How They Got Away with Murder
by Don Thomas
Most who try to vindicate Secretary of War Edwin Stanton
of conspiring to assassinate Lincoln, begin by claiming that the
President's protection was casual and spying during the Civil War was
minimal. Stanton's defenders are certain that; before Lincoln was shot,
Stanton was completely unaware of John Wilkes Booth. Truth is, the
President had an around the clock bodyguard staff, and the telegraph was
widely used to collect and pass intelligence. Conversely, intercepting the
mail or wired communiques was commonly practiced by the military telegraph
department, and in collaboration with civilian informers.
Beginning around 1862, the War Department under
Secretary Stanton developed an incremental spy division with capabilities far
superior to his enemies. Stanton was invaluable in preventing terrorist
plots, mainly because of his clandestine information gathering network. The
War Department's chief telegraph officer, Thomas Eckert had firsthand
knowledge of every ciphered message coming in, and orchestrated every
cryptic communiqué going out. His assistant, David Homer Bates was an
eyewitness to these events in the telegraph office and wrote a book about
his experiences during the war. Bates told of an uncovered plan to burn the
New York hotels, and revealed that Stanton had a double agent planted
inside the Confederate Secret Service in Canada. This same agent who
conducted espionage for Confederate chief Jacob Thompson, also reported to
Stanton's War Department, and his information to Thomas Eckert prevented
the burning of New York city during the 1864 elections for president.
A major Union spy in Richmond, Elizabeth Van Lew had
infiltrated the Confederate administration so thoroughly that she reported
directly to Washington from the Confederate White House. Van Lew was
assisted by a carriage driver, as well as an in house servant, both of whom
worked for Jefferson Davis. In Washington, Stanton progressively uncovered
Booth's plot to kidnap the President, long before Lincoln was attacked.
James Donaldson was just one of several federal employees conspiring with
Booth, implicated and identified as a kidnapper in Booth's gang, but
Stanton censored all the evidence collected against him so secretly that
Donaldson has remained completely edited from history. The military police
in Washington, as well as those in Maryland collected surveillance on all
of Booth's associates long before Lincoln was shot, but Stanton did nothing
to protect The President from harm.
As soon as word about shooting Lincoln reached
Baltimore, the Provost Marshal James McPhail knew exactly who he should go
after. McPhail headed directly to the Middle Department's 8th Army Corps
headquarters to find out from detectives where Booth's associates, Samuel Arnold
and Michael O'Laughlin could be found. Weeks
before the assassination, McPhail's detectives were already reporting on
George Atzerodt, while intercepting Booth's
telegraph messages. Two of McPhail's detectives were also George Atzerodt's brother and his brother-in-law.
Less than 5 hours after Lincoln was shot military police
were already in pursuit of Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin,
John Surratt, George Atzerodt and even Lewis
Powell, although they had not yet learned Powell's real name. Stanton's
chief spy, Lafayette Baker posted a $10,000 reward for Powell's arrest a
day before anyone other than Baker knew he had attacked Secretary Seward.
Baker had just arrived from an assignment in New York and could only have
known about Powell from secret informants who had been conducting
surveillance on Booth prior to the assassination.
The ridiculous myth that Stanton did not know of Booth
and his accomplices before Lincoln was shot has no basis for truth or
evidence for fact. This article reveals the censored conspirators who
helped Booth assassinate President Lincoln, constructed from published
public information anyone can verify by accessing the sources presented.
Conspiracy theories have always
irritated me because they only present questions without ever giving
answers. For almost 150 years the conspiracy behind Lincoln's assassination has always been
nothing more than a theory. The conspiracy trial ended with seven
people convicted of being accomplices to the assassins Booth and Powell
(alias Paine) then hanged or given life in prison. Their accusers
seemed satisfied with these convictions, and no others were ever charged as
accomplices. Forgotten is the fact that two years later, during
Andrew Johnson's impeachment investigation, the previously withheld
evidence that was never presented in the conspiracy trial revealed that
none of Booth's and Powell's convicted accomplices were guilty
of aiding in the assassination. From that time until now it has been
assumed that Booth and his conspirators were Confederate agents. This
assumption ignores the fact that every possible Confederate official who
could have employed them was arrested, investigated, and released.
Ever since Johnson's investigation by Congress, no one has ever named a
single Confederate agent who could have helped the two assassins stage the
1865 terrorist attack on the United States government.
intention for writing a book about Abraham Lincoln's assassination was not
to present another questionable conspiracy theory (for or against the
Confederate government), but to present the unbiased, documented evidence
that answers who killed Lincoln, and why. Until now, any number of
reasons or excuses could be offered for not knowing who plotted Lincoln's death, but the only excuse for not
knowing who they are today is ignorance of the facts. These facts are
published in The Lincoln Assassination: The
Evidence, edited by William C.
Edwards and Edward Steers, Jr. (hereinafter "E&S").
The History Never Told
If this attack was not from the Confederacy, but truly an
inside job, I had to find out how Lincoln's overthrow was kept
hidden. I began by studying
the conspiracy trial testimonies [The
Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators,
compiled by Benjamin Pitman, 1865] and
focused on the suspects and witnesses most involved. I then
cross-referenced their testimonies with the immense volume of evidence, and
from that the true conspiracy and cover-up emerged. My earliest clue
was the original draft of the Executive Order that gave the Secretary of
War jurisdiction over the investigation and trial. It was not
written by the President on Executive Chamber letterhead, but on War
Department stationery in the handwriting of Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of
War [E&S, p. 750]. Secretary
Stanton could only conceal his own involvement in the crime if he had
control of the investigation and trial.
began the cover-up by appointing three military investigators to collect
and evaluate the evidence [E&S, p. 1001],
then telegraphed Col. Henry L. Burnett in Cincinnati to join him in
Washington to set up a Military Tribunal. [See
Bibliography; Chamlee, p. 67] The
Executive Order also allowed Stanton to hand-pick all the military
Judges. However, after two judges voiced their disapproval of the
military commission's restrictions on the defense counsel, Stanton had them
both quickly replaced. [E&S, p. 750;
Comstock papers, box 8]. Stanton's military accomplices, who supported
a reverse of Lincoln's second term policy, banded together to destroy any
evidence that would expose this military coup against the
administration. This coalition of conspirators realized that using
murder for political change would only work if they could convince Congress
and the public that Booth's
strikes against Lincoln's administration had been a vengeful act of terror
devised and aided by the defeated Confederate government.
The motive for a terrorist attack against the United
States President and his Secretary of State was an in-house conspiracies to
destroy Lincoln's reconstruction policy for a post-Civil War America. Much
of the evidence used against the accused was fabricated or
contrived. Any links that would expose the true collaborators was
either destroyed, withheld from the trial, or falsely attributed to others.
I found that much of the crucial missing documentation was not
randomly lost or accidentally damaged, but deliberately destroyed or
covered up. The two assassins, John Wilkes Booth and Lewis Powell
(alias Lewis Paine) received help and incentives from a large network of
people. To expose the work of those domestic enemies who concealed this
treasonous plot, I turned away from the interpretive writings by mainstream
historians and relied on the original documents from the National Archives
microfilm records [NARA M-599, rolls 1-7],
compiled, organized and evaluated by Stanton's Special Judge Advocate, Col. H. L.
began my study with Samuel Arnold, the first conspirator arrested. In
Arnold's official statement to the police, he freely admitted that he was
just one of several who took part in a plot to kidnap Abraham
Lincoln, but he fiercely denied having anything to do with the
assassination. He cooperated fully with the authorities and named all
but one of Booth's conspirators who gathered at the Washington saloon
meeting to plan Lincoln's
kidnapping at Ford's Theater. [Samuel
Arnold's Confession] Each man identified in Arnold's statement was posted with a large
reward for his capture and arrest, except for the man whose name Arnold
claimed he could not remember. Arnold did, however, give a detailed
physical description of this unnamed conspirator and told investigators
that Michael O'Laughlin was well acquainted with
this man. The military detectives followed their first lead, knowing
that O'Laughlin could provide the name Arnold
could not remember. An order had already been given for Baltimore's Police Marshal, Thomas H.
