April 15th, 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and well-known investigator Steven Hager cracked the case wide open with his mind-blowing book Killing Lincoln: The Real Story.
New York City, NY (PRWEB) March 20, 2015
Why was President Abraham Lincoln left unguarded when the War Department knew there were serious plots against him? Why was John Wilkes Booth killed when he was discovered locked inside a tobacco barn and surrounded by 25 soldiers? Why were two innocents swiftly hanged by a military tribunal and not allowed to testify in their own defense?
In 1988 Steven Hager wrote a cover story for High Times magazine detailing CIA involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was an explosive best-selling issue and the article went viral in the early days of the Internet. Judge Jim Garrison, the only prosecutor to investigate the case, cited it as “the best article written on the assassination.”
In February 2014, Hager watched The Conspirator, a film about Mary Surratt’s trial. Realizing the 150th anniversary was upon us, he began researching the murder full-time for 11 months before writing Killing Lincoln: The Real Story.
The book documents dozens of incriminating threads of evidence that have been swept out-of-view, especially the original confession of George Atzerodt, as well as the John Wilkes Booth diary fragments. He pays special attention to the suspicious behavior of some of the major power brokers in Washington DC, and his investigation extends into New York City, a major piece of the puzzle that has been historically ignored as it leads into the heart of Wall Street war profiteering.
Most Americans are not aware Congress held an investigation after it was revealed the original military tribunal that hanged four people had been packed with paid perjuries. There was only one Democrat on the Judiciary Committee placed in charge of the investigation, but rather than rubber stamp a bogus committee whitewash, Representative Andrew Rogers subjected the witnesses to serious cross examination and they wilted. A physician named Dr. Merritt admitted receiving the biggest bribe ($6,000) for his testimony.
Only a handful of scholars have shown any interest in this Congressional investigation, which sheds so much light on the plot, and the Lincoln assassination is clouded by faithful allegiance to the official story.
“The cool turpitude of the whole crew sickened me with shame,” wrote Rogers in his dissenting statement, “and made me sorrow over the fact that such people could claim the name American.”
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.
Russ Baker wrote a great blog about some famous seeding-the-rabbit-hole incidents. Did you know Lee Harvey Oswald’s wallet was conveniently found dropped right near the spot where police officer J.D. Tippet was found murdered shortly after JFK’s assassination? This wallet was, in fact, the evidence used by police to declare Oswald’s complicity in the JFK assassination.
Simultaneously, a bullet was found on the stretcher used to move JFK, and although virtually undamaged, it became responsible for a half dozen wounds on two people. Naturally, the bullet matched a rifle Oswald had recently mail-ordered.
Next, consider the bundle found on the sidewalk near Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, all of which pointed towards James Earl Ray as the culprit, a bundle that included some of Ray’s laundry as well as the alleged murder weapon and a newspaper clipping giving the name of the motel King was scheduled to be at.
But most amazing of all these tall tales was the appearance of the undamaged visa for alleged hijacker Satam al-Suqami just a few blocks from twin towers after they fell. Those steel towers and aluminum planes had turned to dust in a matter of seconds, but this incriminating scrap of paper that helped break the case wide open floated out of the apocalypse in mint condition.
Most recently, there is Said Kouachi’s ID left in his abandoned stolen vehicle following his attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices. Without that ID, it would have taken weeks to break the case. Why does it seem like the same template is being used in all these cases? Maybe because it works so well.
One of my favorite episodes along these lines was the amazing testimony given by Fox radio host Mark Walsh just seconds after the twin towers fell, seeding the absurd cover story on how steel-framed buildings could suffer a complete collapse from fire for the first time in history, delivered on live national TV. Does it not appear he’s reciting a script?
This same technique was used after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, when the finger was instantly pointed towards Col. John Mosby (aka The Grey Ghost). In fact, Mosby had been planning an elaborate presidential kidnapping plot, and Booth was his key agent in that conspiracy. But as the conspiracy grew, it eventually included a number of double agents secretly reporting back to the Union War Department.
We know this because of the original confession given by George Atzerodt. This confession was strangely not admitted into the trial as evidence and ordered destroyed, although 117 years later a photostat was found in the archives of one of the stenographers. Atzerodt had listed over a dozen additional names in the kidnap conspiracy, people who were never charged nor investigated. Soon, however, his story changed considerably. But that only happened after he’d lost his mind wearing a suffocating canvas-and-leather hood 24 hours a day that cut off all sight and sound. This torture device, which he was forced to endure for weeks until hanged, had been invented to keep him from revealing information to anyone while the government fabricated a case with paid perjuries.
