Stanton, Lafe Baker, And The Diary

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

Many who have commented on the Lincoln assassination and its aftermath have observed Stanton’s criticism of Abraham Lincoln. One blog I have gone over, http://www.civilwarbummer.com has noted that “Regular association with the President did not eliminate Stanton’s propensity to disagree or even to sharply criticize the President.” Lincoln was aware of most of this and just kind of sluffed it off.

The bummer blog stated that: “All of the central figures in military and government had individuals gathering surreptitious information to further their knowledge of the civil conflict, Lincoln had Ward Hill Lamon, General McClellan employed Allen Pinkerton and Stanton utilized the services of Lafayette C. Baker.” The last two listed as informants were truly lousy choices. Pinkerton had been a socialist in Scotland before escaping to America and had been a supporter of terrorist John Brown. Donnie Kennedy and I dealt with him somewhat in Lincoln’s Marxists. McClellan deserved better. The other one, Lafayette Curry Baker, was a real piece of work. He had been a vigilante in the California gold fields before the War of Northern Aggression. Once the Northern aggression started he scuttled back to the East Coast, wangled an appointment with General Winfield Scott, and started doing espionage work for the North. On his first two missions into Richmond, he was captured twice, once by the Confederates and once by his own side. It has to be embarrassing getting captured by your own people. These sortees gained him no real information, but he returned to General Scott, full of tales of his derring do and bravery, along with “fabricated Confederate intelligence.” You could always trust Lafe Baker to be a self-promoter, even if he had to stretch the truth a might. After all this. Stanton cabbaged onto Baker and made him the head of the Union Intelligence Service and gave him a job as head of the National Detective Police.

The bummer blog also noted that: “In this capacity, Baker operated essentially as the head of a secret police, seeking out and punishing any activity he deemed corrupt or rebellious. Most of Baker’s time was spent tracking down deserters from the Union Army. He also went after profiteers but only to line his own pockets. Baker arrested and jailed those who refused to share their illegal spoils from selling government supplies. Baker violated Constitutional rights without fear or reservations since he was wholly backed by Stanton. He routinely made false arrests, conducted illegal searches without warrants, and blackmailed government officials into making endorsements of his almost non-existent espionage service. No one misused his authority or office more than Lafayette Baker.”

Baker was accused of using brutal interrogation techniques against Confederate spy Belle Boyd, yet for all the inhumanity of his treatment toward her, Boyd, to her credit, did not confess, and in 1863 she was released.

Baker finally overplayed his hand, and someone caught him tapping telegraph lines between Nashville and Stanton’s office. You didn’t tap Stanton’s telegraph lines. That was enough to get him demoted and sent to New York, where he was put under the control of Charles A. Dana, the Assistant Secretary of War–another real winner! Donnie and I dealt with him in Lincoln’s Marxists  too! They never taught you in your “history” books, that Dana was the one that hired Karl Marx to write for Horace Greeley’s  newspaper. You didn’t really need to know that, lest you be tempted to ask questions about the connections between these 19th century Leftists and how they all promoted one another.

Interestingly enough, when Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton grabbed Baker and hauled him back to Washington. It seems that this situation merited someone that was really lowdown and dirty, and Lafe Baker fit the bill on both counts.

At that point, Lafe Baker performed an amazing feat of “detective” work. The bummer blog tells us that he “…arrived on April 16th and his first act was to send his agents into Maryland to pick up what information they could about the people involved in the assassination. Within two days, all of the conspirators were in custody. Somehow, Baker knew exactly where he could find the alcoholic George A. Atzerodt whose nerve had failed him when it came time to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. He also knew that Seward’s would-be assassin, Lewis Payne, could be found in the Washington, D.C. boarding house of Mary Surratt. Colonel Baker knew to arrest Edward Spangler, the carpenter at Ford’s Theater…Lafayette Baker had all the answers within forty-eight hours, including the escape route taken by John Wilkes Booth and David Herold.” All in forty-eight hours, is that amazing detective work or what? The qualifier here being the “or what?”

After talking with Stanton, Baker sent a 25-man cavalry detachment, supposedly under the command of Lt. Edward Doherty, but really under the command of Luther Baker and Col. Everton J. Conger, to pursue Booth. Interestingly enough, they knew right where to go. They made a bee-line for Garrett’s farm, where they found Herold and Booth (or somebody) in the tobacco barn. The rest is “history” depending on who you believe.