Carmichael, to arrest Michael O'Laughin [E&S, p. 332, E, p. 85].
first missing document from the conspiracy investigation was O'Laughlin's statement to Carmichael, which I could not
find in Edward's book.
The foremost question Carmichael should have asked O'Laughlin
would have been, "What
is the name of this man Samuel Arnold described in his confession?", but this vital information is
conspicuously missing from Col. Burnett's evidence. There was a
statement by Carmichael revealing O'Laughlin had
a close association with Booth, but the rest of his account is
report has only one paragraph devoted to this subject, and it mysteriously
ends in the middle of a sentence. [Ibid]
To me this was an obvious indication that some watchful authority did not
wish for anyone to know the name of this prominent member in Booth's
gang. This unnamed man, who was centrally involved in the plot to
kidnap Lincoln, was known to three military judges and a several War
Department investigators. He was ignored, never pursued, and no
reward was ever offered for information leading to his identity and arrest.
The only purpose for so much deception would be to keep
forever concealed the name Samuel Arnold could not remember. About 18
months into my research I found the man's name in a document the War
Department was sure they had completely destroyed. [Atzerodt's confession]
It had been recovered 112 years after the trial, but its significance
was never realized. The unknown kidnapping conspirator Samuel Arnold
could only describe was actually a mole named James Donaldson. His
original assignment was likely to infiltrate Booth's kidnapping gang to conduct
surveillance on Booth's
Confederate agent friend, John Surratt. Washington's chief Detective,
Lafayette Baker, had known since 1863 that Surratt was a C.S.A. Signal
Corps spy. [Larson; Kate C. The Assassin's
Accomplice. New York: Basic Books, 2008, p. 30]
physical description was again given to the War Department investigators by
a third apprehended kidnapping conspirator in Booth's gang, named George Atzerodt. He not only gave an identical
description of the man, but also gave them Donaldson's full name. In his last confession,
Atzerodt gave the name of James Donaldson to the
Baltimore Provost Marshall, James McPhail, but his confession was not only
withheld from the conspiracy trial evidence, it was stolen from the War
Department files and its duplicate copy was also stolen from the National
Archives. [See Bibliography; Baker, p.
485; Impeach, p. 673] Only officials within the United States
government would have access to documents securely housed in those Federal
facilities. After I published this information in the first edition
of my book, my editor, Ian Wesley, found that James Donaldson was also a
State Department employee working for Secretary William Seward. [Library
of Congress photograph reproduction no. PPMSCA-23732; Congressional
Serial Set 1097, 1861, p. 2]. Donaldson's position and its concealment were
the unarguable, smoking gun evidence that Lincoln's assassination was an
inside job. We immediately had to stop print of the first edition and
issue a second edition with this undeniable documented evidence. To
date, only those who have read The Reason Lincoln Had to Die [hereinafter "Thomas"] would understand the significance
of James Donaldson or his role in Booth's plots.
If those documents had been honestly presented as
evidence, and James Donaldson identified and investigated, the political
plot to change Lincoln's second term agenda would have been exposed.
The claim that Lincoln was assassinated by a vengeful Confederate
government would be realized as nothing more than a fabricated theory, made
up to provide a scapegoat for the actual plotters who arranged to have
Lincoln shot. This tainted investigation began and continued by
selectively destroying whatever evidence the War Department did not want
anyone to know. No reason has ever been offered to explain why George Atzerodt's full disclosure about a Federal employee,
and a chambermaid working for Secretary Seward, while at the same time
plotting with Booth, was never investigated.
The War Department Concealed
Many More than Donaldson and Seward's chambermaid
Federal Agent Kate Thompson
after Booth was dead, Atzerodt's
confession to Marshal James McPhail created quite another
problem for the War Department's
case against the Confederate government. On May 1, George Atzerodt gave a confession admitting he overheard that
(Margaret Coleman) was Booth's
girlfriend. He also identified Kate (Thompson, Brown, Cannon, etc.)
at the National Hotel as a conspirator, and he named James Donaldson as the
unidentified member in Booth's kidnapping plot who was also described, but
not named in Samuel Arnold's
confession. He not only named James Donaldson and Kate Thompson, but
revealed a list of other previously-unidentified conspirators in Booth's gang such as Charles Yates and
Thompson was Kate Warne, a Pinkerton Federal agent [Thomas, pp. 53-58] and she too (like Donaldson)
quickly became a serious dilemma for the War Department
investigation. In order to conceal her undercover surveillance on
Booth at the National Hotel, while plotting with the other kidnapping
conspirators at the Pennsylvania House [Atzerodt's confession],
the War Department claimed that Kate Thompson was actually the same person
as Sarah Slater, a known Confederate spy. On the same day George Atzerodt gave Kate Thompson's name to James McPhail, Slater was
arrested and delivered to Col. Burnett's office. Sarah Slater was
interrogated by James McPhail the next day and he wrote to Col. Burnett
that he would try to have her back to him by 12 o'clock [E&S, p. 871]. That is the last document
found in the National Archive's
papers concerning Sarah Slater. Slater's last known whereabouts (according
to James McPhail) was in the custody of the War Department after being
interrogated. After that day Sarah Slater was never seen or heard from
again. Why would the War Department release Slater if they truly
believed she was a known Confederate spy involved in the assassination? And
if she escaped the custody of the War Department, why is there no record of
how she got away? The War Department could not claim that Sarah
Slater and Kate Thompson were the same conspirator in Booth's gang until they intimidated a
witness to give a ridiculously phony statement [E&S,
p. 1328] under the threat of being hanged if he did not [Thomas, pp. 107-109]. Regardless of that
fact, the mystery remains: How or why did she leave the War Department
without a trace?
Slater's mysterious disappearance from custody has never been explained,
nor why several major suspects named in Atzerodt's
confession were never investigate. Though George Atzerodt
and David Herold implicated six other accomplices, along with Samuel
Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin, Dr. Mudd, John Surratt and Lewis Powell, those six have
remained censored from mainstream history.
the end of April John Wilkes Booth was dead, David Herold captured, and all
but the last two kidnapping conspirators from Booth's mid-March Washington
saloon meeting had been rounded up.
John Surratt and James Donaldson were two of the seven Samuel Arnold
identified plotting Lincoln's abduction, yet the trial began and ended
without either man being apprehended.
The day after Booth shot Lincoln, John Surratt read
about the assassination in a New York newspaper, went into hiding, and
would not be captured until two years later. As for James Donaldson, there is no
surviving document to prove Michael O'Laughlin
had given the military police Donaldson's name during his April 17
statement, but by May 1, there is no question that Secretary Stanton, and
his military judges, Joseph Holt and John Bingham knew James Donaldson was
the seventh conspirator at Booth's saloon meeting. No attempt was ever made to confront him.
Secretary Edwin Stanton
Judge John Bingham
Judge Joseph Holt
Atzerodt was one of the seven kidnappers at the
March 15, saloon meeting, captured on April 20, and charged as an
assassination accomplice. Atzerodt was held prisoner under very heavy guard,
chained inside an ironclad ship anchored in the middle of the Potomac River
with a canvas bag over his head, unable to see or talk with anyone. Even though Atzerodt
had already given several statements, on May 1, he was brought to the Old
Capital Prison for an interrogation to help investigators piece together
conflicting evidence about the other accomplices in the conspiracy to
assassinate Lincoln and Seward.
Obviously the information they uncovered from George (on May 1) was
not what they wanted anyone else to know.
His last confession was withheld from the conspiracy trial evidence,
stolen from the War Department files as well as a duplicate copy stolen
from the National Archives. Several
of the conspirators George Atzerodt identified
were deliberately suppressed from the public and their names did not
resurface until 1977.
Eliza Thomas [Mollie Turner]
May 1 Atzerodt was fully aware of his dire
situation and had no motive to falsify information that would proclaim the
innocence of anyone other than himself.
