by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
Most readers will recall that I took note in the last article of a magazine published by a man named Ben Green, who published a periodical called “The People’s Weekly.
Historian Otto Eisenschiml noted that a copy of this publication, noting Edwin Stanton as among the proxy assassins of Lincoln, was found in a hollow space behind a mirror in an old building in Baltimore in 1948. In this particular issue, Green promised more juicy details in the next issue. And this is where it gets interesting.
Eisenschiml then noted that: “The next issue of The People’s Weekly should have furnished the answer.” Right? Well, maybe! Eisenschiml then stated: “All I had to do was find one, and that should not have required a great effort in view of Green’s distribution of copies on such a princely scale. I sent letters to private collectors and libraries, including the Library of Congress and other public libraries. Replies came back, but the news was all bad. No one had the subsequent issue; only two other copies aside from mine, were available, one of February 29 and one of July 4, 1868. Neither contained any reference to Lincoln’s death. What happened to the 500,000 copies which Ben Green allegedly left at whatever places he might have chosen is a riddle. Did those who picked them up throw them away, as most people do with things they do not pay for? Half a million copies, though, is a sizable number, and may have covered several issues. It certainly is odd that only one copy of the May 2nd issue should have survived, and this one under conditions which are so grotesque that no fiction writer would have the courage to put them into a plot.”
Eisenschiml didn’t give up there. He made “strenuous attempts to find the evasive issue and with them what Green had had in mind for his promised revelations.” Eisenschiml got a researcher in Washington to poke through the files of contemporary papers to see if any of them had, by any chance, paid attention to the article in Green’s publication. He noted: “I corresponded with one historian who had made the lives of Duff and Ben Green his specialty. I looked for clues in Dalton, Georgia, the town where Green had resided in the hopes that old copies of the paper, memoranda, or a diary might turn up there. The results of these efforts added up to zero.” Eisenschiml made further attempts which I will not go into here, but nothing turned up anything else. He concluded with: “As matters stand now, I find myself at the foot of a wall in a dead-end street” in regard to this matter.”
Seeing that Mr. Eisenschiml’s research had been done in the neighborhood of fifty years ago, I thought there might be a little something on today’s internet about Ben Green and his publication. There was a “little something” and that was about it. I found one article, in Wikipedia that mentioned Duff Green and his son, Ben, only in passing. No pertinent information on either.
I then came across a blog, https:ersjdamoo.wordpress.com posted on February 20, 2013 which noted, in the last paragraph of the article that: “In the summer of 1865, an un-named stenographer belonging to the ‘trial of the conspirators’ quietly offered the editor of The People’s Weekly his theory about the Lincoln assassination. He named Thaddeus Stevens, Stanton, Joseph Holt and Lafe Baker as the ones responsible for the assassination. There was also one more entry on this blog called Addenda to Lincoln’s Assassination and that was posted on Nov. 24th 2012. Some of that I will try to get into in an upcoming article.
Other than on this one blog, I could not locate anything on the internet that really dealt with any of this. It was like all the info on Ben Green and his publication had, somehow, been scrubbed and maybe they happened to miss this one blog. If anyone is really interested in this, maybe you had better go in and bookmark the stuff on this guy’s blog dealing with Lincoln. He is the only one I am aware of at this point that has even mentioned The People’s Weekly.
For a publication that was supposed to have such wide circulation it is interesting that Eisenschiml could never find a copy of the issue in question, and Eisenschiml was not a sloppy researcher. I’ve read enough of him by now to know that he did the homework and pursued the leads he came across. He called himself a “historian without an armchair” because he chased his leads down, all across the country, wherever they took him. In the days before the internet, this is what you had to do.
My friend, Joe Canfield, (now deceased) who wrote the book exposing the truth about the Scofield Bible, The Incredible Scofield and His Book , did the same thing with his research as Eisenschiml did–he followed his leads literally all across the country to get the information he needed.
Lots of folks don’t begin to realize how difficult it was to do research before the internet. I did some of my research before the internet really got up and going and I had to visit libraries and go to book sales wherever I could to get what I needed. It was lots easier when I could start to use the internet, so I have done it both ways. In Eisenschiml’s day you did it the old fashioned way–you worked for it and you wore out shoe leather!
In 1916, an Edward V. Murphy, who was one of the court stenographers at the Lincoln conspiracy trial gave an interview to the New York Times in which he castigated the court for the way the conspiracy trial was conducted.
More about that as I am able to put it all together.