One of the things they took off the body of whoever was in the barn with Herold was a leather-bound diary. “It was the diary that most interested Conger, an object he had been expressly directed by Lafayette Baker to look for.” How do you suppose Baker knew enough to look for a diary? Another of those nagging questions nobody ever bothered asking. Did Baker know Booth well enough to know he kept one? That possibility opens up a can of worms.

So Conger turned over Booth’s personal effects to Lafe Baker. And then the Bummer blog noted: “Baker sat silently before Conger, then told his subordinate to witness the fact that he was going to count the exact number of pages in the diary. Then he studied the diary at great length, making notes. Baker then told Conger that he would accompany him to see Stanton…It was obvious to Conger that Baker had wanted him present when he turned over Booth’s effects to the Secretary of War, so that it could never be said he tampered with anything and that Stanton was the final and only depository of this evidence…Baker was dismissed as head of the secret service on February 8, 1866. He claimed that President Andrew Johnson had demanded his removal after he discovered that his agents were spying on him. Baker admitted the charge but argued that he was acting under instructions from the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton.” I hope President Trump doesn’t think anything new is being done to him, because it’s really the same old game that has gone on for at least 150 plus years.

In early 1867, Baker published a book called History of the Secret Service. In it, among other things, he revealed that a diary had been taken from Booth, which resulted in a Congressional committee looking into Lincoln’s assassination and Stanton was forced to hand over Booth’s diary. “Stanton and the War Department were forced to hand over Booth’s diary. When shown the diary by the committee, Baker claimed that someone had ‘cut out eighteen leaves.’ When Stanton was called before the committee he said he didn’t remove any pages from the diary. Speculation grew that the missing pages included the names of people who had financed the conspiracy against Lincoln. It was later revealed that Booth had received a large amount of money from a New York based firm to which Stanton had connections.”

Lafe Baker died in 1868–18 months after he testified before Congress. There were some suspicious souls that thought he had been killed by the War Department because, after all, dead men tell no more tales. Based on the actions of Stanton, Baker, Conger, and the rest, don’t you wonder where they got that idea? The question emerges, which of these sterling individuals was the biggest liar? You can bet there is a big fight for first place! You can bet on one sure thing here–we the public have not been told one tenth of what really went on here.

Believe it or not, there is still more.

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The Northern Plan For A “Reconstructed” South

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

In his book Why Was Lincoln Murdered?  Otto Eisenschiml has two sections, one entitled Not wanted–Victory in the East and the other bearing the exact same title, only dealing with the West.

What Eisenschiml contends with his work is what has been stated earlier–that the Radical Republicans did not want a quick victory over the South, but rather wanted a long, drawn-out war of attrition. They wanted a situation where North would be brought to hate South and where irate Northerners would be willing to go along with whatever punitive action Washington saw fit to thrust upon the South. Part of their plan was to pit black against white in the South, a situation in which they would control the black vote, and through that vote, control the direction of the South for the forseeable future. They had a plan to restructure a defeated South and to make it over into an image of their liking. Their efforts succeeded in doing at least one thing promoting the concept of class struggle in the South–black against white. Their tactics were Marxist, and so was the form of “reconstruction” (Marx’s term) they put in place after the war’s end.

In order for them to accomplish all this, McClellan had to be made to appear to be a bumbling failure, and even in our day, this is how most of our “history” books portray him. Yet, when Robert E. Lee, one of the noblest and ablest soldiers in our history, was asked his opinion of who was the ablest Northern general, he replied without hesitation “McClellan, by all odds.” Eisenschiml pointed out that a record of McClellan’s deficiencies is not found in a correct history of his military career, ‘but in the press and in the dispatches of the War Dept.” And you already know who controlled that.

When Ambrose E. Burnside was appointed to replace McClellan in command, he pleaded that he had not the necessary ability to command that many men. He proved that at Fredericksburg shortly after. At least, to Burnside’s credit, he recognized his limitations, but he was appointed anyway. His successor, “Fighting Joe” Hooker, was not quite that humble, but he was no better a general. It almost seems that the North continued to appoint one third string general after another until the War approached a certain point, at which time, Grant was thrust upon the scene.

According to Eisenschiml: “The one man in the North who emerged victorious from all these developments was Stanton. Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation had been issued on Sept. 22, 1862, and had gone into effect on New Year’s Day, 1863. Stanton’s hope that the war could be prolonged until slavery had been abolished and until the North and South were bitterly estranged was on the way to fulfillment.”
The only problem, then, was how Lincoln viewed “reconstruction.” And socialistic though his orientation was, he did not view it in the same light that the Radical Republicans did. For him it was a question of who would control all the patronage involved. He wanted control of that, but so did the Radical Republicans, and they could not both control it. It had to be one or the other. Hence, for all his Marxist proclivities, Lincoln was an impediment to them and their plans for the South.