He admitted all that he knew, but in many cases he just repeated
things he had only overheard without completely understanding what was
actually being said. Atzerodt's statement about Booth visiting the
chambermaid in William Seward's home was an important clue about the
conspiracy of assassination, but within the War Department that clue needed
to be suppressed. The chambermaid in Seward's home was Margaret Coleman,
but not likely the pretty girl Atzerodt overheard
Booth talking about during his confidential conversation with Lewis Powell,
who used the alias James Wood while in Washington. The reason no one knew
Seward's Federal employees were conspiring with Booth, was because those
suspects were never investigated or even confronted. The War Department's
investigators concealed a long list of select
was also a second maid, known only as Eliza working in Mr. Seward's home.
She was newly hired shortly before Lewis Powell's attack. If Seward's new
maid was the same woman Booth knew as, alias Eliza Thomas, she had a pretty
half-sister, Nellie Starr. Booth knew both woman very well, and Nellie
Starr was probably the girl Booth was speaking of when Atzerodt
overheard Booth say to Powell (alias Wood), "he had a mind to give her his diamond pin". Booth was very likely talking about
giving his engraved diamond stickpin (a gift from his close friend Dan
Bryant) to the pretty girl Nellie Starr, Eliza's younger sister. That major clue was suppressed by the War
Department and is still completely over looked by history researchers [E&S p. 683]. Another suppressed clue was that Booth's good friend, Dan
Bryant was a New York minstrel entertainer closely associated with two
other minstrel suspects, who also knew Booth. William B. Donaldson and Col.
Lewis Mosby were both close friends of Dan Bryant, Eliza Thomas, Nellie
Starr, Lincoln's bodyguard John Parker and Booth. All were arrested as assassination
suspects, but quietly released, except for Dan Bryant, who was never
after Mr. Seward's April 5 carriage accident Eliza had been recommended by the
chambermaid Margaret Coleman, to be temporarily hired as extra help in the
Seward home while the Secretary was recovering from his injuries. The reason so little is known about these
two women is no oversight but a deliberate attempt to suppress information
about the attacks on Lincoln and Seward.
Margaret Coleman, James Donaldson, Eliza and even Emerick Hansell (Seward's
other aid) can all be closely tied to John Wilkes Booth, and keeping that
evidence concealed would require a coalition of very influential people
with the capability and motive to disguise the true role these people
played in the assassination plot. The War Department never investigated
James Donaldson, any of Seward's maids, or followed up on evidence against
the New York minstrel entertainers who were Booth's true accomplices in the
attack against the government. If their role in the assault on the Lincoln
administration was ever exposed, it would prove the War Department's
involvement. The War Department diverted the investigation away from Mr.
Seward's employees, and presented phony evidence that would make the
assassination look as though it was a Confederate plot.
is an undisputed fact, James Donaldson, Margaret Coleman, Eliza and Emerick Hansell were all
found together at the house immediately after Lewis Powell's assassination
attempt on William Seward. Once it
is realized that they all knew Booth, it becomes obvious why the War
Department would insist that a Confederate pistol was found at the crime
scene. The reason it was found in
Mr. Seward's bedroom, and not recovered two rooms away in the bedroom of
his daughter Fanny (where Fredrick Seward was attacked) is because Powell
only had a knife, and the gun was quickly planted after Powell had fled Mr.
Seward's home. The War Department's
pre-arranged plot to kill Mr. Seward, included accusing the assassination
on an attack conceived and carried out by Confederate agents, while
suppressing evidence that would expose Booth's New York minstrel
accomplices. The planted gun was a
very rare, exclusively made Confederate pistol allowing the War Department
to claim the assassin, could have been no other than a Confederate agent.
The History of Eliza Thomas,
& Her Richmond Connection
1861 to April 1865:
embargo against the Southern States was a noose progressively strangling
the life out of all who lived under its decree. While Virginia was in deprivation it's
Border State of Maryland (unaffected by the ever-growing shortages) created
a perfect opportunity for black-market smuggling into Richmond and a
windfall of illegal profiteering.
Within the seedy slums of Richmond's growing gambling and
prostitution underworld lay the ideal environment to conduct a secret war
of espionage. Union informers in
Richmond, later called, "The Union League" operated in Virginia's
Confederate capital city on the outskirts of its crumbling social and
economic decline. The Richmond and
Washington hotels were a perfect location for gathering information, and
smuggling between Richmond and Washington was the perfect avenue for Union
informers (doubling as blockade runners, gamblers, prostitutes or
entertainers) to pass that gathered intelligence north [National
Tribune, August 7, 1899 article: "A Union Man in Richmond"].
the northeast corner of 14th and Franklin Street sat Richmond's Ballard
House Hotel, and directly across the street the Exchange Hotel was
connected to it by a footbridge suspended above Franklin Street. In 1862, the back alley behind the
Exchange Hotel just off Cary Street, housed the Mulberry Grove House of
prostitution. Mulberry Grove was run
by the same Eliza Thomas who would soon move from Richmond to Washington [Richmond
Dispatch, 11/17/1862, p.1 c.4 -7/19/62, p.1 c.5 -7/26/62, p.2 c.5].
Thomas was born, Mary Jane Starr, the daughter of Ellen Flynn and John
Starr. Her father died May 4, 1838
and her half-sister, Nellie Starr was born in the mid-1840s to a father
unknown. The widow, Ellen Flynn
Starr became a prostitute to support her three children, John Jr., Mary
Jane and little Nellie. Mary Jane's
mother, Madam Ellen F. Starr was
from Baltimore, but moved to Washington sometime during the 1850s, and
opened her own house at 15th St. between Pennsylvania and Constitutional
Avenue. [Prostitution, at every social level was an effective means of
espionage in both capital cities as evident by more noted Confederate
spies, such as Belle Boyd or Rose Greenhow].
Jane Starr took up her mother's same occupation, and while in Richmond she
used the alias Ann E. Thomas,
employing at least 10 working girls at her Mulberry Grove back alley
residence. Several of those same
girls, such as Ella Johnson and Nellie Starr would follow Madam Thomas to
Washington, where Ann E. Thomas would become known as Madam Eliza Thomas on
62 Ohio Ave. Some also knew her as
Mollie Turner. Nellie Starr was not
only Eliza's younger half-sister, but also Booth's mistress. On December 12, 1864, Booth brought
Nellie to Eliza's bordello in Washington.
Both women knew Booth intimately, and in April 1865, Seward's new
maid named Eliza, Margaret Coleman, Emerick Hansell and James Donaldson were each working in the
home of Secretary of State William Seward.
The night Powell attacked the Seward house, Eliza, Margaret and Hansell were together in the house, while James
Donaldson had traded his shift with George Robinson, and for that reason
Donaldson was not Mr. Seward's
protection during the attack [See: Fanny's Diary].
Booth's Letter, & the Five
Who Signed Their Names
Judge Advocate John Bingham
of War Stanton appointed Special Judge Advocate John Bingham to handle most
of the witness examinations before the conspiracy trial and their
cross-examinations during the trial [E&S,
p. 137]. Bingham had been told there were at least
35 people in Washington to help
Booth assassinate Lincoln, but rather than endeavor to find out who they
were, he did whatever he could to keep that information concealed.
is absurd to believe that David Herold, a young man with the mind of a
child, and George Atzerodt, a homeless alcoholic
immigrant convinced Booth to assassinate Lincoln during the early morning
of April 14. Sometime during the day
of Lincoln's murder Booth wrote a letter to inform the public the reason he
and his accomplices wanted to overthrowing the Lincoln administration. Each accomplice was risking everything to
commit their crime, including their lives by signing Booth's political
statement. Five of the assassination
conspirators signed their names to Booth's letter, and Booth chose John
Matthews to issue the credit for their terrorist attack. The next morning Matthews was to deliver
the confession to the editor of the National
Intelligencer stating the reasons for their proceedings. However,
Matthews destroyed the article Booth wrote to the newspaper, and it was not
publicly known until two years later.
After Booth's diary was made public in 1867, John T. Ford testified to Congress that he had
been told, Booth did in fact leave a confession. Ford stated that on June 1, 1865, he
talked with John Matthews who admitted Booth gave the confession letter to
him the day he shot Lincoln.
