Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 3 Num. 86

("Quid coniuratio est?")

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


Senator William M. Stewart of Nevada rushed to the Kirkwood House and found the vice-President " a drunken stupor. His clothing was disarrayed. Mud matted his hair." After being made presentable by a barber and sobered up by a physician, Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the 17th President of the United States.

In his inauguration "speech," Johnson declared that "The course which I have taken in the past in connection with this rebellion must be regarded as a guarantee for the future." This meant that Lincoln's proposed policy of amnesty for the South was finished. Johnson would give his support to those planning to treat the defeated Confederacy as conquered enemy territory.

"Radical Republicans were delighted. Everything that Lincoln had fought for could be presumed dead along with the late President." Some of them even went so far as to declare that "Lincoln's death is like a blessing from heaven."

After having his broken leg tended to by Dr. Samuel Mudd (who apparently had no idea whose leg he was treating nor that Lincoln had just been assassinated), Booth and a companion (a former smuggler named Ed Henson whom Booth had joined up with early in his flight from Washington) disappeared into the nearby Zekiah Swamp. After about three hours of trudging through this desolate wilderness, they approached a farm owned by Col. Samuel Cox. Cox hid the fugitives in a pine thicket about two miles from his house and sent for his foster brother, Thomas A. Jones. During the just finished Civil War, Jones had "...nightly rowed the two mile crossing of the Potomac to, or from, Virginia with persons who wanted to cross the river unnoticed." Jones promised Booth and Henson that he would get them across the river as soon as possible.

Back in Washington, Stanton assigned NDP chief Lafayette Baker to get Booth. Booth's rash act had thrown the carefully laid plans of those higher up in the hierarchy of power "...into a cocked hat." Stanton feared that unless the pursuit and capture of Booth was brought to a speedy finish, that his and his colleagues' kidnap plots would be incidentally exposed by the ongoing investigations.

Booth's shooting of Lincoln had come as such a surprise to Stanton and his friends that they were terrified that their own plots would be uncovered. NDP chief Baker knew that his boss [Stanton] preferred that Booth not be taken alive. If Booth were to live long enough to talk, there was a good possibility that he would implicate those higher up in the conspiracies surrounding Lincoln.

Baker's NDP found Booth acquaintance David Herold "Drunk under a tree." Baker persuaded Herold to serve as a guide for his detectives. If Herold would lead them to Booth, Baker promised that he would overlook Herold's early involvement with Booth in what had started out as a kidnap plot; if Herold would lead them to Booth, Herold would not be hung. Herold agreed to help them locate Booth.

The agencies gathering evidence in the hunt for those guilty in the assassination of Lincoln were overly zealous. One early witness, John Lloyd, an alcoholic, "...was denied all liquor for 48 hours. In addition, he was hanged from a tree by his thumbs for those 48 hours." Another early detainee, Louis Weichmann, was "...given a choice of hanging as a conspirator or testifying against those accused."

In southern Maryland, David Herold and two NDP detectives headed for the farm of a Col. Frank Beale. It had been reported that Boyd, the double agent, might be hiding there. The reports proved correct, and Boyd was taken in tow by the search party. Neither Boyd nor Herold felt any loyalty towards the NDP and the Union, and both planned to escape from the NDP detectives at the first opportunity. When the search party neared Port Tobacco, at night while the detectives were sleeping, Boyd and Herold made their escape. They were able to steal three pistols, a Spencer carbine, and three fully loaded magazine pouches before escaping.

Shortly thereafter, both pairs of fugitives, Booth and Henson and Boyd and Herold, "...were within a short distance of each other near Port Tobacco." Both pairs of fugitives planned to cross the Potomac river to escape pursuit.

"Boyd and Herold went to a Colonel Hughes' place... arriving about daybreak on April 19. They were heading for a place west of Mathias Point to cross the river. Boyd's right leg was festering and so sore that he was reduced to using a crude crutch."

On the night of Friday, April 21, Booth and Henson were able to get across the Potomac river. Boyd and Herold had already crossed the Potomac the day before. Sometime Saturday night, Booth and Henson had arrived at Gambo Creek but then had hurriedly moved on, headed for a crossing at Port Conway. In their haste, they left behind Booth's coat, his diary and other items. Booth and Henson as well as Boyd and Herold, in separate pairs, each reached Port Conway on Monday, April 24.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, about 2,000 people had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. Among the "wanted" posters being issued by Secretary of War Stanton and the NDP, one carried a picture of David Herold that had been taken while he was in preliminary custody after the assassination (i.e. when he had cut the deal with NDP chief Baker to help them capture Booth). In fact, the "...Herold photo had his handcuffed hands cropped off so the public wouldn't know that he had [actually already] been arrested earlier. The Herold frame- up was under way."

During the frantic and chaotic search for whoever was proclaimed to be the guilty parties, several innocent people were killed by overzealous detectives. "In the throngs of trigger-happy hunters... it was the detectives and military men, immune from prosecution, who did the killing....[For example] two civilians named Frank Boyle and William Watson were shot 'because they resembled Booth.' The secret police even disposed of the two bodies."

On Friday, April 21, a Lt. Lovett and a squad of cavalry returned to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd. After questioning him further, they rode off. However, "On Monday, April 24, an officer with three soldiers took Dr. Mudd to Washington. He would not return home for many years to come." [B.R. Dr. Mudd was another victim of the hysteria surrounding the assassination of Lincoln. To my knowledge, he has either recently, finally, been granted a full pardon (posthumously, of course) by the Federal government, or there is currently a great deal of pressure that he should be granted such a pardon.]