And so the obvious solution was that Lincoln had to go. In light of this, I noted some quotes in a book originally published back in 1890 by R. H. Woodward and Co. called Why The Solid South?  This was republished in 1969 by Negro Universities Press, a division of Greenwood Publishing Corp. in New York. At the bottom of page 3 in the 1969 edition there is a quote that seems important to our situation here.

It states: “When this message of December, 1863 went in, many of the Republican leaders were claiming for Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the question of reconstruction under the clause of the Constitution which declares that ‘The United States shall guarantee to every state a republican form of government.’ The counter-claim by the President, that he could aid the people to set up governments for themselves, seemed a challenge.”

Congress narrowly passed a bill in July, 1864 that did this “for certain states.” This bill didn’t give the Radicals everything they wanted because it didn’t give the vote to blacks. But it asserted the “jurisdiction of Congress and provided expressly the President should recognize by proclamation the state governments established under it, ‘only after obtaining the consent of Congress’.” Lincoln refused to do such and he deep-sixed the bill with a pocket veto! Lincoln later explained why he did this, but the Radical, Ben Wade, protested. The protest said: “The President, by preventing this bill from becoming a law, holds the electoral votes of the rebel states at the dictation of his personal ambition…” So there was a fuss in Congress over Lincoln’s veto (and who would exercise power over the Confederate States when they were dragged back into the Union).

And then, on page 5, came an interesting revelation. It said: “Congress, during the session that ended 1864-65, either did not care or did not dare to insist on any reassertion of its right to reconstruct. On the contrary, seeing, as it undoubtedly did, that the Confederacy was about to collapse, it adjourned on the 4th of March, leaving Mr. Lincoln an open field for his policy of restoration. Every member of that Congress knew what the policy was.”

As I read that, years ago now, I wondered, why the sudden lack of resistance by Congress to something they wanted so badly to have control over? They had fought Lincoln tooth and nail on this issue and now they were just walking off the field and letting him do it his way. Why??? Did the movers and shakers in Congress know something the history books have never dealt with–that they were not going to have to deal with Mr. Lincoln on this issue because he wasn’t going to be there that long?

I have long wondered about that and never gotten an answer, but it is an interesting question. And no, I am not accusing every member of Congress who voted for this as being part of the assassination of Lincoln. But the Radical Republican types, both in Congress and in other places in government, had an amazing amount of influence over what happened in Washington. They were the Deep State of their day.

More to come yet.

More About Stanton The Radical

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

It would seem, from his commentary about others, that Stanton had an inflated concept of his own abilities. He was definitely not a practitioner of the Christian virtue of having a meek and humble spirit (James 4:6). He often spoke abusively of Lincoln and others in the administration. He referred to Lincoln as “the original gorilla. After becoming Secretary of War his disposition toward Lincoln did not improve. At one point he said to Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, Well, all I have to say is, we’ve got to get rid of that baboon at the White House!

W. C. Prime, who did a biographical sketch of General McClellan that was in McClellan’s book, said that the abolition of slavery was really a war measure. McClellan’s success in 1862 would have been disastrous to the plans of Radical Republicans, Shoud the Union have been restored at that point, the plans of the radicals would have come to naught. Therefore, McClellan could not be allowed to succeed.

Prime’s assessment of Stanton was interesting. He said: “Mr. Stanton was a lawyer of moderate abilities, a man of peculiar mental constitution. Without moral principle or sense of personal honor, he was equally ready to change front in public politics and to betray private friendship, and was therefore eminently suited to the purposes for which he was selected by the men with whom he had formed a secret alliance…Those who knew him were in the habit of describing him as one of those who ‘always kick down the ladder by which they have climbed.’ His ambition was unbounded and his self-reliance absolute.”

Part of Stanton’s problem with McClellan may well have been McClellan’s view of government, which was probably built on McClellan’s Christian faith. According to McClellan: “The only safe policy is that the general government be strictly confined to the general powers and duties vested in it by the old constitution, while the individual states preserve all the sovereign rights and powers retained by them when the constitutional compact was formed.” Such a view was hardly entertained by the denizens of the Lincoln administration and may well explain why McClellan had to go not too far down the road.

Needless to say, this viewpoint was anathema to someone like Stanton. According to the book The Lincoln Conspiracy  by David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier Jr., Stanton, as Secretary of War, controlled the nation’s military news through nationalization of the telegraph wires. He controlled the transportation system. His control over the lives of private citizens was said to be almost complete. Even President Lincoln was denied the right to see telegrams that came to the War Department.