Matthews told Ford that Booth instructed him to deliver the letter
to the newspaper faithfully the next morning, no matter what occurs [Impeachment p.
hiding from soldiers in Zekiah Swamp, Booth found
out the credit for Lincoln's assassination had not been posted in the
newspaper. He repeated the letter's
confession in his diary (the only means he had) to tell the world about
their political motives for killing Lincoln. Matthews burnt the letter thinking that
would be the end of it, confident the letter would never be known. He could not have dreamed that Booth
would rewrite the letter confession in his diary, and tell David Herold
about it before Booth could be shot to death. Herold told Bingham about the letter
during his arrest statement, but that evidence was ignored. The diary would be recovered from Booth's
body by Lafayette Baker's specially appointed civilian detective Everton
Conger, the same man who shot Booth while he was trapped in the Virginia
tobacco barn with no means of escape [Chamlee, p. 289, Thomas, p. 139].
Once again Booth's confession had to be destroyed, and this time the second
confession naming his accomplices, and stating their proceedings was in
possession of the War Department's senior staff. The diary was subpoenaed
and reviewed by Congress, but the sheet naming Booth's accomplices was cut
from the diary sometime after Booth was shot to death. The cut out page was
replaced with a blank sheet, and single sheets were glued into the book on
stubs from missing pages [FBI
Forensic Report, Oct. 3, 1977, Thomas chapter 15, Impeachment, pp. 325-32].
the letter signed by his five accomplices (but destroyed by Matthews) and
his diary confession meant for the world to know (but suppressed by the
military prosecution) remained unknown to Congress and the public until
President Johnson's impeachment investigation began, long after the
conspiracy trial ended [Thomas p. 153].
April 18, 1865, John
Wilkes Booth recorded in his diary, "I
wrote a long article and left it for one of the editors of the National
Intelligencer, in which I fully set forth our reasons for OUR PROCEEDINGS". Booth was not speaking about David Herold & George Atzerodt when he wrote, "OUR PROCEEDINGS". He
was talking about the five who signed his letter to the newspaper; John Matthews, Lewis "Col." Mosby,
William Donaldson, Samuel Thomas and James Donaldson [Booth's Diary, Thomas p. 214].
April 21, John
Matthews should have become a major assassination suspect, because Stanton
was directly notified (from as far away as Boston) that,
Matthews of Ford's Theater is thought to know about all of Booth's
PROCEEDINGS. Proceedings is the same word Booth
choose to write in his diary (only three days before Stanton's Boston tip)
to explain why he and his accomplices wanted Lincoln dead. How did R. W.
Walker from Boston, who sent Stanton the tip, know anything about
what Booth wrote in a letter (or his diary) which no one other than Booth
and John Matthews supposedly knew existed before 1867? [E&S p. 1308]. No investigation was made.
April 27, 1865, the
body of John Wilkes Booth was
returned to Washington on the U.S.S. Montauk, and while an autopsy was
being performed on Booth's body, Judge Bingham interrogated David E.
Herold, the young man captured along with Booth. Much of David Herold's childish testimony
mixed fact with fabrication to convince Bingham he just wanted Booth to let
him go home to his mother [E&S, p. 673]. David Herold tried to convince Bingham
that Booth was holding him against his will, but he did not falsify any
part of his story to defend the dead Booth [Herold's
full statement can be found in E&S, pp.
Herold admitted to Judge John Bingham that Booth told him there were 35
assassination accomplices in Washington, and four or five of them promised
Booth they would join him after the murder, but Booth was double-crossed,
and the accomplices never showed up.
Herold told Bingham, Booth said three accomplices were to assassinate
Vice President Johnson [E&S p. 674]. Herold voluntarily added,
Booth wrote a confession letter about the plot to kill Lincoln, and five
accomplices signed their names to it.
"He told me this the day
before we crossed into Virginia" [E&S
p. 677]. This was the same letter Herold did not know John Matthews had
Bingham, asks Herold if Booth revealed to him any names of the 35
accomplices, in Washington [E&S p. 677]? Herold paused to think, but
had trouble remembering unfamiliar names and when shown Michael O'Laughlin's photograph, he called him Locklin, Laughlin or McLaughlin [E&S p. 679].
Herold had said, Booth told him, he wished to God that Seward was killed;
and that if a man he called Ed Henson, or Hanson (I believe, belonging to
Mosby's command) and a man with him had done their duty, they would have
put Johnson through [E&S p. 674].
was trying to recall, Emerick Hansell
the name Booth mentioned (not Ed Henson or Hanson). Emerick
Hansell was Mr.
Seward's senior State Department messenger assigned to look after
the Secretary of State, along with Hansell's
assistant, James Donaldson. Herold believed Hansell
was in Mosby's command because he heard Booth mention "Colonel Mosby,"
which was the nickname of Lewis Mosby, a Washington bartender at the
Simpson House [E&S, pp. 395-96, 194]. This man was not Lewis Powell nor the
Confederate Cavalry Col. John Mosby.
The other man Herold could not recall was most likely William B.
Donaldson, a circus entertainer from New York, who Booth had known for years.
confession to Bingham stated, "[Booth] said
there were 35 others in Washington, and four [or five men] that ought to
have joined me, and you [David Herold] could have gone to the devil" [E&S, p.
674, Impeachment, Conger p. 329]. Bingham knew that Booth was
truly part of a large conspiracy because Herold's statement matched
perfectly with the first words in Booth's diary:
Until today nothing was
ever thought of sacrificing to our country's wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture,
but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be
done. But its failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their
country with a heart.
All three-Herold, Atzerodt and
Booth-talked about "the others" [See Thomas,
chapter 15, "The Diary"]. Detective Everton Conger had the
diary in his hands when he brought Booth's body back to Washington on April
27. He turned it over to Stanton who
read the diary, as did Judge Advocates Bingham and Holt. At this point in
the investigation all three Judges knew David Herold had told Bingham the
truth, because Booth's diary confirmed there were many accomplices in the assassination plot. A third validation was Atzerodt's confession, (but known only to the War
Department) which was disallowed in the trial. Atzerodt
also described a large assassination conspiracy (separate from Booth's
kidnapping plot) by a group he called "the New York crowd" [Thomas, p.
(suppressed and destroyed) confession to McPhail stated that: (paraphrased)
Booth had met a group
in New York that had a plot to get the President certain. They had an entrance to the White House
that was near the War Department.
Their plan was to plant a bomb and kill Lincoln by blowing up the
President's house. Booth said if he
didn't get him quick the New York
crowd would. This access to the
White House would be through friends
of the President. The plan was
to get up an entertainment, and they would mix it in, they would have a
serenade and thus get at the President and party.
The "Friends of the President" Atzerodt and Herold mentioned were two government
insiders, James Donaldson and Emerick Hansell, both State Department messengers for William
Serial Set 1097 (1861), p. 2]. Both men were ever at Seward's side: in
his office, in his travels, and even in his home. Both men were well-known by the whole
Lincoln senior staff and party members.
The "New York crowd" Atzerodt was speaking of were song and dance
entertainers from New York who played in the minstrel shows called "the
circus," and the circus was performing at Canterbury Hall in Washington the
week Lincoln was shot [E&S, p. 668]. The New York minstrel
entertainers planned to give a serenade at the White House, lure Lincoln
into a room, then blow up the room.
Booth knew these entertainers and about their plot to kill Lincoln,
and he told Atzerodt if he did not kidnap Lincoln
soon the New York crowd would kill him certain.
On April 31, John Matthews was interrogated four
days after Herold's arrest, and the black sword box Booth used to transport
the kidnapping weapons from New York to Washington, to Tee Bee Post Office
was recovered from Matthews' home, just as Samuel Arnold told police [E&S, p.
847]. Booth's wardrobe box left Washington by Michael O'Laughlin, and last known to be in the position of
James Donaldson. Donaldson took the
guns out of the box, kept the box at his house, and carried the weapons to
Tee Bee Post Office [Samuel Arnold's
Confession]. Matthews claimed
the box was in his home because Booth gave it to him as a gift, but later
stated he did not know Booth very well.