The only justification for these machinations is if the War Department was complicit in the crime of killing Lincoln, pretty much the same situation we have now with the lies of the Pentagon regarding 9/11.
According to Atzerodt, Booth had been informed that the “New York crowd” who’d been assisting the kidnap plot had decided to put a hit on Lincoln. Booth accepted their mission, and was obviously paid to carry it out (and reportedly had a large amount of cash on him that disappeared). Booth was told to act fast or someone else might get the glory of killing the tyrant as multiple hit teams were assembling.
It was only afterwards, when every newspaper in the land denounced Booth that he realized he’d been played and wrote in his diary that he desired to return to Washington to “clear his name.”
How could Booth clear his name, unless, of course, he planned to name some traitors inside the War Department who’d aided the mission and left Lincoln unguarded so he could waltz in and do the evil deed with a one-shot derringer.
But Booth never made it back to Washington. Instead, he was found locked inside a tobacco barn, and while inside that barn someone put a bullet in back of his skull at close range and blamed it on the brain-damaged Boston Corbett (who’d self-castrated himself so feeble was his brain from mercury poisoning).
And for 150 years, the country has swallowed this fable that Booth was the mastermind of the assassination, and all the conspirators were caught and punished.
You can read Baker’s blog here: http://whowhatwhy.org/2015/02/01/lost-found-id-oddity-terror-cases-stupid-sinister/
Since I didn’t investigate this case until recently, I was surprised at how transparent the Lincoln assassination conspiracy has become over the years. Bill O’Reilly ignored every modern development to write a cover-up fantasy supporting the official story Booth was insane and the War Department had no idea what he was up to. In fact, Booth was surrounded by double agents, a list that included Louis Weichmann, James Donaldson and the beautiful Kate Brown, known as “The French Lady.”
The biggest issue with solving this case is the amount of noise and disinfo that’s been manufactured to hold back realization it was an inside job. There’s a cottage industry of researchers who will attack any suggestion Edwin Stanton was involved, even though the evidence against Stanton is overwhelming.
Periodically, new documents have been produced to bolster one side or another, yet few discuss how many of these are forgeries. Often, when a breakthrough takes place, the scoop is tied to a nasty piece of disinfo, a commonly used counterintelligence booby-trap for discrediting real information. I find this technique in play not just with Lincoln, but with JFK and 9/11.
I often found Roger Norton’s forum a valuable source of research material over the past few months, and there are obviously a number of dedicated researchers contributing to that site. However, I also noticed organized resistance to any inference of an inside job, and that makes me suspicious to say the least.
The single most important document to surface in the last fifty years is the original confession of George Atzerodt. At first, I assumed this to be a forgery like so many other documents involving the case, and I did not study it closely for many months. Today, I accept it as a real document, which means we have the Surratt Society to thank for its exposure, even though the current director is a cheerleader against the inside job theory.
I promise if you look deeply into this case, the cover-up will become obvious, and reading my book Killing Lincoln: The Real Story is a good place to start the adventure. My book is a concise over-view of overlooked details, all of which point to an inside job. Strange how no established press has exposed this information yet.
It’s sad to consider the entire hoodwink could have easily been blown sky-high when Steven Spielberg produced his Lincoln film recently, and you can find clues in that film. But Lincoln’s final hours were glossed over, including his request for additional security that night and his premonitions of the assassination. Both Lincoln and his wife were highly psychic, and the immense powers of the presidency may have lifted those powers even higher.
Since Thaddeus Stevens played a major role in the plot against Lincoln, it’s tragic Spielberg held Stevens up for adoration (while only hinting at his corruption). Stevens believed the ends justify the means, and seeking vengeance against the South was high on his to-do list. In the film, Mary Todd dresses Stevens down, not realizing the plot to assassinate her husband is already in full swing.
The reason John W. Booth accepted the hit was because he knew the “New York crowd” was going to have Lincoln killed and it was only a matter of time. And he also knew this crew had agents embedded deep inside the corridors of power in Washington, people who would aid the assassination. I don’t know what he was offered, or whether he took the hit to avenge the recent hanging of a Confederate spy he knew well, and I don’t know who actually pitched the deal to him, but there can be no doubt he was merely a pawn in their game, and must have realized this toward the end of his life.
