appearance of multiple rabbit holes would be repeated for JFK and 9/11.)
Not much is known about Dion Haco, the dime novelist who rushed out the first tabloid biography on Booth before the trial was over, a yellow-sheet published by Dawley’s New War Novels. The following year, Haco followed up with the even-more explosive The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt. Strange a year later, when Surratt returned to face trial, he made no mention of this forgery, which claimed he was a made member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, an anti-Catholic organization. Although a military tribunal had hanged his mother, Surratt walked away a free man after the civil trial on the same charges. He gave two lectures afterwards, but left no diary nor journals. By this time, public opinion had shifted against accepting the tribunal that had found Surratt’s mom guilty because so many perjuries by government witnesses had come to light. Within a few decades, however, few would recall how corrupt that trial had really been.
The Lincoln assassination may be one of the most investigated murders in history, but it’s astonishing how much research is tainted by obvious forgeries. You can’t believe the amount of people who take Haco’s melodramatic novels as gospel truth.
William Henry Burr also wrote some early books on the assassination and they all pointed toward a Catholic conspiracy. Apparently, his key evidence was advance knowledge of the assassination in the tiny hamlet of St. Joseph, Minnesota, home to a college for the training of Jesuit priests. According to Burr, the news arrived two hours before the assassination! This rabbit hole would become one of the most well-traveled since John Surratt, his mother and childhood friend found guilty were all Catholics….forget the reality Booth was not, and Booth was the actual assassin, while the Catholics were just patsies.
On January 13, 1903, David E. George passed away in Enid, Oklahoma, allegedly confessing to his landlady he was John Wilkes Booth. Upon hearing this story, Finis L. Bates rushed to Enid from Texas because he’d known a man named John St. Helen, who also claimed to be Booth. Bates wanted to view the corpse while still at the undertakers, and once he did, he declared it was the same man he knew as John St. Helen. Meanwhile, the landlady recanted George’s death bed confession, but no matter, Bates paid to mummify the corpse so it could be put on public exhibition for an admission fee. The mummy was sold through the years to circus sideshows, and at various times held under bond, seized for debt, banned from exhibition, or kidnapped. And, of course, Bates wrote a crackpot book purporting to tell the real story of Booth’s escape.
There’s a strong current in history pulling scholars toward accepting official stories and staying within those parameters, and since that route usually yields the best book and film deals, not to mention professorships, serious historians often remain on this tack. But suddenly, in 1937, after gaining access to long-hidden War Department files, Otto Eisenschiml published the ground-breaking: Why Was Lincoln Murdered? The book painted a compelling portrait of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as possibly the instigator of Lincoln’s murder and was written in an entertaining, novelistic style. To marshal his case, the author stretched the truth here and there, and some points were quickly refuted by mainstream historians, however, the bulk of his case emerged unscathed, and most second-generation Lincoln researchers were influenced in some way by Eisenschiml.
At this point, a circus tatoo man had gained possession of George’s mummy, and the success of Eisenschiml’s book ignited renewed interest in Lincoln conspiracies, so in 1937, the mummy suddenly earned over $100,000 in exhibition fees, five times what Booth made as an actor in his best year. Obviously, there was a lot of money to be made fabricating Booth stories, which is why we’ve had a steady parade of fakes and forgeries ever since.
Twenty years after Eisenschiml’s groundbreaking book, Theodore Roscoe followed up with the even more comprehensive The Web of Conspiracy, three times the length and packed with even more supporting documentation. In his foreword, Roscoe described the assassination’s legend as “a towering edifice of so-called history built on sand.” For two decades a parade of apologists defending the official record had nitpicked every exaggeration in Eisenschiml’s book, but when Roscoe came back with a mountain of additional evidence, the best they could do was ignore him and pretend the book was never published or just a meaningless rehash of Eisenschiml’s. When you crack a deep political conspiracy like Lincoln’s assassination, it’s like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly you can see where to fit the missing pieces. Conversely, when you bend over backwards inventing complex rationalizations (magic bullets, etc.), remaining pieces fail to fit and require additional complex rationalizations. When you arrive at the truth, however, it lights up like a Christmas tree and everything falls into place.
