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.