Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 3 Num. 81

("Quid coniuratio est?")

The Lincoln Conspiracy
By David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr.


"Near the end of September, 1864, Patrick Martin [, organizer of the previously mentioned southern Maryland planter's meeting,] met with John Wilkes Booth." As a result of this meeting, "Booth received instructions to meet [Confederate agents] Clement Clay and Jacob Thompson in Montreal." Booth arrived in Montreal on October 17th or 18th of 1864.

John Wilkes Booth is a shadowy historical figure. While ostensibly an actor, he is known to have smuggled medicines and other contraband into the south. For example, at one time Booth "obtained 1,000 ounces of valuable quinine, hid the contraband medicine in a trunk, and sent it by blockade runner to Richmond."

Booth was also involved with other smugglers from that time, including Confederate courier John Surratt and a childhood friend named Michael O'Laughlin. One of the front operations they used for their activities was the Chaffey Company at 178 1/2 Water Street in New York. Another key figure operating out of this address "was Lafayette Baker [head of the previously mentioned National Detective Police (NDP)] who began using Chaffey's in July."

Instead of turning in confiscated contraband to the military commissary, Baker began using the Chaffey Company to sell it to interested buyers. This was especially true for cotton which had risen from 10 cents/pound to $1.00/pound. "A single bale was now worth more than $1,000, and a seized shipment of several bales could be quietly sold for a tidy sum. At the rate Baker was making deposits, his account would hit $150,000 by the end of the year."

While in Montreal, Booth was recruited by Confederate agents Clay and Thompson to organize the kidnapping of Abraham Lincoln. John H. Surratt, Jr. was suggested to Booth as a good man to help in his organizing efforts. When Booth returned to Washington, "$12,499.28 had been transferred from the Bank of Montreal to Booth's account at the Chaffey Company in New York. This was, to the penny, what Daniel Watson, a Tennessee cotton speculator, had deposited in the Bank of Montreal on July 4 for some unknown reason."

"Booth wrote in his diary, 'I am to find and send North 15 men whom I trust. The messenger brings me $20,000 in gold to recruit them. I'm to start at once.'" It is somewhat suspicious that "the messenger who brought the gold was connected with the Union's Judge Advocate General's Office."

In addition to the kidnap plot that Booth was involved with, "another highly secret plot was developing inside the government in Washington... A hint of the Northern plot was turned up by NDP operatives." Members of Lincoln's own party, including Radical Republicans were plotting to "have him kidnapped and kept out of sight until fake charges... [were] arranged to impeach him."

On November 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln received 55 percent of the popular vote and was returned to office. One of the things which helped him win re-election was that the Union army had won timely victories. He was also helped by the military vote itself. He received 116,887 military ballots as compared to 33,748 cast for the Democratic candidate McClellan. "Lincoln had pressured commanders to furlough soldiers home in time for the election."

Around this time, the National Detective Police (NDP) had made progress in its investigations into possible kidnap plots against Lincoln. "The secret police had also discovered [John Wilkes] Booth's involvement." The authors mention a Confederate Major Marsh Frye who they claim was a double agent. They claim also that Booth's wife had been working with this Major Frye as a spy and courier for the Confederacy but that she was unaware that Frye was in reality an agent for the Union.

Another informant cultivated by the NDP at the time was one "James William Boyd, prisoner of war... [who had] been a captain in the Rebel secret service." The authors mention in passing that this Captain Boyd had the same initials as John Wilkes Booth.

[B.R. So at this point we have a lot of loose threads. It will be interesting to see where they lead.]

According to the authors, Booth also met with John Surratt around this time. "Booth's diary claimed they joined together and began recruiting men for the [planned] kidnapping."

In the Fall of 1864, Booth made a trip to Richmond where he met with one Judah Benjamin, a British lawyer, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. "Out of this meeting came detailed instructions for Booth. An order for $70,000, 'drawn on a friendly bank,' was also handed the actor."

"Though on opposite sides of a civil war, the Northern speculators and the Confederate politicians had a common commodity problem. The speculators needed cotton. The south needed meat. The Union's blockade prevented cotton from leaving the South." After the 1864 election, Booth met with banker- financier Jay Cooke at the Astor House in New York. Cooke's brother Henry was also in attendance and spoke highly of the aforementioned Judah Benjamin. This was a curious circumstance in that Mr. Benjamin was one of the top men in the Confederacy whereas Cooke was one of the bankers financing the Union side in the war. Also in attendance at the meeting were "Thurlow Weed, Samuel Noble, a New York Cotton broker, and Radical Republican Zachariah Chandler, Michigan senator."

"In his diary Booth later recorded, 'Each and every one asserted that he had dealings with the Confederate States and would continue to whenever possible.'"

According to the authors, the link between most or all of these groups was economic. Due to the Union blockade of the Confederacy, the South, northern speculators, and the British were all suffering. Because the South could not export its cotton, mills in Britain and France were shutting down. The blockade also cut off Northern moneymen from lucrative investments in the cotton trade.