Which is why every attempt by Booth to leave a statement about what really happened was destroyed, just like every attempt by Lee H. Oswald to leave a written statement with the FBI and Dallas police was destroyed. So open your eyes and do some research. And when you’re done, spread the news from every mountain top: Lincoln’s murder was an inside job.
Rabbit Hole #1: Jefferson Davis did it. Did you know Jefferson Davis was convicted of orchestrating Lincoln’s murder, with Mary Surratt and John W. Booth as his primary agents in that endeavor? That was the finding of the military tribunal that took 5,000 pages of testimony and then hanged four people the next day, indicating not a single officer on the tribunal bothered to read the transcript before rendering a decision. Even today, this theory is periodically trotted out and dusted off. Only problem is less than two years later, a Congressman named Rogers exposed the trial had been a sham and witnesses had been coached and paid for their false testimony. This inconvenient truth was brushed under the rug, but created enough of a public outcry that Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, who presided over the trial, went into a phase of “intense personal excitement” as he was worried he was becoming the fall-guy for the sham trial.
Rabbit Hole #2: Andrew Johnson did it. President Andrew Johnson was next in the patsy line. The Radicals began building a case against Johnson the moment he attempted to remove Edwin M. Stanton from his perch running the War Department, the military, the newspapers and the telegraph lines. Johnson survived the impeachment trial by one vote, despite the long list of dirty tricks, bribes and threats brought to play against him. Once the smoke cleared, Johnson knew the tribunal had been a complete sham and regretted allowing Mary Surratt to swing from the gallows and would soon pardon the convicted-but-not-hanged conspirators languishing in jail.
Rabbit Hole #3: The Pope was responsible. In order to shift suspicion off himself and the Radical Republicans who orchestrated the sham trial, Holt wrote a manifesto claiming the Catholics conspired to kill Lincoln based mostly on Mary Surratt being a Catholic, and Catholics at that time were a minority despised by many Protestants. Some really absurd evidence was brought to bear by Holt and this balloon did not fly with the public.
Rabbit Hole #4: The Rothschilds did it. This has become the standard canard for shielding the oligarchy that really runs the banking system. Because some powerful banking families of Jewish heritage happen to control a large percentage of the banking system does not mean they own all the money or even most of it, or that they are pulling evil strings on every event in history. I’d imagine Simon Wolf had a relationship with the Rothschilds, and did meet with Booth that day. However, it seems far more likely a New York element was closely involved, and not a London or European element. The key suspects beyond Booth and his inner circle should be the Radical Republicans working with Jay Gould and/or Fernando Wood as the “New York crowd.”
Rabbit Hole #5: Booth was insane and acting on his own. This is the meme that has come down through history, and ignores Booth’s command of spy craft and his devious methods for concealing operations. Sam Arnold, one of the primary conspirators in the kidnap plot remarked how closed-lipped Booth was on all matters and how Booth shared little information concerning the source of his funding, but Booth did buy a carriage, horses, four pistols, four knives, two rifles and a rowboat for the kidnapping scheme, indicating deep pockets were behind the plot.
The most suspicious thing about the trial, other than the perjuries committed, were the dozen conspirators who aided Booth that were never investigated or brought to testify. George Atzerodt ran down all the key players in his first confession, but that document was destroyed and never admitted into evidence. Why wasn’t the beautiful Kate Brown brought before the tribunal? She was reportedly taken to Stanton’s office and then disappeared forever. But then there were many others, and strong suspicion exists today these conspirators were hidden to protect their identities as double agents. Stanton undoubtedly had many doubles pretending to be loyal Confederate agents. This would have been standard procedure. And if so, the reason these doubles couldn’t be brought forth is because that would have indicated Stanton knew about the plot in advance, and had purposefully left Lincoln unguarded.
The day after Lincoln died, the Radicals met for a crucial strategy session and Thaddeus Stevens remarked on how the assassination had been “a godsend,” as Lincoln had been planning forgiveness for the South. That callous statement is an indication of the Radicals true feelings toward Lincoln, who had just returned from a visit to Richmond, where he’d walked the streets unguarded, and spoken freely with the inhabitants. If the Confederate secret service and Jefferson Davis had wanted Lincoln murdered in revenge for losing the war, he could have been cut down in the streets of Richmond just a few days before his death in the heart of Washington DC.
Of course the rabbit holes don’t stop there and every year some new piece of forged documentation will appear to send researchers on a goose egg hunt to nowhere, usually in support of one or more of the fake theories already listed. But it’s incredibly suspicious how so much evidence has emerged over the years to support the thesis of an inside job, and how none of that evidence seems to make it into the media or onto Wikipedia.
