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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Pinkerton, Allan. 'Allan Pinkerton to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon317.html


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218. Allan Pinkerton to William H. Herndon.

Philadelphia, August 23d 1866

Dear Sir:

Yours of the 18th Inst. is duly received, and I hasten to reply.

I see you are at a little loss to understand the manner in which the Records start. I will endeavor to give you hurriedly what I supposed my Chief Clerk had sent you from Chicago, an idea of how to attain all which is of interest in connection with Mr. Lincoln.

I cannot now recollect the Dates, My Record, however, will show an application from Mr. S. M. Felton, at that time President of the Phila, Wilmington and Baltimore R.R., requesting me to ascertain through my Detective Force if there was an attempt on the part of the Secessionists of Maryland to seize the large Steamer of the Company used in ferrying their trains across the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace, as also to burn the Bridges of the Company between Havre de Grace and Baltimore. If I recollect aright I commenced Detective Operations for this purpose in January 1861. You will probably find this under the heading of Reports of A.P., or the time set when accompanied by several of my Operatives (Detectives) I left Chicago for Baltimore. Upon arriving at Baltimore I distributed my Operatives around the City for the purpose of acquiring the confidence of the Secessionists. One of those Detectives, named Timothy Webster, accompanied by a Lady, was stationed by me at Perryman'sville, a Station about 9 miles South of Havre de Grace on the P.W.&B.R.R., where a Rebel Company of Cavalry were organizing. Webster, as you will find from his Reports under the Heading of T.W., and those of the Lady who accompanied him, under the Heading of H.H.L., succeeded admirably well in cultivating an acquaintance with the Secessionists. You will find much of interest in Webster's Reports, showing the manner in which the first Military organization of Maryland Secessionists was formed, and the promises repeatedly made by Governor Hicks of arms being furnished to them; and, if my recollection serves me aright, of arms finally being furnished to that Company; their Drilling at Belle Air etc., Webster was afterwards exicuted in the Spring of 1862 by Order of Jefferson Davis at Richmond, Va., as a Union Spy, and was the first who paid the penalty of his life for such Service. If you wish to bring in

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this subjict I will furnish you all the Reports relating to it, or will write it out as soon as I can.

I located my own Head Quarters at Baltimore under the name of John H. Hutchinson, Stock Broker, renting Offices for that purpose. Here I formed the acquaintance of a Mr. Luckett (I think that was his name) a Stock Broker having Offices on the same floor with my own. From my Reports you will see how accidentally I discovered the plot to assassinate the President elect, at that time. If I mistake not the Initials of the Operatives who were upon this operation for the P.W.&B.R.R. Co. were, beside those already mentioned, A.T.C., C.D.C.W., and M.B. and their Reports show the state of feeling in Baltimore at that time, and how embittered and poisoned it was, showing that the Secessionists of that city were prepared to do anything which they deemed necessary in order to break up the Union. As you will observe by the Records the various circumstances connected with the attempt to assassinate Mr. Lincoln came gradually to light; but not until about the time Mr. Lincoln left Springfield on his tour to Washington, there to be inaugurated, did the plot culminate in very decisive information that he was to be assassinated upon his arrival and passage through Baltimore. At that time the Baltimore Police were entirely in the hands of the Secessionists; their Chief being George P. Kane, a rabid Rebel, who was subsequently a long time imprisoned in Ft. McHenry, and after being discharged from there made his escape into the lines of the Confederacy and became a Brigadeir General in the Rebel Army. He is a man with some fine feelings, but thoroughly Southern, and in that respect unscrupulous. Mr. Lincoln's published program was for him to leave Harrisburg via the Northern Central Railroad and land at Calvert Street Station, at which point he and his Suite were to take carriages to the Eataw House, and thence to Camden Street Station by carriage to take the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train for Washington. The distance between the two Stations is a little over a mile. No provision for his reception had been made by any Public Committee in Baltimore. The few Union men there were there at the time were overawed by the Secessionists and dared not make any demonstration. Remember at that time that James Buchanan was filling the Presidential chair, and the whole Nation was without any protection while Rebels were arming in every direction. It was but a few days after the passage of Mr. Lincoln through Baltimore that the Mass. 6th was mobbed in passing through that city although they were an armed and organized troop. In order to show how easy it was to assassinate Mr. Lincoln at that time every attention should be called to the condition of the country, especially of Baltimore and Maryland, at that time. A sample of the feeling among these people at that date may be formed from the young man (whose name I do not recollect) whom you will find repeatedly spoken of in the Reports of my Operative A.T.C. and who was to be one of the Assassins, as frequently using the words of Brutus: "It is not that I love Caesar less, but Rome more", when his conscience roused him to a contemplation of the awful crime he was about to commit, which he seemed to think a justification of his course.