According to The Lincoln Conspiracy  the United States was perilously close to dictatorship in 1864. The authors noted: “All the elements were in motion: transportation and communication were nationalized, the writ of habeas corpus suspended, military tribunals had replaced civilian trials. Thousands of people were jailed without charge and held without trial. Dictatorship was an evil lurking behind the scenes. The name of the would-be dictator was not discernable to the public.”

Some have claimed the President Lincoln was a would-be dictator. Clinton Rossiter wrote a book, Presidential Dictatorship, in which he pointed to Lincoln as the one that fulfilled such a role. While no one can argue that Lincoln usurped power while he was president, it might seem more appropriate to assign the role of true dictator to the one who was in a position to deny Lincoln access to information that came into the War Department. That man was Edwin Stanton.

Lafayette Baker, (another sterling individual that was no saint), head of the Secret Service (police), said in his cipher-coded manuscript: “I admit my hatred and contempt for Edwin M. Stanton, but I also swear that what I am saying is true. Stanton felt Lincoln, Johnson, and Seward would have to be executed. He told me it would be done quite legally, and in the proper manner for such officials.” Baker was a notorious liar, so whether Stanton actually said this to him or not may be up for grabs. However, you must admit that it does seem to be in keeping with Stanton’s mentality.

When General McClellan pointed out his opinion that emancipation should be accomplished gradually, and that blacks should be prepared for it via education, recognition of the rights of family, marriage, etc., he ran afoul of the Radical Republicans who had another agenda. When McClellan pointed some of this out to Senator Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts radical, Sumner replied that such points did not concern him, and that all that must be left to take care of itself. In other words, let’s just go ahead and do this, kick the can down the road, and let someone else worry about all the nasty details.

Sumner’s attitude was strongly akin to that of the Leftist radicals in the 1960s, who felt that it was perfectly okay to tear society down with no clear picture of what to replace it with. Needless to say, those that financed the Leftist radicals and orchestrated their efforts, definitely had an idea of what to replace society with, and they are still working on that. From what I have seen of their efforts so far, I am not impressed.

Unlike our latter-day radicals, though, Sumner, Stanton, Thaddeus Stevens, and their Radical associates did have something in store for a defeated South, almost a kind of reverse slavery as it were, with uneducated blacks being given the immediate vote and white man having all rights taken away from them. This was a situation guaranteed to produce racial animosity. That was the name of the game in the South.

There were theological changes in the wind, too, but these were not as readily discernable yet. That would take another five years or so.

More to come, so hang in there.

Portrait Of A Radical

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

As noted in the previous article, Edwin Stanton had been exposed to Radical Abolitionist rhetoric by one person or another since his early, formative years.
Otto Scott, in his book The Secret Six: The Fool As Martyr  which was about terrorist John Brown, Scott took note of the effect that Unitarian Abolitionist Theodore Weld had, not only on Stanton, but also on other lawyers, notably Joshua R. Giddings and Ben Wade, who ended up being a radical among radicals.

During the War of Northern Aggression, Stanton and other administration radicals were perfectly willing to prolong the killing and misery on both sides. They were even willing to manipulate the people of the North into such a mindset that they saw no possible solution to the war except the Radical Abolitionist solution. Stanton and his radical cohorts worked to convince the people in the North that the war could not be won or concluded until the goals of abolitionism had been attained.

In 1861, Mr. Simon Cameron was removed from the War Department, supposedly for corruption. As I don’t know a lot about Cameron, this could well be the case. It is interesting that a committee of “New York bankers” had urged Secretary Chase to remove Cameron. Did these men, for reasons known only to themselves, want Edwin Stanton in his place? Whatever went on behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms, Cameron soon resigned and Stanton was appointed Secretary of War in his place.

According to General George McClellan, his relations with Stanton before he became Secretary of War were cordial. After his appointment, Stanton’s attitude toward McClellan began to undergo a change. McClellan felt that Stanton put obstacles in his way and did all he could to create distrust between McClellan and Lincoln. As McClellan went along, it seems clear to him that Stanton was allied with the radical elements in Lincoln’s administration and that they were not willing to see McClellan succeed in his campaign, lest his success shorten the war and the radical’s goals for the destruction of the South not be brought to fruition.

In his autobiography, McClellan’s Own Story  published in 1887, McClellan gives us a picture of Stanton, as Lincoln’s Secretary of War, that is consistent with Stanton’s early views on abolitionism.

