Few expected Abraham Lincoln would become the 16th president. The newly-formed Republican Party had many better-known options: Salmon Chase, William Seward, Simon Cameron, Edward Bates, William Dayton, Ben Wade or Thaddeus Stevens, but Lincoln was the new-comer compromise selection of a radical Republican cabal that took supreme power in North America after Democrats seceded, abandoning their positions of power in Congress and the Cabinet.
Lincoln arrived into a hornet’s nest not unlike the situation facing John F. Kennedy when the Bay of Pigs dropped in his lap upon arrival in the White House. The Bay of Pigs was supposed to be a catalyst for full-on invasion of Cuba, but once Kennedy saw the operation had little popular support in Cuba, he pulled stakes, infuriating our Military Industrial Complex and the CIA spooks who’d worked on that operation.
The story you’ve heard of Fort Sumter is not entirely correct, nor is the history of the Civil War nor Lincoln’s assassination, at least not as related by Ken Burns.
Slavery was not the real issue that sparked secession, it was the right of states to withdraw from the union. Do you think any state would have signed that original agreement to form a union if they thought it was permanent and irrevocable? The South firmly believed every state had a legal right to secede for any reason it wanted. The South didn’t seek an armed rebellion and were eager to negotiate any peaceful, legal solution.
The accurate part of Spielberg’s Lincoln is it shows how all attempts by the South to make peace were rebuffed by Lincoln. And the entire incident with Fort Sumter that sparked the armed conflict was carefully instigated as a provocation, the same way all our wars begin: some wag-the-dog operation for the press to go hysterical over.
The truth is the Radical Republicans didn’t want a peaceful solution, they wanted bloody war, and they’d been baiting the Democrats in Congress for months to secede so they could start one, and the first thing they did when Lincoln arrived in the White House was convince him to stage a provocation for armed conflict, telling him this was required to keep border states like Maryland from joining the rebellion.
Baltimore was north of Washington, so secession of Maryland would leave Congress virtually surrounded. Lincoln was a novice, so all he could do was take the advice of more experienced men around him, much the same way JFK was stuck under the thumb of the Pentagon when he’d first arrived. But as time went on, both men found their personal centers of gravity, and began to drift off the designated tack their party bigwigs were trying to steer.
When the smoke cleared after the bloody Civil War, the big winners were the banks, J.P. Morgan, and Jay Gould. Follow the money.
In 1823, Captain Warren Delano, 24, sailed to Canton, China, in search of adventure. Seven years later, Delano was a senior partner at Russell & Company, America’s biggest opium trader, and his descendents would rise straight to the top of North America’s oligarchy. Of course, the lion’s share of the opium trade belonged to the world’s most powerful corporation at that time, the Honorable East India Company (HEIC), chartered by Queen Elizabeth in 1600, the same year Freemasonry appeared as a major force. And yes, those two are linked throughout history, one visible and the other completely invisible.
William Huntington Russell was cousin to the heir of the great Russell opium fortune and educated at Yale University. In fact, he was valedictorian of 1833. While at Yale, Russell spent a summer in Germany, where he was inducted into a Masonic-style society known as “The Order.” When he returned to New Haven, he discovered Phi Beta Kappa was going public, so he launched the secret Skull & Bones society based off the The Order he’d discovered in Germany.
There’s some strong connections between the slave and opium trade because both were considered sleazy and not discussed in polite society, and both reaped profits rivaling King Sugar, and both involved shipping fleets. Soon, thanks to the invention of the cotton gin, King Cotton could sit at the dais alongside the monarchs of opium and sugar. But it’s important to realize cotton and sugar were initially dependent on the African slave trade, so while Southerners were saving money with free labor over the long-term, first they had to buy slaves and three million were transported from Africa to North America, so figure a billion dollars over the course of a few decades, and realize those numbers require multiplication of a factor of 25 to reach commensurate value in our money today, so we are talking potentially $25 billion. The average price of a slave during the Civil War peaked at $800, and considered a good investment since they were expected to produce at least $130,000 in labor over a lifetime. There were 4 million slaves when the war began representing a value of $3.2 billion, or $80 billion today.