Everything was nearly in readiness about the time Mr. Lincoln started from

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Springfield. The plan was skilfully laid and would have been an effective one had it not fortunately been discovered in season to prevent its exicution. Chief of Police Kane had intimated that he had not any special Police to spare for the occasion, and could not detail many to attend at the Calvert Street Station, but would send what he could of them. One of the leading Spirits in this murderous plot was a Barber, whose name I do not remember, but you will find it in the Reports. His place of business was under Barnum's Hotel, the Head Quarters of Secessionists from all parts of the country. There every night as I mingled among them I could hear the most outrageous sentiments ennunciated No man's life was safe in the hands of those men. The whole Municipal power of Baltimore was Secession, as were also the courts at that time. Those Bullies were all armed, and would not hesitate on the slightest provocation to use these arms to shoot down a Union man. Ballots were drawn at a Secret meeting, in which those who drew a certain Kind of card were to consider themselves as bound to be the party to assassinate the President elect. None Knew that any more than one of those ballots were drawn, although I think there were some six or eight who made themselves thus incumbent to strike the fatal blow, neither Knowing that any one except himself was to strike it. The time when this was to be done was just as Mr. Lincoln would be passing through the narrow vestibule of the Depot at Calvert St. Station, to enter his carriage. A row or fight was to be got up by some outsiders to quell which the few policemen at the Depot would rush out, thus leaving Mr. Lincoln entirely unprotected and at the mercy of a mob of Secessionists who were to surround him at that time. A small Steamer had been chartered and was lying in one of the Bays or little streams running into the Chesapeake to which the Murderers were to flea and it was immediately to put off for Virginia. Excuse me for endeavoring to impress the plan upon you. It was a capital one, and much better conceived than the one which finally succeeded four years after in destroying Mr. Lincoln's life. I am proud that just at that time their plots and plans were discovered. True it was accidentally by me. I was looking for nothing of the Kind, and had certainly not the slightest idea of it. Had Mr. Lincoln fallen at that time it is frightful to think what the consequences might have been. Having tested the information and found it reliable, I deemed it my duty, in as much as all information acquired by me upon an Operation I consider the property of the parties who are paying me for my services, at that time to communicate the same to Mr. Felton, the President, as I have previously said, of the P.W.&B.R.R., who was and is now a thoroughly reliable Union man and one who has proved himself true during the worst hours of our Nation's trouble. I said to him that I Knew this information was theirs but I knew of no reason why it should not be imparted to Mr. Lincoln or his friends with a view to avoid'g the peril which threatened his passage through Baltimore according to the schedule which was then arranged and published in the Papers throughout the Country.

A Mr. Wood was at that time acting as Agent or manager for Mr. Lincoln and his Suite until their arrival in Washington. I asked Mr. Lincoln subsequent to the time I having been speaking of, as you will see by Reports, who this man was. He