On pages 150-151, McClellan made a statement that may shock thinking Americans, particularly Southerners. He stated: “In regard to their statement of the purpose of their visit, Mr. Stanton stated that the great end and aim of the war was to abolish slavery. To end the war before the nation was ready for that would be a failure. The war must be prolonged and conducted so as to achieve that. That the people of the North were not ready to accept that view, and that it would not answer to permit me to succeed until the people had been worked up to the proper pitch on that question. That the war would not be finished until that result was reached, and that, therefore, it was not their policy to strengthen Gen. McClellan so as to insure his success. I have heard, from the best authority, many instances in which the same views were expressed by other prominent radical leaders.” This was hardly Lincoln’s view. He has been quoted as saying that his man concern was the restoration of the Union and he didn’t care all that much about the slavery issue. It would seem that Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Stanton who supposedly worked for him, had opposing viewpoints on the slavery question.

It was McClellan’s view that, had his Peninsula Campaign in 1862 been successful, the war might have been terminated without the immediate abolition of slavery. So, to gain their ends with Lincoln, the radical element played upon his concerns for the safety of Washington, which involved leaving lots of troops in the area of the capitol for defensive purposes.

McClellan said: “I believe the leaders of the radical branch of the Republican Party preferred political control in one section of a divided country to being in the minority in a restored Union.”

And McClellan continued: “Not only did these people desire the aboliton of slavery, but its abolition in such a manner and under such circumstances that the slaves would at once be endowed with the electoral franchise, while the intelligent White man of the South should be deprived of it, and permanent control thus be assured through the votes of the ignorant slaves, composing so large a portion of the population of the seceded states.”

This was consistent with the Radical view of “reconstruction.” So it would seem, from McClellan’s informed opinion, that the Radical Republicans only wanted the slaves freed so they could manipulate them politically and thus remain in control. So much for Republican altruism regarding the slaves! The slaves were nothing more than a means to an end for them and all their howling about their concern for the emancipation of the slaves was so much bunk!

There was a time when I would have considered these men plain old hypocrites. I’ve gotten past that. I realize now that these men were the cultural Marxists of their day. Otto Eisenschiml, in his book Why Was Lincoln Murdered?  of which I will say more later, described these Radicals as the Left wing of the Republican Party.

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

Edwin Stanton And The Coup d’ Etat

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

There was an interesting and revelatory article, written by a David Offutt, that appeared in the El Dorado News-Times  in El Dorado, Arkansas on February 7, 2005. It was entitled Lincoln Assassination as a Planned Coup d’ Etat . Although I had not particularly thought of it in those terms, Mr. Offutt may well have had something in that contention.

His article, printed out, is two and a half pages long so I am not going to try to reproduce the whole thing, but will try to hit some of the high points he made.

Offutt noted the attacks on Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and William Seward. He also felt that the deaths of these three men would have been one of the worst things that could have happened to the South. He stated: “Had Lincoln, Johnson, and Seward all died as planned, the election results of November 1864 would have been overturned and the radical Republicans would have taken over the executive branch of the government while retaining control of the legislative branch. Lafayette S. Foster, a Republican senator from Connecticut, would have become President. Foster had been chosen to be the President pro tempore of the Senate for the 39th Congress, which would not convene until May 7, 1865. According to the Succession Act of 1792, the President pro tempore was next in line for the presidency after the Vice President. Without Seward, Edwin Stanton would have had no major opposition in the cabinet and would have been given authority over the South’s reconstruction.”

It was a fairly well-known fact that Lincoln and Congress did not agree on how “reconstruction” should be administered. Apparently, somehow or other, there was patronage involved and both Lincoln and the Congress wanted control over that. The Radical Abolitionists in Congress had a whole different idea about “reconstruction” than Lincoln did. Offutt noted that the Radicals wanted Stanton’s War Department to administer “reconstruction” rather than Seward’s State Department.

And Offutt commented that: “The stench of Edwin Stanton, who was contemptuous of Lincoln, is all over the events of this coup d’ etat. Here are a few examples. When reports were made to the War Department about suspicious activities at the boarding house where Booth and his co-conspirators met, he ordered no investigation. When Lincoln asked that Major Thomas Eckert be assigned as his bodyguard, he was given John T. Parker, who had been reprimanded for drunkenness and was in a bar when Lincoln was shot. Eckert had told Lincoln that he would have to work late at the telegraph office on the night of the play, but he actually went home early. And the telegraph lines out of Washington, DC, failed to work that night as Booth and company escaped! Stanton awarded Eckert by making him the Assistant Secretary of War. Also, Stanton urged Gen. Grant not to attend the play with the Lincolns. In fact, at the height of Lincoln’s popularity (because of the recent surrender of Lee), twelve people declined presidential invitations to join the first family at Ford’s Theater! Stanton also suppressed Booth’s diary for two years. When he was pressured to make it public, 18 pages were missing!” Gee, you don’t suppose—naw, Stanton would never have done that–would he???