Maybe now you realize why eight of the twelve colleges at Yale are named after slave holders, while none named for abolitionists, a sure indication Yale was the Northern college of choice, not just for the Boston Brahmin slave traders, but for the Southern oligarchy as well, and The Tomb a place where both interests might converge.
It’s become standard practice for corporations to mount secret grass-roots movements against themselves. You might think it strange, but it’s actually standard corporate counter-intelligence procedure, not rocket science, and something that’s been going on for centuries, if not longer. So don’t be surprised if the same corporations that profiteered off slavery put up money to fund the abolitionist movement. In 1808, the African slave trade was abruptly officially stopped, thus ending the gravy train on that profit stream, although a black market illegal slave trade flourished for another 50 years, it was subject to confiscation and forfeiture by the British Navy.
In England everyone was paid off. You got money for loss of your slaves and you were compensated for any business losses. And only slaves under the age of 3 were freed immediately, others had to work as indentured servants until they’d paid back their value in labor. The pay-out amounted to the equivalent of over 16 billion pounds in today’s money, or around $26 billion.
Jay Gladstone got $134 million and his son served as Prime Minister four times. If you check the House of Lords, you’ll find a number of family fortunes associated with these payouts, and heirs have been living comfortably off interest ever since, a list that includes the appropriately-named Hoggs as well as the Camerons.
So why didn’t Abraham Lincoln strike the same deal, and avert Civil War by offering to compensate the South in much the same way? Maybe he would have after the war was over, we just don’t know, because Lincoln was assassinated before any final decisions were made on Reconstruction.
We know Lincoln vetoed the plan proposed and championed by Thaddeus Stevens: confiscation of all property owned by the 70,000 richest Southern families, so it could be parceled out to freed blacks and Northerners like himself who’d lost property during the war. I imagine Stevens may have already had his winter-estate plantation selected amongst all the choice options available.
It’s interesting the abolitionist movement came out of Massachusetts. The chief propaganda organ was titled, The Liberator, run by William Loyd Garrison, who was closely associated with the British abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglass became his star contributor and most of the subscriptions were sold to blacks. When Douglass launched his own paper, The North Star, Garrison cruelly cut off all contact. As soon as the war ended, Garrison folded his paper and the abolitionist society it had created, saying their mission was accomplished. In truth, any mission involving justice and equality for Southern blacks was just getting started and it took another hundred years to really start lifting them out of the depths of exploitation, and, in fact, in some places that battle lingers, especially inner-city ghettos where blacks have a much better chance of going to prison than of going to college.
During the Civil War, William Russell served as correspondent for London Times. He was the primary funder and supporter of John Brown, the terrorist who sparked the rush to violence. Prior to that, he’d created an officer’s training school in anticipation of the war.
During the war, the center of gravity on American finance shifted from Philadelphia to Wall Street where it resides today. The railroad, steel and oil robber barons soon eclipsed the old money shipping interests.
The seeds of the Civil War were planted by our founding fathers when they wrote “all men are are created equal,” while pretending blacks weren’t human, which is like shaking hands with fingers crossed behind your back.
I wonder when, if ever, Josiah Henson is going to get credit for fomenting the Civil War? Henson was born a slave on a farm in Maryland in 1785. His parents were property of different owners, and his most vivid early memory involved his father preventing a white man from assaulting his mother. For this “crime” his father lost an ear and received 100 lashes, after which he was never the same and had to be sold, which was the last Henson saw of his dad.
By the time Henson reached 22, he was the overseer of a large plantation, and obviously had intellectual abilities higher than the people who owned him. He dressed better, talked better, and comported himself better than most whites. A local minister gave him the idea of buying his own freedom, something that had never occurred to him. Henson soon learned to make money on the side, and began negotiating his own purchase. But after raising the needed $450, his owner swindled him by adding a zero to the contract after it was signed, and then re-sold him. Consequently, Henson escaped to Canada, where he eventually dictated his autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada.