How did the box get from
James Donaldson to John Matthews?
No investigation was made.
What happened to the box?
told Matthews that a witness (under oath) told police he heard Booth make a
proposition to Matthews, then threaten his life if Mathews talked to anyone
about it. John Matthews denied the
threat Booth made against him, and downplayed his close relationship with Booth.
Matthews lied to investigators about everything, claiming that during the
month of April he only saw Booth a few times, casually as they passed each
other on the street [E&S, p. 847]. He also did not confess that
he saw Booth back stage only minutes before Lincoln was shot, or that Booth
had trusted him to post in the National
Intelligencer the same confession letter Herold told Bingham about four
days earlier [Impeachment p. 782]. John Matthews kept the
confession a secret until Booth's diary was discovered by Congress, and the
conspiracy trial concluded without anyone (other than Matthews and the
prosecution) knowing that Booth twice left a confession naming his
assassination accomplices. In his diary Booth repeated the National Intelligencer letter
Matthews destroyed, but his diary only became known to the public long
after David Herold and George Atzerodt had been
hanged, while the War Department replaced the diary evidence with a blank
sheet [Impeachment, p. 782, FBI Forensic Report, Oct. 3, 1977].
to William P. Wood, the superintendent of the Old Capital prison, Matthews
was arrested as a suspect aiding Booth, and while held prisoner Wood
learned from rumors that Matthews had the letter with him at the prison.
William Wood was a close personal friend to Stanton who had commissioned
him to work along-side Lafayette Baker and Thomas Eckert in Stanton's spy
division. Wood later testified to Congress that the reason he did not
search Matthews for the letter was because he learned it had been
destroyed. Wood was obviously not telling the truth because he also stated
he only learned about the letter being destroyed, after Matthews was
pp. 490-492]. There is no arrest record for John Matthews or an
account of his prison interview among the NARA files. Not a single person
testifying before Congress, concerning the letter, the diary or about
shooting Booth told the same story.
after Congress subpoenaed Matthews to explain about the letter, he was
persuaded to publish a fabricated story about its contents, with help from
a Philadelphia reporter, Frank A. Burr.
Matthews and Burr reconstructed the letter copying much of the rage
Booth had written in his suppressed 1864 kidnapping manifesto [Impeachment, p.
782]. The only newspaper to post Booth's manifesto before
military police confiscated and censored the letter from the public was the
Philadelphia Inquirer [Thomas, pp. 19-20].
Matthews ended his false account of the letter by naming George Atzerodt and David Herold as the conspirators who
signed Booth's confession [Impeachment, John
T. Ford p. 532, & E&S p. 847, Annotation, 1].
David Herold actually signed his name to a written confession to Lincoln's
murder, he certainly would not have voluntarily revealed the letter to
Judge Bingham! On April 27, 1865 Herold was trying to profess his innocence
by claiming Booth held him against his will. He revealed the letter to Bingham, as
evidence, to prove he was not an
accomplice to Lincoln's murder. If
Herold had actually signed such a confession, not knowing it had been
destroyed by Matthews, his only defense would be, Booth forced him to sign it, and his only hope would be, the letter would never be known. It is a good bet that John Matthews (the man who tried to keep the
letter unknown) signed that letter along with William Donaldson, James
Donaldson, Samuel Thomas and Col.
Mosby. And a sure bet David Herold & George Atzerodt did not.
Booth's friends and New York
accomplices who were never investigated: William B. Donaldson, Col. Lewis Mosby & Booth's New York
Many conspirators ran from
Ford's Theatre after J. Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln
before Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head, neighbors living around
Ford's Theater heard suspicious whistling signals going back and forth
between the streets. After the shot,
witnesses reported people running and hearing the trampling of horses
leaving the alley in the rear of the theater [E&S
p. 539]. William Birch, his
brother and sister [E&S p. 138-39] along with a Treasury
clerk A. Q. Stebbins, were just a few who gave statements about horses and
people running from the theater during Booth's escape, but those reports
were never investigated [E&S p.
1195]. Only witnesses
who gave testimony about Booth's kidnapping
accomplices were pursued or made public. Investigators already knew that
John Wilkes Booth, David Herold and George Atzerodt
each gave written statements confessing that there were many assassination conspirators in
Washington, some were "friends of
the President", which also included a separate conspiracy by a large crowd from New York, but the War
Department easily suppressed that information.
after the assassination, William B. Donaldson fled Washington for
Philadelphia, leaving so quickly he did not even bother to pack a bag. His best friend, Daniel J. Cox owner of
the Simpson House Saloon was the only who knew where William had gone. The Simpson House was a popular hangout
for the New York minstrels while visiting Washington, and the House was frequently
entertained by the working girls at Eliza Thomas' bordello [E&S,
p. 395]. Lizzie Murtry (who Cox called, "Crazzy" Murtry) was not only
the prostitute who showed up with Lincoln's bodyguard, John Parker on the
morning after Booth shot the President, but she lived at Eliza's house,
entertained at the Simpson House, and was also William Donaldson's favorite
girl [E&S, p. 396]. Lizzie and Parker never left a statement, were never called to
testify, and John Parker's records are also missing from the National
Archives evidence [Thomas pp. 85-86, Reck, p.
At age 18 William Donaldson began
traveling with the circus throughout the United States, and toured Europe
performing his banjo act [Conlin-L Archives, John Wynd]. In 1853 Donaldson formed his own band
which played often at Hope Chapel, Broadway New York. He later joined Charlie White's minstrel
company, performing at the Melodeon, 59 Bowery New York, along with Dan
Emmett, Lilly Coleman and Dan Bryant.
Dan Emmett wrote the famous song "Dixie". Lilly Coleman was a former dancer, and
became part owner of the Ballard House Hotel in Richmond, Va. where
espionage was conducted [E&S, p. 395]. And Dan Bryant was such a close friend of
John Wilkes Booth, that he gave Booth the same diamond stickpin Atzerodt overheard Booth say he would give to Secretary
Seward's chambermaid [E&S, p. 683, note 1]. All these
entertainers preformed and traveled the same circuit, and they each had
known Booth for a long time. George Atzerodt called them the New York crowd.
[Circus Historical Society, Early
History of Negro Minstrels, by Col. T. Allison Brown E&S p. 396] www.circushistory.org/Cork/BurntCork3.htm
White, William Donaldson, and J. Wilkes Booth were each close friends with
Dan Bryant and each wore a prestigious diamond stickpin.
assassination investigators collected many hundreds of letters and
statements, which include evidence about anyone possibly associated with
Booth. The evidence was compiled and
evaluated by Stanton's War Department officers, under the overall direction
of Judge Advocate Col. Henry L. Burnett.
The War Department staff destroyed any evidence which would expose
the plot to kill Lincoln was their inside job. Among the National Archives documents,
which survived the War Department's edits, is William Donaldson's first
letter from Dan Cox delivered to his secluded Philadelphia address, on
April 18, 1865:
I will send your
clothes as soon as possible by Adams Express. Everything is merged into one thing; the
assassination. [Ella] Johnson has
abused you for everything, and tried her best to get [Col.] Mosby hung for carrying a message ...
requesting [her] ...to send the clothes.
He [Mosby] was arrested twice but got clear. (The documents of
Col. Mosby's two arrests are missing
from the collected evidence.)
goes on to tell Donaldson that Mollie Turner's [Eliza Thomas] girls are
very angry at him for what he had done.
Since Mosby's arrest all the boys stay clear of the Simpson
House. "These are trying times." Mollie Turner and all her girls, have
been arrested and are being held in the Old Capital prison along with Ned
Costello, Harry Krebs and Broom. (Again, there are no documents about
their arrest or statements.) Cox ends his message to Donaldson: "No news" [E&S,
the next couple of weeks Donaldson received more letters from Cox, along
with two letters from Mollie Turner's girls, Minnie and Ella Johnson, both
of whom (according to Cox) had been arrested and released. Only the very bottom PS portion of
Minnie's letter to Donaldson survived the War Department's edits, while her
envelope is now recorded without any letter. The War Department edited Minnie's letter
leaving only her PS. The PS is complied with the first letter sent to
Donaldson from Cox, and is now recorded with the same envelope Cox used.