Offutt felt that it was far more likely that Booth and company worked for or with Stanton and the radicals…”since they would have been the direct beneficiaries of the murders and circumstantial evidence indicates their extensive involvement.”

Way back in 1991 I wrote a nine-page essay on Edwin Stanton which I entitled Portrait of a Radical.

I noted Stanton’s early background and how he had been literally drenched in Abolitionist rhetoric since his earliest years–how, when he was six years old, he had grown used to hearing the tirades of one Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker who has been described as one of the “earliest professional abolitionists.” Lundy, from time to time, published a sort of newspaper called The Genius of Emancipation. In later years, Mr. Lundy is reported to have worked with another well-known abolitionist, a man by the name of William Lloyd Garrison. Maybe some of my readers have heard of him.

During his early working years, Stanton attended an anti-slavery lecture given by Theodore Weld. Weld was a Unitarian minister. His lecture seems to have made quite an impression on Stanton and he became a life-long convert to abolitionism. This would end up affecting what he did while in government.

Understand here, please, that there were different kinds of abolitionists, and the Northern variety, to which Stanton adhered was a lot different than the Southern variety. Radical abolitionists in the North included people like John Brown, possibly the first American terrorist. These people were going to do away with slavery any way they could, no matter how bloody or brutal or who got hurt in the process. Non-violent they were not!

We will continue with Comrade Stanton and his world view in the next article.

More About What Passed For The Trial Of The Century

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

In the last article I dealt somewhat with the “trial” of the Lincoln conspirators and observed that this “trial” was the sort that gives Kangaroo Courts a bad name. There was about as much impartiality in this trial as there would be for a Boston Red Sox player on trial for the murder of a New York Yankees player with the trial being held in Yankee Stadium.

One of the key political fixtures in this situation was the rabid Brigadier Genereal and Judge Advocate of the army, Joseph Holt. He was radical, through and through, like Stanton, Sumner, and Wade. Lloyd Lewis, in his book The Assassination of Lincoln–History and Myth  noted of Holt, on page 107 that “Red-hot burned Holt’s soul against ‘rebels’ and in particular against the fiery ladies of the South who had spoken so freely against Union invaders. ‘There have not been enough Southern women hanged in this war,’ he had been reported to say, a fact that argued badly for Mrs. Surratt now.”

Lewis also noted, on page 108 that “Except for two witnesses there was no case against Mrs. Surratt, but those two hanged her. One was John M. Lloyd, her bibulous tenant at the Surrattsville tavern, the other was a boarder in her own home, Louis J. Weichmann.” Weichmann had been a friend of John Surratt, who had invited him to come live at his mother’s boarding house in Washington.

Lewis noted that “On the stand in the hot, clanking court-room Weichmann was a puzzle. He talked readily and well, ‘too well,’ insinuated counsel for the defense repeatedly, as his testimony could be seen to settle the noose tighter and tighter about the woman’s neck. He was too glib, Mrs. Surratt’s lawyers said, too ready to hang his former friends. Could it be that he had been one of the conspirators in the kidnapping plot and was now turning state’s evidence to save his own neck?”

And so Mrs. Surratt was sentenced to hang, along with the other three alleged conspirators. Supposedly a clemency appeal was sent to Andrew Johnson, which he claimed he never received or saw. One wonders just how much Edwin Stanton had to do with that.

Strangely enough, even some of the Radical leaders did not want Mrs. Surratt hung. Lewis noted, on page 208 that: “Another of the Radical chieftans opposed it, too, Thaddeus Stevens, who did not swallow Stanton’s story that Jefferson Davis and his associates had inspired the conspiracy. ‘These men are no friends of mine,’ he said. ‘They are public enemies and I would treat the South as a conquered country and settle it politically upon the policy best suited to ourselves. But I know these men. They are gentlemen, and incapable of being assassins.” Surprise, surprise!

The trial of the century had lots of problems, though. Dave McGowan in his study Everything You Think You Know About The Lincoln Assassination Is Wrong  listed a whole batch of these and I am going to list some of them here:

“The defendants were informed of the charges against them just 72 hours before the trial began, depriving them of the ability to put together an effective defense.” (They knew they were going to find them guilty anyway. So who needed a defense?)

“The defendants, all civilians, were subjected to military justice.” (The feds can do whatever they want because they have the power.)