In 1977, David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. published The Lincoln Conspiracy, which used a lot of material from Roscoe’s book, but added dubious evidence taken from transcripts provided by an unknown source acting through a lawyer as his agent. This person claimed to be a bastard descendent of Edwin Stanton and was offering to sell Booth’s missing diary pages, which identified the cabal behind the assassination. This source also claimed to have the letter Booth wanted delivered to the newspapers. In hindsight, I’d guess this was a clever intelligence operation designed to taint the story forever, and I file this effort under: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em—and throw in a ton of disinfo. And if that wasn’t enough, there was additional new material provided by a professor from Indiana State University named Ray Neff.
Neff claimed to have purchased a volume of Colburn’s United Service Magazine in 1957, a British military journal for professional soldiers. He soon discovered the book had notations in cipher in the margins, as well as the date: 2/5/68. In order to decipher the code, Neff claims to have taken the book to an unnamed cryptography expert. The first paragraph decoded went: “In new Rome, there walked three men, a Judas, a Brutus and a spy. Each planned he would be king when Abraham should die.” An invisible signature of Lafayette C. Baker was discovered on one page, and an analysis expert claimed it matched the real Baker’s signature.
Neff is obviously a fanatic researcher, and pursues documents from the era with enormous zeal, all of which are now archived at Indiana State University. Apparently, Neff sued the college for $90,000, but I found little information on that dispute. In fact, I find it odd I can’t locate a photo of Neff.
In a nutshell: the cipher messages stated Baker was being followed by professional spooks who wanted him dead. An enormous cabal had been working with Stanton, involving dozens of bankers, merchants, generals and government officials. However, only eight were supposedly intimately involved with the assassination, and those eight were not identified. Neff had a document from Baker’s archives proving he’d purchased a copy of Colburn’s. He had a hair analysis performed on Baker’s remains and announced he’d been poisoned with arsenic and did not die of meningitis as claimed. Eventually, Neff claimed to have discovered the arsenic had been laced in beer provided by Baker’s brother-in-law, a War Department employee.
Neff and an English co-writer eventually released their own book in 2003, Dark Union, which also claimed Booth escaped and died in India, that he’d been secretly married, and that James B. Boyd was the man shot in Garrett’s barn.
But that was 26 years after The Lincoln Conspiracy sold a million copies and became a major motion picture using the same information. But if you really peer deeply into this story, you’ll find fingers pointing in strange directions and dots lining up that don’t really connect, and while I’m sure Baker owned a copy of Colburn’s, I believe those ciphers were more likely added by someone else. In my opinion, all attempts to claim Booth wasn’t shot dead at Garrett’s farm are manufactured rabbit holes.
Today, few take Neff’s work seriously, but for a while, he did manage to grab the center of energy on Lincoln research, which was certainly unfortunate.
Captain J.W. Booth of the Confederate Secret Service resided in room 228 at the National Hotel in Washington, which just happened to be the same residence as the War Department censor because the city’s only public telegraph office was directly across the street.
For six months Booth had been involved in a grand scheme to kidnap President Lincoln so he could be taken to Richmond in chains for a victory parade and then ransomed, but with the war almost over, that plot had suddenly become meaningless.
John Surratt, Booth’s primary courier, was working closely with Booth on this grand mission-impossible adventure, and so were dozens of others. Their primary accomplices, however, represented a motley crew of misfits and the mentally challenged, with one cold-blooded killer.
After a mule kick disfigured his jaw, Lewis Powell volunteered for the Confederate Army at age 17. He became such a devoted killer, he carried the skull of one of his victims as an ashtray. After many battles, Powell was wounded and captured, taken to a concentration camp and escaped with the help of the Confederate Secret Service in Maryland. He joined Mosby’s Rangers, where he became known as “Lewis the Terrible.” Although the official story is that Powell deserted this guerrilla force and decided to move to Baltimore to pursue a new life, in truth, he was more likely just moved into undercover operations, and the biggest at the time involved the Lincoln kidnapping, a plot led by Booth. In January of 1895, they met for the first time, and Booth enlisted Powell in the plot. From that point on, Powell always referred to Booth as “Captain,” and would show no hesitation following any command.
Booth and Surratt differed on the best plan of action, as Booth felt the kidnapping could take place at Ford’s Theater because the back exit offered an escape into a maze of alleys. Booth’s attention to spook-craft was amazing, and he probably got the idea of drilling a peephole in the door to the presidential box, as well as needing an improvised door-jam to prevent anyone from entering the hall leading to the box, all important details that would become employed for Lincoln’s assassination.