On May 1, 1865, George Atzerodt made a full confession regarding the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, a statement recorded by a detective working for Maryland Provost Marshal James McPhail. Strangely, this confession was never entered into the official records of the trial.
Atzerodt told a much different story at that trial, one that closely conformed to the prosecution’s wild theories that five simultaneous assassinations had been planned. But this first confession was the one he expected to get himself off the hook with, because it was the truth. Only the truth is not what the military tribunal’s rush to judgment was concerned with. They were actually burying the truth, and tossing out Atzerodt’s initial confession was part of that plan.
Atzerodt began by describing fellow conspirator Lewis Powell, known to him as James Wood or Mosby.
“He was brought from New York. Surratt told me.”
This is the first mention of the “New York crowd” who return repeatedly as the rambling confession unfolds. Next, he identifies James Donaldson as one of the primary conspirators, a man who’ll disappear off the pages of history and never be heard from again. According to Don Thomas (The Reason Lincoln Had to Die), Donaldson (like Louis Weichmann) was a War Department informant placed inside the Confederate secret services.
“Arnold, O’Laughlen, Surratt, Harold, Booth and myself met at a restaurant on the Aven. bet 13 & 14.”
No problems here, as this is the designated crew of patsies.
“The Saml. Thomas registered on the morning of the 15th at the Penn Hotel, I met at the hotel, he was an entire stranger to me.”
Mr. Thomas will never be investigated.
“I same a man named Weightman who boarded at Surrattt’s at Post Office. he told me he had to go down the country with Mrs. Surratt.”
Louis Weichmann appears, although Atzerodt has no clue Weichmann is a War Department snitch.
“Booth never said until the last night (Friday) that he intended to kill the president.”
Atzerodt goes on to explain his mysterious presence at the Kirkwood: He was sent there to collect a pass for travel to Richmond from Vice President Johnson, which is the same reason Booth will stop by the Kirkwood and inquire after Johnson on the day of the assassination. (Later, this story will shift to Atzerodt being there to murder the Vice President.) The confession goes on to incriminate Charles Yates, Thos. Holborn, as well three referred to as Bailey, Barnes and Boyle. But the most interesting name was that of a female who obviously had a close relationship with Booth and appeared just a few weeks before Lincoln was murdered.
“Kate Thompson or Kate Brown, as she was known by both names, put up at the National was well known at the Penn House…this woman is about 20 years of age, good looking and well dressed.”
Here’s a character worthy of investigation. If you know anything about spooks, it’s that 20-something super hotties play a significant role in operations and are known as “honey traps.” Why was Kate never charged or called to testify since Atzerodt clearly places her in the center of the conspiracy, along with an entity he only identifies as the “New York crowd?” It wasn’t because nobody looked, but that she simply never could be found.
Some say her real name was Sarah Gilbert Slater, a Confederate spy who disappeared without a trace. Since her name appeared frequently in two trials, investigators did look for her extensively, but since she wore a heavy veil at all times and changed names constantly, and was known mostly as “the french woman,” they really didn’t have much to go on.
In 1865, while being interviewed in Richmond for a passport to travel to New York City to see her mother, Slater was recruited as a spy by Secretary of War James A. Seddon and became a courier for messages between Richmond and Confederate operations in Canada. A large amount of money allegedly disappeared with her, as did her two brothers around the same time. Whether they were all mysteriously murdered over their knowledge of the conspiracy, or whether they created new identities in France will never be known.
However, Thomas has proposed an alternative theory, which is the mysterious French woman is Kate Warne, the first female detective hired by Allen Pinkerton, who died in 1868 with Pinkerton at her side. Somehow, I doubt this is true.
My guess is Kate was Sarah and she was turned by the “New York crowd.” A spook with her assets would have been extremely useful to any side, and any corporation, and in the real world of spooks, loyalty usually falls to the highest bidder, or the one who can keep you off the gallows, and not the one with the best dogmas.
On November 1, 1864, Louis Weichmann moved into widow Mary Surratt’s boarding house, 604 H Street. Surratt’s son John was an important courier for the Confederacy who kept his mother and sister largely in the dark about his activities in order to shield them from culpability. Weichmann was an old friend of the family, an elementary school chum of John’s and a fellow Catholic.
Weichmann worked as a clerk at the War Department of Prisons and sat next to Daniel H.L. Gleason. After arriving at the boarding house, he immediately began telling Gleason the house was a nest of illegal activities. Of course, the possibility exists Weichmann was placed in the house as a confidential informant from the beginning. That fall Weichmann began informing on Surratt and his friend John Wilkes Booth.