“The defendants were not allowed to speak in their own defense.” (If you already know you are going to hang them anyway, why not just cut to the chase and not waste the court’s time?)

“The state freely introduced inflammatory, prejudicial testimony.” (All the better to hang you with, my dears.)

“The state made extensive use of witnesses testifying under assumed identities.” (If you can’t trust your government, who can you trust?)

“The state made extensive use of paid witnesses.” (Perjured testimony doesn’t come cheap, but the taxpayers will foot the bill anyway.)

“The defendants were prohibited from privately consulting with their attorneys.” (Just another time-waster with the conclusion already decided on.)

“The state was not shy about suppressing exculpatory evidence.” (the defendants don’t really need to know all this stuff.)

“The state was also not shy about introducing manufactured evidence.” (Every little bit helps our case, true or not!)

And McGowan also noted: “And yet, through seven weeks of the most extreme prosecutorial misconduct imaginable, the entire defense team raised only twelve objections. They should have raised that many just during the first hour of the first day of the proceedings. If not sooner.

So you have to wonder–did the defense team realize that they were fighting against a stacked deck and so figured–why bother. It isn’t going to make any difference no matter what we do or say? Or is the other possibility even worse and all we have here is a show trial to satisfy those who will concoct fictional accounts of all this for the brainwashed masses down the road apiece? You know, kind of like Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s? I really begin to wonder.

Here Come De Judge(s)

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

The trial of the Lincoln conspirators was labeled by Dave McGowan, whose material we have been quoting, as “one of the most sordid chapters of US history.

In an article I previously wrote several years back now and which is up on http://www.southernheritage411.com entitled The Hanging of Mary Surratt  I noted that “Reverdy Johnson, Mrs. Surratt’s first attorney, had contended that the military court that tried the conspirators was without proper authority to do so as long as the civil courts were sitting. This was something that was argued for nearly a century and I’ll bet you could still get a heated debate going about it in some circles.” My opinion at the time I wrote that agreed with Reverdy Johnson’s. It still does.

Dave McGowan, in Why Everything You Think You Know About The Lincoln Assassination Is Wrong  went into some detail about all this. He stated that: “US Navy Secretary Gideon Welles is on record as stating that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wanted the alleged conspirators to be ‘tried and executed before President Lincoln was buried.” Stanton was in a big hurry. He wanted it all over and done with before the furor died down and people had a chance to reflect on any of it.

McGowan noted that “Stanton favored a military trial, a course of action opposed by various other members of the Lincoln cabinet, including both Welles and former Attorney General Edward Bates, who noted that ‘if the offenders are done to death by that tribunal, however truly guilty, they will pass for martyrs with half the world.’ Many believed that a military trial would be unconstitutional given that all the defendants were civilians. Stanton nevertheless prevailed. It would in fact be later determined that the proceedings had been unconstitutional, both because the suspects were subjected to military ‘justice’ and because they were denied their right to individual trials. That ruling would not, however, resurrect the five alleged conspirators who paid with their lives.” So Stanton prevailed. He usually did.

McGowan referred to it as “what passed for a trial” and noted that “the prisoners were held in appalling conditions aboard two ironclad vessells, the Montauk and the Saugus…Very special attention appears to have been paid to Lewis Powell. Throughout his confinement, Powell was personally guarded by Thomas T. Eckert, which is undoubtedly the only time in the nation’s history that a sitting Assistant Secretary of War served as a lowly prison guard. Even more curiously, despite the fact that Powell was kept shackled, hooded, isolated, and otherwise deprived, he was nevertheless allowed to keep a knife while imprisoned. And false reports were circulated indicating that he was suicidal. It is perfectly clear, in retrospect, that the government had contingency plans to have Powell ‘suicided’ if necessary.”

And the members of the nine-man military tribunal were of interest, even if only due to the fact that all had been handpicked by Stanton. Most of them were almost totally unknown to the public and the two that were known hardly had stellar war records. It seems as though Stanton was majoring in nonentities. McGowan also observed that none of them really had a clue about the “rule of law or about evidentiary or procedural rules. That didn’t prove to be a problem though–they just made up the tribunal rules as they went along.”

All, according to McGowan, “appeared to be qualified largely by their prejudices, total ignorance of the law, and subservience to the will of the prosecutors. It was common talk in Washington that the military commission was assembled for the purpose of convicting the accused persons–not to weigh the merits of their cases.” It was the sort of proceeding that gives Kangaroo Courts a bad name.

