Benjamin Ficklin is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

John Wilkes Booth (Captain, Confederate Secret Service) 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.


Who died at Garrett's farm?

Although there was the equivalent of a $2.25 million reward for the capture of John Wilkes Booth, not a single Southern sympathizer tried to collect a dime, although dozens helped Booth slip through one of the world’s greatest manhunts in history. Had he not broken his leg, Booth would have gotten away.

From the War Department records, it appears every effort was made to let Booth get away, as most of the searching was being done to the north of Washington, as if Booth had fled to Baltimore, and then on to Canada. This was the route probably taken by John Surratt a week or two earlier. Surratt had been down for a Lincoln kidnapping, but as soon as Booth’s plan shifted to murder, Surratt wisely dropped out of the venture.

To give an idea of Booth’s level of spook craft, he had a man with a crutch create a false trail for the Union cavalry to follow into the swamps, a trail that abruptly ended in the middle of nowhere, leaving those trackers wondering how a cripple on crutches could suddenly vaporize. Booth had many safe houses and accomplices willing to assist him along the route he took out of Washington. Strange none of these people were called before the military tribunal. The trial was kept narrowed down to eight minor characters, and half of those had zero to do with the plot, but were just patsies. The fewer suspects called before the court, the less chance anyone would talk, especially since patsies had nothing to reveal.

But because of the weirdness around the corpse, which disappeared several times for long periods, the door opened for fakers to claim it wasn’t Booth who was shot and killed at Garrett’s farm. Since Booth was using the name “Boyd” at the time, someone dug up a photo of a man who looked like Booth and was named Boyd and suggested he was the stand-in shot as Booth. This is absurd. If a man named Boyd had been locked in that tobacco barn, all he need do is surrender and allow himself to be taken back to Washington alive to be identified.

Afterwards, they needed someone to conclusively identify the corpse and much has been made of the fact only soldiers and a hotel clerk who barely knew Booth were officially allowed to view the body. The military doctor initially claimed he couldn’t believe it was Booth, probably because without his famous mustache and after several days travel wrapped in a horse blanket, his corpse was already starting to decay.

But this ignores the reality that Booth’s fiance was secretly brought on board the ironclad, and she’s the one who made the definitive identification by throwing herself on the corpse and sobbing. Lucy “Bessie” Hale certainly recognized the body of her one true love. She even snipped a lock of his hair, which was immediately taken from her and destroyed.

Even though Hale’s picture was found inside Booth’s diary, it would not be released to the public until the 1920s, and even then, her name was not identified. Her father was a radical Republican Senator, and held tremendous power and influence, and even though most everyone in Washington high society knew of the relations between Booth and his daughter, it would all be easily covered up. The Hale family simply relocated to Spain for four years, while the Senator took out an ad in the newspaper claiming there was no relationship between his daughter and Booth. End of story. See how easy it is to cover up truth if you can stack the deck of history? Eventually, however, the wheels fell off this hoodwink.

The best part of this story is how it reveals efforts to claim Booth escaped and lived a long and prosperous life are frauds, and there were numerous tall tales invented along these lines. So understand that any book that purports to express this view is disinfo and probably not worth reading. This is how you navigate a deep political event: once you establish where the major rabbit holes have been dug, avoiding falling into them is easy.

Lord Lyons and the Lincoln assassination

Let me be the first to admit there’s no evidence of anything unworthy or unseemly concerning Lord Richard Bikerton Pemell Lyons, 1st Viscount etc., and I don’t expect to find any, but if rumors of His Majesties Secret Service helping foment the Civil War are true, he’d be a key player in the game, having arrived two years before the outbreak of hostilities, just enough time to stoke the fires.

After all my years of spook study, I give credit to the English. They are the masters of the craft. Not only did they write the book on James Bond, they wrote the book on Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Knights of the Round Table. When you put these elements together, spooks plus magic, you get amazing results. Plus their idea of oligarchy is so much more transparent, with a clear chain-of-command, not anything like the murky and conspiratorial oligarchy of North America.

If Lyons is talking to Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton, the key person in the Lincoln assassination plot around whom all others orbit, it’s likely being done in whispers in the Grand Lodge of the Scottish Rite on Tuesday night or at some private 5-star restaurant afterwards. People have the illusion these major conspiracies involve people meeting in large groups, but in reality, the opposite is true. It’s one-on-one and done very quietly.