The pursuing Federal investigators had engaged the services of a Native American (a.k.a. "Indian") scout in their hunt for Booth. On Sunday, April 23rd, this Native American scout, Nalgai, returned to Washington. He carried with him two brandy bottles, " ulsterette with bloodstains, a pistol, a compass, a wallet containing $2,100 in Union currency, several letters of credit on Canadian and British banks, and pictures of six pretty young women and a horse." He also brought back Booth's diary.

At first, detectives Andrew and James Potter were quite happy to have recovered Booth's diary. However their happiness turned to dismay when they began reading Booth's documentation regarding his meetings with certain powerful and well-known individuals. Among the personages mentioned by Booth were financier Jay Cooke, his brother Henry Cooke, political boss Thurlow Weed, and NDP chief Lafayette Baker. Booth had also written about his meetings with "...Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin, Montgomery Blair,...'The Secretary,'...[and] Senator Wade."

According to a diary kept by Representative George Julian of Indiana, he was present at a meeting which took place at the War Department on Monday, April 24, 1865. Present at this meeting, according to Rep. Julian's diary, were a Major Eckert of the War Department, Secretary of War Stanton, Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan, and Senator John Conness. Also "present" at the meeting was Booth's recently recovered diary.

The subject of discussion was the potentially disastrous effect that the publication of the information in Booth's diary would have and the need to keep that information top secret. To give an idea of the potentially explosive effect the dissemination of the information in Booth's diary would have had, the authors quote excerpts from the so-called Missing Booth Diary Pages (i.e. the 18 missing pages released under the Freedom of Information Act during the mid-70's):

Excerpts from the Missing Booth Diary Pages:

*** "With Jay Cooke at the Astor Hotel, I met Thurlow Weed, Sen. Chandler, and a Mr. Bell who said he was a friend of John Conness... the speculators in cotton and gold would do anything -- including murder -- to make the amount of money they have..."

*** "...[Senator John] Conness said he would supply the new passwords every six weeks..."

*** "...Thompson gave me $50,000 in bank notes with instructions to take $15,000 to Sen. Conness... and to leave in a sealed envelope $20,000 in notes at the home of Sen. Wade..."

*** "...[NDP Chief Lafayette] Baker comes and brings with him Col. Conger. I told Baker to have him leave because I did not know him, and talking to too many people can be dangerous..."

*** " matter who speaks for [NDP Chief Lafayette] Baker, I do not like him and will not trust him... I believe that Baker and Eckert and the Secretary are in control of our activities... and this frightens me..."

According to Rep. Julian's diary, those present at the meeting (except for Rep. Julian himself) feared for their lives if the information in Booth's diary ever got out. Rep. Julian had favored the overthrow of Lincoln by Constitutional means. In his diary, Julian wrote, "It was disgusting to see those men grovel in fear because of their immoral activities." He further quotes Stanton as saying, "...we either stick together in this thing or we all hang together."

Indiana Representative George Julian also noted in his diary that the question arose as to what would happen if Booth were captured alive. Keeping the diary a secret was one thing, but how would they keep Booth from telling what he knew? According to Rep. Julian's diary, Stanton declared that Booth would not be tried in open court.

Stanton then ordered that the Booth diary be put in his safe and that under no circumstances was it to be released to anyone.

Because NDP Chief Lafayette Baker did not trust Stanton, he organized a special unit with its purpose being to capture Booth alive at all costs. Apparently, Baker feared that Stanton might release selected portions of Booth's diary which implicated Baker whilst secreting other portions which implicated Stanton himself. The authors do not directly say this, but apparently Baker planned to use Booth as a bargaining chip in case Stanton were to turn on him.

Scattered forces were converging on Port Conway. "If John Wilkes Booth lived to tell his story, the nation's biggest scandal would wash over Washington like garbage scattered by a tornado."

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

{ to the following:                                             }
{                                                               }
{ Andrew Potter Papers, Ray A. Neff Collection, Marshall, IL    }
{                                                               }
{ Bearden Papers. Margaret K. Bearden Collection                }
{                                                               }
{ Capt. James William Boyd Letter to Moe Stevens, Boyd Papers.  }
{   Ray A. Neff Collection                                      }
{                                                               }
{ Col. Lafayette Baker's Letter to Edwin M. Stanton, May 5,     }
{   1865. In the private collection of Stanton descendants.     }
{   Released in 1976 through the efforts of Americana           }
{   appraiser, Joseph Lynch                                     }
{                                                               }
{ Existing Pages of the John Wilkes Booth Diary on display at   }
{   Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, Washington, D.C.     }
{                                                               }
{ Jones, Thomas A., "J. Wilkes Booth: An Account of His Sojourn }
{   in Southern Maryland After the Assassination of Abraham     }
{   Lincoln," The Amateur Book Collector, Sept. 1954          }
{                                                               }
{ Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve and Kunhardt, Philip B., Twenty    }
{   Days (Harper & Row, New York, 1965)                        }
{                                                               }
{ 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     }
{                                                               }
{ Mudd, Nettie, *The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd (Neale          }
{   Publishing Co., New York, 1906)                             }
{                                                               }
{ Rep. George Julian Diary, April 1865. Ray A. Neff Collection  }
{                                                               }
{ Roscoe, Theodore, The Web of Conspiracy (Prentice-Hall,     }
{   Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1959)                                 }
{                                                               }
{ Shelton, Vaughan, Mask for Treason: The Lincoln Murder       }
{   Trial (Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA, 1965)              }
{                                                               }

{ Unpublished Voluntary Statement of Dandridge Mercer Green, } { April 30, 1865, National Archives, Ray A. Neff Collection } { } { Weichmann, Louis J., A True History of the Assassination of } { Abraham Lincoln and of the Conspiracy of 1865, ed. Floyd } { E. Risvold, (Alfred A. 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"