McGowan noted something else I have never seen mentioned anywhere else. He said “Besides being completely unqualified to sit in judgment of the accused, the panel had something else in common, as various photographs reveal: many of them, maybe all of them, were Freemasons. As were the prosecutors. And at least some of the defense attorneys. And Edwin Stanton. And Lafayette Baker. And John Wilkes Booth. And seemingly just about everyone else who played a prominent role in the assassination conspiracy and cover-up. And many of the generals who directed the action on the battlefields of the Civil War. On both sides.” Interesting observation, especially in the case of the people involved with the “trial.”

Given the situation, it is doubtful that any defense attorney could have spared any of their clients from their preordained ends. All that was required for a conviction was a simple majority, with only one additional vote needed to impose the death penalty. And the court’s ruling was final–no appeals allowed. That this was openly unconstitutional barely needs to be mentioned. As has already been noted, this Kangaroo Court made up its rules as it went along. Easier to keep the defendants off balance if you do it that way because what may have been allowed yesterday may not be allowed today so you never really knew where you stood.

You have to realize what the game was here. Stanton was not just putting these eight defendants on trial–he was putting the entire Confederacy on trial  in what McGowan described as “a shameless attempt to inflame public opinion and inspire bloodlust.” “Witnesses” spread wild stories of “Plots to burn Northern cities, start epidemics, instigate ‘riots’ and other nefarious deeds, including poisoning public water supplies, destroying historical buildings…Most of these alleged plots were never actually carried out. And even if they had been, none of that had any relevance at all as to the guilt or innocence of the defendants and would not have been allowed into evidence in any legitimate court proceedings.”

There were a few more slight problems with some of what went on. McGowan noted (and I have seen the same thing from other sources) that “Another problem with the introduction of such testimony is that most of the ‘witnesses’ who delivered it didn’t actually exist. One such witness who testified as ‘Sanford Conover,’ for example, was actually Charles Dunham, who also used the alias ‘James Watson Wallace.’ It was later revealed that Dunham had run what was dubbed a ‘school for perjured witnesses’ at the National Hotel, where he had coached others on how to properly deliver their perjured testimony. Dunham soon found himself in prison after being convicted for both perjury and suborning perjury. One of those receiving schooling was ‘Richard Montgomery,’ who was actually James Thompson, a burgler from New York with a long criminal record. Appearing as ‘Henry Van Steinaker’ was Hans Von Winklestein, a prison inmate who gained his release shortly after testifying. A Canadian presented to the court as ‘Dr. James Merritt’ was denounced by his own government as a fraud and a quack. And so on.” Bear in mind, these were all government witnesses testifying against the alleged conspirators. Does any of this sound familiar today? Notice any similarities in the supposed “Russian collusion” of Donald Trump which has now been overthrown despite efforts to paint him as “an agent of Putin?” How many of those trying to nail Trump’s hide to the wall have been caught lying to Congress? Pardon the digression here, but it just goes to show that little has changed in Sodom on the Potomac since the days of Edwin Stanton.

In fact, one of the defense attorneys, Doster, “whose vehement objection to the introduction of irrelevant, inflammatory testimony was overruled, would later claim that some of the other prosecution witnesses were actually NDP detectives paid by the government for their testimony. And it would later be revealed that NDP chief Lafayette Baker’s orders to his underlings instructed them to ‘extort confessions and procure testimony to establish the conspiracy…by promises, rewards, threats, deceit, force, or any other effectual means.'” Your government’s tax dollars at work!

Quite a few of these government ‘witnesses’ had their palms greased with lots of long green. The Canadian, Merritt, whose own government denounced him as a fraud, ended up with a check for $6,000 for his quackery. That’s pretty good money for 1865.

Guilty or not guilty, with this kind of testimony prevailing and with a set of judges that were going to convict no matter what, anyone even remotely entertaining the thought that the Lincoln conspirators received a fair trial is prone to the wildest of “I trust my government” delusion!

With this kind of “justice” prevalent in Washington, do you really blame the Southern states for wanting to secede and form their own government? These defendants were going to be found guilty even had they been able, in some way, to show they were innocent. I feel the hanging of Mary Surratt was a travesty of justice. How many of the others  really knew Booth was going to kill Lincoln? Some, no doubt, but did they all? Did that poor guy who held Booth’s horse in the back alley know what Booth was going to do? He hung for it anyway.

Stanton wanted all these folks out of the way as quickly as possible–no possible witnesses left–alive anyway–and button the whole episode up, confining it to Booth and his misfits so it would go no further. But it has. Stanton’s efforts to confine it to Booth and company have not borne fruit, else so much would not have been written all about this in the last 150 years. And, in God’s Providence, there will be more to come.