by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
When I was going through Dave McGowan’s series on the Lincoln assassination Why Everything You Think You Know About the Lincoln Assassination is Wrong I took note of Mr. McGowan’s commentary about the federal government’s seeming lack of interest in John Surratt after the government had hung his mother. McGowan even felt John Surratt may have been a Union operative posing as a Confederate operative and so that may have been why they never bothered him.
When he came back to this country he did go through a trial in a civil court that resulted in a hung jury, so he walked, and no one ever bothered him after that. Strange behavior from a government that is supposed to have believed you were a Confederate spy.
Yet we see some of this same behavior in regard to John Wilkes Booth’s attempts to kidnap Lincoln before some in his own Party finally decided he had to be done away with.
Steven Hager has noted on https://stevenhager.net some similar behavior regarding Booth’s kidnap attempts. In an article on October 9, 2014 he noted some facts about Louis Weichmann, who was a friend of John Surratt. He ended up moving into Mary Surratt’s boarding house.
Hager stated that “Weichmann worked as a clerk at the War Department of Prisons and sat next to Daniel H. L. Gleason. After arriving at the boarding house, he immediately began telling Gleason the house was a nest of illegal activities. Of course the possibility exists Weichmann was placed in the house as a confidential informant from the beginning…Gleason testified Weichmann informed him in March that ‘he was well-acquainted with some blockade runners, young fellows, not secessionists, who were out for money and excitement, who were currently involved in a new project that aroused his suspicion.’ This message wormed its way up the chain-of-command and it soon came back down Weichmann should join this project, whatever it was.” But here is the clincher to the whole episode. “But in 1911, Gleason unloaded his conscience and confessed the real story: The War Department was made aware of John Wilkes Booth’s plot to kidnap Lincoln weeks before the assassination.”
If that was the case, then why didn’t Stanton do something to stop Booth at that point? Another of those anomalies that routinely turn up in this whole situation. It’s full of them! Hager observed, again, quite accurately, that “Since Stanton controlled the secret police, the army, the telegraph and the entire Washington DC police force, his power was absolute and once he discovered this plot, Booth was obviously at his mercy. At any time, Stanton could have arrested Booth and hanged him for treason, standard treatment for a Confederate spook like Booth…Sol why wasn’t Booth arrested in March? Even stranger, Stanton suddenly demoted his chief detective (Baker) moving the head of the National Detective Police to Manhattan, leaving the NDP headless for the crucial few weeks the assassination plot unfolded.”
Hager continued: “Stanton’s specialty was manufacturing evidence, and he had an entire crew led by Sanford Conover (real name Charles Dunham) for this purpose, so guilt or innocence never got in the way of his agenda. It’s possible Dunham’s real employer, however, was the treacherous Jay Gould, soon to be the richest man on Wall Street.”
Hager also commented on how John Parker, the “guard” who deserted his post guarding Lincoln was never punished for that and returned to work at the White House the very next day. He also noted that Boston Corbett, the rather deranged soldier who is supposed to have shot Booth against orders, was never punished for that.
He felt this was inexplicable unless “…this is exactly what Stanton wanted: an unguarded President and dead assassin to tell no tales.” Whether he got the “dead assassin” or not is, even today, an argument that is still up for grabs.
Hager said that: “In December 1869 Edwin Stanton died shortly after complaining of being haunted by Mary Surratt’s ghost. Caleb Cushing immediately claimed Stanton had slit his throat, same as his brother had done many years earlier, and there was a coverup in progress.” A coverup in progress–my, what a surprise. The entire Lincoln assassination scenario was one gigantic coverup–and it still is today!