On April 18, 1865, four days after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Gleason testified Weichmann informed him in March that “he was well-acquainted with some blockade runners, young fellows, not secessionists, who were out for money and excitement, who were currently involved in a new project that aroused his suspicion.” This message wormed its way up the chain-of-command and it soon came back down Weichmann should join this project, whatever it was. But in 1911, Gleason unloaded his conscience and confessed the real story: the War Department was made aware of John Wilkes Booth’s plot to kidnap Lincoln weeks before the assassination.
Since Stanton controlled the secret police, the army, the telegraph and the entire Washington DC police force, his power was absolute and once he discovered this plot, Booth was obviously at his mercy. At any time, Stanton could have arrested Booth and hanged him for treason, standard treatment for a Confederate spook like Booth, although Booth represented a high-profile celebrity trophy catch, and as such might expect special treatment.
So why wasn’t Booth arrested in March?
Even stranger, Stanton suddenly demoted his chief detective, moving the head of the National Detective Police to Manhattan, leaving the NDP headless for the crucial few weeks the assassination plot unfolded.
Stanton’s specialty was manufacturing evidence, and he had a entire crew led by Sanford Conover (real name Charles Dunham) for this purpose, so guilt or innocence never got in the way of his agenda. It’s possible Dunham’s real employer, however, was the treacherous Jay Gould, soon the be the richest man on Wall Street.
Booth claimed in his diary he could return to Washington and clear his name. I believe he intended to reveal that a detachment of Union soldiers had been sent into Richmond for the purpose of assassinating Jefferson Davis. This unit had been sent by Stanton and Lincoln had been purposely kept in the dark.
Booth was also a bit unhinged over the hanging of his mentor John Yates Beal, despite the pleas of many prominent Washingtonians to spare the spook for his failed attempt to free the Confederates held prisoners-of-war in the North.
Also, John Parker, the guard who deserted his post was never punished and went back to work inside the White House the next day. Knowing Stanton ripped-up most every Presidential pardon, this sudden overwhelming sense of forgiveness for both Parker and Boston Corbett (the alleged killer of Booth) was inexplicable, unless this is exactly what Stanton wanted: an unguarded President and dead assassin to tell no tales.
Most of what we know about La Fayette Curry Baker is taken from his autobiography, and undoubtedly lies mixed with gross exaggerations, as Baker didn’t even write the book, but had it ghostwritten. When grilled about it on the stand, he wasn’t completely sure of its contents. Baker was undoubtedly one of the most corrupt officials in Washington so why would the truth cross his lips with any frequency? The fact he never read his autobiography is an indication he was not a learned fellow, although street-smart and schooled in the arts of spookdom.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton hand-picked Baker to run the goon squad, the National Detective Police (NDP), which had been under control of the Secretary of State until Stanton snatched it away. Stanton also snatched the telegraph lines around the same time.
Stanton soon became a law unto himself, and Baker, chief enforcer. Admittedly, Baker wasn’t good at administration, although he did like dressing in disguise and doing his own gumshoe work. Interrogating suspected spies (especially pretty female ones), and manifesting fake evidence were among his admitted specialties, talents that made him quite useful to Stanton.
Right before the assassination, this duo got into a tiff, reportedly because Stanton discovered Baker had put a tap on his private telegraph line, which could have been deployed to communicate with an entity in Manhattan (likely Jay Gould, soon to be the richest man in America). Stanton and his allies running Congress (Wade, Stevens) had control of the flow of information concerning the outcome of battles. After Lincoln won his second term, he wanted to forgive the South and let their old representatives return to Congress, which would have taken control away from the Radicals.
Strangely, when Stanton discovered Baker’s tap, instead of firing him, Baker was moved to Manhattan. No doubt the head of the NDP office in New York, where Baker was moved to, was also involved in the conspiracy. Baker, however, was the odd man left out in the cold.
The Radical Republican cabal that had taken power in Washington viewed Lincoln as a novice and hick, and referred to him as “the ape” behind his back. Nothing like the saintly image we have today.
Precisely as the assassination plot went into action, Baker was demoted and moved to New York. Yet, a few weeks later, two days after the assassination, Stanton recalled Baker and reinstated him as NDP chief. Baker was considered the best detective on the force. No doubt Stanton was worried about the impression created by keeping him on the sidelines for the crime of the century. Using information gleaned from the army patrol that had visited Dr. Mudd’s home, Baker correctly pinpointed Booth’s location and sent a patrol led by a relative to retrieve him. At the last second, however, Stanton attached a civilian to the patrol, and he is the one who actually shot Booth in the barn.
