Mosby is a clue to the Lincoln assassination

Colonel John S. Mosby was one of the great spooks of the Civil War. He served briefly as a scout for Jeb Stuart before forming his own unit known today as Mosby’s Rangers in the South and Mosby’s Raiders in the North. Mosby’s area of operations in Northern Virginia became known as Mosby’s Confederacy during the war, and retains that aura today so strong was his imprint.

Mosby worked closely with John Wilkes Booth and the Confederate Secret Services in Maryland on a plot to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln and bring him to trial in Richmond. To assist in this mission he sent Booth his most vicious killer, Lewis Powell. Booth could have ordered Powell to kill Lincoln, but instead ordered him to assassinate the Secretary of State, who reportedly had a large French contract out on his life at the time.

George Atzerodt was a minor figure in the kidnap plot, who suddenly got drawn into the assassination the day it happened. It seems the assassination unfolded quickly with little advance planning, although Booth must have known all protection of Lincoln was going to melt away to allow him to complete the mission with a single shot derringer.

Mosby’s Rangers

Atzerodt’s first confession was suppressed and not discovered for 117 years. In it, he admitted that a New York element paid for Powell’s transfer to Washington D.C. Powell was known to Atzerodt as “Mosby,” and he referred to Booth as “Captain,” while obeying any and all orders to the letter.

Immediately after the assassination, a unit was dispatched to Mary Surratt’s house, which was known as a nest of Confederate spies. But the day after the assassination, a local newspaper was already printing the Mosby connection to Booth.

“He has been in Washington for some months past, ostensibly for the purpose of organizing an oil company, but really for the purpose of consummating his scheme of wholesale assassination, under the direction of Mosby. There is no doubt that Booth contemplated the act long ago, and only delayed its execution because of some private instruction from Mosby,”
The Evening Telegraph, Philadelphia, PA, April 15, 1865.

One important element to keep in mind is there is no free press in America during the Civil War, and stories like this were fed from the Union War Department. Just as Oswald’s biography went out on the international wire services very quickly after JFK’s assassination, the press began laying a trail to the Confederacy. In fact, the military tribunal would find the Confederate leaders guilty of plotting Lincoln’s murder, a conviction tainted by bribes and false testimony. The trial, in fact, was a kangaroo court, yet this fact has never seeped into the American imagination, probably because it reveals the likelihood that Lincoln’s killing was an inside job.

3 Replies to “Mosby is a clue to the Lincoln assassination”

  1. …of course it was Mosby who brought along Pickett for a post war visit to see General Lee in Richmond. Lee was fond of Mosby but was cold towards Pickett, who had embarrassed Lee in the final days of the war in Virginia at Sailor’s Creek, when he went for a “fish-fry” instead of manning his post. Mosby forever remembered Pickett’s post visit remark of Lee : “that old man had my whole division slaughtered”. let us not forget it was Mosby who filled the young mind of George S. Patton with memories and tales of Stuart and Lee….in that sense, Mosby’s spirit lived on in the mind and deeds of Patton many years later….the “Grey Ghost “.

  2. In a newspaper account in 1902, Ben Palmer, an especial favorite of Mosby spoke of Powell meeting with him (at Powell’s request) before he went to Booth. Powell spoke of a kidnapping, not a murder which makes sense. If a killing had been contemplated, a strong man like Powell would not have been necessary (Lincoln was a very strong man and he would easily have overpowered Booth, Herold and Surratt, but Powell could have subdued him. Palmer stated that Mosby knew nothing about the matter obviously to protect his old commander, but that is not possible. Powell would never have been permitted to meet with Palmer had Mosby been unaware of the matter since it must have been known that Palmer would certainly tell Mosby. Mosby was an extremely moral man who believed in doing right even if it was against direct orders! Indeed, he congratulated a Confederate officer who refused to participate in the burning of Chambersburg, an act that Mosby considered illegal and immoral. Mosby would have participated in an assault against the Federal authorities only if he believed it was within the rules of warfare. Remember, the President is NOT a “non-combatant” and is a legitimate target as is the rest of his government. The Union government already knew that when they sent Kilpatrick and Dahlgren to kill the Confederate government in the Richmond raid.

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