Someone put up a lot of money for the Lincoln hit, and Stanton easily could have handled that himself. Or maybe it was Clement Vallandigham, Jay Gould, Salmon Chase, or even Thaddeus Stevens, Fernando Wood, Jacob Astor, or just a combination of the above plus others unnamed. Any one of those people could have easily raised enough on a day’s graft at the office. (Things haven’t changed much, the budget on 9/11 was supposed to be $150,000 wired to Atta from a Pakistan ISI agent.)

The most significant moment early on in the Civil War concerned the Trent Affair, when two Confederate envoys were seized off a British ship to prevent them from seeking aid in Europe. This threatened to blow up into an international incident and force England to enter the war on the side of the South to preserve its honor, which would have led to an easy Southern victory. Wall Street would have relocated to Richmond or New Orleans. The North would have been returned to England officially and not just in the banking realms. The Union Jack could have flown from the White House. Lyons got the envoys released, which saved the day for Wall Street and the North, so we know what side he was working for. England had spawned and funded the abolitionist movement, and even though its economy depended on cheap cotton from the South, it’s trade with the North must have been far more important.

There’s only one person I know who consorted socially with Lyons, Booth and Stanton, and that’s Simon Wolf, young head of B’nai B’rith, someone active in the support of Jewish merchants caught in the middle of the war (and doing some narco-dollars-type profiteering, I might add). Notice British banking and intelligence employs many assets in these realms? That’s not by accident I assure you, and I know why.

When dealing with matters of intense sensitivity, it’s advisable to step outside your cultural realm and enlist agents from another social universe. The reason I suspect Wolf could have been the courier between Stanton and Booth is because he was very ambitious and very close with Stanton. I don’t know if Wolf managed to get close to Lyons, but he aggressively courted his approval. Wolf became a masterful social climber and rose to the top of Washington social circles and stayed there until he died. And he told a lie about meeting with John Wilkes Booth the day of the assassination, and when people tell lies, they are often covering something up.

I’d assume Booth was not told he was dealing with Stanton when he accepted the bag of money, whoever handed it to him. Booth would have been working for expenses only, anyway. He was a patriot, not a mercenary, and that’s what he’s was trying to make clear in his final messages, however corrupted and distorted they became through selective editing and negative mythologizing. If Wolf handed him a bag, the source could have been some anonymous benefactor inside the Union who admired his efforts. The first rule of spook craft is “need to know,” and a professional spook respects that rule religiously because it can save your life. You don’t want to be the man who knew too much because that’s how you get whacked during the final clean-up. And you don’t want to be haunted by the likes of a ghost as powerful as Mary Surratt.

One of the more fascinating pieces of evidence in this case is a letter from Booth sent to Stanton postmarked from Canada shortly after the assassination. This letter was designed to convince the War Department that Booth had escaped into Canada, which would have taken heat off his escape through the south. This was certainly a deft ploy and showed tremendous foresight and is evidence of Booth’s super-heightened spook craft. No doubt John Surratt hand carried and posted the letter before departing for Ireland. Many think Booth’s plan was to flee to Mexico because he left a map of that route at Garrett’s farm, although the map was probably just another ploy to throw off pursuers. England would have been a more likely designation since that’s where his boss in the Confederate Secret Service landed. The more I study Booth, the more impressed I am with his craft.

Louis Weichmann was kept several degrees from Stanton, although he was the War Department’s double agent placed in Booth’s cabal. But before the trial, Weichmann had a long, private meeting with Stanton, the details of which were never recorded, and the only time Stanton directly participated in the trial was to cross examine Weichmann, a man whose testimony was obviously sculpted to frame and hang two innocent people. Any examination of Weichmann could have veered into dangerous waters, which is why Stanton took the unprecedented step of doing it all by himself.

It’s amazing how Weichmann provided all sorts of minute and trivial information about Booth and Surratt, but was never once questioned about having been reporting their activities to the War Department for weeks. Many of his statements were fabrications and he’d later admit that Mary Surratt was innocent, and that nobody expected she’d be hanged. No one except Stanton, who was determined to make it happen, as she was his stand-in, sheep-dipped as the mastermind of the assassination.