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said that he did not Know the man, and that he had been sent to him by some friends to fill that position and he had allowed him to do so — an evidence of the confiding and innocent feeling of the man at that time upon whom the Nation's destinies rested. Mr. Felton at once assented to my proposition and directed me to inform Mr. Lincoln of what had been discovered. Accordingly upon the day Mr. Lincoln arrived in New York city, fearing to leave Baltimore myself in case of any thing vital taking place there which would need my immediate attention, I sent a lady, Mrs. Warn, who had been for many years in charge of my Female Detective Force, and upon whose discretion I Knew I could rely, with a letter to My friend the Honorable N. B. Judd who was at that time accompanying Mr. Lincoln and was with him in New York. Knowing the difficulty of getting an interview with Mr. Judd, I also gave her a letter to my friend E. S. Sanford Esq. of New York, Vice President of the Adams Ex. Co. and President of the American Telegraph Co., with a request for Mr. (now General) Sanford to arrange for an interview with Mrs. Warn: which was done, and Mr. Judd, having read my letter and obtained what additional verbal information he could from Mrs. Warn, arrived at the conclusion that he would not tell Mr. Lincoln until after the arrival of the party in Philadelphia. I was telegraphed from New York by Messrs. Sanford and Judd, as also by Mrs. Warn to say nothing to anyone and to meet Mr. Judd in Phila. upon the arrival of the President's party. I did so, and through the agency of Capt. Burnes met Mr. Judd at the St. Lewis Hotel on Chestnut Street, the President of the P.W.&B.R.R. accompanying me. At that time the Streets were crowded with people. All was excitement. The loyal mass were waiting to congratulate and welcome their future Ruler. As you will observe by my Report I communicated to Mr. Judd the particulars of the plot in my Room at the St. Louis Hotel only in the presence of Mr. Felton. Mr. Judd was deeply impressed with the danger which surrounded Mr. Lincoln, but he said that he feared very much if he would be able to get him to change his route, which was what I urged' my idea and that of Mr. Felton's being to have him leave Phila that night by the midnight train for Washington, thus passing through Baltimore thirty six hours before the time when he would be expected. Mr. Judd said that Mr. Lincoln's confidence in the people was unbounded, and that he did not fear any violent outbreak; that he hoped by his management and conciliatory measures to bring the secessionists back to their allegiance. There was no doubt whatever in Mr. Judd's mind of the correctness of the information, the manner in which it was obtained stamping it as reliable. After a long conversation and discussion Mr. Judd desired that I should go to the Continental Hotel with him and have an interview with Mr. Lincoln. We did so. A dense crowd of people filled Chestnut Street, every square inch of ground was occupied by them as Mr. Lincoln was holding a Reception at the Continental, and it was with the utmost difficulty that we were able to get into the building. I think somewhere about 11 O'clock in the evening that I met Mr. Lincoln at Mr. Judd's rooms. He was rather exhausted from the fatigues of travel and receptions. He met me as usual Kindly and I narrated as briefly as possible the information I had acquired as he expressed himself as in a hurry and much exhausted. He asked me

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several questions upon the subject, which I do not now recollect; but you will find them detailed in my Report. He then asked Mr. Judd and myself what course we thought he had better pursue, and I urged upon him that as the train would not leave Phila. for about an hour he had better take that train thus avoiding the Conspirators as his passage through would not be expected. This Mr. Lincoln firmly and positively refused to do, saying that he had an engagement for the next morning to raise a flag on Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and that he had also promised the citizens of Penna. to meet them at Harrisburg on the following day; that he had positively engaged this to Governor Curtin, and that he would fulfil those engagements under any and all circumstances, even if he met with death in doing so. Mr. Lincoln said, however, that after the meeting at Harrisburg on the following day if I could arrange matters he would make his programme as follows: He would hoist the Union Flag on Independence Hall about 6 A.M. the next morning, take Breakfast at the Continental at 7 and leave for Harrisburg by Special train about 8 or 9 O'clock; at Harrisburg meet Governor Curtin and the Pennsylvanians, and after his reception was over there, come back to Phila. by Special train in time to connect with the Regular Midnight train leaving for Washington, placing himself entirely in my hands: but that he would not forgo his engagements for the next day at Independence Hall and Harrisburg whatever his fate might be. During the interview Mr. Lincoln was cool, calm, and collected. During the years of the War I was pretty well acquainted with him. When he came to the Army of the Potomac to review the Troops I invariably met him. In fact my tent was more of a place of resort for him than even that of General McClellan's; and I never saw him more cool, collected and firm than he was on that evening at the Continental Hotel. In fact he did not appear to me to realize the great danger which was threatening him at that moment. He said that if once he reached Washington there was no danger; Mr. Buchanan would soon vacate, and he could rely upon General Scott until that time for protection.

You may recollect his speech on the following morning at the raising of the flag on Independence Hall. I cannot quote it correctly, but I think I have got an extract from it at my Office in Chicago. It was something like this: I will preserve the Union, even if the Assassin's Knife is at my heart. I do not Know as this is anything like the quotation, as it was much more eloquent, but such was the substance as it was impressed upon my mind. This speech at that time received marked attention, and you will probably be able to find it in the files of some of the Daily Newspapers. I have a complete file of the Chicago Newspapers in my Office there.