Henson’s book inspired Harriett Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe had no experience living on plantations and her book was packed with stereotypes, while Henson’s book was the real deal. So, of course, Stowe’s book became the second biggest-selling book of its time, right behind the Bible, while Henson’s book never mentioned. America was undergoing a huge wave of Christian consciousness during the Victorian age. Henson was a devout Christian, as was Stowe, and the abolitionist movement was spread largely through the pulpit. The ministers were the radicals of their time, and greatly despised by the population at large for brewing trouble. Even John Brown, who would later be celebrated as a martyr, was considered a maniac, which he was. Brown had limited popular support, but war has a way of changing perspectives and once a few hundred thousand American boys were dead, he began looking prophetic to a country battered by PTSD.
I know most abolitionists were motivated by good Christian ideals, but I also wonder if the movement wasn’t hijacked in some corridors by bankers who saw an opportunity to make money. There’s no profit stream that can compete with war, and huge sums were borrowed by both sides to fund their war machines. The bankers win every war. Keep in mind the international slave trade had been very profitable, and many of the profiteers were located on the Northeast coast. In fact, if you check the social register, you’ll find some of the biggest Brahmins were making huge profits off the African slave trade up until it was abolished in 1808.
Although most of the population and manufacturing resided in the North, the South had cotton, which didn’t explode economically until the invention of the cotton gin in 1784. The South was growing very rich very quickly, and planned to keep growing its slave population to keep the economic engine humming. It’s likely some accountants did some calculations and saw the South was going to outpace the North due to the economic advantages of free labor.
This woodcut from the period reveals a common practice of the slavers prior to 1808, and the major reason the African slave trade was abolished. Any slaves found to be ill would simply be tossed into the ocean at mid-voyage. The reasoning was threefold: 1) This prevented infections from spreading; 2) An insurance loss could be filed for the value of property lost at sea; and 3) The slaver saved on import duties once arriving at port. Once this practice became widely known, the outrage was so great even most Southerns agreed to finally end the barbaric trade, although by then they figured they had enough slaves to breed as many as they wanted. This was a huge loss to the slave trade speculators, who must have been thrashing their brains for a substitute profit stream.
It’s funny how Abraham Lincoln was transformed into the Great Emancipator when he didn’t believe blacks and whites were equal and supported the idea of sending blacks back to Africa. However, the cost of buying the slaves and shipping them home would have cost billions of dollars, more than the Civil War cost.
The Radical Republicans wanted a bloody and long-lasting war because they knew that was the only way the South would accept the end of slavery. Lincoln was a moderate, and only put out an Emancipation Proclamation toward the war’s end. Thaddeus Stevens and Ben Wade had been pressing for the proclamation for years, and were furious that it was taking so long.
It’s hard to know what to make of Stevens and Wade. Are they to be celebrated for their crucial role in ending slavery, or condemned for their involvement in the plot to assassinate Lincoln so the South could be looted six-ways-to-Sunday?
Meanwhile, I’m wondering when the entertainment industry is going to stumble across Henson, a man who should be as celebrated as Lincoln for the crucial role he played in this epic drama, but somehow he seems to have slipped through the cracks of history, at least thus far.
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.
John Wilkes Booth (Captain, Confederate Secret Service) may have had a superior officer in Washington DC at the time of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and that man was 37-year-old Major Benjamin Franklin Ficklin. Why has Ficklin been excluded from almost every history book when he obviously deserves a proper place in history? He looks the part of a prosperous Southern planter, and was a great spook and adventurer much of his life, and described as a “refined pirate.”
Not only were the War Department records on the assassination sealed for reasons of national security for 100 years, the files were so padded with documentation that sorting out the real story was like looking for needles in a haystack. This is a common technique in counterintelligence ops and known as “snowing.” Snow appears when tracks need to be covered. For decades, the mysterious Major Ficklin was buried, like so many other members of this wildly misunderstood saga.
