The Great North-Western Conspiracy In All Its Startling Details
By I. Windslow Ayer
Public Domain Books
SECOND ATTEMPT–HINES IN COMMAND AGAIN–COPPERHEADS AGAIN TO BE THE MAIN FORCES TO BE RELIED UPON–REBEL GENERALS TO TAKE COMMAND OF THE RELEASED PRISONERS AND THE INSURRECTIONARY FORCES–THE DAY OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION APPOINTED AS THE ONE MOST PROPER FOR THE UPRISING–THE CAPTURE OF SOME OF THE REBEL LEADERS AND THEIR SYMPATHIZING FRIENDS.
At the time the rebel officers and soldiers left Chicago, after the Convention, none of them had any idea of ever coming back again, except Capt. Hines and a few of the leaders who consulted with him. He was shrewd enough to see that any effort at that time would be fruitless, and determined, so far as possible, to have all the Copperheads who would assist him in any second affair of the kind, drilled and organized, and men able to render effective assistance. It was for this purpose that he, with his comrades, went to Southern Illinois and Indiana with cavalry and infantry tactics and all the appliances for instructing others in military matters. The conspirators having failed at Chicago during the convention to make their starting point, having failed to make the great bonfire, which was to be the signal for thousands of others not quite so large, to burn up brightly from almost every hill-top in Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, it was necessary for their leaders to meet again, and determine upon a new programme. It appears that they did meet again, and again the starting-point of the whole conspiracy was the release of the rebel prisoners of war at Chicago, and from facts brought to light by the evidence before the great military commission held in Cincinnati, Ohio, the plan of operations was nearly the same as that of the first. The prisoners being released at Chicago, those at Johnston’s Island, Camp Morton, Camp Chase and other places were to be released by their friends, and then all were to be immediately placed under the command of rebel generals sent here for the purpose of heading the rebellion, when it once broke out. This may seem like fiction to some; the idea of rebel generals being here in the North for the purpose of aiding and taking the lead of the conspirators; but it is nevertheless true, as disclosed by one of the prisoners taken at Chicago; and it also appears that these generals had several states partitioned off into districts and departments, of which, each department commander was to have exclusive control.
The new programme having been adopted, all that was necessary was to fix upon the day. The day must be one upon which more than the usual number of visitors would be in the city, in order that their coming and staying would not be noticed, and it seemed they selected the day of election, as the one most suitable for their purposes; and if possible a day when the military and civil authorities would be most likely to be caught off their guard. For several days before the 8th of November last, their spies had been coming into the city, in order to get suitable quarters for the men when they arrived, and in parts of the city where they would be least liable to suspicion. In the efforts to secure suitable boarding houses for these incendiaries, various citizens of Chicago took an active part, and even went to the depots to receive them, and escort them into the bosom of the city they were so soon to attempt to destroy. It was not until the Saturday just before the election, that Gen. Sweet had positive information of the rebels being in the city, and received full information of the details of their plans, and began to take measures quietly to capture them. This he did at once, and at the same time had every preparation made to repel any attack upon the garrison of Camp Douglas; and he succeeded admirably, following up his information with such energy, that before daylight of the Monday morning following, he had captured enough of the rebel leaders (and their friends in such connexion as to leave no doubt of their guilt,) to make every disloyal man quake in his boots. The captures of the military and police were not confined alone to the conspirators, and in addition to them were captured immense military stores of all kinds, boxes of guns already shotted, cart loads of army pistols loaded and ready for the bloody work expected of them, holsters, pistol belts, cartridges by the cart load, and enough munitions of war to have started an arsenal of moderate size. These arms were not taken from the rebels, but found in the houses of citizens of Chicago, who can produce witnesses upon the stand (of pretended loyalty and standing, some of them being office-holders under the Government,) to swear that they themselves are, and have always been loyal and true to their allegiance. In the house of Charles Walsh, most of these arms were taken, and also there were captured two rebel soldiers, Captain George Cantrill and Charles Travis Daniels, who were shortly after identified; and Cantrill partly confessed his views, and his complicity with the Copperheads. This man Cantrill had been one of those who had come to Chicago during the Convention, for the same purpose, and averred that then and at the election, the Copperheads had offered and held out to them every inducement to get them here. That had it not been for them he would never have come here. It may be well here to publish a little incident, showing fully the kindred feelings existing between the conspirators and the inmates of Camp Douglas. It was a well known fact, that there were several thousand of John Morgan’s desperadoes confined in this prison, and the Copperhead conspirators, to show their refinement of feeling, their accommodating dispositions, and their attention to the worst of these men, had purchased for their use exclusively, the finest cavalry carbines then made in the United States, and had them stored in the immediate neighborhood of the prison, when upon being released they could at once begin to revel in a carnival of blood. Happy, happy for the people of Chicago, having passed through one of the most critical periods of their existence, without knowing that they were threatened with any disaster, ignorant that there was a mine beneath their feet, just ready to be sprung at any moment, with their own fellow citizens pulling at the spring, willing to involve them in general and complete ruin–willing to subject them to the ravages of such bloodthirsty villains as the inmates of Camp Douglas. The people of Chicago never can appreciate, to its fullest extent, the danger through which they have passed, for several reasons. First, because they were ignorant of it at the time, and the conspirators had and have now at their command, a bitter partizan press in their interests, and entirely subservient to their views, whose interests it is to prevent these facts from becoming generally believed, and when they are presented to the public with the naked truth, to hiss at and cry them down as emanating from the brains of lunatics, or a conspiracy of detectives to ruin the reputation of innocent and guiltless persons. Secondly, because they never experienced the horrors which must necessarily have followed had the conspirators been successful.