The letter from Ella Johnson, "[letting]
her guts out", about the assassination, was completely destroyed, and
her envelope too is recorded without its letter [E&S,
p. 396]. The War
Department staff deceitfully attached letters to the wrong envelopes, to
cover up the missing evidence they destroyed. Had Ella Johnson's letter
survived it would have revealed the New York plot to kill Lincoln [NARA M-599 roll 2:822-831].
letter from, Harry Bradford, also a New York entertainer at the Simpson
House, identified "Col. Mosby" as being the Simpson House bartender; (Lewis
Mosby, "Veteran of the Rum Corps") [E&S, p. 193]. On May 4, Cox, (for a
second time) identified Col. Mosby
to investigators as his bartender, during another letter to W. B.
Donaldson [E&S, p. 395]. At this point the War Department knew who Col. Lewis Mosby was from no less
than three different sources, but covered up his role in the
assassination. To account for the
rumors and statements (so many people had reported to investigators) about
Col. Mosby's involvement with Booth, [E&S, pp. 394-95] the War Department claimed Mosby was
either Confederate commander Col. John Mosby, or accused, "The Mystery Man"
Lewis Powell, as being the same alias, "Mosby" who Samuel Arnold told
police he met at the March 15, kidnapping meeting in Washington [Thomas, Ch.
14]. According to most accounts, Lewis Powell was in not in
Washington on March 15, but in New York [E&S, pp. 196, 197, 198, 200]. The man
Samuel Arnold identified at the Washington meeting, known only as Mosby
(who was involved in the kidnapping plot) was most likely the bartender
Lewis Mosby and not Seward's attacker Lewis Powell.
May 6, Stanton's Special Commissioner Col. Olcott
in New York ordered his top detective in Philadelphia, R.C. Morgan (who
also arrested Mary Surratt and Lewis Powell) to investigate numerous
reports and rumors about another assassination suspect who also knew Booth,
"William" B. Donaldson [E&S, p. 1009].
Military Officers Morgan, Franklin and Roach followed behind
William Donaldson as he fled Philadelphia back to Washington, where he was
arrested [E&S, p. 917].
Washington newspaper reported that William Donaldson was arrested with
incriminating evidence (a "large number" of Confederate letters and papers,
including a [worthless] $100,000 C.S.A. bond). The article announced, Donaldson was
being held at the Old Capital prison to be interrogated by the War
Department's chief investigator Col. Burnett [E&S, p. 917].
Two days later, Stanton ordered his release without an
investigation, despite all the evidence against him [E&S, p. 261].
and statements revealed that Booth met James Donaldson on the day of the
assassination, and that Col. (Lewis) Mosby and William Donaldson would help
Emerick Hansell kill
Johnson. However, James Donaldson was never investigated, Mosby was twice
arrested, but "got clear", [E&S
p. 395] and Hansell was never called as a
witness. William Donaldson's charges were dropped, and Stanton ordered him
to be discharged from custody on May 9, three days before the trial began [Ibid, p. 261].
War Department investigators withheld evidence about Booth's New York
accomplices, and the military prosecution chose only witnesses who
supported their fraudulent case against his kidnapping gang members. During the conspiracy trial it was
accused that Lincoln's assassination plot was planned at Mary Surratt's
boardinghouse. Mary Surratt was
hanged for that crime without evidence, and convicted solely on the
testimony of two witnesses (John Lloyd & Louis Weichmann)
who were under the threat of being hanged themselves if they did not
testify for the prosecution. Along
with their perjured testimonies (designed to frame Mary Surratt as a
Confederate agent) the prosecution knew it was crucial to suppress any
evidence that would prove Booth never had a plot to assassinate before the
day he shot Lincoln. Booth's diary
and Atzerodt's confession were two vital pieces of
evidence that could prove Booth never had an assassination plot until the
last day, and both documents needed to be (and were) omitted from the trial evidence for that reason [Also
see: Thomas, Author's (Notes): Ch.
11-(3), Ch. 19-(19), Ch. 7-(30)].
assassination was not planned at Mary Surratt's boardinghouse, but
originated in the Simpson House Saloon at 10th St. & Pennsylvania Avenue - only one
block from Ford's Theater. Daniel
J. Cox and Joe Hilton managed the
saloon, while Lewis Mosby, nicknamed "Col.
Mosby" worked as their bartender [E&S,
p. 396]. These minstrel
entertainers (Atzerodt, Herold and Booth talked
about) hailed from New York, and gathered at the Simpson House Saloon
whenever they were in Washington [E&S
investigators evaluated Atzerodt's suppressed
confession, which told of an earlier plan by this same New York crowd to kill Lincoln using a bomb. Both, David Herold
and George Atzerodt, individually told
investigators about two government employees, James Donaldson and Emrick Hansell. These State
Department aids were "friends of the President" who would help the New York
music entertainers schedule a White House serenade, lure the President into
a room, then detonate the bomb planted under the room. It is unknown if this plan was seriously
considered, but it was in fact discussed, and George Atzerodt
overheard conversations about the plan, and told of it in his last
confession. The problem the War
Department had with Atzerodt overhearing a plan
to blow-up the White House, was because he identified assassins working for
Secretary Stanton's military coup to keep Lincoln from serving out his
second term [GAC, Thomas Ch. 8].
actual plan, which was successfully carried out by the New York
entertainers, was given to Booth by James Donaldson in the early morning
hours on the day of the assassination [Impeachment p. 532, Thomas chapter, 7]. The complete
plan involved Booth, along with Lewis Powell killing the President and his
Secretary of State, while simultaneously William Seward's State Department
messenger Emrick Hansell,
the Simpson House bartender "Col. Lewis Mosby" and a New York minstrel
entertainer William Donaldson would assassinate Vice President Andrew
Johnson [E&S p. 674]. Booth was convinced that the
new administration would welcome him back to Washington as a hero (i.e. "clear[ing]
[his] name") after deposing the tyrant President. Booth knew James
Donaldson was a Federal employee representing many influential government
officials. Booth actually thought of
himself as the historical Shakespearian star Brutus and envisioned Lincoln
as the tyrant, Julius Caesar. He
even alluded to that insane comparison in his suppressed diary confession [Thomas,
p. 124-129, Appendix D].
After Booth was given the plan, all five
New York conspirators signed their names to a letter Booth wrote explaining
their reasons for killing Lincoln [E&S
p. 677]. Booth then arranged to
have the letter posted in the Washington newspaper the morning after the
assassination, to ensure the public knew they were all in the plot together
847, note 1]. None of
that ever happened; the letter was destroyed, and the five conspirators
from New York had no intention of killing Vice President Johnson. Booth was left alone to take the fall for
killing Lincoln, hunted down by 26 soldiers under the command of
Washington's corrupt Chief of Detectives Lafayette Baker, then cornered and
shot to death at the spot by Baker's civilian detective Everton Conger. Secretary Stanton, Judges Holt and
Bingham along with a host of military officers worked to suppress or
destroy any evidence that would expose the New York conspirators who were
working with this military sponsored strike to overthrow Lincoln's
administration. [See article, Inside Job]
War Department tried to destroy every trace of evidence which could
identify James Donaldson and Emerick Hansell as conspirators in Booth's assassination
plot. Investigators (independent
from the War Department's staff) learned that William B. Donaldson and
"Col. Lewis Mosby" were suspected assassination accomplices. Both suspects were arrested, but quickly
and quietly released without an investigation [E&S
p. 261, 395]. George Atzerodt
was accused of planning to kill Vice President Johnson, and hanged without
evidence or motive.
Bingham was one of the commissioners who voted to hang David Herold and
George Atzerodt for being Confederate spies attempting
to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson, while withholding evidence
that would prove they had no such plan.
Two years later Judge Bingham was part of the coalition who reversed
their position and brought charges against Johnson for being a Confederate
spy. Congress asked Secretary
Stanton, along with Judges Bingham and Holt, to explain why the prosecution
suppressed Booth's diary.