But the murder of designated-scapegoat Mary Surratt became the flaw in the plan (to quote Harry Potter) that led to Stanton’s demise.

Dirty Andy is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

23.72George 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.

640px-Lewis-PayneThe 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.


Lucy Hale is a key to the Lincoln assassination

Here’s a photo of Lucy Lambert Hale found on the body of John Wilkes Booth after his execution at Garrett’s farm and then hidden away for over 65 years. Booth had a reputation as a playboy who melted hearts wherever he went, which explains why he had photos of five different women on him when murdered, but “Bessie” Hale was his secret fiance, so she was easily the most important as a witness. And wouldn’t you know it, she was never be questioned, nor identified in her lifetime? Five photos were found on Booth, but only four names and pictures released: Fanny Brown, Alice Grey, Effie Germon, and Helen Western, all actresses I might add. For decades researchers would wonder about a mysterious Miss X, around whom many rumors circulated, but nothing known for sure.

Described as being somewhat “stout,” this is not the best photo of Hale, others reveal she was far cuter than this, and in 1865 she was celebrated as one of the most eligible belles in Washington, courted by a number of bachelors, including Robert Todd Lincoln, who’d just returned from Appomattox, where he’d witnessed General Lee’s surrender. Her father was one of the titans of the Radical Republican cabal and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Thaddeus Stevens at the time. He was Senator from New Hampshire. You just can’t imagine the amount of information a spook like Booth could have garnered from a close association with an insider like Hale.
The Hale family resided in the National Hotel, which may be why Booth took up residence there as well. The hotel was a few blocks from the White House and strategically located across the street from the only public telegraph office in town. The telegraph line was phone, internet and television of its day, a vital tool for a spook like Booth.
Booth and his fiance had breakfast and dinner together on the day of the assassination. Senator Hale was appointed ambassador to Spain that very day, an appointment he may have sought to separate his daughter from a notorious Southern sympathizer and rake. Or he may have been warned to get his daughter away from Booth, who was already known to his own War Department as an agent in the Confederate secret service, reporting to Jacob Thompson in Canada, information provided by informant Louis Weichmann weeks ago.

Hale and Booth had already traded rings but wisely decided to keep their engagement a secret. In one letter from his mother, Booth seems to have indicated to her a sincere attachment to Hale, which would make this couple the Romeo and Juliet of the Civil War, although I cynically suspect Booth’s attentions were spook related. A few days earlier, Booth had scored a ticket in the VIP box for Lincoln’s second inauguration, a ticket given to him by his fiance through her father.

When people say you can’t keep conspiracies quiet, which is why they disbelieve the CIA killed JFK or the NSC plotted 9/11, I like to bring up Hales’s story. If you have real power to wield, you can keep almost anything quiet—for a time.
Hale was certainly seen by many dining with Booth that day, and even Todd Lincoln, who visited Hale that afternoon, must have been aware of her strong connection to Booth. Yet the lid was screwed on so tight, her picture would not be released until 1929, in a biography of Booth by Francis Wilson and even then she was identified only as “a Washington society woman.”

So most of what we know about this romance emerged much later through diaries and letters written long after the assassination. Hale was certainly a crucial witness who might have shed light on Booth’s motivations and accomplices, and every scullery maid who winked in Booth’s direction was caught up in the sweep of suspects, but Hale was never called to testify, but quickly hustled out of the country. To offset the gossip, her father published a notice in the local paper denying any connection between the two.

Before Hale departed for Spain, however, Booth’s body was brought back to Washington. A mysterious veiled woman came to view the corpse, threw herself upon it in tears, and snipped a lock of hair as a keepsake. (Apparently, this was popular at the time as Mary Todd Lincoln did the same thing after Lincoln died.) The lock was confiscated and destroyed as Stanton had strict orders against releasing any body parts. It’s now assumed that woman with the scissors was Hale.