Ficklin operated at the highest levels of both sides of the conflict, swinging huge deals and dancing through raindrops. Immediate suspicion fell on him after the assassination, and his presence at the Kirkwood House became known to the police within hours because Ficklin was one of the most notorious operators during the war. Unlike Booth, however, he was “untouchable.”
After being caught up in the dragnet, Ficklin admitted to owning a small stake in the Coquette, a 200-horsepower iron steamer, schooner-rigged with three masts. She could stuff over 1,200 bales of cotton in her hold and had been purchased from the Rebel Navy Department. The Coquette ran cotton one way and war munitions the other. In truth, Ficklin owned and operated two other blockade runners, the Virginia and Giraffe, all of which were captained by Confederate naval officers.
More than 300 steamers made over 1,300 attempts running the Union blockade during the Civil War. Early on, these were just normal-looking vessels, but as the war progressed, blockade-runners got sleeker, shallower and faster.
Ficklin was the rebellious son of a wealthy Southern merchant and had been shipped off to military school as a teen, where he buried the headmaster’s boots in snow, painted a horse with zebra stripes, and discharged a howitzer, breaking several windows. He was expelled, of course, but returned later with evidence of having served in both the Mexican-American and Mormon Wars and managed to secure a belated diploma.
In 1860, while working for the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company, he came up with the audacious idea of a Pony Express, a 2,000 mile horse relay system between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. After getting that mission off the ground, he joined the Confederate Army, but soon drifted into intelligence and smuggling. He grew very rich and on November 17, 1864, paid $80,500 for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
When arrested, Ficklin was found to have secret pockets everywhere: his hatband, coat lining, and even his pantaloons were stuffed with messages and documents. Among these was a tiny envelop addressed to Maj. B. F. Ficklin, 7th Street that contained a request for two calicoes, two cossets, a hoop skirt, gloves, shoes, and one black lace veil. A letter of introduction addressed to the Archbishop of New York was written by a J. McGill of Richmond. The strangest scrap of paper, however, contained the names of Mr. Browning, Lncljn Hughes, Mrs. Whitney and Gen. J.W. Singleton, Metropolitan Hotel, and was written on Kirkwood House stationary.
The interrogation of Ficklin by Major O’Beirne was proceeding nicely until it hit this speed bump:
Q. When you came to Washington, did you or did you not take the Oath of Allegiance? A. I did not, and desire to state to the following reason. Senator Browning from Illinois, whom I know, was to apply to the President for a permit for me to return south without taking the Oath of Allegiance, in order that I might not impair my influence which I wished to exert in pacifying the country and restoring peace.
The interrogation was terminated and Ficklin moved to more comfortable accommodations than those afforded Mary and Anna Surratt, who festered in a filthy cell despite being innocent of anything other than being Southern sympathizers. You see, the mere mention of the word “senator” carried enough clout to cause any police officer to tread carefully, lest he annoy the powers-that-be.
Needless to say, Ficklin would not make an appearance at the conspiracy trial. On May 25, a letter arrived from former Senator Orville H. Browning (who had been a close friend of Lincoln’s) requesting Ficklin be released. Browning “was thoroughly satisfied Mr. Ficklin had no knowledge or participation in the atrocious act” and “prayed” for his discharge. The sole reason for his being in Washington, according to Browning, was to deliver a confidential message regarding a cotton deal from a lady in Lexington, Kentucky.
Before the assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister, widow of a Confederate General, had appealed to Mary for help salvaging a few thousand dollars worth of cotton. Trading in cotton during the war was perfectly legal and a booming business, as the North needed cotton, you just had to obtain proper documentation and pay duties involved no doubt. The President reportedly gave a pass to retired General James W. Singleton for allowing this small shipment of cotton belonging to his sister-in-law to come north to market.