Surratt insisted the attempt needed to be done outside the city, where they weren’t surrounded by police and soldiers in all directions. This plot involved many changes of horses, as well as sabotage in their wake to slow pursuit—an entire squad devoted to felling tress and blowing bridges. Of course, the plot was immediately revealed to the War Department by one of its secret agents, Louis Weichman, an old schoolmate of John Surratt, and War Department employee, who abruptly moved into the boarding house, and started acting like a rebel. He begged to become an active participant in the kidnapping, but Surratt told him not possible since Weichman could neither ride nor shoot, while Surratt and Booth were expert at both. Weichman would eventually become the key witness against Surratt’s mother, but would later recant the testimony and insist she was innocent, and then recant the recant in writing right before his death.
The only others involved we know of for sure were David E. Herod, who worked as a drug store clerk and followed the famous rising-star Booth around like a puppy dog. Herod reportedly had a dimished IQ and acted 11 years old, which is why he’s usually described as a youngster. George “Andrew” Atzerodt was a German immigrant who’d recently been recruited because he had a rowboat on the Potomac, a boat needed for the escape. I call him Dirty Andy because he looks filthy in every photo. Atzerodt knew few details and was working for hire. He was a big-time drinker and and small-time blockade runner who was being put out-of-business by the end of the war.
On March 4, 1865, Lincoln was inaugurated for the second time on the steps of the Capitol and a photo by Alexander Gardner would later reveal Booth wearing a silk top hat in the VIP gallery, within spitting distance of the President as he took the oath of office. But in the front row of the peanut gallery on ground level nearest the President stand Powell, Atzerodt, Herold and possibly even Surratt disguised as a Union soldier.
This may have been another possible kidnap attempt that did not materialize. For whatever reason, shortly after this inauguration, Booth’s plan shifted to murder, although it’s not clear why. Lincoln had little fear of assassination during his first term because he believed any replacement would be worse on the South than himself. Yet right around this time, Lincoln began having premonitions of his imminent death, and seemed almost resigned to it.
Since the morning newspaper announced the President and General Grant would be attending a light comedy at Ford’s Theater that night, this news boded poorly since Grant’s presence would necessitate a higher level of security. Also, Grant was the national hero of the moment, and a rare sight in Washington, which meant all eyes would be on the box through much of the play.
The Metropolitan Hotel was just down the street from the National where Booth resided. On the morning of the assassination, Booth met with a prominent Jewish lawyer named Simon Wolf, head of B’nai B’rith. Wolf and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were close as both were from Ohio.
Booth rented a horse for the day, and followed General Grant’s carriage as he suddenly departed town, almost as if to make sure the General was not going to disrupt his plans for the evening. The general and his wife were disturbed by the rider in black galloping alongside and staring into their coach.
Surratt had left town, likely because he didn’t want any part of Booth’s new operation, but also because he may have had a mission to seed letters from Booth back to the War Department to make it look like Booth was headed to Canada.
Four hours after the assassination, the first detectives on the case marched straight to Mary Surratt’s boarding house, which somehow had already been identified as the center of the conspiracy (though Booth had not even officially been announced a suspect yet). Meanwhile, the room Dirty Andy had checked into the previous day at the Kirkwood (and never occupied, as he already had a room at a different, cheaper hotel) was found stuffed with evidence implicating Booth, evidence that was initially strangely over-looked.
Meanwhile, although Booth was on the run for days, and assisted and aided by a dozen sympathizers along the way, only this little crew of misfits would end up hanged. And the cover-up might have worked, except Stanton tossed in Mary Surratt, and painted her as the evil den mother who hatched the plot. But the wheels on that hoax fell off, and knowledge Stanton railroaded an innocent woman onto the gallows destroyed his political career. He was dead within four years under somewhat mysterious circumstances.
A little-known fact about Stanton: he was found twice passed out at his desk and some speculated he’d acquired an addiction to opium. Perhaps, but his primary addiction was power. His first move as Secretary of War had been to move the telegraph into his office. His second move was getting control of the Union Gestapo, the National Detective Police (NDP).
In the first few weeks after the assassination, Stanton’s iron grip matched that of any fascist dictator in history, and though he fought tooth and nail to maintain this power, it would soon all be stripped away, and he died a broken man haunted by the ghost of Mary Surratt.
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.