When Baker got the news of Booth’s capture and death, he was elated since the equivalent of around $2.25 million in reward money was at stake and he expected to get the lion’s share. Baker bolted to Stanton’s home to give him the news. Stanton was an emotional man given to outbursts of rage and happiness, and Baker was curious what his reaction might be. At first, Baker did not tell Stanton Booth was dead, only captured, as he wished to judge the reaction. Surprisingly, upon hearing Booth was captured, Stanton registered nothing, but silently put one hand over his eyes while laying on his living room couch, remaining still as a statue until Baker told him Booth had not survived capture. Instead of becoming angry they could not move up the chain-of-command through torturing Booth, Stanton calmly rose and put on his coat for the trip to the office.
The story is revealing, and takes me back a few days to that initial meeting the duo had when Baker was recalled from New York and reinstated. Stanton spun his chair around and put his back to Baker. Baker assumed this was because Stanton was shedding tears over Lincoln’s death and did not wish to be seen in a moment of weakness. But knowing Stanton, it’s far more likely he turned around and feigned that moment, simply so Baker couldn’t look deeply into his eyes and read the guilt. Even though Baker was chief of the secret police, and involved in all sorts of nasty business, he remained on the outside of the assassination conspiracy as Stanton did not fully trust him.
After President Johnson went to war with Stanton and Thaddeus Stevens, and they mounted an impeachment campaign against him, word around Washington was the cabal had already decided Johnson had to go, and with manufactured evidence if necessary.
Just as they had invented the testimony that hanged Mary Surratt, they were already busy inventing evidence against Johnson. Under oath General Baker (he was promoted after Booth’s death) claimed to have seen letters between Johnson and Jefferson Davis, letters he promised to produce, but never did. Odd because forgery was not an issue for Baker.
To give an idea of the sort of shenanigans Baker fomented, he had a detective hire a prostitute to carry a pardon request to the White House. But when she arrived, Baker was waiting and nabbed her, claiming she was not of sufficient character to be in the White House. During the impeachment trial, this incident would be twisted to paint Johnson as a drunk who engaged prostitutes in the White House.
But it all backfired because Johnson survived his impeachment trial by one vote, meaning Stanton and Baker were both soon fired. Which is why Baker was forced to sign that publishing deal. He did put some clues in his book, however, and the most important had been to reveal the existence of Booth’s diary that had been captured at Garrett’s farm. Until then, the diary had never been revealed. This was an obvious case of obstruction, and Congress eventually forced Stanton to produce the diary so they could examine this curiosity, although when it finally arrived, many pages had been snipped out with a pair of scissors.
Baker received a pittance of the reward and became quite bitter later in life. Stanton and Stevens were both soon dead of natural causes and the head of Stanton’s telegraph operation would become the first CEO of Western Union, appointed by the owner, Jay Gould, who had profited immensely off uncanny Wall Street maneuvers involving Civil War battles. Almost as if he had advance knowledge.
Don’t feel bad for John Wilkes Booth—he was a great actor, and a great spook, no matter what the history books say.
He was also the first real matinee idol whose presence on the streets of Washington or Richmond caused some women to swoon. Had the Confederates won the war, and Booth escaped, he might have become President. It astounds me how spook assassins like James Bond are so celebrated by our culture, yet when a real life Bond appears before us, only his faults are celebrated.
Booth’s intelligence is evidenced by the complexity of his plots. He wasn’t sure which theater Lincoln might visit that night (there were two options), so he purchased the box next to the Presidential box in one, while drilling a peep hole and fashioning a door wedge for the other.
But even then, he didn’t purchase that box in his own name, but sent the manager of the billiard parlor he frequented to purchase the tickets. Booth was raining money right before the assassination, and gave a wad to George “Dirty Andy” Atzerodt to get an expensive room at the Kirkwood. He also purchased four colt pistols and rented four fast horses.
There had to be a benefactor, because a few weeks earlier, when the kidnapping plot was still being fomented, Booth had been crying poor and seeking additional funding. He had a bank account in the same Canadian bank used by the Confederate Secret Service so any funds he received from Richmond would have been transferred through this bank.
If Booth had spent less time on spook activities and more time on acting and earning a living, he was capable of manifesting an upper-class salary. But running spook operations required budget, and the bigger the plans, the bigger the budget.