However, Singleton and Browning soon arrived at the White House with a list of contracts totaling $7 million, which they planned to pay for entirely with greenbacks, thus supporting the war effort. Lincoln gave them permission for the deal, but when a wagon train with $7 million worth of cotton and other supplies began assembling, that shipment was so alarmingly huge it attracted unwanted attention from Congress and was halted, ending Browning and Singleton’s bid to become instant millionaires. But like the $3 trillion announced missing from the Pentagon on 9/10 by Donald Rumsfeld, the entire episode soon disappeared in the snow.
I only add this to show the size of graft involved during the Civil War and immense fortunes realized by those who could dance through raindrops and make deals at the highest levels. Since the retired General had been a commander during the Mormon War, he and Ficklin were no doubt well acquainted, and no doubt Ficklin was the important go-between.
Two months before the assassination, John Yates Beall, a Confederate spy and blockade runner had been captured in New York City. Beall’s exploits are far too numerous to detail in this short space, but he’d masterminded a series of successful plots, including the capture and scuttling of Union ships on the Great Lakes and the escape of valuable Confederate officers from prison camps in the North.
His arrest and trial by military tribunal had been kept secret, and only released to the press after his death sentence was announced, provoking an enormous effort to save his life. I am sure Booth read the exploits of his fellow spook with a tinge of envy and dreamed of fomenting a plan on similar levels.
Six Senators (including Browning) and 91 members of Congress signed a petition requesting clemency for Beall, but Lincoln let Beall swing. Many notable private citizens also signed that appeal, including John Wilkes Booth.
Abraham Lincoln became inflated almost beyond recognition through positive mythologizing very quickly, just as his foil John Wilkes Booth received quite the opposite treatment and morphed into a cartoon character from a cheap melodrama. Forgotten is the reality Booth was the original matinee idol, receiving up to 100 love letters a day, frequently followed home to his hotel by adoring groupies, and the first person in recorded history to have his clothes shredded by fans desiring a piece of him. Not exactly the raving lunatic that’s come down in history, eh? We’ll likely never know the full list of missions Captain Booth undertook for the South, or anything close, but we do know that smuggling precious quinine was a big part of that puzzle.
During the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of soldiers contracted malaria, and at the time, no one knew it was spread by mosquitoes. Produced from the bark of the South American cinchona tree, quinine was the only known cure for malaria, and it was very hard to procure in the South, where malaria was a much worse problem than in the North. By smuggling quinine through the lines, Booth saved thousands of lives and performed a noble service that could have gotten him hanged for treason had he been discovered.
Ella Star Turner made a huge spectacle on a Washington street car the day after the assassination. She was carrying a framed portrait of Booth and reportedly dove into the aisle, threatening suicide. Some say she ran the fanciest sporting house in Washington, but we’ll never know because she quickly vanished off the face of the earth, leaving one to wonder what she may have known. Another rumor stated Vice President Andrew Johnson had visited Turner’s bordello the night of the assassination. Two thousand suspected Booth accomplices were rounded up quickly and George B. Love was just one of them. He slit his throat with a penknife in the guardhouse at Fort Stephens and they later found a baggage claim made out to Turner in his pockets.
On July 11, 1866, Senator James H. Lane of Kansas shot himself. He was the leader of the Jayhawkers, and Quantrill’s bloody raid on Lawrence was really an attempt to assassinate him and avenge some of his raids on the South. Lane was a leader of the Radical Republicans, but after the assassination he switched his support to Andrew Johnson, which must have infuriated Stanton and Stevens.
On July 3, 1868, retired General Lafayette C. Baker died in Philadelphia. He was 44. An examination of his hair decades later revealed he may have suffered arsenic poisoning, and not died of meningitis as claimed. Baker had been thrown under the bus and fired by Stanton shortly after the conspiracy trial was concluded. He had a ghostwriter whip out a pulp-novel style autobiography strung together with newspaper accounts and Baker’s own mythologizing, a book that explosively revealed the existence of Booth’s diary for the first time. Baker long suspected Stanton had been involved, and he seeded some clues in his book, but made no direct accusations. Baker had initially requested three quarters of the reward, the equivalent of almost $2 million today. But he only got a measly $3,500 (or approximately $90,000) and felt massively cheated by Stanton.