I tinkered around conducting my own deep political research for years, but it wasn’t until I began the study of secret societies that I made any real headway. My big breakthrough was exploring connections between the Sicilian men-of-honor society and the Central Intelligence Agency, two secret societies that plotted to assassinate Fidel Castro. But after JFK called off that murder, the same team his CIA assembled to kill Castro ended up whacking Kennedy. If Congress ever holds a real investigation, this is the reality that will emerge, although I suppose the instigators will be long dead by then.
The masonic-influenced Knights of the Golden Circle was one of the more devious secret societies operating around the time of Lincoln’s assassination. Funny how almost nothing has been written about these Knights, although their existence was well-established before the Civil War. Apparently, the organization grew out of Southern Rights clubs in the South who lusted for more pro-slave territory. These societies financed ships that illegally abducted Africans after the slave trade was officially abolished in 1808. In 1844, the War with Mexico was championed in hopes that country would soon be carved-up into slave states, insuring the balance of power in Congress remained pro-slave.
In 1855, a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, named George Bickley organized the Southern Rights movement into the highly secretive Knights of the Golden Circle (K.G.C.), a volunteer militia initially formed for an invasion of Mexico. Eventually, tens of thousands joined, and many came from Northern states. A secret history of the society was written in 1861 and appeared a few years ago online here:
But three years after the Civil War commenced, the K.G.C. was exposed. Some were leading pro-slave “peace movements” while others were acting as spies and dirty tricks operatives for the Confederacy. The Army spent months investigating the K.G.C. and the Judge Advocate General eventually produced an exhaustive report titled: “The Order of American Knights”, alias “The Sons of Liberty:” A Western Conspiracy in Aid of the Southern Rebellion, published by the Union Congressional Committee, Washington D.C., 1864. Among other things, the report identified most of the state leaders in the North and claimed Clement L. Vallindigham was the society’s Supreme Commander. Vallindigham had been a member of Congress from Ohio but lost his seat through gerrymandering. On April 30, 1863, he was convicted by a military tribunal for making seditious statements in support of the Southern cause and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Instead, President Lincoln deported him to the Confederacy as an enemy alien. He became the real man without a country, and perhaps the model on which the fictional story was soon written.
You can read the Congressional report here:
Isn’t it odd that none of the recent Lincoln biographies or recent films mention K.G.C.?
In the 1930s an amateur historian and chemistry professor in Chicago put forth the theory that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was involved in the Lincoln assassination and played the crucial role in covering up the true origin of the plot.
After Lincoln’s death, Stanton seized all power in Washington D.C. and took charge of the investigation and ran a military court that swiftly hanged some minor players, most of whom were completely innocent. What nobody seems to mention, however, is that Stanton and Vallindigham were the closest of personal friends. Vallindigham, in fact, funded Stanton’s rise in politics. Booth’s induction into the K.G.C. has long been suspected, and Booth could have been receiving instructions from Vallindigham, who had one of the biggest axes to grind against Lincoln. But the ones who seem to have benefited most from the assassination were the leading Radical Republicans, who held the center of gravity on real power, and wanted Lincoln removed because he planned to go easy on the South.
The transcripts of the trial of the Lincoln assassination alleged conspirators are available online, or you can watch Robert Redford’s excellent film The Conspirator, which focuses on Mary Surratt, who was targeted as the chief patsy and swiftly hanged. Her son John was studying to be a Catholic priest but instead joined Confederate Secret Service and became one of the primary couriers for the Confederacy during the war. He was also involved in the plot to kidnap Lincoln, a plot that involved hundreds of Southern sympathizers and one that was certainly fomented by Colonel John Mosby (The Grey Ghost), although Surratt later claimed to have been acting on his own authority. But when the kidnap plan suddenly shifted to murder, Surratt fled and he remained in hiding for years.
Check out Surratt wearing his Papal Zouave uniform. He was such a devoted Catholic that he volunteered to defend the Papal States during the final years of their existence. Eighteen months after his mother was hanged, however, he was spotted in Egypt and escorted back to America to stand trial still wearing his Papal Zouave uniform. Fortunately, a law had just been passed forbidding further military courts from trying civilians. Because of this glitch, the government was unable to secure a conviction, and although Surratt freely admitted associations with Booth, he claimed no part of the murder, and the jury believed him.