Finding Mr. Lincoln resolute I told him that I would endeavor to make the necessary arrangements for his passage from Harrisburg after dark on the following evening to Philadelphia and thence to Baltimore and Washington, being well acquainted with the Officers of the Penna. R.R. After leaving Mr. Lincoln and promising to call and see Mr. Judd again during the night (it was now about 1 A.M.), I started to find my friend Col. Thomas A. Scott, Vice President of the Penna RR. with a view to arrange with him for a Special train to bring Mr. Lincoln from Harrisburg to Phila. I found he was out of town, and consequently

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applied to my friend G. C. Fransiscus, at that time Supt. of the Division of the Penna R.R. between Harrisburg and Phila. The City being all excitement I had some difficulty in finding Mr. Fransiscus, and did not do so until about three A.M. Knowing him well as a true and loyal man, I had no hesitation in telling him what I desired. He at once said that he would make the arrangements for a Special train for Mr. Lincoln, saying, however, that there were many difficulties in the way as there were so many special trains leaving Phila. for Harrisburg which would return on the same evening which Mr. Lincoln proposed to go over the Road; but that he would arrange that Mr. Lincoln's train should be the last of those special trains which would leave Harrisburg on that evening, and would side track all the other trains leaving Harrisburg prior to Mr. Lincoln's so that they would not arrive until after Mr. Lincoln had left for Baltimore. This being satisfactorily arranged I then hunted up Mr. E. S. Sanford, President as I have previously said, of the American Tel. Co., who was then in town, and arranged with him to have the proper parties sent to Harrisburg in the morning with a view that at the time when Mr. Lincoln would leave Harrisburg all the telegraph wires leading out of that city in every direction should be cut, except that of the Railroad Co. which was necessary to be left on account of the running of the trains. I omitted to state that I had also arranged with Mr. Fransiscus for none but trusty Operators to be at the wires of the Company, and that no dispatch should be sent over the wires excepting such as related to the running of trains.

About 6 O'clock the next morning Mr. Lincoln addressed the people of Phila. at Independence Hall and raised the flag. About 7 A.M. I met Mr. Judd and told him of my arrangements, and it was agreed that Mr. Lincoln alone should leave Harrisburg of all his party so as to avid any suspicion, and that just before leaving he should withdraw to his room on the plea of indisposition. Mr. Lincoln had remarked that none should be acquainted with his secret but Mrs. Lincoln. This he said he could not avoid as otherwise she would be very much excited at his absence. I also learned that morning for the first time that General Scott and Mr Seward had discovered some evidence of a plot to assassinate Mr. Lincoln when he passed through Baltimore and had employed some New York Police Officers with a view of ferreting out the same; who had found evidences of it, though not as clearly as my own men; but yet at the same time sufficient to impress upon General Scott and Mr. Seward with the idea that there was danger to Mr. Lincoln if he followed the programme which had been published in passing through Baltimore. Mr. Seward had therefore sent a communication by his son Frederick to Mr. Lincoln to the effect that they had information of a plot to assassinate him in Baltimore, urging upon him to change his route; to which he replied to Mr. Seward that he might do so and would attend to his suggestion, but without giving any idea as to how soon he would arrive in Washington if he did change his programme.

Mr. Lincoln left for Harrisburg with his suite, and during the day I arranged with Mr. Felton the programme for the passage through Baltimore and to Washington. This was that Capt. Burnes, Mr. Sanford's Confidential Agent, Mr. H. E. Thayer, and Mr. Andrew Winn should proceed to Harrisburg to cut the wires, the

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same not to be again united until after Mr. Lincoln would have reached Washington; that in the evening shortly before the departure of the Regular train for Baltimore I was to send Mrs. Warn, accompanied by Mr. George Dunn of Newark, N.J. to engage two sections, the rear ones if possible, of the Sleeping car through to Washington, for a sick friend and party; while I myself in company with H. H. Kenney, Esq. now General Supt. of the Phila, Wilmington & Baltimore Road, was to meet Mr. Lincoln with a carriage at the West Phila. Depot of the Penna Central R.R., and convey him from there to the Depot of the P.W.&B.R.R., so that none of the employe's of that Road with the exception of Messrs. Felton and Sterns (the Genl. Supt.) and Mr. Kenney should Know aught of the important passenger who was to pass over their line. Mr. Felton arranged for the delay of the train a short time by instructing the Conductor that the train should not leave the Depot until he received a package from him (Mr. Felton) addressed to E. J. Allen (the name which I went under in Washington), at Willard's Hotel, Washington, which package he should hand to the Conductor of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to have delivered to its proper address. This package was bogus, put up for the occasion by myself and delivered to Mr. Kenney to deliver to the Conductor after Mr. Lincoln and myself were in the Sleeping car. I arranged my own Operatives along the line of the Road at certain points with instructions to be out displaying a particular signal, which I could see from the platform of the car, if all was right. Mr. Lincoln arrived in Phila. accompanied by Mr. Lewis, Gen. Supt. at that time of the Penna R.R., and Mr. Fransiscus the Division Supt, as also by Mr. Ward H. Lamon of Bloomington, Ills. Mr. Lincoln received me very Kindly, but was as cool, calm and collected as I ever have seen him. He wore an overcoat thrown loosely over his shoulders without his arms being in the sleeves, and a black Kossuth hat, [1] which he told me somebody had presented to him. The story of the Scotch cap I may as well at this time pronounce a falsehood made out of whole cloth. Mr. Lincoln took a seat in the carriage with Mr. Lamon and myself, Mr. Kenney taking the seat with the driver; and as it was too early for us to approach the Baltimore Depot Mr. Kenney had the Driver take us around the City, apparently as if he was looking for some one, until it was just about time to reach the Depot five minutes after the starting time of the train. We left the carriage at a dark spot a short distance from the Depot, and Mr. Lamon Keeping a little in the rear of Mr. Lincoln and myself, Mr. Lincoln leaning upon my arm and stooping a considerable for the purpose of disguising his hight, we passed through the Depot rapidly and entered the Sleeping car, and within two minutes from the time we had entered the Depot, Mr. Kenney having passed rapidly up to the Engine and delivered the package, the train was in motion, and we were whirling away towards Baltimore on our eventful Journey. None of the party slept any. At Havre de Grace Mr. Lincoln remarked to me upon my returning inside the car after having been out to see if the signals were all right: "We are at Havre de Grace. We are getting along very well. I think we are on time." Although Mr. Lincoln did not sleep, he was not by