In December 1869, Edwin Stanton died shortly after complaining of being haunted by Mary Surratt’s ghost. Caleb Cushing immediately claimed Stanton had slit his throat, same as his brother had done many years earlier, and there was a coverup in progress. Although the Senate had approved Stanton’s appointment to the Supreme Court, President Grant sat on the paperwork for weeks, letting him twist uncomfortably in the wind. Stanton had been rudely rebuffed from a seat on Grant’s cabinet, as he was now one of the most unpopular politicians in the nation. R. F. Harvey had been in charge of preparing his corpse for the casket. In 1903 a Baltimore newspaper story reportedly written by Harvey’s son stated “no human being ever succeeded in getting him to deny or confirm anything on the subject [of Stanton].” The death certificate (severe asthma attack) had been issued by Stanton’s close friend, Surgeon General Barnes.
On November 12, 1875, ex-Senator Preston King tied a bag of bullets around his neck and jumped from the Christopher Street Ferry in New York. King had personally blocked Anna Surratt from an audience with President Johnson, which ended all hope of saving her mother, indicating this might be another death linked to Surratt’s ghost.
One of the more mysterious deaths was Louis Wiechmann, key witness against Mary Surratt, who was later rumored to have been gay and infatuated with the old school chum he’d betrayed, John Surratt. Wiechmann was put into “protective custody” and spent weeks traveling all over the northeast in the failed effort to bring Surratt to justice. He died on June 2, 1902, and according to Lloyd Lewis in Myths After Lincoln, the cause of death listed as “extreme nervousness.” Strangely, Wiechmann had recently signed a declaration stating: “This is to certify every word I gave in evidence at the assassination trial was absolutely true.”
No one knows what happened to John F. Parker, the guard who failed to protect the president. He returned to his post in the White House and was chastised once by Mrs. Lincoln. In 1868 he was dismissed for sleeping on a streetcar while on duty. Similarly, the fall-guy for Booth’s assassination, Boston Corbett, was admitted to a mental institution, escaped and slipped off the pages of history forever.
Edwin Booth did all he could to make amends for his brother’s misguided act, even to the point of paying to rebuild the barn on Garrett’s farm. But Edwin also kept a framed portrait of his younger brother on his nightstand in his bedroom at the Player’s Club on Gramercy Park in New York City. The day of Edwin’s funeral (June 9, 1893), Ford’s Theater, which had been converted to a War Department warehouse by Stanton, collapsed. Apparently too many files had been crammed into the rickety third floor and 22 clerks were killed, and 68 injured.
The War Department files on Lincoln’s assassination remained sealed until 1937 in the interest of national security.
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.
“Free every slave, slay every traitor, burn every rebel mansion if these things be necessary to preserve this temple of freedom.”
The seemingly perpetually unhappy Thaddeus Stevens had a scowl etched into his face in every photographic portrait ever taken. His older brother had been born with two club feet, and Stevens born with one, a disability that left him limping his entire life. He was abandoned by his father at a young age and raised by a Baptist mother, but soon had no use for religion. Stevens was a brilliant student at Dartmouth, but locked out of the elite Phi Beta Kappa society, which at that time was a completely secret society for the intellectual elite and organized by Freemasons. Phi Beta Kappa emerged into the open in 1845, a development that so angered its Yale chapter they formed a new secret society known today as Skull & Bones.
Stevens may have been blocked because of a club foot since Freemasonry did not admit cripples. His stinging wit and biting sarcasm were legendary. Early in his career as a lawyer, a judge accused Stevens of having a contemptuous attitude. He replied, “Sir, I am doing my best to conceal it.” In the 1820s he contracted a disease that caused his hair to fall out and would wear “ill-fitting” wigs for the remainder of his life.