Basically, their answer to Congress was that the diary would shed
light on a truth the conspiracy prosecution commissioners did not want
known [Congressional Globe p. 363-64]. There is little doubt why Stanton and his
judges desperately needed to conceal David Herold's statement, Atzerodt's confession, and Booth's diary from the
conspiracy trial evidence, then have each man killed before they could
Investigators Knew & When They Knew It
the time between 1862 and 1865, Richmond began to succumb to the stifling
shortages caused by the blockade. As resources depleted, Ann E. Thomas
moved her bordello from Richmond to Washington, became Eliza Thomas, and
knew Booth very well. Several hotels in the Confederate capital began to
shut down, and the owner of the closed Ballard Hotel, Mr. Talioferro, had been very ill. However, on September 9, 1864, the Richmond Whig
newspaper announced that the desperately needed Ballard House Hotel would
be reopened by a "gentleman
who had much experience in the business and is very popular with the
This man was Lilly Coleman's Richmond hotel business partner whom she wrote
about to Cox and Donaldson shortly after the assassination [E&S p. 370, 396]. The
new owner of the Ballard Hotel went
by the nickname of "Major" Jack Mokele,
a former soldier (although not a real Major) from the 9th New
York infantry Hawkins'
Zouaves [Carland, E&S, p. 331, & Coleman to Cox letter,
before the November 1864, presidential elections the War Department had
completely infiltrated the Democrat "Copperhead" opposition party, the
Confederate Secret Service, including its headquarters in Canada as well as
the rebel spies in Europe [Thomas,
pp.30-32, Bates, pp. 299-300]. Mainstream history often refers to
the blockade smugglers on the Maryland-Virginia border as Southern
sympathizers or Confederate agents, when actually the line between a "loyalist" (Union man) and a "Secesh" (secessionist) was not so cleanly
divided. In truth, most smugglers were not Confederates or
Copperheads, but nothing more than common thieves. These smugglers were
allowed by Washington's
Chief Detective Baker to operate their illegal enterprises by trading
secrets in exchange for military protection. Thomas Harbin, Samuel
Cox, Thomas Jones and William Bryant were smugglers who were allowed to
openly operate in the Washington area in exchange for passing secret
information. [E&S, pp. 108, 293, 552].
Among them also existed a hierarchy of Custom House employees (under Salmon
Chase) who accepted black-market bribes and kickbacks from port surveyors,
while corrupt Treasury agents made windfall profits selling or trading
government permits to cotton brokers. [Reck, p. 57; Hay, Oct. 17, 1863, p. 92; Niven, p. 352]
chief of detectives, Lafayette Baker, not only served as the War Department's henchman, but he was most feared as
the kingpin and overseer of the lucrative black market blockade smugglers
and spies on the Maryland-Virginia border [Thomas, Author's Notes for chapter.
17, footnote 3].
He also provided Secretary Stanton with a connection to the New York spies
and informants. Stanton assigned Baker to New York before Lincoln was
shot, and afterward called him back to Washington as a War Department
special investigator [Thomas, Author's Notes for chapter.
17, footnote 5].
Stanton's Chief Detective
secret operative in Richmond's game of espionage was Charles L. Cowlam, who was born in Wayne County, Michigan.
When the Civil War broke out he was already living in Richmond. On
September 1, 1863, Cowlam was conscripted into
the Confederate Army and detailed as a quartermaster sergeant, but he
forged his name T. G. Hunt [E&S, p. 389].
Cowlam actually worked as a black-market
smuggler, passing secret information to the Federal Army while presenting
himself as a Confederate soldier from Mississippi [E&S,
p. 391]. He became acquainted with many members of the
Confederate Secret Service and passed information to Stanton's War
Department throughout the remainder of the war. Cowlam
informed on secret Confederate operatives whom he had met while living
among them in the Richmond Hotels [E&S, pp.
days into the conspiracy investigation Provost Marshal of Detroit,
Michigan, Lieut. Col. B. H. Hill sent a telegram to General James B. Fry in
Washington, saying that a native of his state, Charles Cowlam,
was coming to the nation's
capital city with secret information about the assassination. The
telegram stated that Cowlam carried the
information in a sealed letter to be opened only by Gen. Fry. While
the General waited for Cowlam's arrival, Special
Commissioner Col. Foster intercepted Cowlam as he
reached DC. Foster broke the seal and read the letter that was
addressed to General Fry. The Colonel then employed Cowlam as his detective, assigned him to pose as a
Southern sympathizer to gather information from one of Booth's girlfriends
at the National Hotel, where Booth had lived while in Washington [E&S, pp. 394-95]. This girlfriend
was none other than Kate Thompson, the secret Pinkerton agent named Kate
Warne who used many aliases (Cannon, Thompson, Brown, etc.) and was named
confession [Thomas, chapter 6]. The War Department covered
Kate's identity by calling her Sarah Slater, then disposed of both Slater
and George Atzerodt along with his confession
evidence which named several more of Booth's unknown accomplices.
also interrogated Lizzie Murtry, the same
prostitute that John Parker (Lincoln's bodyguard to Ford's Theatre) had arrested on the
morning after the assassination to account for his long absence which began
just before the shooting. To recap previous evidence, this prostitute,
Lizzie, was a companion of the New York minstrels at the Simpson House and
the favorite girl of banjo player William Donaldson [E&S, p. 396]. Cowlam
also talked with several other prostitutes and hotel employees who resided
at the National. After his investigation he issued a report to Col.
Foster stating he believed that the men at the Simpson House, plus Kate
Cannon and all of the "girls" but two were "genuine Secesh" and that they feared they would soon
be arrested E&S p.
394]. Nothing was ever ascertained from their statements, and they
were all released. Among the remaining evidence collected during Charles Cowlam investigation is an edited portion of his
original letter that was turned over to Col. Foster. The only portion of
his report, now recorded in the National Archives is his list naming a few
suspects. The last name on that list was "Lewis Mosby", the Simpson House
bartender [Ibid, NARA 3:856]. Cowlam's edited list is the fourth known document
implicating Lewis Mosby and the Simpson House.
No investigation was made.
On April 27, General Fry learned that
Charles Cowlam had been in Washington working for
Col. Foster since April 19. Fry sent Col. Foster a letter demanding
to know the reason Cowlam had been detained by
Foster's Department. New orders were given redirecting Cowlam to deliver the sealed letter to General Fry, but
Col. Foster once again intervened, whereupon he destroyed the letter before
anyone else could read it. General Fry was incensed at this flagrant
disregard for order and rank and wrote a long, furious letter to Colonel
Foster demanding an explanation. The matter was not resolved, but
soon dropped, and no explanation for such deception and blatant
insubordination by a Colonel to a General was ever given [E&S, p. 393-94].
had no plan of escape, but attempted to protect himself by writing a letter
to guarantee his promise of immunity for killing Lincoln. The letter stated their reasons for
overthrowing the administration, and it was co-signed by all five New York
accomplices. Booth left the letter
in care of his actor friend John Matthews to be posted in the National Intelligencer the day after
the attack [E&S, p. 330, footnote 4; Thomas, chapter 15: "The Diary"].
The letter was not publicly known until two years later after which
Matthews told Congress it was burned [E&S,
p. 330]. Booth was betrayed by the five men
who co-signed the letter, and he was then assassinated by Lafayette Baker's
special detective Everton Conger [Thomas, pp. 92-93].
His murder was covered up using the excuse that the crazy Sergeant
Boston Corbett made the decision (on his own) to shoot Booth [Thomas, chapter 17: "The Stacked Deck"].
Powell also had no plan of escape, never bothering to leave the capital
city. The War Department knew all about Lewis Powell long before the
assassination, except for his real name. For several months prior,
Baltimore Marshal James McPhail had known that detectives under Major
General Wallace kept surveillance on Booth and all his contacts. Lt. Col.
John Wooley knew all about Arnold and O'Laughlin, and had arrested Powell a month before he
attacked Secretary Seward, but released him under the name L. Paine.