After breakfast with his sweetheart, Booth had gone to the nearby Metropolitan Hotel, where he had a meeting with the young head of B’nai B’rith, Simon Wolf, who was the lawyer of choice for defending Jewish blockade runners and black-market profiteers. Wolf would have a long and profitable career in Washington, becoming close with a half-dozen presidents.
But after the assassination, Wolf wrote the strangest story in his autobiography, claiming he’d bumped into Booth by accident and only had a drink with him to avoid seeming rude. They’d both been involved in amateur theater in Ohio, but now Booth was a famous professional actor, while Wolf was fairly new in town. The strange part, however, was that Booth allegedly told Wolf Lucy had just broken off their engagement that morning. Wolf speculated Booth killed Lincoln partially out of lover’s despair. Yet Wolf was never called to testify, and never interrogated, even though 2,000 suspects were rounded up and put in jail immediately after the assassination. Booth’s own brother was held for two months before being released. Strange Wolf escaped the dragnet. The other thing I find suspicious is not a single book about the assassination mentions Wolf or the account he gives of meeting Booth that day.

Did Wolf lie in his autobiography? More credible accounts claim Lucy had told Booth she planned to return from Spain in one year and marry him with or without her parent’s consent. After the conspiracy trial, she wrote Edwin Booth, claiming she would have married his brother on the steps of the gallows if necessary, so strong was her love for Booth.

Hale returned from Spain four years later and eventually married her first sweetheart from New Hampshire. She gave birth to one child at the advanced age of 43, but never mentioned Booth again.

History Channel Lincoln assassination distortions

HC: Learning that Lincoln was to attend Laura Keene’s acclaimed performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, Booth—himself a well-known actor at the time—masterminded the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his co-conspirators hoped to throw the U.S. government into disarray.

Zero proof has ever emerged that anyone but Lincoln and Seward were targeted by Booth’s plot. The military tribunal claimed assassination attempts were also planned for Johnson, Grant and Stanton, and a different person found guilty of each of those non-attempts, so if you buy the Johnson hit, you must include a Stanton hit and a Grant hit, but it’s far more likely Johnson was designed to be a suspect, not a victim, and the alleged attack on Stanton was invented to steer suspicion away from him, since he was in charge of protecting the president, and had obviously failed miserably in that mission. There was no motive for the South to kill Lincoln and Seward as they were in a minority wishing to go easy on the South. The assassination only created more trauma for a nation rocked from the bloodiest war in American history. Additionally, Booth only knew Lincoln would visit a theater that night, and not which one, which is why he purchased the box next to the presidential box in the alternative, a purchase disguised by having the manager of his billiard parlor purchase the box for him. And if it were a plot to remove successors, then Ben Wade should have been the target, not Seward.

HC: At 10:15, Booth slipped into the box and fired his .44-caliber single-shot derringer into the back of Lincoln’s head. After stabbing Rathbone, who immediately rushed at him, in the shoulder, Booth leapt onto the stage and shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus ever to tyrants!”–the Virginia state motto). At first, the crowd interpreted the unfolding drama as part of the production, but a scream from the first lady told them otherwise. Although Booth broke his leg in the fall, he managed to leave the theater and escape from Washington on horseback.

Navy yard bridge.

According to his diary, Booth shouted those words before leaping to the stage, and it was his spur catching in the bunting that caused his fall, although his leg may have been broken later, when his horse fell. The Navy Yard bridge was closed at night, but Booth gave his real name and was allowed to pass. A suspicious employee from the stable whose horse Booth had just stolen was following close behind, but the guard strangely did not allow him to pursue a suspected horse thief. Later on, the War Department claimed no effort was made to chase Booth because they believed an imposter had given his name at the bridge as a ruse, but that still doesn’t explain why this man was allowed to cross unimpeded, and not held for questioning, or why the search was concentrated to the north side of town, as if Booth were headed for Canada and not Virginia.

HC: Vice President Andrew Johnson, members of Lincoln’s cabinet and several of the president’s closest friends stood vigil by Lincoln’s bedside until he was officially pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. The first lady lay on a bed in an adjoining room with her eldest son Robert at her side, overwhelmed with shock and grief.

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase did not wish to attend the death watch and went back to sleep when awoken and informed Lincoln was dying. Chase woke at his usual time and then walked to the house where Lincoln lay dying. Upon hearing the president still lived, he screwed his face and walked away. Later portraits commissioned by the government show Chase standing dutifully by Lincoln’s side as he died, a room he never entered.

HC: News of the president’s death traveled quickly, and by the end of the day flags across the country flew at half-mast, businesses were closed and people who had recently rejoiced at the end of the Civil War now reeled from Lincoln’s shocking assassination.