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any means restless. I cannot realize how any man situated as he was could have shown more calmness or firmness than he did during the whole trip to Washington. Upon arriving at the Depot of the Baltimore and Ohio RR. in Baltimore we had to wait about half an hour. I was the only one of the party who went out of the car at that time. I recollect well of Mr. Lincoln telling me some jokes upon my return to the car, but in a quiet voice so that no one heard it but Mr. Lamon and myself. At Baltimore Mrs. Warn left the car and proceeded to the Hotel for the purpose of ascertaining what the feelings of the people were in the city, as I proposed to return there by the evening train. I think we arrived at Washington about 6 A.M. and were met by Mr. Washburn of Ills., and Mr. Seward. We proceeded at once to the Hotel (Willard's) by carriage where Mr. Lincoln registered his own name and those of Mr. Lamon and myself, and was assigned rooms, though not the ones which were expected he would have as he had arrived very unexpectedly.

During the morning after the news of Mr. Lincoln's arrival spread the wildest excitement prevailed in Washington. Few were willing to beleive that he had arrived, and many were the vile and bitter imprecations which I heard heaped upon his head while mixing among the excited secissionists of that, I think at that time, most rebellious city.

Mrs. Lincoln, accompanied by Mr. Judd and the rest of the cortege, left Harrisburg and went through to Baltimore. Before they left, however, the news had been telegraphed all over of the arrival of Mr. Lincoln in Washington. Upon the arrival of the party in Baltimore they met with anything but a cordial reception. These things, however, you can glean from the Newspapers of that day.

At Mr. Lincoln's request I returned to Baltimore that afternoon for the purpose of learning whether any attempt was to be made to assassinate him at the Inauguration, and remained there until after that ceremony had taken place.

I have thus endeavored to give you a brief account of this matter as it comes to my recollection, in which you will doubtless, upon referring to the Records, find many errors; but I think it will give you considerable assistance.

You will observe that many of my Operatives simply detail the feelings of the Secessionists at the time they were in Baltimore. This arises from the fact that they were seeking for the feelings of these people with regard to the danger to the Steamer and Bridges of the P.W.&B.R.R. and not for any plot to assassinate Mr. Lincoln.

I hope this will prove satisfactory to you If not, when I return to Chicago, which I expect will be in about two months, I will endeavor to take the Record and go over the thing more fully than I have here.

There are many matters of interest connected with Mr. Lincoln which appear from time to time in my Records of the Secret Service of the War Department, Army of the Potomac, etc., which I think would be useful and tend to show the man in his true light as a great man and true philanthropist. I cannot recall them now; but if I could sit down with you and talk there are many things which would come up in my mind without wading through the mass of my Records. After my return to Chicago (in about two months) I expect I will shortly have to leave again,

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and it will probably be about three months before I will have much time in Chicago. If that will not be too late for you I will truly enjoy to meet you there and talk over any matters which may be of use to you in compiling the life of the noblest statesman America has ever produced. Yours truly
Allan Pinkerton

P.S. Please consider Mr. Luckitt's name as confidential

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2604 — 19; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:132 — 52

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Pinkerton, Allan. 'Allan Pinkerton to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon317.html
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