After the Captain Morgan scandal blew the lid off Freemasonry and exposed it as a British-led plot to retake America, Stevens became a devoted leader of the newly-formed anti-Masonic party, the first third party, and one created largely to prevent Andrew Jackson from becoming president. Stevens remained a devoted anti-mason, although the party was crushed when its candidate (William Wirt) failed to capture any state but Vermont. Freemason Jackson was easily elected.
Strange none of Stevens anti-masonic speeches circulate today, although his anti-slavery ones are widely celebrated. After winning his first political campaign in 1833 and ascending to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Stevens led an investigation into Freemasonry in Pennsylvania by subpoenaing the governor, George Wolf, who sought refuge in the 5th amendment. In response Stevens heckled Wolf so severely the investigation backfired and cost him his seat in the House. In response Stevens took up the cause of free education and worked with Wolf to improve the state’s school system.
Stevens morphed into one of the most vocal anti-slavery advocates in the nation, working secretly for the underground railroad helping runaway slaves escape to Canada. In 1854 he joined the “Know Nothing” party, an anti-Irish, anti-German and anti-Catholic secret society born out of the corruption in New York City. For one seemingly devoted to the cause of the little man, Stevens’ acceptance into this society seems out-of-character and opens up the possibility of political opportunism. But then it should be remembered the “peace” movement that opposed Abraham Lincoln in the north, a movement named “Copperheads” by its opponents, was comprised mostly of Irish and German immigrants, who were working with those Southerners who’d moved north of the Mason-Dixon line. Stevens briefly joined the Whig party, but defected in 1855 to the newly formed Republican Party, joining founding members William Seward and Abraham Lincoln.
Tommy Lee Jones did a remarkable job bringing Stevens to life in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, ill-fitting wigs, biting wit and all. Unfortunately, that film is marred with some inaccuracies. Particularly annoying is the opening sequence in which a black soldier faithfully recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a speech that would not be discovered and made famous until after Lincoln’s death. In fact, few today comprehend the reality Lincoln was extremely controversial while he lived, and looked upon as a tyrant by many. Lincoln never captured a majority of the popular vote and was barely elected. But after the assassination he was quickly transformed into the iconic national saint we know today.
Stevens could have lusted for a seat in Lincoln’s cabinet, but was rebuffed, which might help explain his contempt for the President. Within one day of his appointment as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Stevens had a bond bill for waging war on the South. He’d end up working closely with Secretary of War Stanton and Secretary of Treasury Salmon Chase on funding and fomenting that war, a mission that included printing the first “greenback” dollars not backed by any bank, as well as the creation of the National Banking Act, which remained in effect until the arrival of the highly secretive private cartel known as the Federal Reserve in 1913.
Stevens pushed for the Emancipation Proclamation from the war’s start, and was furious Lincoln stalled his efforts. Spielberg’s film makes it seem he was being influenced in this mission by his housekeeper, Lydia Hamilton Smith, who was one-quarter black and had married a black man, but was widowed with two children when she went to work for Stevens. Their relationship was the worst-kept secret in Washington.
The war got really personal when Confederate General Jubal Early sent some raiding parties to destroy Stevens’ Caledonia Forge, a iron furnace that was obviously an important part of the Union’s military-industrial complex. Stevens was on site when one of the raids took place, but was quickly spirited away against his protests. The raids destroyed the furnace, resulting in a $80,000 loss to Stevens. When asked by newspapers if Stevens would have been taken to Libby Prison in Richmond had he been captured, General Early replied: “No, I would have hanged him and divided his bones amongst the Confederate states.”
This might explain why Stevens was so intent on punishing the South as severely as possible, a plan rejected by both President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward, which may have been the flame that drew the Stevens moth into Stanton’s plot as the two seem as unlike as night and day, as one was ruled by scruples while the other obviously had none.