News would have traveled faster had the telegraph lines not gone down immediately after the assassination. The lines stayed strangely dead for over two hours before inexplicably they began functioning. No investigation of this mysterious gap would ever be conducted, yet it prevented the news from reaching the morning papers in New York.

HC: On April 26, Union troops surrounded the Virginia farmhouse where Booth and Herold were hiding out and set fire to it, hoping to flush the fugitives out. Herold surrendered but Booth remained inside. As the blaze intensified, a sergeant shot Booth in the neck, allegedly because the assassin had raised his gun as if to shoot. Carried out of the building alive, he lingered for three hours before gazing at his hands and uttering his last words: “Useless, useless.”

After 11 days of the greatest manhunt in history, 25 soldiers were sent to Booth’s exact location in Virginia. Supposedly an anonymous black youth stopped by the War Department to deliver the information, although his name was not recorded. The fire was not set until after Herold surrendered and had not caught hold when the single shot rang out. The only person in the barn with Booth at the time was Everton Conger, who remains the most likely suspect in shooting Booth, although Conger’s initial words were “Booth shot himself,” yet his initial report claimed Booth was shot attempting an escape.

Four of Booth’s co-conspirators were convicted for their part in the assassination and executed by hanging on July 7, 1865. They included David Herold and Mary Surratt, the first woman put to death by the federal government, whose boarding house had served as a meeting place for the would-be kidnappers.

Not really. Booth seldom visited her house, and held his meetings at his hotel room or nearby restaurants or taverns. Four hours after the assassination, Stanton’s secret police arrived at the Surratt house as it had already been identified as the nest of the conspiracy, which wasn’t even true, but that story helped hang an innocent woman. Much testimony during the trial was later proven to be lies, and the chief witness against Mary Surratt, a War Department employee, later said he believed she was innocent.


Lincoln assassination: fakes, frauds & forgeries

Newspapers with inside stories concerning the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln sold out quick in the spring of 1865, both in America and Europe, although most articles were packed with outrageous fabrications designed to sell issues. Very quickly, manufacturing of fake evidence in this case became a cottage industry, as the gullible were easily led down a maze of rabbit holes, starting with Jefferson Davis, Andrew Johnson, Knights of the Golden Circle, The Vatican, and so it went through the decades, with inventive frauds appearing on a regular basis. Some of this muck may have been manufactured to obscure the real plot, but some was the work of con artists seeking fame, fortune and publicity. (The instant appearance of multiple rabbit holes would be repeated for JFK and 9/11.)

Not much is known about Dion Haco, the dime novelist who rushed out the first tabloid biography on Booth before the trial was over, a yellow-sheet published by Dawley’s New War Novels. The following year, Haco followed up with the even-more explosive The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt. Strange a year later, when Surratt returned to face trial, he made no mention of this forgery, which claimed he was a made member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, an anti-Catholic organization. Although a military tribunal had hanged his mother, Surratt walked away a free man after the civil trial on the same charges. He gave two lectures afterwards, but left no diary nor journals. By this time, public opinion had shifted against accepting the tribunal that had found Surratt’s mom guilty because so many perjuries by government witnesses had come to light.  Within a few decades, however, few would recall how corrupt that trial had really been.

The Lincoln assassination may be one of the most investigated murders in history, but it’s astonishing how much research is tainted by obvious forgeries. You can’t believe the amount of people who take Haco’s melodramatic novels as gospel truth.

William Henry Burr also wrote some early books on the assassination and they all pointed toward a Catholic conspiracy. Apparently, his key evidence was advance knowledge of the assassination in the tiny hamlet of St. Joseph, Minnesota, home to a college for the training of Jesuit priests. According to Burr, the news arrived two hours before the assassination! This rabbit hole would become one of the most well-traveled since John Surratt, his mother and childhood friend found guilty were all Catholics….forget the reality Booth was not, and Booth was the actual assassin, while the Catholics were just patsies.