Lafayette Baker proved the War Department had surveillance on Booth and his
friends, because he posted a $10,000 reward for Powell's arrest on April
16, a full day before military police claimed; they did not know until
April 17, that it was Powell who attacked Secretary Seward [E, p. 8]. Powell was
arrested in Washington DC by order of Special Commissioner H.H. Wells three
days after Lincoln was shot, along with Mary Surratt, Samuel Arnold, Michael
O' Laughlin, and later in the week George Atzerodt,
none of whom had an escape plan. Neither James Donaldson, Emerick Hansell, Samuel
Thomas, Margaret Coleman, Eliza Thomas, "Col." Lewis Mosby, William
Donaldson, nor John Matthews were ever investigated, nor were they held
accountable for the evidence exposing their close association with the
assassins Booth and Powell.
R. C. Morgan was the arresting officer who found things in Mary Surratt's
house (after everyone was removed) which the prosecution selectively
presented to convict her as a Confederate spy. George Atzerodt's May 1 confession
named several unidentified smugglers as Booth's accomplices and also named
Dr. Mudd and Thomas Harbin as members of Booth's kidnapping plot. Harbin was
not charged with helping Booth escape, even though there was positive
physical evidence to prove he did [E&S, pp.
696 footnote, 216 footnote; Atzerodt's
confession]. Meanwhile, during Dr. Mudd's trial, 90 witnesses
were called to give testimony that had nothing to do with the assassination
plot. Mudd was given life in prison
essentially for being disloyal, while smugglers Samuel Cox, Thomas Jones
and Thomas Harbin, who traded information and aided Booth during his
escape, were never charged with any crime [Thomas, Author's Note #6 for chapter 1].
statement (revealing the whole story) was withheld from trial evidence,
stolen and meant to be forever destroyed [Thomas, chapter 12]. Atzerodt
was held captive on an ironclad ship in the middle of the Potomac River
with a canvas bag pulled over his head and tied around his neck so he could
not communicate with anyone, then put to death.
military commission selectively chose trial evidence. Witnesses were held
in custody, then interviewed by the judges before they gave testimony [E&S, see: H.L. Burnett]. The trial ended with four prisoners
hanged for being Confederate spies, and three others were given life in
prison. The eighth convict prisoner, Ed Spangler, was given six years
for the crime of helping Booth escape the theater, based on hearsay that
was contrary to the evidence [Thomas, chapter 1, convict #8]. Booth's
accomplice who helped him escape was actually Samuel Thomas, arrested the
next day, but also released without an investigation. Samuel Thomas fit the description of the
man seen holding the theater door during Booth's escape, spent the night of
the assassination in the same hotel room with George Atzerodt,
but was not even called to be a witness [E&S,
p. 614]. Originally, Booth unsuccessfully tried to recruit Samuel
Chester to hold the theater's back door [E&S, p. 1002].
Andrew Johnson's impeachment investigation (two years after the conspiracy
trial ended), Booth's previously hidden diary proved that none of the
accomplices convicted in the military trial were guilty of conspiracy to
assassinate Lincoln or Seward.
Stanton and all of the military judges knew about this evidence, but
chose to withhold it from being presented.
The coalition who plotted Lincoln's assassination in order to
dominate control over Congress needed to impeach Johnson for the same
reason they had to kill Lincoln.
They accused President Johnson of being a Confederate spy, and they
claimed it was Johnson who promised Booth immunity if he would kill Lincoln
[Thomas, chapter 19].
five-man Congressional committee was formed to investigate the charges
against President Johnson, and they found no such evidence existed [Impeach, p. 111]. Jefferson Davis and the entire
Confederate administration were arrested, imprisoned, investigated and
released [Thomas, Epilogue entry for Jefferson Davis]. All surviving convicted conspirators were
given a presidential pardon [Thomas, pp. 160-63].
Holt was examined by the Congressional Committee Chairman and asked to
state when he received the diary, and from whom. Holt answered, that he
could not designate the person or the precise time, but that he first saw
the diary very soon after the body of Booth was brought to Washington.
Before that officers of the Department, probably Stanton or Eckert had it.
Holt continued to say that the diary has been in his possession ever since
he got it, and kept locked up in his residence almost invariably. He
assured Congress that the diary is in precisely the same condition that it
was when it came into his hands. That there was only one loose leaf in the
book which seems to have been torn from the diary. Holt also stated he did
not know that Stanton had a copy of the diary [Impeachment pp. 28, 285-287].
until the FBI examined Booth's diary, in 1977, was it realized that the War
Department defiled the pages Booth wrote. Stanton, Eckert and Holt were the
people most responsible for cutting the pages out of Booth's diary, making
copies and gluing the copied sheets back into the book. The FBI found that
the diary Congress reviewed was a forgery, nowhere near in the same precise
condition it was when Everton Conger took it from Booth's body. The diary
pages Booth wrote were removed, copied to read differently, then the copied
pages were glued and bound back into the book. This was done while the
diary was in the possession of none other than Joseph Holt. Booth could not
have written the pages that are in the diary now, because the FBI found
that when those pages were written, they were loose leaves, unattached from
the book and stacked on top of each other.
wished a political change to Lincoln's second term agenda? Who had the
motive, opportunity and ability to make that change?" Most certainly not the Confederate
government, the defeated Confederates were counting on President Lincoln's promise to restore equal rights and
privileges to the Southern states with their state representatives
readmitted into Congress. Only after Lincoln's death was his policy
completely reversed by the same rivals within his own party who competed
against him throughout his entire tenure in office. These same rivals
also ran the investigation and conspiracy trial.
further background and references to this article, and so much more, see:
The Reason Lincoln Had to Die by Don Thomas, and
for further details and more related articles.
- Edwards, William C. and Edward Steers, Jr., editors. The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence.
Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2009. E- Edwards,
Williams C. editor. The Lincoln Assassination: The
Reward Files. ebook, 2012.
- Thomas, Don. The Reason Lincoln Had to Die. Chesterfield,
Virginia, Pumphouse Publishers LLC, 2013.
- Impeachment Investigation: Testimony Taken before the
Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in the Investigation of
the Charges against Andrew Johnson. House of Representatives, 2nd
session, 39th Congress, First Session, and 40th Congress: Government
Printing Office, 1867.
- National Archives and Records Administration, Department of Microfilm
Publications, no. 599: "Investigation and Trial Papers Relating to the
Assassination of President Lincoln," rolls 1-7.
Available for search and purchase at http://www.fold3.com/title_86/lincoln-assassination-papers/
Chamlee - Chamlee,
Roy Z., Jr. Lincoln's
Assassins: A Complete Account of Their Capture, Trial, and Punishment. Jefferson: McFarland &
Company Publishers, 1990.
- Congressional Globe, 40th Congress, 1st Session, March 26, 1867.
- Patricia Carley Johnson, editor. Sensitivity
and Civil War: the Selected Diaries and Papers, 1858-1866, of Frances
Adeline (Fanny) Seward. University of Rochester, 1964.
- Baker, La Fayette C. History of the United States Secret Service.
Philadelphia: L. C. Baker, 1867.
- Larson, Kate C. The Assassin's Accomplice. New York: Basic Books, 2008.
Niven - Niven,
John. Salmon P. Chase: A Biography. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995.
Hay - Burlingame, Michael and John R. T. Ettlinger, editors. Inside Lincoln's White
House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay. Southern
Illinois University Press, 1999.
Reck - Reck,
Waldo E. A. Lincoln His Last 24 Hours. Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Burnt Cork -
(http://circushistory.org/cork/burntcork3.htm) Online performer list from
minstrel shows published by the Circus History Society, excerpted from:
Slout, William L., editor, Burnt Cork and Tambourines: A Source Book for Negro
Minstrelsy (Clipper Studies in the Theater Series, vol. 11). Borgo Press, 2007.
Harvard Theatre Collection - Images of William B. Donaldson, Charles White, Dan
Bryant and Dan Emmitt were sourced from the American minstrel show
collection, 1823-1947 in the Harvard Theatre Collection at Houghton
Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Bates- Bates, David H. Lincoln in the Telegraph Office:
Recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps During the
Civil War. Washington: National Geographic, 2006.