Stevens would go on to lead the failed attempt to impeach President Johnson to save Stanton’s job (and secret files). But both he and Stanton lost their health rather quickly after the assassination, as both would be dead within a few years. Stevens remains an enigma because how could he support the rights of blacks so ardently, yet refuse rights of Southerners with equal ferocity? Stevens planned to confiscate all real estate owned by the 70,000 wealthiest Southerners and parcel it out to the freed blacks and loyal Northerners like himself, a plan strongly opposed by President Johnson, who wanted amnesty for all.
Stevens was out-of-town during Lincoln’s assassination and did not return, neither for Lincoln’s wake nor his funeral. Nor could Stevens be bothered attending the Lincoln ceremonies when the funeral train carrying the casket passed through his town on its way to its final stop in Springfield, Illinois.
Coda: “I do not believe sir, in human perfection, nor in the moral purity of human nature….there are some reptiles so flat that the common foot of man cannot crush them.”
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a short, pudgy, nearsighted man who suffered from chronic asthma and sported a long, perfumed beard, was universally rude to just about everyone he came into contact with, including President Lincoln, whom he obviously considered his intellectual inferior. Stanton was an intense workaholic and one of the most gifted lawyers of his day. After two years of college, he’d passed the bar in Ohio and quickly made a name for himself as an effective attorney.
He was a Democrat and Lincoln’s principle opponent in President Buchanan’s cabinet, and referred to Lincoln as a “backwoods baboon,” an assessment shared by his friend General McClellan, whom Stanton would soon remove from power for reasons unknown. Stanton continued to insult Lincoln behind his back, while ingratiating himself with the President, and moved into a summer cottage near Lincoln and even though his second wife Ellen could not abide the presence of Mary Todd Lincoln, Stanton made sure his son played with the young Tad Lincoln in order to bind the families together.
In 1833, after a young girl died from cholera in the same boarding house he lived in and been buried immediately, Stanton dug up her body as he did not believe she was dead. In 1841, when his own daughter Lucy died, he had that grave exhumed as well and moved her coffin into his bedroom for two years before allowing it back into the ground. When his first wife passed in 1844, he often dressed the corpse and decorated it with fancy jewels, as if they were about to go out on the town together. Eventually the corpse was buried and Stanton wandered through the house muttering, “Where is Mary?” When his brother later slashed his throat in a successful suicide, Stanton took off into the woods and had to be led back home. (Twenty Days, Castle Press, 1965)
Doesn’t this sound like a psychotic in action? And why has Stanton been portrayed as a folk saint when even his allies in the Cabinet considered him duplicitous, conspiratorial and ruthless?
Much has been made of the fact Stanton declared martial law, seized all power, and spent the last night of Lincoln’s life barking out orders incessantly that covered every possible contingency. No one seems to have considered the possibility Stanton had spent days anticipating this moment, which is why he was so cool while others around him stood paralyzed with shock.
Around 7:22 AM, the second Lincoln was declared dead, Stanton extended his arm and placed his top hat on his head for a second and then removed it. An eyewitness would remark this queer display seemed an impromptu coronation of sorts. But the strangest thing of all: Stanton ordered the rocking chair Lincoln had occupied when murdered moved to his office. Imagine someone has died and you want a keepsake. Don’t you think it a somewhat odd to select the chair they were sitting in when a bullet blew through their brains? I imagine in moments of great elation or perhaps even despair, Stanton might rock in that chair to sooth his soul by celebrating whatever stroke of luck engineered him onto the throne of power.
But any celebration would be short-lived, as Stanton would swiftly lose all political power, his seat in the Cabinet, his secret police force, and transform into one of the most despised people in the country. Stanton’s designs on the Presidency vanished forever, and he died four years after Lincoln under somewhat mysterious circumstances.
Meanwhile, Lincoln’s son reportedly later burned evidence linking Stanton to the crime, as he could never accept the thought this man who treated him so graciously could have possibly been involved in such a devious plot against his father.
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.