On January 13, 1903, David E. George passed away in Enid, Oklahoma, allegedly confessing to his landlady he was John Wilkes Booth. Upon hearing this story, Finis L. Bates rushed to Enid from Texas because he’d known a man named John St. Helen, who also claimed to be Booth. Bates wanted to view the corpse while still at the undertakers, and once he did, he declared it was the same man he knew as John St. Helen. Meanwhile, the landlady recanted George’s death bed confession, but no matter, Bates paid to mummify the corpse so it could be put on public exhibition for an admission fee. The mummy was sold through the years to circus sideshows, and at various times held under bond, seized for debt, banned from exhibition, or kidnapped. And, of course, Bates wrote a crackpot book purporting to tell the real story of Booth’s escape.

There’s a strong current in history pulling scholars toward accepting official stories and staying within those parameters, and since that route usually yields the best book and film deals, not to mention professorships, serious historians often remain on this tack. But suddenly, in 1937, after gaining access to long-hidden War Department files, Otto Eisenschiml published the ground-breaking: Why Was Lincoln Murdered? The book painted a compelling portrait of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as possibly the instigator of Lincoln’s murder and was written in an entertaining, novelistic style. To marshal his case, the author stretched the truth here and there, and some points were quickly refuted by mainstream historians, however, the bulk of his case emerged unscathed, and most second-generation Lincoln researchers were influenced in some way by Eisenschiml.

At this point, a circus tatoo man had gained possession of George’s mummy, and the success of Eisenschiml’s book ignited renewed interest in Lincoln conspiracies, so in 1937, the mummy suddenly earned over $100,000 in exhibition fees, five times what Booth made as an actor in his best year. Obviously, there was a lot of money to be made fabricating Booth stories, which is why we’ve had a steady parade of fakes and forgeries ever since.

Twenty years after Eisenschiml’s groundbreaking book, Theodore Roscoe followed up with the even more comprehensive The Web of Conspiracy, three times the length and packed with even more supporting documentation. In his foreword, Roscoe described the assassination’s legend as “a towering edifice of so-called history built on sand.” For two decades a parade of apologists defending the official record had nitpicked every exaggeration in Eisenschiml’s book, but when Roscoe came back with a mountain of additional evidence, the best they could do was ignore him and pretend the book was never published or just a meaningless rehash of Eisenschiml’s. When you crack a deep political conspiracy like Lincoln’s assassination, it’s like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly you can see where to fit the missing pieces. Conversely, when you bend over backwards inventing complex rationalizations (magic bullets, etc.), remaining pieces fail to fit and require additional complex rationalizations. When you arrive at the truth, however, it lights up like a Christmas tree and everything falls into place.

In 1977, David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. published The Lincoln Conspiracy, which used a lot of material from Roscoe’s book, but added dubious evidence taken from transcripts provided by an unknown source acting through a lawyer as his agent. This person claimed to be a bastard descendent of Edwin Stanton and was offering to sell Booth’s missing diary pages, which identified the cabal behind the assassination. This source also claimed to have the letter Booth wanted delivered to the newspapers. In hindsight, I’d guess this was a clever intelligence operation designed to taint the story forever, and I file this effort under: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em—and throw in a ton of disinfo. And if that wasn’t enough, there was additional new material provided by a professor from Indiana State University named Ray Neff.

Neff claimed to have purchased a volume of Colburn’s United Service Magazine in 1957, a British military journal for professional soldiers. He soon discovered the book had notations in cipher in the margins, as well as the date: 2/5/68. In order to decipher the code, Neff claims to have taken the book to an unnamed cryptography expert. The first paragraph decoded went: “In new Rome, there walked three men, a Judas, a Brutus and a spy. Each planned he would be king when Abraham should die.” An invisible signature of Lafayette C. Baker was discovered on one page, and an analysis expert claimed it matched the real Baker’s signature.

Neff is obviously a fanatic researcher, and pursues documents from the era with enormous zeal, all of which are now archived at Indiana State University. Apparently, Neff sued the college for $90,000, but I found little information on that dispute. In fact, I find it odd I can’t locate a photo of Neff.

In a nutshell: the cipher messages stated Baker was being followed by professional spooks who wanted him dead. An enormous cabal had been working with Stanton, involving dozens of bankers, merchants, generals and government officials. However, only eight were supposedly intimately involved with the assassination, and those eight were not identified. Neff had a document from Baker’s archives proving he’d purchased a copy of Colburn’s. He had a hair analysis performed on Baker’s remains and announced he’d been poisoned with arsenic and did not die of meningitis as claimed. Eventually, Neff claimed to have discovered the arsenic had been laced in beer provided by Baker’s brother-in-law, a War Department employee.