Bill O’Reilly takes the obvious road and paints Booth as demented like most biographers, but that’s just one of many inaccuracies. O’Reilly falls into a few rabbit holes, and fails to pinpoint the center of gravity on the assassination.
Here’s how Booth looked at 18, sans mustache. Because he died without the mustache, I prefer to think of him this way. When he died, Booth already knew his bid for glory had been dashed. Even the Copperhead press was aghast and had turned on him. Not to mention, his letter of explanation had strangely never been published, and Booth was checking the papers every day. Booth frantically began writing a diary to explain his position. Too bad we never saw it.
Booth sometimes gets painted as a serial liar, but when you’re a spook, that just comes with the territory. If Booth said he was going to New York, he might have been going to Richmond, and if he said he was going to Richmond, he might have been going to Canada. He seldom told the truth about anything and spread lies and disinformation with great frequency. This was not done out of insanity, but to shield operations.
One of his favorite tricks was to pick up a horse at one stable, and then check the animal into another stable on the other side of town. This would give him an air-tight alibi, as he could claim he’d been out riding in the country and not in Washington during the allotted time.
The movies show him leaping to the stage, brandishing a bloody knife and shouting Sic Semper Tyrannis, but, in fact, eyewitnesses claim he jumped and instantly disappeared through the scenery, while mumbling “I did it!” under his breath. Booth had shouted Sic Semper Tyrannis, but that was when he was firing the derringer, and the shout mostly lost in the explosion. According to diary fragments that survived the vetting process, Booth broke his leg during a fall on his horse later that night, and not when he’d jumped to the stage. Booth did not make a grandstand display of himself on the stage like a demented psycho killer. He also lost his hat when he’d jumped, but in typical Booth fashion, had packed a spare in his saddle bag. He always seemed to think of everything that could go wrong and plan accordingly.
Booth waited on the other side of Navy Yard Bridge for his three accomplices to catch up, but only one appeared, David Herold, the weakest of the lot. This must have been a surprise and disappointment because the band of brothers had suddenly shrunk in half. Herold likely bolted when the nurse at William Seward’s house had screamed bloody murder out a third-floor window. If so, it meant he’d abandoned Lewis Powell, who didn’t know his way around town. And that would be the reason Powell got nabbed. With no place to go and his horse gone, Powell wandered over to Mary Surratt’s boarding house at 3 AM. But soldiers arrived there a mere four hours after the assassination. In fact, that was the first place they went to look for the assassins, even before investigating Booth’s hotel room. Had Powell not shown up there that night, Surratt likely would never have swung from the gallows.
The fourth rider who didn’t show should have been Dirty Andy, but he’d bailed the second he’d heard “assassination” and not “kidnap.” Booth entrusted Andy with his Canadian bankbook and maps of the Southern States. Andy was supposed to pick up a pass so they could travel through lines to Richmond under the guise of opening a theater there. When he was first picked up, Andy spilled the beans on everything he knew, but that confession was never entered into the trial and the original was destroyed. Meanwhile, Andy was forced to wear a suffocating hood night and day and went crazy and was soon willing to admit to any scenario presented before him. Soon he was confessing to having been told to kill the Vice President.
In truth, Booth never would have depended on Dirty Andy to assassinate anyone. Rowing his boat across the Potomac south of town, on the other hand, was Andy’s real role.
The invented assassination gave Stanton the idea of inventing even more assassinations because two others would soon be charged for other imaginary assassinations, one for Stanton and one for General Grant, and all three of these imaginary assassins would soon be found guilty, although only Dirty Andy was hanged. It was a veritable Valentine’s day massacre of political bigwigs held on Good Friday, but it was all a hoodwink designed to hang scapegoats as quick as possible. Meanwhile, the case against Andrew Johnson as the mastermind of Lincoln’s assassination was put on back burner. That card would be held close to the vest and played later on, during Johnson’s impeachment trial.
There was no central intelligence during the Civil War, just a hodgepodge of competing spook units. Every army had its own spy system, as did every city’s police force. Ciphers were an ancient spook technology, handed down in spook world for generations. Aaron Burr had been an early master of the art, trained by His Majesty’s Secret Service, but the South had no one like him and the Confederates lost the cipher war.
Tapping telegraph lines was a constant endeavor, and that meant tapping both friend and foe, because things were really complicated due to the high volume of double agents. When the war broke out, everyone had three choices: join the rebellion, join the Union, or become a spook, which meant pretending to join one side while actually joining the other. This was not rocket science and spooks were soon strategically placed throughout both power structures. Keep in mind, the Congress and Cabinet were pretty much equally divided, and people who’d worked together as friends for decades, were instantly transformed into mortal enemies.