Since Stanton was head of the investigation and running the country under martial law at the time, one wonders why the K.G.C. and their offshoot “The Sons of Liberty” were never mentioned at the trial. Or why Booth was executed instead of being brought in for interrogation. Or why 18 leaves of Booth’s diary disappeared. I suspect those pages made mention of some of the real conspirators, possibly even Jay Gould. The reason the society and any real evidence was never discussed is obviously because Stanton was railroading patsies.
If I had to make a guess, I’d say the Civil War could have been fomented by European and American business interests that also funded the abolitionist movement from their headquarters in Boston and New York. The founder of Yale’s Order of Skull & Bones was a close associate of terrorist John Brown, who sparked the insane violence. The Boner founder was also heir to the American opium cartel, which meant his family was deeply involved in the shipping industry that had also profiteered immensely off slavery.
First the shipping merchants sold three million slaves to the South as plantation workers, and then a few decades later, told the South it was time to free the slaves. You can understand how that turn of events might upset some who’d invested millions in purchasing slaves. After the war, certain business interests wanted to pillage the South for exploitation, something Lincoln opposed. Killing Lincoln was not in the best interests of the South, but was in the best interest of certain profiteering schemes. After Lincoln’s death, Stanton engaged in a vicious power struggle with President Andrew Johnson, and lost.
There’s another thread to this saga involving Freemasonry. Albert Pike, the most powerful Mason in America, was from Boston, but moved to Arkansas during the war, where he became a general for the Confederacy and organized Native Americans to conduct terror raids on Northern civilians. Just as British and American officers met frequently during the Revolutionary War in Masonic lodges (and sometimes on the eve of battle), it’s safe to assume Masons on both sides of the Civil War held discussions in their temples throughout the war. Freemasonry has always been a refuge for spies, particularly the British sort. Immediately after Lincoln’s death, Pike went from hiding in Canada, to being awarded full masonic honors inside the White House by the deeply masonic President Andrew Johnson, who pardoned Pike for his war crimes and may have even helped erect the statue to him that still stands in Washington. Strange this statue seems untouchable considering Pike’s war crimes.
Consider Stanton was a devoted Freemason and the K.G.C. shows every sign of being a potential masonic spin-off. Also consider the one man brought in to testify against Mary Surratt was a clerk who worked for Stanton at the Department of War. Consider Stanton placed John Frederick Parker as the sole bodyguard for Lincoln that night even though Lincoln had been having nightmares about being assassinated for three nights running and expressed these fears to Stanton and requested additional protection, which was strangely refused. Since Parker had a reputation for visiting brothels, sleeping on duty and drinking heavily, he was an odd choice, unless incompetency was the object. Parker abandoned his post as expected and crossed the street for drink in a tavern. Inside, Booth was imbibing brandy, and would soon stroll across the street carrying a single shot derringer and knife. Consider that Stanton closed every bridge out of Washington immediately after the assassination, save one, which turned out to be the bridge used by Booth to escape. Consider Booth had the military pass code to cross the bridge. Consider the public telegraph lines in Washington went dead for two hours immediately after the assassination, leaving Stanton in control of the only working telegraph line in and out of the city.
Although all the films show Booth jumping to the stage and yelling “sic semper Tyrannis,” in his final diary entries Booth claimed to have shouted those words while firing the fatal bullet, before jumping to the stage.
When conducting operations, secret societies often manifest opposing systems by founding terror groups on both sides to capture the twin centers of gravity. Capturing the extremes allows them to place gatekeepers at strategic vantage points. Just as the abolitionist movement had deep pockets (plus the insane John Brown), a complimentary and similarly well-funded, pro-slavery movement was manifested with William Quantrill as their insane terrorist.
Vallandigham lost all influence after the war as ruling Democrats considered him a disruptive influence. On June 16, 1871, he was fatally shot while in conference with some attorneys, whose names have not gone down in history it seems. The story goes he was demonstrating how a former client once accidentally fatally shot himself.
In order to help others navigate these waters, it’s important not to get caught up in the hocus pocus elements of religion, which certainly includes the occult societies. Ceremonies are deployed to bond the group to secrecy, which is why when you are admitted into one of these societies, you typically give permission to be executed should you ever break your vow of silence. One wonders if Vallandigham broke that code.
“Whoever dares our cause reveal, shall test the strength of knightly steel; and when the torture proves too dull, we’ll scrape the brains from out his skull, and place a lamp within the shell, to light his soul from here to hell.” Knights of the Golden Circle oath.”