Neff and an English co-writer eventually released their own book in 2003, Dark Union, which also claimed Booth escaped and died in India, that he’d been secretly married, and that James B. Boyd was the man shot in Garrett’s barn.

But that was 26 years after The Lincoln Conspiracy sold a million copies and became a major motion picture using the same information. But if you really peer deeply into this story, you’ll find fingers pointing in strange directions and dots lining up that don’t really connect, and while I’m sure Baker owned a copy of Colburn’s, I believe those ciphers were more likely added by someone else. In my opinion, all attempts to claim Booth wasn’t shot dead at Garrett’s farm are manufactured rabbit holes.

Today, few take Neff’s work seriously, but for a while, he did manage to grab the center of energy on Lincoln research, which was certainly unfortunate.


The Dahlgren affair is a key to the Lincoln assassination

Belle Isle, a 54-acre island in the James River, had been home to a nail factory, but since it was surrounded by rapids, it was deemed ideal as a holding pen for Union prisoners awaiting transfer home. A footbridge provided easy access to a nearby railway line. Belle Island was reserved for enlisted men; officers were incarcerated at Libby Prison.

Out of 2.75 million soldiers, over 400,000 were taken prisoner during the Civil War, some of them several times, and prison conditions were so harsh over 56,000 perished in captivity. The worst was Andersonville, where 39% who walked in, never walked out.
Belle Isle had no barracks and the flimsy tents were severely overcrowded once exchanges were scrapped. The War Department had decided returning Confederate soldiers to the front was keeping the rebellion fires burning, so they abruptly broke off the Dix-Hill cartel and halted all swaps in June of 1863, which caused the population at Belle Isle to swell immediately. The situation was compounded by the refusal of the Confederacy to accept one-to-one swaps involving blacks. During the winter of 1863-64, as many as 1,500 a week were perishing at Belle Isle.

In a New York Tribune article dated January 25th, 1864, Charles Dunham, posing as Sanford Conover, exposed a plot by the villianous Colonel George Margrave to capture and assassinate President Lincoln. In fact, the dastardly Colonel Margrave was a figment of Dunham’s imagination, as was the kidnap and possible assassination plot hinted at in his article. Conover promised additional details would be forthcoming very soon. That never happened as the article was a calculated psyop designed to inflame emotions.

The article raised significant alarm bells in Washington. Within days, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and President Abraham Lincoln were discussing plans for a raid into Richmond to release the thousands of prisoners at Belle Isle, a project initially suggested by Major General Benjamin F. Butler. Butler also wanted to destroy the Tredegar Iron Works and kidnap Jefferson Davis as part of the mission. Butler got approval for the raid and it was scheduled for February 7. However, the Confederates were warned ahead of time and Butler’s cavalry assault turned back before getting near Richmond.

A week later, Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick secured a private meeting with Lincoln, something allegedly arranged through the assistance of a Republican Senator. Nicknamed “Kill Cavalry” by his own troops, Kilpatrick was already legendary for mounting reckless frontal assaults. He had circumvented military protocol by seeking this private meeting. Aside from freeing Belle Isle and Libby prisons, Kilpatrick suggested severing Confederate lines of communication. Lincoln also wanted his recent amnesty proposal circulated behind enemy lines. Kilpatrick was directed to the War Department to work out details with Stanton. On February 16, Stanton approved the raid and its three objectives.

General Meade and the head of the Cavalry Corps. Major General Alfred Pleasonton went on record opposing the raid. Meade distanced himself in his written orders to Kilpatrick: “No detailed instructions are given you, since the plan of your operations has been proposed by you with the sanction of the President and Secretary of War.”

Ulric Dahlgren was an ambitious 21-year-old who’d recently lost a leg below the knee at the Battle of Gettysburg. His father was commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and close friends with Lincoln, which is why Dahlgren had advanced so rapidly to colonel, despite a total lack of command experience. However, when Dahlgren arrived at Kilpatrick’s seeking a job now that his leg had healed, he was offered command of the raiding party and given secret orders.