Ability to break codes got one promoted faster than anything in spook world, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton clearly had the best code-breakers on his side because they were constantly intercepting messages. On December 20, 1863, a ciphered telegraph message from the Confederate Secretary of Treasury to an engraver in New York City was cracked in a few hours and revealed the location of the printing press for Confederate paper money. Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana supervised the confiscation and destruction of money and plates. The fact a New York engraver had been selected was just an indication New York was a hotbed for Democrats and Southern sympathizers, some of whom wanted to secede and join the rebellion. Cotton was North America’s biggest and most valuable export, and the price of cotton quickly rose from 10 cents a pound at the start of the war to a high of $1.89.
The South burned massive amounts of cotton in hopes of creating a cotton famine that would help force European countries into the conflict because their economies depended on cheap cotton. But Europe had been expecting supply issues, and had been stashing cotton, and would not require more cotton for years. A brisk smuggling trade developed between Nassau and Bermuda and the Confederate States. Ships arrived stuffed with cotton and departed stuffed with armaments. These voyages could reap a profit of 500 percent, so every $5 invested in raw cotton in Mississippi became $2,500 in British rifles in Virginia. There is simply no profit stream that can compete with war, which is why many on Wall Street remained so friendly with the South. War profiteering during the Civil War likely dwarfed anything made during Prohibition, which spawned a national crime organization, and although we have a decent scorecard on players in Prohibition, the Civil War profiteers remain largely uncelebrated.
Great Britain made a fortune selling armaments to the Confederates, and their rifles were vastly superior, nothing like the junk J.P. Morgan was selling the Union, although Morgan’s contracts were enforceable, his weapons were flawed and obsolete. By the end of the war Morgan and Jay Gould would rule Wall Street thanks to their successful profiteering. The difference was Morgan was an ally of the British bankers, while Gould yearned to be King Midas and tried to go up against them (and lost).
A ciphered message was discovered in a trunk in John Wilkes Booth’s hotel room after the assassination, and it matched the cipher being used by Jacob Thompson, head of Confederate Secret Service in Canada. But there were no messages from Thompson regarding any attempted assassination of Lincoln. Clearly, Booth was getting both money and assistance during the final weeks of his life, but it wasn’t coming from Richmond, where the kidnapping plot had been hatched. No, someone who knew about the kidnapping plot was suddenly putting up money for a hit, and this operation was manifesting at lightning speed.
The day after the assassination, Secretary of War Stanton sent a terse message to his former chief of detectives in New York City. Lafayette C. Baker had been in charge of Stanton’s Gestapo, the National Detective Police (NDP), but had recently been demoted and moved to New York after Stanton discovered him tapping the War Department telegraph line. Baker arrived the following day and was given zero information, despite all the clues found in Booth’s hotel room and the abandoned room at the Kirkwood, not to mention the investigations of the Surratt boarding house. Somehow, Stanton had already concluded this house was a center of gravity regarding the assassination, and Mary Surratt was about to be turned into Stanton’s chief patsy. But he shared none of this information with his former chief of detectives, and only revealed the suspect was John Wilkes Booth, so go find him.
That meeting happening on Sunday. Two days later, a letter arrived at the War Department: New York, April 14, 1865 Mr. Stanton Dear Sir: If you want me you had better send for me. J. Wilkes Booth P.S. What do you say?
This was the first of several letters written in Booth’s hand that arrived at the War Department over the next week, each one postmarked further north, an obvious attempt to convince the NDP Booth had escaped into Canada. I suspect John Surratt’s mission in this plot was to seed these letters into Canada, because that’s where Surratt ended up, and the first one was undoubtedly posted the same day as the assassination, although the stamp is smudged beyond recognition.
But Baker must have suspected this letter was also Booth’s clue to a possible secret connection between himself and Stanton, and Baker would become suspicious of Stanton’s motivations and actions over the next few days. And knowing Stanton, I’m sure those feelings of distrust were shared equally, if not magnified, on his end against his employee. After the JFK assassination a similarly cryptic letter would be discovered addressed to a Mr. Hunt and written in the hand of Lee Harvey Oswald. For years, many assumed it was a reference to CIA officer E. Howard Hunt, although late suspicion fell more toward the benefactor of the John Birch Society, H.L. Hunt.