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issued for his capture and return dead-or-alive, but strangely, as soon as his trail was uncovered in Europe, Stanton rescinded the reward offer.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/
Colonel John S. Mosby was one of the great counterintelligence officers of the Civil War. He served briefly as a scout for Jeb Stuart before forming his own unit known as Mosby’s Rangers in the South and Mosby’s Raiders in the North. Their area of operations in Northern Virginia became known as Mosby’s Confederacy during the war, and retains some of that aura today so strong was his imprint.
Mosby had an extensive spy network operating in the North, mostly focussed on penetrating the Radical Republican cabal running Washington DC. His most valuable secret agent was dating the daughter of the Senator from New Hampshire and was a famous actor and matinee idol of his day. For the first few years of the war John Wilkes Booth had been mostly involved with smuggling quinine to Mosby so it could be distributed to Confederate troops, which greatly endeared him to Southern belles in Washington and Richmond. Many attractive women also worked as secret agents during the war.
John Beall was a Confederate agent based out of New York City. Despite pleas for clemency from inside Congress, Beall was hanged on February 24th, after a failed attempt at releasing Confederate prisoners-of-war held near Chicago. Booth signed the clemency petition and likely did his best to get his secret fiancee and her family to sign it as well. But Lincoln let Beall swing. A few days later, on March 2nd, a Union cavalry detachment arrived on the outskirts of Richmond, where the leader was shot and killed by the home guard. A 13-year-old found documents on his body that indicated the raiders were to torch the city and assassinate President Jefferson Davis and any of his cabinet they could find.
These two events in quick succession moved Mosby to retaliate, and he began plotting the Lincoln kidnap. We know he was in on that plot because his troops moved to the border the day of the planned kidnapping, movements large enough to alarm Union troops near the border.
Mosby never realized Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had slipped numerous double agents into the Confederate spy network, the most important of which was Louis Weichmann, who later became star witness at the tribunal responsible for hanging Mary Surratt. Weichmann took up residence at Surratt’s boarding house and volunteered to assist the kidnap as soon as he got wind of it, but had been rebuffed by Mary’s son John Surratt as he “could neither ride nor shoot.”
Mosby sent a hulking giant with heart of stone to make the actual snatch. His name was Lewis Powell. Apparently, Mosby was a deeply moral soldier and feared Lincoln might be killed during the attempt due to his size. Mosby wanted Lincoln alive so he could be put on trial for fomenting the Davis assassination attempt. And he also wanted the prisoners Beall died to save returned to the Confederacy. Powell was the only one large enough to handle Lincoln solo and you can date the origins of the kidnap plot from the day Powell crossed Union lines and signed the loyalty oath so he could enter Washington.
It’s telling when Powell arrived, he went straight to Surratt’s boarding house to make contact with Booth, whom he always referred to as “captain.” And just as telling, Booth and his team only referred to Powell as “Mosby.” The kidnap plan was intricate and involved a team of agents along the route to create obstructions to slow any pursuit. Fallen trees were to appear as soon as the carriage with Lincoln passed by. Meanwhile, Mosby’s Rangers would be racing North through enemy lines to provide escort. But this elaborate plan never materialized because Weichmann told the War Department everything, and Stanton simply changed Lincoln’s itinerary at the last moment.
George Atzerodt was a minor figure in the kidnap plot, tasked with providing a boat for crossing the Potomac. He seems to have suddenly been drawn into the assassination plot the day it unfolded, something that catapulted him into a state of panic. Powell was tasked with murdering the Secretary of State, who was recuperating from a recent carriage accident. Two murders were timed to create confusion for the getaway. Booth must have known all protection for Lincoln going to dissolve, else he would not have shown up armed with a single shot derringer.
Atzerodt’s first confession was suppressed and not discovered for 117 years. In it, he admitted that a New York element had paid for Powell’s transfer to Washington D.C. 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.
To solve these riddles, one only need examine who in New York thrived the most post Lincoln’s assassination. The financial center of the nation moved from Philadelphia to New York during the war, thanks in part to the rise of Jay Gould, who made his great fortune during the war. It seems Gould had a knack for knowing the outcome of battles before anyone else on the street.
Powell had been captured at the Surratt house the night of the assassination only because the dim-witted conspirator tasked with watching his horse while he killed the Secretary of State had panicked and bolted, leaving Powell riderless. And since he had little knowledge of the streets of Washington, it took hours to wend his way back to Surratt’s where he was immediately seized on arrival as his excuse for being there at such a strange hour was not credible.
Powell was moved to an isolated cell aboard an ironside in the Potomac, a heavy canvas and leather bag locked around his head to prevent contact or communication with anyone. Only one man was ever allowed to interview Powell, Thomas Eckert. Soon, they would completely rewrite Atzerodt’s original confession in order to remove all mention of New York City. After the tribunal, Eckert resigned from the military and accepted Gould’s offer to become head of Western Union.