On March 2, Dahlgren was killed outside Richmond near King and Queen County Courthouse. William Littlepage, age 13, was rifling through his pockets, looking for valuables, when he discovered a packet of documents, which he dutifully handed over to the commander of the home guard, who forwarded the notebook and papers to Jefferson Davis. According to the documents, after freeing the Union prisoners, Ulric was to torch Richmond and assassinate Davis and his entire cabinet if possible. The fact Dahlgren had not destroyed these incriminating orders but allowed them to be captured was evidence of his lack of experience.

The documents were circulated to newspapers in hopes of winning sympathy and drawing a foreign power into an alliance with the Confederacy, as well as strengthening the Copperhead peace movement against Lincoln. Of course, the War Department immediately claimed the papers were forgeries, but that was undoubtedly a lie because they were written on official stationary, although strangely unsigned by any authority, probably due to the extreme nature of the mission. It’s not clear who dreamed up the assassination scheme, some believe it was Stanton on his own initiative. My theory is that Dunham had been Stanton’s secret agent all along, and that by seeding a false story of a Confederate assassination plot against Lincoln, Dunham opened the door for a similar plot against Davis.

The Dahlgren affair is likely what caused Colonel John S. Mosby to begin formulating a plan to kidnap Lincoln in revenge and swap him for all the Confederate prisoners in Union jails. For this delicate mission, Mosby would risk exposing his greatest asset in Washington. John Wilkes Booth was soon in motion on the kidnap plot, aided by the arrival of Mosby’s chief enforcer. But the kidnap was foiled, and the plot was twisted to murder by a powerful entity in New York City that wanted Lincoln removed. Is it worth mentioning that right after the war, Stanton shipped all Confederate archives to the War Department and specifically requested the Dahlgren documents be sent direct to his office? The documents have never been seen since.


Booth’s not-so-merry band of misfits

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.


Division of reward key to Lincoln assassination

Both Lafayette Baker and his cousin Luther were not happy with the division of spoils following the execution of John Wilkes Booth. They had been expecting the lion’s share of money because the operation had been fomented by Lafayette and he initially put his cousin in charge of the detail. Lafayette initially put in a request for the entire $75,000, so imagine his surprise when he only got $3,750.

Luther’s story was that Detective Everton Conger showed up and volunteered to accompany his expedition. Since Conger was the most experienced soldier, he soon assumed the command on his own initiative, which is why he was the first man to enter the tobacco-drying shed Booth was locked inside. Afterwards, everyone acted like Conger had been in charge all along.

Conger is the one who started a small fire on the side of the structure as a diversion before entering, but eyewitnesses claim his fire had not really caught hold when a shot rang out. Luther rushed in and immediately assumed Conger had shot Booth, but Conger initially claimed Booth had shot himself. But also upset was Lieutenant Edward Doherty, ranking officer in charge of the squad, although he seemed more peeved about not being called to testify at the trial, and wrote a complaint to his Colonel concerning that staggering omission, but since he believed Conger probably shot Booth, that perspective was not part of the script nor welcome in the court room.

The first official and signed and dated report handed in to the War Department claimed Boston Corbett shot Booth while he was attempting an escape.

The division of spoils was decided by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, a man now considered by many researchers as a primary suspect in Lincoln’s death. I’d suggest that after Stanton learned Baker was sending a patrol on Booth’s trail, he asked well-seasoned Detective Conger to go along, and, in great confidence, promised Conger the lion’s share of the reward money provided Booth came back dead rather than alive.

The split was contentious. A special War Department commission determined Doherty was the leader of the patrol and deserved $75,000. A committee of claims established by the U.S. House of Representatives overturned the decision and gave the largest shares—$17,500 a piece—to Lafayette Baker and Conger and reduced Doherty’s reward to $2,500.

Finally, Congress adjusted the shares. Conger received $15,000 and Doherty $5,250. Lafayette Baker’s payout was slashed to $3,750, while his cousin Luther was given $3,000. Corbett, the iQ-challenged patsy who took credit for killing Booth, got $1,653.85, the same as his 25 fellow cavalrymen. The remaining $5,000 was divided among four other investigators and soldiers involved in the manhunt.

The split probably turned both Bakers against Stanton, as Lafayette would soon be unemployed, looking for a publisher for his autobiography.