According to the recently recovered Booth diary pages, while in Montreal near the end of 1864 Booth saw National Detective Police (NDP) head Lafayette Baker in the company of Confederate agent Nathaniel Beverly Tucker. Later that day, Booth met with Tucker and Canadian Confederate secret service chief Jacob Thompson. Booth delivered coded messages to each of them and Thompson gave Booth a satchel containing $50,000 in bank notes. He was to deliver $20,000 of this money to Senator Benjamin Wade, co-author of the previously mentioned Wade-Davis Bill. Thus, if the missing Booth diary pages are to be believed, we have evident collusion between Radical Republicans and the Confederate secret service. Furthermore, some connection between the head of the Union's NDP and the southern secret service seems likely.

[B.R. -- Yet this all hinges on the veracity of the recently recovered (c. 1977) Booth Diary Pages. The mystery deepens in that I am writing this in 1993; whatever became of the 18 pages that were recovered? Were they authenticated? Were they published?]

Around this time (December 1864), one of Lincoln's most trusted bodyguards, Ward Lamon, tried to warn Lincoln that he was in great danger. When Lincoln shrugged off Lamon's warning, Lamon threatened to resign stating that the President's life was sure to be taken unless he were more cautious. The NDP also tried to warn Lincoln of the danger he was in. Twice they notified Secretary of War Stanton that a plot was underway to kidnap Lincoln.

The authors furthermore claim that a Major Thomas Eckert, a member of Stanton's office in the War Department, also had knowledge of the proposed kidnapping of the president.

Booth returned to Washington, carrying the previously mentioned satchel containing $50,000. He delivered portions of this money to Senators Conness, Wade, and Chandler of the Radical Republican faction of Lincoln's party. According to NDP chief Lafayette Baker's notes, Senator Conness was involved with at least one of the upcoming kidnap plots.

The authors contend that there had to be some hidden person/persons linking the Radical Republicans (who were seeking to control the Union and to ravage the post-war South) with the Confederate secret service. The plan of the Radical Republicans was to "seize control of the executive branch... [and] control reconstruction." Why the Confederate secret service would team up with them is not clear. Superficially, these two groups should have had nothing in common.

Around this time Secretary of War Stanton personally ordered that Federal prisoner Captain James W. Boyd (initials J.W.B., same as John Wilkes Booth) was to be delivered to the Provost Marshal in Washington, D.C.

{ Sources used for this section include, but are not limited }

{ to the following:                                             }
{                                                               }
{ Andrew Potter Papers, Ray A. Neff Collection, Marshall, IL    }
{                                                               }
{ Baker, Lafayette C., History of the United States Secret     }
{   Service (L.C. Baker, Philadelphia, 1967)                   }
{                                                               }
{ Brennan, John C., "General Bradley T. Johnson's Plan to       }

{ Abduct President Lincoln," Chronicles of St. Mary's County } { Historical Society, (Leonardtown, MD) Vol. 22, Nov. 1974 }

{                                                               }
{ Clarke, Asia Booth, The Unlocked Book: A Memoir of John      }
{   Wilkes Booth (G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1938)          }
{                                                               }
{ Eisenschiml, Otto, Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (Little,       }
{   Brown and Co., Boston, 1937)                                }
{                                                               }
{ Gray, Clayton, Conspiracy in Canada (L'Atelier Press,       }
{   Montreal, 1957)                                             }
{                                                               }
{ Lamon, Ward Hill, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln          }
{   (University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1895)                     }
{                                                               }
{ Lafayette Baker's Unpublished Cipher-Coded Book Manuscript,   }
{   1868, Dr. Ray A. Neff Collection                            }
{                                                               }
{ "Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 68, "Martin Family,"      }
{   Fall 1973                                                   }
{                                                               }
{ Missing Booth Diary Pages. In the private collection of       }
{   Stanton descendants. Released in 1976 through the efforts   }
{   of Americana appraiser, Joseph Lynch of Worthington, MA     }
{                                                               }
{ Mogelever, Jacob, Death to Traitors (Doubleday & Co.,       }
{   New York, 1960)                                             }
{                                                               }
{ Peterson, T.B., The Trial of the Assassins and Conspirators }
{   (T.B. Peterson and Brothers, Philadelphia, 1865)            }
{                                                               }
{ Roscoe, Theodore, The Web of Conspiracy (Prentice-Hall,     }
{   Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1959)                                 }
{                                                               }

{ Weichmann, Louis J., A True History of the Assassination of } { Abraham Lincoln and of the Conspiracy of 1865, ed. Floyd } { E. Risvold, (Alfred E. Knopf, New York, 1975) }

[ be continued...]

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Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9

Brian Francis Redman "The Big C"

Coming to you from Illinois -- "The Land of Skolnick"